My First Love

At the end of my first semester of my sophomore year, our Cru leadership team met and divided into men and women for dinner. At dinner, a female staff member asked all the women in regards to our ministry, “are you tired in it, or are you tired of it?” As I internalized my feelings from that semester, all I could think of was, I’m completely tired of it; I’m tired of the meetings, I’m tired of follow-ups and I’m just plain tired. My honest voice answered the question, “I’m tired of it, and will there ever be a time when I’m not?” After that semester, I felt hopeless that I would ever enjoy ministry. I entered into my sophomore year with really high expectations and a bundle of energy, but sixteen weeks later, I felt beat up and ready to quit. This moment has become one of the most defining ones of my college career, a moment to which I tell girls about all the time. I am reminded that if I’m tired of it, it being the ministry God has called me to, then I’m probably not doing it with for the right reasons.

Last week was rough. As I drove home to Cincinnati for the weekend, I cried because I felt beat up; I felt like I was holding on to a bumper of a moving car, but I didn’t know where the car was going or why I wanted to hold on so badly.  I took the weekend to rest and asked Jesus over and over again what am I doing and why am I doing it? What should this semester look like if I’m following close after you? Gradually I realized I was asking the wrong questions and trying to fix the wrong problem. The problem wasn’t, “am I doing the right ministry?” but instead, am I letting Jesus be the Lord of every part of my life. In Revelation 2, John writes to the church of Ephesus, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I now that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:2-4). Yes, good deeds and perseverance matter, but not more than loving Jesus. My ministry is secondary to my identity as a follower of Christ. Focusing on Jesus, moment by moment, is the only way any of my life makes sense. Jesus is my first love, not Cru, or any other ministry. Cru is simply one of the ways I get to serve Jesus in response to all that He has done for me. The second I stop focusing on Jesus, everything goes down hill. In Him it all holds together (Colossians 1:17). In Him I will bear much fruit, apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15).

My prayer is that I never lose sight of my first love; that Jesus be the center and the motivation for everything that I do. I am first and foremost a daughter of Christ that has to shape my every thought, action and word.

Completely Unqualified

In today’s culture, it gets really easy for people to believe they are qualified and entitled to things. I can list off my own achievements and talents in order to convince someone why I deserve leadership, advancement, or a job. As I start to look back over my past 2.5 years at IU (I still have 1.5 to go… I’m not a senior yet), I immediately think of all that I’ve achieved, or the leadership positions that I’ve held. I so quickly forget that I was never qualified for any of these positions – I never knew enough or had enough experience, instead I have a God who has shown His mercy on me many times.

Truth: I am qualified for death on a cross. My sins, in a fair world, should disqualify me, and everyone for that matter, from leading anyone, especially leading anyone into a deeper relationship with the Lord. No matter how many good things I do, I can never overcome my depravity.

Enter: Grace and Mercy. Because I have a God who loves me, He has given me so many opportunities to lead. He has equipped me with talents to make me success, but not for my own sake, instead He asks that I use everything that I’ve been given to bring glory to His name. Every time I get to watch the light bulb go on in someone’s head, watch one of my disciples wrestle through a difficult passage of scripture and get it, or I get to serve someone, it is out of God’s immeasurable grace. He knows I don’t deserve it.

In everything I achieve – and in every failure for that matter – my eyes should turn to My God, My Rescuer, My Redeemer, and My Savior. As I remember how many great opportunities I’ve been given in my time here at IU, I start to see all the more graceful God is. I haven’t deserved a single opportunity, but I’m so thankful for a God has uses me despite my inadequacies.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to now nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Phi Mu

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Sometimes, when I get discouraged, feel overwhelmed, or like I just can’t seem to make a difference, I think back to my freshman self, who was so eager to change the world. I wanted to change the Greek System, make into a place where sisterhood, brotherhood and philanthropy were the focus, not partying and popularity. As I set foot onto IU’s campus the fall of my sophomore year, I wondered if I could really change anything. I wondered if anyone actually cared about Jesus, or even about each other. This past week, through the recruitment process, I started to really reflect. Two years later, have I changed anything? I began to realize something – while I may have not changed a single thing, I’ve been changed.

I’ve been changed into a different woman because of how God has used Phi Mu in my life. My view of brokenness has changed. My view of myself as a sinner in need of a savior has changed. My view of Jesus has changed. My view of serving and loving others has changed. My view of compassion and what it looks like has changed. And I guess that’s the point. God’s purpose in me joining Phi Mu wasn’t for me to change Phi Mu, it was to let Phi Mu change me.

On prideful days, I start to boast in my head of all that I’ve done. On sad days, I start to feel like I haven’t done enough. But I remember back to Chicago and a conversation I had with my staff discipler. I can get so caught up in the doing, and she said to me, it’s not about doing ministry, it’s about transformation – being more molded into the image of Christ. Maybe I haven’t shared the Gospel to each of my sisters, but God has used my sorority to chisel away some of the yucky parts of my heart. He has used to point out sin in my life, and to test my view of and trust in Him.

So I guess the question I should ask myself is what would I be like without Phi Mu? I would not me. I simply can not imagine not having had the growth, the laughter and the tears that this place, these women and this sisterhood have given me.

This Past Week

This past week I’ve taken two big faith steps. I decided to run for vice president in Phi Mu and I applied for a summer internship. The first one was a huge decision because it was last minute and it is very unusual for someone in my pledge class to run for a position. For me, the decision came from two places – a desire to serve Phi Mu and a desire to trust God outside my comfort zone. After I made the decision, I kept trying to rationalize myself out of it. I would say, what if no one comes along to lead Greek ministry next year, or, do I really have time for this? And yes, I do have time, and as for Greek ministry, I’ll still be involved, you couldn’t pull me away from that, but do I trust that God is big enough to raise up a female leader? Well, we’ll see. In my head I believe it. All day on Tuesday I heard God saying, “when you come to end of yourself and your abilities, I get to show up”. This semester I’ve been very content in myself and my abilities, I’ve watched God do some neat things, but this is an opportunity to watch Him show up. I’m confident that He’s going to show up to me, and to the Greek movement; I can’t wait to see what He has up His sleeve. We’ll see what happens with elections, but I’m excited at the opportunity to even run for exec in my chapter.

For the past year I haven’t been able to picture myself doing anything after college except for interning with Cru. I have no idea where I would intern (well I would really consider 3 places), but I’m pretty sure I’ll give a year to the Lord in full-time ministry with Cru in a year and a half. This summer I really wanted to go back to Chicago, but felt the Lord calling me home or internationally.  The past two months, I’ve been battling some sin that made me realize that going internationally probably wouldn’t be a good idea, so came the decision to go back to Mason, Ohio for the summer. After a phone call with my mom on Saturday, I decided to pursue an internship with Back2Back Ministries in their home office in Mason. Part of me was fearful of making this decision because I’m so sure that I want to work for Cru, but I decided to trust God and take a step of faith. Five days later, I’ve filled out an application and have an interview set up for over Christmas Break. Once again, God is proving to be faithful.

In the midst of big decisions, running around getting ready for the first round of recruitment, and trying to finish this semester strong academically, I’m praising God that He is in control, He is working all things for my good and that His plan is far better than mind. I’m thankful for this week reminding of these truths.

Self-Condemnation

I’ve been reading the book of Jeremiah for the past month. The prophet Jeremiah did not have an easy job for the Kingdom – he was asked by God to tell God’s people over and over that God was no longer happy with them; that in fact God wanted to unleash His wrath on these people because of their sinfulness. They worshipped idols and defamed the name of God. And they were unwilling to repent of their sinfulness. Because this is before Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, God’s wrath for the sinfulness of His people has not been satisfied. Reading through Jeremiah and picturing the things God threatens on His people, people that He loves, has forced me to think of my own sin.

Being back in leadership as IU has made me see my sin more clearly. Partnered with reading through Jeremiah, my awareness of my sin has brought me into moments of self-condemnation.  I deserve the same things that God threatened on the people of Judah, but because of Jesus I will not have to suffer those consequences. My perfectionist nature, however, doesn’t always live in light of the grace that Jesus died for me to receive. Often after I ask God for forgiveness from prideful thoughts or from being distracted by things that not of Him, I still beat myself up. My head knows I’m forgiven, but my heart struggles. The truth is, God knows I’m going to sin, even if it’s just thoughts, those are sinful and hurt Him, but He loves me so much that He sent Jesus so I would not feel condemned for my sin. God’s wrath has been satisfied in Jesus, it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t fair, but is it the truth. It is what I will choose to cling to. I deserve the punishment that Jeremiah prophesied over God’s people, but I don’t have to. Reality is, Jesus was perfect, I am not. I need to stop beating myself up over that. I pray against self-condemnation in my heart, and I pray that you may experience the fullness of the Gospel not just in your head, but also in your heart.

Second Chances

Being back in Bloomington is a weird feeling for me. I left for this summer and God did a number on my heart, and I will probably never be the same because of it. But  just as when we change in any way, it’s hard to go back to a familiar place – it reminds us of who we used to be, the people we’ve disappointed and it’s so easy to fall back into our previous expectations. Bloomington has been that place for me; the city and the campus hold so many beautiful memories, but they also have an ability to remind me of the dark places I’ve gone away from God, and the times when I’ve been unable to trust and rely on Him alone.

The past week has brought me to my knees in awe of His glory, but I’ve also been moved to tears remembering the people I’ve hurt, and the mistakes I’ve made. God surely is teaching me right now, though. I’m learning so much more about myself simply by slowing down and not doing everything that I’m actually able to experience the beauty of living in a house with 90 girls. I’m learning that God honors my putting my relationship with Him above ministry obligations. He honors our sacrifices, He is faithful, He will provide. He has provided me with second chances (and third, fourth, and fifth chances). I don’t have to look back on last year with any regrets – I’m free from the sin and the shame of the sin. I get another year to be present in my sorority and put others ahead of myself. I get another year to trust God in leadership within Cru – a scary one because I easily make things about me and not about Him.

This is my third fall in Bloomington, and I have a good feeling about it. I have few expectations – I working on having none, but I’m a work in progress. This week, I’m praising God that I don’t have live in regret about what I did and didn’t do last year; I’m praising Him for second chances to love and serve Him, but this time as a completely different person.

Strength

Numerous times this year, I almost threw in the towel with Greek ministry. I was drained, I thought I needed to focus on myself, I doubted whether God was working and I believed my sin was going to break not only Greek ministry, but also the Cru movement. Tonight, I realized how big God is and I thank Him that He gave me the strength to keep going when times got rough. Had I walked away in October or in January, I would not have gotten to see what God did this semester… in my life and in the lives of many of my close friends. Walking away would have meant two things – 1.) God was not bigger than my own sin issues & 2.) God was not working the struggles for my good.

God can handle my sin. He can handle my doubt. He can handle my anger. They break His heart, but He can handle them. God showed me my sin and He showed me how detrimental sin is to community, but in starting to comprehend my own sinfulness, He allowed me to experience grace. When I started to experience God’s grace and God’s love, it enabled me to extend love and grace onto others. Because of the sin I dealt through – and still continue to fight – God gave me a story to tell. It was when I was so weak that I couldn’t do anything on my own that I realized God had been in control all along. Sin can tear apart community when we keep it in the dark, but when we confess it and bring it into our community of believers, He redeems it; Satan no longer has a hold on it. Satan wanted me to feel so much shame over my sin that I stopped believing God wanted me to lead or even be part of what was going on in the movement. However, God wanted me to bring my sin into the light and remember that He is in control, not me.

One huge lesson I learned over the course of the semester is that God works everything for our good. Not just the things done with pure hearts. Had I not been struggling to hold myself together, Satan could have convinced me that the revival I was seeing was based on my own work. However, because I saw myself in my true position to Christ … lying at the foot of the cross begging for mercy and forgiveness, God allowed me to experience fruit knowing He was the one who provided it. So often I think I’m in control and that my hard work is paying off, but it is God’s hard work, it is God working in and through my friends and me. God did the most work when I was oblivious to it. God answered crazy prayers that I prayed in July 🙂 God used my brokenness to remind me that He is in control and working everything for my good!

Tonight, hearing the lives committed and rededicated to Christ this year, and the growth in our Greek Bible Study community, I experienced a huge humbling and some true redemption. I had tears in my eyes just seeing how much God cares about each and every person on IU’s campus. This is not about me, or my sin. The beginnings of this revival have been about God and what He is doing through us despite us. I have seen each and every person in our bible study die to himself or herself this year and allow Christ to be in control, just the way I did in my own life. So thanks God for letting me be a part of it; thanks for giving me the strength to continue when I didn’t know how much more I could handle. Most of all, thank you for allowing me to see that You did work, You got You some and You’re bringing glory to Your Name at IU in the Greek system!

Tempted to be Passive

Right around this time of year, I get tempted to do one of two things. I either want to mentally check out and cruise through finals, or I try to cram everything I can into 7 weeks. This semester I only have 2 papers in the next 4 weeks, I can use the time I’ll not spend studying sleeping and being lazy, or I can wait patiently for the Lord to direct my time. If I decided to be lazy, I would take naps, watch movies and hang out with friends until the wee hours of the night. I would also have plenty of time to do things I wanted to do, when I wanted to do them. I would be passive. But, I promised the Lord this semester I’d make the most of the opportunities He’d given me. That doesn’t end halfway through the semester.

The second option, choosing to let the Lord be in control is more difficult. Especially because I’m not feeling directed somewhere. I feel very content with where I am and fairly uncertain where I’m headed. It is hard to not feel lazy when I’m not moving because I don’t know where I’m headed. That’s a lie, I know where I’m headed this summer – Chicago. I know where I’m headed next year – back to Phi Mu. I just don’t know what God wants me doing for the next 7 weeks. But this I do know – I have wonderful friends and amazing people in my life and I desire to be in community with them. I want the Lord to use me to bring them closer to Him.

This semester I told God I didn’t want to miss opportunities that He presented me with. I wanted to be where I’m at and be joyful there. God showed up. I love my community, I love my sisters and I love my classes. While Satan will tempt me the next 4 weeks with laziness and passivity, I pray that the Lord continues to use me. That I continue to run full force ahead towards Him and know that when I’m running towards Him, I will always be running in the right direction. I pray that in the last 7 weeks of school, I fall more in love with Jesus and can encourage those around me to do the same.

Jesus, the Leader

This past weekend I was asked who has motivated me most as a leader. I love history. I’m kinda a geek that way. I can tell you my favorite president, my favorite first lady and give good reasoning for both. I’m fascinated by the 1960’s, and Martin Luther King Jr. is definitely a huge person that I look up to, but none of those answers seemed adequate to answer to the question. Jesus. Jesus has motivated me most as a leader. He motivates me. He challenges me. He guides me.

Jesus leads with love. He does so in a way that is so much bigger than saying “I love you”. His actions and demands are motivated by love. He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to put things above Him (Matthew 10:37). He loves us enough to give us strength enough to do anything (Philippians 4:13). All out of love. His leadership and love are not self-motivated. One of the things I’m learning about myself is that I struggle to lead out of pure love. In my heart, there are often other motivations – obligation or selfishness. Jesus led out of love. He died out of love. His love was enough for His followers.

Jesus knew how to get the best of His followers. The people who loved Jesus when He walked the earth are in some ways not much different from the people who love Jesus now. We’re all broken. We’re all sinners. We all fall short. Jesus knows the key to each of our hearts. He knows have unique the desires of each of our hearts are. He used love and compassion to lead. Jesus had Godly powers – He could have done miracles to motivate people (and when necessary He did use miracles), but He used love and compassion to lead imperfect people.

Jesus guides me, not only because He walked the earth before me, but also because His power is available to me when I depend on Him. Jesus set the blueprint for selfless love – He shows that His love is enough & He gives us all the opportunity to love on people well, when we tap into His power.

I am weak, He is strong. Jesus leads me out of love. I desire to become the type of leader that invests in people selflessly, that shows them how much they are capable of when they depend on Him and that reminds people of the amazing God in heaven who wants their whole hearts. Thankfully, I have Jesus to guide me and communicate to me how to be a better leader.