Sunday, March 27, 2011

Confessions of a Food Hoarder

I've been writing a lot about money, blessings, and God's provision lately- mainly because I've been so moved by God's provision in my own life this past year! But as I've read over some of my posts, I realize I've only been telling half the story. I don't mean I've been telling half truths about things that have happened to me or others, but that I've only been emphasizing half the beauty of it all.

1) God provides for us.
2) We learn that He's our Provider and no other.
3) We gain confidence in Him and His goodness toward us, and lose anxiety about the future.
4) We grow more in love with His goodness and less in love with things.
5) We grow more generous because we no longer have any reason to hoard things- no fear about "not having enough" and no idolatry for the things themselves.
6) We become instruments of God's goodness in the lives of others.

Example-

God blessed our landlords financially and they built a house with a guest apartment. However, they love God more than they love their stuff. In fact, they value the generous heart of God even more than having privacy in their own home! They chose to invite two complete strangers to live on their property- to let another family enjoy their real-estate, their backyard, outdoor grill, pool, and living space completely free- just as a gift! That is the generous heart of God toward them overflowing into the lives of others.

So what I'm saying is I don't think it's God's intention to give us "good gifts" of provision etc. for us to hoard them or brag about them. I don't think the goal is for us to become chubby, bratty kids with piles of toys all around us. I think the goal is to be so moved by His character and changed by His generosity that we lose any reason to hoard. Here is how He's changing me:

"Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow gone, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?"

As I grow in confidence in the capability of God and the character of God in His provision for me, I grow so satisfied in God that I can lose sight of the things themselves! I can rejoice in His blessings but not hold them with a closed fist. I can give more than the bare minimum. I can give with joy and without fear. I can give more than is "required" or expected. I can give more than makes worldly sense!

Think about what you're most afraid of losing or not having enough of. For me, it's usually food (repercussions of being one of six children). Meditate on God's generosity toward you and His promise to provide what you need and practice giving some of that thing away. I'm serious! Having to host dinners for people has been a major lesson for me in trusting God for enough food. If you think you barely make enough money to live on, meditate on God's absolute sufficiency in your life and practice giving away more than you want to. Maybe you are most afraid of not having "enough" of your spouse's/boyfriend's/friend's/parent's time. Meditate on God's love for you and His promise to give you exactly what you need, and then release that person to be shared with others!

As I'm practicing these things (and maybe having less for dinner occasionally), I'm finding freedom.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Dreamed of Africa

I've got some news I'm pretty excited about.

Something I've been wanting to do since I was a little girl; something I've been dreaming about since I can remember dreaming; something I've wanted so badly at times I've wept bitter tears of desire and disappointment over it- is finally going to happen.

I am going to Africa.

If you know me very well, you're either crying with me or rolling your eyes. Both responses are understandable! This "road to Africa" has been a long one and it is full of meaning for me- because I can say that before I even step foot on that airplane this summer, God has already brought me to where I need to be.

Let me explain. For so long I thought going to Africa was the pinnacle of Christian experience; in my mind it was the ultimate display of love for God, the ultimate expression of holiness. It took me more than a couple of years to let God blow up that idolatrous notion. It took me a while to realize that my geographical location or vocational position has no more to do with my love for God than what color my toenails are painted.

It took me a while to realize that I have nothing to prove. God accepts me because of what Christ has done, not because of what I do for Him; and if I want to emulate His character, I need to stop putting those who serve cross-culturally on a pedestal that God does not. I need to stop creating tiny pedestals for myself to crawl upon in the name of loving God.

And here's the beauty and freedom in realizing all that- after some of the garbage has been scraped away, my desire to go to Africa has remained. And now I can say, "OK Lord, I'll follow You into this next step, knowing that it has nothing to do with my status as a Christian or improve my position before You in any way."

I can get on that plane feeling excited, humbled, and eager to see how God plans to display His splendor in a context that I've yet to experience.

And when I get back home I'll know that nothing has changed except my heart.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marriage and the Gospel Part 2

In about three months, Chandra Annette Walls will become Chandra Annette Sugalski (I know, killer upgrade!) This is something I've been excited about since I knew a certain someone had a certain ring that was burning a hole in his pocket!

Aren't they cute?

In class last week we talked about the significance of a name. In one sense it's meaningless (wouldn't a rose by any other name smell as sweet?) but in another sense, it speaks volumes about one's sense of identity and destiny. After June 4th, 2011, the world will know that Chandra belongs with Nick and no other. She will be a Sugalski- she will take on his identity in a symbolic sense!

I am a King. I belong with Michael in a permanent way, and my very name speaks it. He is now "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh"; and even though this name change hasn't increased my status or value, it has affected the way I think of myself- and my future- in a drastic way.

So what's been blowing my mind lately is not how much I love my new last name, or that people will mispronounce "Chandra Sugalski" for the rest of her life. What has been transforming is me the realization that God has shared His name with me.

"Go unto all nations and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit..." I hadn't thought much about this passage before in regard to the name of God, because what it typically brings to mind is "gee, I should share my faith in Christ with others!" But thanks to this class I'm in, my lingering newlywed wonder, and my excitement about celebrating Chandra's wedding, I've been moved by this reality in a new way (isn't it amazing that the Gospel keeps changing us? It's not a one-time deal).

The God of the universe has pursued us. He calls us His bride (I wrote about that here) and commits Himself to us forever. But more than just that, He changes our very identity when He makes us His own. He calls us by His own name. Wow! This is much more powerful than joining the Sugalski or the King family; this is joining God's family and being identified as with God, of God, spoken for by God, forever! It's an identity change. It's a destiny change.

"You've taken my shame, called me by a new name
You've taken my pain and in it's place, You give me joy"

For a while when we sang the above lyrics at church, I didn't really understand what it meant. But I'm learning, and it's changing me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Two More Things

In the theme of my "Money and Manna" posts, I've been pondering God's promises and power to provide lately- and it seems like I've been writing about it a lot, but I think that's because God is just showing me His goodness in this way a lot! Here are two little examples:

1) Michael and I have been praying about where to find more money to pay off student loans while paying his tuition and living expenses. We got the perfect raise at my job to make this possible. Also, out of nowhere, someone sent us $200 cash in the mail yesterday anonymously. This was the same day we took the little girl that we mentor the zoo and couldn't use the discount we planned- so the day cost us WAY more than we budgeted! Our zoo trip (and this week's groceries, and then some!) were paid for by the body of Christ.

2) A friend of mine has also been praying for financial direction and was in a serious budgeting pickle because of a roommate drop out. We prayed together on Monday and wrote out her projected budget, and saw how tight things would be. Later that same day someone left her a check for $4500 as a gift, out of the blue!

To quote my friend, "I can't make this stuff up!"

Friday, March 4, 2011

Les Miserables and the Kingdom of God

What: Les Miserables Where: Cadillac Theater in Chicago Why: Visiting my sister Ruthie





Yea back row! :)

Every musician has his or her own epic work that shaped (her) existence, right? Well, mine is Les Mis. I remember watching the concert edition of it on DVD in my Dad's room over and over and over in middle school and being mocked for carrying the songbook around with me to every class. My old notebooks were filled with lyrics from the show I'm sure I had more than a few embarrassing moments being "caught" doing dramatic reproductions of the solos in my bedroom.

I was not surprised that I cried through a lot of the show, in part because I can't hear the music without thinking of my Dad. But I was a bit surprised at how freshly the themes touched my heart. A story filled with so much injustice and so much pain- characters who truly suffer and ask questions to which there seems no adequate answer; is mingled with deep beauty, profound grace, and gratitude toward God.

Isn't that a microcosm of life in many ways? We experience tragedy, injustice, heartbreak, and at times unbearable grief. But in the midst of that, we learn that the presence of evil doesn't destroy beauty, it doesn't triumph over love, and it doesn't disprove the goodness of God. This is one thing I'm learning. Because of Christ, we don't have to hide behind Disney-shaped glasses or put on a facade of perfection; nor do we have to lose hope when the world falls down around us. Why? Because the reality of the world is dark. Things are bad. But that's just half of the story! The other half is that the Kingdom of God has come into the world to redeem it. As Christians, we can see where the ugliness of the world intersects with the beauty of the Kingdom. We can see, like in the finale of Les Mis, that there is a rescue, a relief, a rest- even a victory!- that is deeper than the world's ability to defeat. There is a healing that is deeper than the world, in all its darkness, can wound. To quote another story, "there is a deeper magic" that can't be broken!

Do you want to see the Kingdom?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Messy Thoughts about Trust

Here's another old post that I re-read recently. Funny how old writings are at once obsolete and relevant! I hope it encourages and challenges you as you face the "unknowns" of your life!

So I had this thought this morning.

Well actually it started last night when I began to realize that I am, in reality, terrified of my life. I had basically been pretending (or at least trying to pretend) that I know exactly what is going to happen to me when I graduate: that whatever I think I need to feel "safe" will happen to me- I'll get married, I'll have a good paying job, I'll have made some long term commitment to a missions or ministry group...whatever. But last night I was talking with someone who was pointing out how many unknowns there are and how we have to trust God with them. And I suddenly realized.....I don't want to trust God! I want to be in control!

I don't want to continue to be vulnerable in a relationship where every next step isn't laid out for me, even though I know it's where I need to be. I don't want to apply for a missions school that I can't pay for yet, even though I know it's how I'm being led. I don't want to be in charge of a worship team, being the potential object of criticism if I don't measure up in peoples' minds- even though I know it's what God has given me. I don't even want to give a senior recital! It's being vulnerable in front of other amazing musicians who might judge me!

But...that's when I realized I don't really know how to trust God; that we as humans don't like trust! Because trust doesn't mean agreeing to something when we know the outcome: when we know we won't be abandoned, judged, or humbled. Trust means giving your heart to God without us knowing the outcome! Jesus doesn't call us into a life where everything is laid out. He says "come follow me" and He doesn't hand us a map. He doesn't say "I promise you won't get hurt, I promise you won't be disappointed, I promise you won't have to be vulnerable". Instead, He gives us an example of the exact opposite. He constantly opened Himself up for rejection by the people He came to serve. And He kept getting rejected yet He kept loving. What trust!!! He didn't close off his heart either, or become jaded, or stop giving His real self to people...He always offered His heart, no matter how many times people chose to walk away instead of walk toward Him.

So what do we do instead? We self-protect rather than trust. We refuse to get close to people. We say we don't need them, or we only have relationships with people we can control or manipulate. Or maybe we try and separate our bodies from our hearts and have sexual relationships that are removed from real trust. Or maybe we rush into marriage before we're ready, or we avoid it like the plague. Maybe we stay close to home because we're scared of "not making it" anywhere else, or we run away from home because we've been hurt.

Basically, we try to be autonomous over our own hearts and avoid the possibility of pain at all costs. but this is not the life God has called us to! We have been called into a life of radical trust- a life of the practice of keeping our hearts soft and feeling. This may look like pouring your heart out into orphaned children and letting your heart be broken again and again for them, or entering into a marriage relationship where you have to trust another person to see the real you, or opening up to a friend or counselor who cares about you wants to help you heal from the real issues you've locked deep inside...

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

CS Lewis

listen to what Jesus says:
"the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted
to proclaim freedom to the captives,
to open the prison for those who are bound;
...to comfort all who mourn..
to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness"

Isaiah 61, Luke 4:17

Jesus is safe! He is the only thing that is "safe". Practice trusting in Him- not outcomes, results, plans, finances. Let Him break down your defenses.