On Life Dismantled.

Four years ago, it was impossible that I would sob in a bathroom, at work, flanked by three women praying to Jesus on my behalf. There was exactly zero chance I could be that humble, that submitted to any authority but my own. It was a point of pride for me to reject a biblical worldview and everything I thought that meant.

But dangling from the end of your rope, is a REAL. DANGEROUS. PLACE. And deciding to read the Bible and follow Jesus like I mean it, is the smartest thing I ever did. It has rearranged my furniture so thoroughly, in such dramatic and interesting ways, I regret not doing it sooner.

Photo: Kristin Jack

Photos: Kristin Jack

My new life at Mercy Ships is a good example of the massive remodel God has in mind.

Based on Youth With a Mission’s five-month Discipleship Training School, “Gateway” is the Mercy Ships training program I will soon help lead. I’ve been a student of it for the last five weeks, and it has proven a wonderful place to be dismantled by God, in public.

And maybe that sounds horrifying, which it is, until you realize everyone else is doing it too – Parsing messy childhoods and sticky father images, jettisoning baggage, and getting down to the way things are. Tomorrow, somebody will surely throw open a long-chained closet door that conceals the terrible-awful and let the light shine in. Then they will cry in the bathroom.

This is some of the hardest evidence I can offer for the value of following Jesus.

When I was working the American dream like a boss, making a bunch of money and waking up each day in a dead panic, my life felt like a carnival game. The objective seemed to be, learn the rules, avoid the rigged ones and play better than everyone else. That’s it. Without eternity, who really cares what you do here? Of course, sometimes I’d win a stuffed banana, and that was nice, but who wants one of those anyway?

What I wanted was joy. I wanted to feel the love of God move from me, to someone else and back again; to know I am so thoroughly loved that all I really must do is manifest, to see people around me for the weary travelers they are, thirsty for love.

I have that now in ever-increasing measure. It’s my new American Dream. And the only thing I did to get it, was humble myself and surrender to a brand new worldview, one wherein Jesus is the center of everything.

I’m living proof. It works.

The Gateway Gang. Fighting Fires. Photo: Kristin Jack

The Gateway Gang. Fighting Fires. Photo: Kristin Jack

And so on Thursday morning, this group of people, who’ve held my hand as God threw open my broom closets, will board a plane for Point Noire, Congo. Many of them will spend the next several years there following Jesus right into the beating heart of Africa, where his beloved poor live.

My prayer for them is this:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanksto the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:9-12

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Two Lessons from a Mud Hut

The girls' hut.

These women are dangerous.

See this little hut with the grass roof and mud walls? I can hardly believe it myself, but for seven days, eight women called it home.

It amazes me now, solitary as I am, that I didn’t throttle anybody or succumb to panic in the suffocatingly close quarters. In fact, I thrived there. The midnight prayers that rose from that hut were so precious, I keep admiring them like a handful of emeralds.

Pray, then balance sandwiches on your head.

Pray, then balance sandwiches on your head.

Here are two things I learned in that hut.

1. We are stronger in tribes – even independent Americans.

While I prefer to sequester myself from other humans and their intolerable messes, it makes me weak. In Africa, I allowed older, wiser women into some deeply shaded parts of my life, allowing their years of wisdom and experience wash over me, and I finally understood what it is to rest for a moment in someone else’s faith.

See, when we go deep with people, into their triumphs and messes, when we witness their failures and are not scared or offended, we grow in community. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told us to stay in church, so we can deal with the inevitable conflict of being human and learn what grace really means.

The reward for the effort is deep affection for one another, and the experience of God’s grace. I love these women now in ways I can’t fully describe.

2. Prayer with a group of woman all kneeling at the feet of Jesus, works.

One night in that hut, we gathered under sleeping bags and headlamps and prayed for things some of us have never spoken out loud. I saw icebergs calve, skyscrapers of hidden guilt and fear, shearing off those women and crashing into the water below, melting in the light of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus told us to do this because He knew it would make us lighter, more nimble, and dangerous to the enemy, but I had to go to Africa to take it seriously.

After all, what scares you doesn’t scare me, so in the name of Jesus, I can walk into your dark corners and kick some ass for you. Then you can do it for me.

And something changes between us forever.

Hubbard Glacier - "Calving"

Hubbard Glacier (Photo credit: roger4336)

I wonder if our independent streak is sometimes a cover for laziness and fear. Of course it’s easier to mind our business and small talk each other to death, but who will slay your dragons when you’re too far down to do it yourself? Who will call that thing you believe about yourself the bald-faced lie it is? Who will say, “You’re drowning in Scotch but I love you and I’m here?”

So if I must choose between a lovely stone manse, with silent wings and empty grounds, and a tiny, mud hut with your socks on my bed and your burdens in my heart, I’m taking the hut. Because I need you, and you need me. So let’s do this thing together.

Do you have a small group you rely on? How did you meet them?

Why Bother With Jesus – Part II

English: Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a story in the Bible about two sisters named Mary and Martha.

Jesus was over for dinner one night – a very big deal for them. Martha was frazzled with all the cooking and preparation and Mary wasn’t helping. Rather, she was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

Naturally, Martha complained to Jesus, asking him to tell her lazy sister to get up and help make dinner.

Here’s what Jesus said:

Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42

Several weeks ago, when a literary agent told me she wanted to represent my book but didn’t think she could sell it because my platform is small, I went nuts. I read books, called meetings, guest blogged, bought domain names, thought up clever e-books and busied myself with the marketing end of being a writer.

There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, dinner must be made.

But all day yesterday, I battled the hunch that Jesus was becoming an abstraction – a terrifying thought because Christendom is already thick with phonies and I don’t want to be one. I promise, if I ever start faking this, I’ll quit and take up bowling.

This morning one of my teachers reminded me about Mary sitting with Jesus, and I realized I’ve become Martha. This is hardly groundbreaking theology, people say it all the time, but in my hustle for my book, I forgot the reason I wrote it in the first place:

  • Because life is hard and Jesus helps.
  • Because it’s not about homosexuality.
  • Because our GPS is faulty.
  • Because seeking his kingdom and his righteousness first, is the path to everything else.
  • Because anybody, even pissed off skeptics, Democrats, gays, immigrants, addicts and Westboro Baptists are welcome at his feet. No matter who says otherwise.

This is why it can be hard to understand Christians sometimes. True, feet-sitting followers of Jesus Christ operate on a totally different framework, one wherein you have to believe it before you see it. For many of us, the things we’ve seen, prevent us from ever going back.

See, when you finally realize it’s irrelevant what you do or don’t do for Jesus, you can just rest at his feet and let him love you. That’s a tremendous relief.

What do you get when you sit at his feet?