Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Wings of Cheer

This post is dedicated to my brother, who inspired me with agriculture, and to my roommate, who stood beside me my last month in California and prayed me through. You both are such a blessing. Thanks.

I promised myself that I would keep my writing short, but sometimes God is too good and I have to go long. I actually had the privilege of sharing this story with the Youth For Jesus team this summer, as well as the leaders for the Southwestern Union. Both times I've come to a different appeal, but the principles still ring true. 
The title of the post is a play off a nature book I read as a child, but it's also the phrase I repeat to myself when I fly reminding me that my newly acquired love for air travel truly is a cheerful occasion, regardless whether I'm coming or going. How true it is…
"What? You're crazy!"

I had to smile. It wasn't the first time I'd heard that. 

"You mean, you're giving up all of this to go to Oklahoma and garden?" 

The incredulity in his voice echoed the feelings I had been fighting inside. I glanced out the window as the plane banked east over the stunning waters of Lake Tahoe and the grandeur of the Sierras.

Deep breath in and out. 

"Yes, I am." 

Really God? Is this really happening again? 

I was exhausted. The entire month had been absolutely chaotic as I ran about courageously (perhaps somewhat foolishly) attempting to work multiple projects at once, but honestly the busyness hadn't been as hard as the mental struggle I had been going through. 

There was no break. Friends, teachers, pastors…and even I couldn't grasp the fact that God didn't want me to come back to school the following semester. The potential was endless. I was heavily involved in media and music…how could I consider leaving? You have too many talents to waste them in a garden, Aubrey. 
Nights I spent begging God to change His mind. 

No change. 

The change had to happen in my heart first, but I wasn't ready. 
Questions still rushed about in my head. 

By the time I had reached the airport that morning, I was worn out in body, mind, and spirit. My roommate bid me farewell and I drooped through security. 

"Hey, put a smile on your face," a TSA man grinned at me. 

"Are you ok? Smile," another chimed in. 

Since when have TSA people been so nice and friendly? I really don't want to smile. Can't a body be gloomy on occasion? 

Slumping into my seat, I leaned my head against the seat back in front of me, not even bothering to watch the plane load or see who sat next to me. 

It was a very low point. 

God, I really need to know why I'm doing this. Please, somehow confirm that I am making the choice You want. I need affirmation. I can't do this without it.  

It wasn't until the plane began to taxi that I looked around at who I would be traveling with. Next to me was a older, African American gentleman, and a middle age Caucasian guy on the aisle. My neighbor was reading the paper: ObamaCare. Not having the slightest knowledge of politics, I struck up a conversation about them (generally not the greatest idea), but thankfully, he seemed learned and I listened. 
The conversation moved from politics to his family, work, etc. Then he turned the questions on me. 

"Are you from California?"

"No, I've only been out here a year working at a small college." 

I shared some of what I'd done over the year. 

"So where are you going now?" 

"I'm moving back to Oklahoma to work in my brother's garden." 

"What? Why? 

"Because God is asking me to."

"Do you really believe God is calling you back to Oklahoma? You're crazy!?"

God, this isn't helping. 

"Ok, so what is your ultimate goal? What are you wanting to do with the rest of your life?" 

Mercy! Such general questions. How can I make this as simple as possible?

"Actually, I'm a fan of education. I want to use agriculture, music, media, ministry, and medicine to teach young people."

"What sort of religion are you?" 

"I'm a Christian." 

"What denomination?"

"Seventh-day Adventist." 

This is where conversations can get really long (speaking from personal previous plane conversations) Mom made it clear that I need to try to recuperate on this flight to prepare for a busy weekend. I can't talk the entire trip. 

"Oh, ok." 

It was that sort of response that begged the question…

"Do you know what a Seventh-day Adventist is?"

"Oh, sure. I have friends that are Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, etc." 

Just as I had expected. 

Lord, I can't get involved in this. I'm too tired. I can't even think straight. Please, no." 

The next question came out anyways. 

"Do you like history?" 

"I love history." 

"Well, back in the middle 1800's there was a man by the name of William Miller…" 

I related the story to him until I reached Daniel 8:14 (which really wasn't very far). Pulling my Bible out of my backpack, I laid it on the table in front of him.  

"…'until 2,300 days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed'…Do you know what the sanctuary is?" 

"Of course." 

"Great. Let's review then." 

And we were off. 

The next few hours, we discussed a plethora of Bible teachings: sanctuary, salvation, great controversy, Sabbath, state of the dead, second coming, heaven, hell, the millennium…
As the conversation got deeper, I began praying hard. Thankfully, neither one of us ever became defensive, but kept open terms about us. I kept praying that God would help me remember where to find Scriptures as he fired questions at me. My energy began to return. 
About half way into this, I realized that instead of just two people talking about beliefs, this was an all out war of principalities and powers. Sometimes the look in his eye would give me shivers up and down my spine. 

Lord, we're up here flying 36,000ft and I need someone to pray with me. There's no way I can let anybody down there know what's going on right now, but I need prayer desperately. 

All while this is happening, the guy in the aisle seat remained completely expressionless. 

What is he thinking? I can't read him at all. Is he offended by this? 

We kept going. Most of the time, when he'd ask me a question, I'd reply with a Scripture and then turn the question back on him. I felt sorry for him because, even though he had a lot of knowledge, he was really quite confused and kept making himself more confused. 

A voice came over the intercom.

"We will be landing in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport within the next few minutes…" 

Wait a minute, Lord. Is all of this talking, this searching of the Scriptures, this sharing the gospel not going to lead to anything? 

Honestly, this really was the sort of talk that needed to culminate in a "What must I do to be saved?" sort of reply, but instead... 

"Aubrey, it's been a pleasure talking with you. I've really enjoyed our conversation, but promise me two things."

Wonder what he's after. 

"Promise me you'll never stop asking questions and promise me you'll never believe everything written in this Book," he tapped my open Bible. 

{We'd also talked about the reliability of the Bible. That's when I learned he didn't believe the whole Book, claiming it to be flawed} 

Another deep breath. 

"Mr. Clarence, I will assure you that I will never stop asking questions. God has given us minds to ask questions and I intend to use it, but about the last part of the promise…Mr. Clarence, I guess it's time I quote Martin Luther. 
Martin Luther was called before an assembly of the church and commanded to recant his beliefs. I can't remember his response exactly, but this is the idea: 'Here I stand. I can do no other.'
Mr. Clarence, my response to you is the same. Here I stand. I can do no other. There is no point to life if I cannot trust this Book fully. It is folly if I dare reject one word. I cannot promise."

He looked at me, but didn't say anything. It was obvious the conversation was over. I leaned back in my seat and looked out the window again. The plane was descending over the flat, barren, Texas topography. 

Why God? Why did it have to end this way? Did I fail somewhere? What went wrong? 

Now, looking back on it, I can only imagine what God's reaction to my question was. 

*Aubrey…just wait. It's not over yet.*

The fellow on the aisle finally reacted. 

"Excuse me, I hate to be nosey, but I really feel like I need to share something." 

Nosey? Haha. He's been sitting next to us the whole time...

"Sir, this young lady has been sharing with you the gospel the entire flight. It's because she has a fervent love for Christ and she loves you. Everything she said is the truth…"

Within a few sentences, he summarized the plan of salvation over again. 
Then he turned to me. 

"Aubrey, my Bible is in my duffle and after watching you navigate your way around yours so easily, I'm convicted that I need to spend more time getting to know mine better and strengthening my relationship with Christ. 
You know, I've been praying for you this entire trip that God would give you the words to say and I must say, I've never heard the gospel shared with such clarity and boldness. I don't have that and I want it in my life. It was no accident that I sat here on this flight. I needed to hear this." 

What? He was the answer to my prayers? God used him? Whoa…"

Turning back to Mr. Clarence…"Sir, you weren't here on accident either. God is calling to my heart and to yours. Don't turn Him down." 

"Aubrey, don't ever stop ministering. God has given you a gift." 

Part of me wanted to burst into tears in awe and part of me wanted to break out singing at the top of my lungs. I could not believe what I was hearing. 

"I won't." 

It wasn't much longer before the wheels touched down on Texas soil. The plane began to unload. 
David, as I learned his name, dragged his military duffle out from under the seat and stood up. Looking back at me over his shoulder, he whispered, "Thank you," and was gone. 

I sat there trying to process everything that took place over the last few hours. 
God had answered my prayers in more ways then I could've imagined. 

First - He reminded me of my identity as I shared with others truths from the Bible. 
Second - He reminded me that He had called me to ministry. 
Third - He reminded me that He is in control and wants me only to trust Him more. 
Fourth - He will use people we never dreamed He could to pray for us in our weakest moments.
And fifth - it is by sharing Him with others that brings life to the soul and body. Not only was my mind clear, but I had more energy than I'd had in weeks. Had I rested? Yes, I rested in the Him. That's where true rest comes from. 

I got off the plane in complete marvel of the God we serve. 
Friends, He is ever faithful. 

Won't you join me and learn to trust Him even more? 

There are people out there who need to see examples of what He can do in their lives. They need to be inspired to recommit themselves to Him, because the world destroys that desire. We can show them if we let Him lead and guide us regardless of whether it's something we want or not. He will use us in our weakest moments to bring glory to His name. 
Let's prove Him right, eh? 

And just so you know, I have found joy in the garden. It's been one of the best ways of healing my heart, mind, and body, and is creating strong bonds with the Lord and my family. 
If you ever get the chance to be involved with agriculture, jump on it. In fact, go out of your way if you have to:) 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fish and Obedience

"…He [Christ] sought to undo the work that had been wrought by false education, and to give to His hearers a right conception of His kingdom and of His own character." -DA 299

This mission is played out in every single aspect of Christ life here on earth. It was His constant aim. 

One particular account is recorded in Luke 5…

It had been a long night on the lake. They had nothing to show for their efforts. 
They were mentally tired too. 
For some time now they had been watching this provocative young rabbi in His work. He healed people and preached about the kingdom of God. Some thought He could be the Messiah, but what a strange way of preparing to throw out the Romans. After all, wasn't that what the Messiah was suppose to do: cleanse the nation of this thorn in their side?  
Instead, this Man was teaching about poorness of spirit, meekness, mercy, and a boatload of other things contrary to what the Messiah should be doing. 

*What business does He have to muddle in our personal lives? Can't He just concentrate on raising an army and getting the show on the road? We're ready to fight. Why isn't He?* 

As the boats near shore, they see Him on the beach. A crowd of people surround Him. 

*See! He already has a following large enough to start something and yet He continues to counsel them about spiritual things. It just doesn't make sense. What kind of Messiah is this? Not the one we've been taught of.* 

The fisherman secure the boats and automatically start cleaning their nets, like they've done for years. 
They can't help notice the crowd continues to grow. 

Jesus looks their way. 

Simon, can you do me a favor? I need some space. Can we put your boat out from the shore and let me teach from there? 

Simon shrugs his shoulders. Why not? 

The sun continues to rise.
The setting was perfect really. Had Kodak been around then, doubtless someone would have used it to describe the moment. 
The fisherman listen as they finish their job and store the nets. They can't help be drawn by the words this Man speaks. Something about them soothes the tumult of thoughts that had been raging in their minds. 

Silence. Jesus is done teaching…or is He? 

"Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch."  vs. 4

Simon looks around wondering if Jesus is talking to someone else. No, He's looking straight at Him. 

*What? He wants me to fish now? Doesn't He know this isn't the time of day to fish? Doesn't He know you don't go into deep water? What can He be thinking? Just because I let Him use my boat to preach doesn't mean He can use it however He likes. 
Plus, the guy is a carpenter. He works with wood, not fish. This isn't He field of expertise. It's mine. 
Why is He embarrassing Himself in front of all these people? This is a fishing community after all. Everyone knows this isn't how you do things. What would they think if they see me following a carpenter's instructions? 
On top of everything, we already have the nets stored away and it would take all afternoon to get them clean for tonight…
Maybe I should help Him understand.* 

"Master, we have toiled all night (*ahem* that's when you're suppose to fish) and caught nothing…" vs. 5

But then he stops. As he looks into the eyes of Jesus, the words spill from his mouth. 

"…nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net." vs. 5

Wait. Did he really just say that? 

*Boy howdy. Here I go putting my foot in my mouth again. What did I just get myself into?*

Not wanting to meet the eyes of his counterparts, he hollers, "Andrew, c'mon. Give me a hand." 

Can't you imagine Andrew's face? 

As the boat sails into deep water, Simon doesn't need to look back to the shore. He can feel the eyes of the crowd on him. And yet Jesus doesn't seem to mind. He smiles and laughs as the boat rocks with the wind blowing across the lake. 

*How can He be so at ease? Everything about this is wrong.*

Jesus interrupts Simon's thoughts. 

Ok, Simon. I think here is a good spot.

Simon looks around. 

*Great. I knew He didn't know what He was doing. Of all places…really?* 

Here guys, I'll give you a hand with the nets. 

The next moments are like slow motion for Simon and Andrew. Without thinking, they move automatically to cast their nets, their actions honed by years of experience. 

*splash* The nets slapped the face of the water. 

Instantly, the fisherman's muscles strain against weight of fish filling the nets. 
Simon's voice bellows across the lake. 

James! John! Come help!

They struggle as they work together. Jesus is right beside them, helping them haul the nets aboard. James and John arrive. Whoops and hollers spill from these fisherman. They've never seen anything like this in their life. Their boats are actually sinking because of the plenitude. 

Once the commotion settles, Simon looks around. He sees Jesus in the boat, dripping from head to toe, seaweed stuck in His hair, a huge grin spread across His face. But for the first time, Simon sees beyond the garb of a carpenter-turned-fisherman. The recognition brings him to his knees. 

"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" vs. 8

Words uttered from the mouth of a man who knows he's in the very presence of God. The conviction is almost too much to bear. His heart is breaking. The knowledge of his condition humbles him. 

Jesus kneels down beside him. 

"Don't be afraid. From now on you will catch men." vs. 10
Jump forward several years. 

It's Pentecost. The city is full of pilgrims. 
The Holy Spirit has been poured out on the disciples. 
Peter stands up and begins to speak...

"...This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses…" Acts 2:32

He is testifying of the Messiah. 
3,000 are added to the church. 
As he watches people repenting and being baptized, it's as if he's back on the lake with Jesus. 
He can almost feel the breeze blowing through his hair, the rock of the boat against the waves, the smell of the fish surrounding him, the burning in his heart as he kneels at the feet of his Lord. 
He can hear the words spoken ever so gently, 

"Don't be afraid. From now on you will catch men." 

It had been the wrong time, the wrong place. Everything Peter had been educated about fishing was challenged. The only reason he had to act on was Jesus word. He commanded it. 
Only by His word was the catch a success.  

Obedience to every word of God is another condition of success. Victories are not gained by ceremonies or display, but by simple obedience to the highest General, the Lord God of heaven. He who trusts in this Leader will never know defeat. Defeat comes in depending on human methods, human inventions, and placing the divine secondary. Obedience was the lesson that the Captain of the Lord's host sought to teach the vast armies of Israel – obedience in things in which they could see no success. When there is obedience to the voice of our Leader, Christ will conduct His battles in ways that will surprise the greatest powers of earth. -6T p. 140

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we don't see "catches" like this in our own life is because when Jesus asks us to do something radical, we don't get beyond the excuse. 

"You see, Master, we've been doing this a long time. Trust us. We know what we're doing. This is our area. Ask us to pick up a sword and fight for You, we'll do it in an instant, but don't try to mess with our personal lives, our daily lives, the area we feel comfortable with. That's our domain - not Yours." 

Maybe we have yet to learn what it means to trust, to obey. 

Do we really understand what it means to have Jesus undo the work in our heart wrought by false education? 
Do we have that right conception of His kingdom and of His own character? 

Perhaps it's time to take our boats out deep and let down the nets...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Stand We Here Idle?

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? 

Will it be the next week, or the next year?…

Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? 

Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power…we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave

Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. 

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!... Our brethren are already in the field! 

Why stand we here idle?... 

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? 
Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

The voice of a man...Patrick Henry. A man credited for bringing Virginia into the heart of the American Revolution. 

And yet, read the words over again. Do they not rally us today? 
Not to the revolution of patriotism against the tyrannical rule of another nation, but a revolution nonetheless...a revolution in our hearts and minds. 

Why stand we here idle? 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Out of the Heart


The king has commissioned you to the most dangerous job in the nation.
Had it been any other man, you’d think he’d completely lost his mind. 
However, this man, this king of yours, is a follower of the God of Israel and has proved himself a leader worthy of following. 

But still...a job of this caliber is frighting. Butterflies quake in your stomach; your hands sweat. Doubt continues to creep about inside your mind. 

“Really? Is God really serious about this?” 

Your friends, those destined to join you in your mission, stand about just as nervous and uncertain. 
The morning sun edges above the horizon and bounces off the surrounding hills and rocks of the wilderness. Time is ticking.

“Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem...” 

The king is speaking giving final commands to his army. 
But they aren’t regular orders. They are words of encouragement and a reminder to believe...

Believe. Yes. That’s the only way. 
The most difficult part of the battle is won in this instance. The war between belief and doubt. Doubt has no room in the heart of belief.

A smile breaks across your face. Memories of how God has led before strengthen your heart. The smiles of those around your assure you they think the same thing. 
Yes, God is worth following. He has given the victory. The battle against the enemy hasn’t be fought, but you know it’s as good as won. 

Running to take your place before the army, hope and courage well within your very soul. 

No, you aren’t a general. 
You aren’t a commander of any kind. 
You don’t even have a sword... 

You are a singer. 

There’s nothing between you and the enemy army. The soldiers of your country are behind you. 
Only music, only the voice of praise goes before you. 
This isn’t the sound of timidity, but of intrepidity born from the knowledge of the beauty of holiness. 
And those are the genre of songs you sing. The voices of your friends swell with yours as you march into the wilderness to prove God right. 

“Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever!” 

This is something worth singing about...

“It was a singular way of going to battle against the enemy’s army–praising the Lord with singing, and exalting the God of Israel. This was their battle song. They possessed the beauty of holiness. If more praising of God were engaged in now, hope and courage and faith would steadily increase. And would not this strengthen the hands of the valiant soldiers who today are standing in defense of truth? PK 202.1

So often we think of Jehoshaphat’s singers flippantly, forgetting theirs wasn’t the job to covet. These people had to exercise the greatest amount of faith of all those tested in this trial. 

Singers are warriors in the battle of today. Singers must have characters possessing the beauty of holiness. 
Out of the heart the mouth sings...

Can our hearts sing the songs of holiness?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Gift Must Go On

{ I was asked to consider blogging by some friends of mine this summer, so I thought "why not?" After some thinking, I decided to dedicate this post to my mother...}

Nothing is worth having that’s not worth sharing... 

For the past five summers of my life, my mother has been dedicated to the ASI Youth For Jesus program. First, she served as assistant cook, then girl’s dean, and finally as logistics coordinator. She’d poured her passion into it. The first four years, I was the reason she was involved, but this summer she did it on her own.

If you are privileged enough to know my mom, you’d know she’s a woman of great energy; everything she does is done completely and in efficient time. With her involved, any project is bound to be a success whether it be coordinating weddings, interior design, researching for companies, programs, trips, nursing, cooking, raising kids and taking care of her husband. She makes me tired just watching her. And if you get her together with a couple like-minded friends, it’s like watching dynamite explode. 

I’ve always known that she is great with young people, and this summer I noticed it even more. At the farewell party Youth For Jesus held at ASI, almost every single youth had difficulty saying bye to “Mama Vivian”. She’s a mom to them all and she’s been a mom to them all in previous years. 

That’s when I realized I have hundreds of “siblings” scattered around the world who have become such because they’re my mom’s kids. And they will always be. That will never change, regardless of whether or not they keep in touch. 

Several asked me what it was like having to share my mom so much. Hence the concept: nothing is worth having that’s not worth sharing. My mom can’t be used up whether she has over a hundred kids or not. I’m hard pressed to find a better reason to smile than when I see kids clinging to her, crying, and saying she’s like a second mom to them. 
When you’ve got one of the best moms in the world, you can’t keep her to yourself.

Thanks, Mom, for not only being such an amazing mom to Alan and me, but to hundreds of kids who’ve come to know you as “Mom”. It’s our pleasure to share.