Sunday, January 24, 2010


The hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” begins with the following line: “When peace like a river attendeth my way…” Peace. My first thought is that there is no peace today in my heart. There is restless longing. I’m not satisfied anymore with walking with Christ through this life. Not when I desire so to be with Him. My eyes, my heart, have opened to the reality of eternity in His presence. I want to be there.

Is it simply because I long to be reunited with those I’ve lost? I don’t think so. It’s the idea of true rest. It’s the understanding that true peace and joy exist in His presence. Knowing that, can I be satisfied with less?

And then the words of the hymn roll over me again. “Peace like a river attendeth my way...” Is it here? Can I experience it now? Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. To one who doesn’t know Christ, we who grieve in Him are bewilderingly peaceful, joyous. They see us and wonder. They cannot understand. They desire such peace and joy.

But here, the step closer, belonging to Christ and living and grieving within His light, right now it doesn’t seem enough. Walking with Him through this broken world seems tainted. The peace I can have here is not what I know exists. I can almost touch that greater peace; I can see it, but I can’t yet experience it. Somehow, though, I live in peace in the midst of turmoil. I live in joy in the midst of suffering. I have respite in the midst of care.

But today the final words of the hymn are so much fuller of meaning than they used to be. “Oh Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, ‘Even so’ – it is well with my soul.” Now, I see through a glass darkly, but then I shall know as I am known.

I’ve always loved that phrasing. The concept that there is a veil, an obstruction on my vision. Lewis’ The Last Battle has called to my heart for that very idea. In The Great Divorce the grass of heaven is so much harder, more real than anything we’ve ever felt here. My heart recognized, desired that truth before I realized it intellectually. It is only recently I’ve begun to grasp this longing with my mind. To comprehend it.

I’m restless in attending peace. I’m longing in grateful fulfillment. I’m sorrowing in unending joy. We truly are a peculiar people, set apart. We long even as we experience glimpses of that which we long for. We experience joy as we look to celebration. We have peace while we wait for rest.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Losing Aimee - Transformation

On the loss of Aimee Powell, 21 January 2010

A friend asked if I would write about Aimee…about losing her, and grieving. My friend said it would help her know how to pray. And it made me wish I was closer. Wish it hadn’t been a few years since I’d spoken with Aimee. Wish that we kept in contact more than through Facebook and our mutual friends. Wish I were the right person to write about losing her.

I’m not.

But I am a writer.

So maybe I’ll try.

You know those friends you have sometimes in life, who you’re not in touch with every day, or even have been really close to – in the way you’re close to a best friend – but who you’ve always known, who you’ve shared times with – good times, and who, no matter how far apart you get, you love?

That’s who the Powells are to me. Who Aimee was. I don’t know when I first met them. I first remember spending time with them during our year in Hong Kong. We visited Taiwan, and hung out with the Powells a lot. As soon as I heard about Aimee’s accident, vivid memories of chasing a spider in her bedroom into the corner behind the dresser and squashing it there came flooding back. They were followed by the Taiwan conference that year – when I hung out more with Aimee’s brothers than her, but remember her there on the edges, playing with her sister Allison, a blonde toddler at the time, on the open lawn. The memories jumped ahead a few years – our touches during my teen years were rare and brief – she was three years younger than me, and when you’re 11 and 8, or 15 and 12, that makes a difference.

But Aimee came back into my life in college. I was a senior, and RA, and she came in as a freshman. I don’t think she requested my dorm – though she might have – but God knew where to put her: right across the bathroom from me. We didn’t become best friends, or deep bosom buddies. But we shared our lives for a school year. There were jolly conversations into the evenings, boggled laughter at her roommate, Cammy, who would surprise us with random information like the fact that shooting and field dressing an eight point buck over Fall Break was nothing compared to the alligator she’d once hunted, and good talks – talks about being an MK, about what it meant to “re-enter” a culture you didn’t know you belonged to.

After that year we went our separate ways. Aimee went on to another school. I graduated. I honestly can’t say if I’ve seen Aimee since then. I think we may have connected once, in New Jersey, but I’m not sure when that was…For six years the river of time has flowed past. But Thursday, when I first heard of her accident, my mind jumped back almost twenty years, and then slowly worked its way forward from scene to scene to the present. In every single memory, Aimee’s joyous smile and sparkling eyes stood out.

I read in one of the articles about Aimee that she recently wrote she felt “settled” for the first time in her life. And I know exactly why she wrote that. Most of our mutual friends know why she would write that. We’ve all experienced the rootlessness that comes from growing up as a TCK, an MK. We know what it means to try to be rooted now that we’re adults, and the itching that comes to the soles of our feet when we leave them in one place too long. It’s no surprise to me that the people who Aimee and I both know are grieving across the globe – posts from California, Hong Kong, Michigan, Taiwan, Maryland, Germany, Pennsylvania, China, Alaska are filling her family’s Facebook walls.

When I’ve worked with MKs going through culture change, one of the things that we talk about is citizenship. The definition of a TCK is someone who spent a significant portion of their formative years in a culture different from that of their parents’ passport culture. Citizenship is a confusing concept for a TCK. But God seemed to know the needs of TCKs when he inspired the words of Scripture. He had Paul pen this: “But our citizenship is in heaven,” (Phil. 3:20a). He gave TCKs roots, an unchanging citizenship.

But here’s the thing…Paul doesn’t stop with that phrase. He goes on, “and from it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20b-21).

Heavenly citizenship isn’t about having roots, though that’s an effect of it. It isn’t about feeling settled, though it gives us a place to belong. No. Heavenly citizenship is about transformation…change from the weak, dark, painful, hard world we struggle through – with bodies and minds diseased by sin – to His glory.

Heaven’s grown closer for me this year. That concept of transformation is played out in my mind’s eye as I see my niece – who was limited and handicapped in this world – running, jumping, and singing with Jesus. Aimee lived across the bathroom from me the year Keren was born. I don’t remember how much we talked about her, but I’m sure we did. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Aimee remembered; that would be like her. So, maybe today Aimee’s playing with Keren – reveling in the transformation that’s taken place for both of them

Friday, January 01, 2010

Urbana Update

Urbana Day 4 –

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This morning, at Urbana, York Moore shared the gospel. Hundreds of students made a commitment for Christ. There were those who came from religious backgrounds, but have never made their faith their own. There were those who didn’t know why they came to Urbana. God is working in the lives of the individuals here both for their salvation and the salvation of others.

A young woman wants to work with the Goth subculture in Japan. An Asian-Canadian has a heart for the Native peoples of Alaska. A young man is looking to use teaching to reach the hearts of students in Asia. A guy is wondering how he can use sports ministry in Europe.

These students share the light of Christ with a dark world. Pray for us as we spend one more day talking with students who are seeking God’s will in their lives.

Urbana Day 5 –

Finishing well, it's always a challenge. You come to the end of a semester as a student and you're worn out. You come to the end of a mission trip and you're spiritually exhausted, to the end of a job and you just want to move to the new opportunity before you. Today at Urbana the SEND representatives greatest challenge was finishing well. We were tired. Our throats were growing scratchy. We'd shared our heart with student after student for four days already. Somehow, though, we had to give today's visitors to the booth the same care and attention that we'd given visitors on Day 1.

The day started with a study of John 4, Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. He was tired. He was thirsty. He asked for a drink, and then He shared the living water. In the general session, the words, "Man of Sorrows what a name, for the Son of God who came ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah, what a Savior!" washed over us, our voices joining with 17,000 others who were calling out to the Man of Sorrows for another day of strength.

And that tired, parched, sorrowing Savior gave His strength, His encouraging hand, His power for one more day. From the moment the hall opened until a few moments after the final call for students to depart, we continued to talk with students about what God is calling them to. The board with the prayer of surrender continued to fill.

The night finished with an hour of communion, breaking the bread together, sharing the cup. And then, we worshiped in the New Year;17,000 students, thousands of exhibitors and people from local churches, singing and praising God together for His goodness.

When the emcee, Greg, began his announcements in the evening, he mentioned that it was the end of our time together. To the sound of disappointment that rose from the crowd, Greg held up his hand, "Woah!" he said. "No! This is a missions conference! If we were to stay here worshiping together we would have failed! We are called to GO!"

Thousands of students were called to GO this week. May God equip them to answer the call.