Monday, July 31, 2017

Andy Griffith and Classics

My family was never the kind that watched many old movies or classic TV series. I remember watching Sound of Music and Singing in the Rain, but my scope of classics did not go far beyond those. I never minded much, because honestly as a kid I thought I didn't like old movies!

Fast forward to today. Now as an adult I am continually surprised by the charm of old movies - they are like treasures!

I watched White Christmas for the first time in college with my roommates. I remember the evening my friends and I huddled on the hard floor of my dorm room (my bed was lofted, so you couldn't sit on it for movies anyways!) and watched Charade with Audrey Hepburn. Oh, so many delightful stories!

The family that I am living with has a 14-year-old ("M") at home who has now introduced me to two "new" old shows/movies.

1. The Andy Griffith Show

2. Father Goose


Oh, and we still somehow ended up on the floor of my room watching it. We were painting nails, so I suppose it was appropriate. M, thanks for introducing these treasures to me! They are delightful, and so are you. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today and One Day

Today the kids I babysat played pretend "Bible study" at one point in the day.

Today the church I work at on Wednesday evenings included the kids in their worship leading and prayer service.

Today the kids at that same church prayed a blessing over the adults, and the adults over the kids.

Today I met four Korean kiddos and we had fun playing ball together, even though we couldn't speak the same language.

Today the Lord reminded me again why I get excited about how he is stirring the hearts of children, what a privilege it is to get a front-row seat to the praise, prayers and curious faith of children.

And today I heard a story of a teenager from a church in the city who took her life. This was the second story I heard of like this in the past week.

And I struggled to find words to express empathy to a friend last night, because relationships hurt sometimes and I haven't walked through what she is walking through.

And a few days ago I doubted my ability to enter back into Czech culture seamlessly, recognizing that I will undoubtedly have culture shock again as I adjust to "adult" life there in a way I have never experienced before.

And today I worshipped alongside kids at church, singing "You are good to me," and then also mourned from a distance with a friend who lost her grandmother.

The Kingdom is now and not yet. And oh, how I pray that the Lord's Kingdom would be here, just as it is in heaven. I praise him for snippets of that here, for ushering in his Kingdom even now, by his people and by his Word. Yet I long for the day when redemption is completed and all is right!

Let us pray the words of the six year-old from the family I lived with last month. After reading a Bible story one night before bed, we talked about Jesus returning for a second time to fulfill all of the promises God made, and to rule and reign as King in this world.

I asked her before bed, "Is there anything you'd like to pray for, Moira?"

"Pray that Jesus comes back soon. That'll be the best."

Yes, yes indeed. Maranatha: The Lord is coming. Let us take hope, and also rejoice in how he is already victorious!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No Time Wasted

I received a note from my boss yesterday that my food demo was cancelled for the following day because of a glitch in the delivery system of the product. This meant that my Tuesday schedule was unexpectedly wide open. 

While I processed that last-minute schedule change in my head and adjusted to the new plan, I couldn't help but wonder what the Lord had in store instead of the demo. It seemed too last-minute and too obscure of an issue to be merely chance. And even if it were, I had a feeling that the Lord would redeem the time and bring his purposes to a now "free-schedule" day. 

Sure enough, only an hour later, I received a text from a mom in Oak Park whom I have babysat for once before. I got connected with this family quite "randomly" actually, but it was such a delight getting to know their two girls, ages 5 and 3 last week.

"Hi Claire! Super last minute so no worries but anyway you are available to watch (J) tomorrow from 8 am to around 5?" she asked in her text message.

"Wow. Funny you should ask! My job tomorrow in the city was just cancelled today (the company had to reschedule), so I am unexpectedly available tomorrow. I need to be back in the suburbs by around 6 to take a family’s photos, but that works out well with your needs too! Ha! The Lord is good, isn’t he??" I responded.

After a lovely day with a 3-year-old, her mom came home from her work at the hospital, and we both marveled at how God would answer a prayer that she hadn't even thought to pray. He knows our needs way before we do, all the way down to clearing my schedule so that this family didn't have to worry about childcare for the day. The Lord is always covering us with his care and love.

(Here's a little person we created together out of treasures we could find from the yard)

This kind of specific care from the Lord abounds. He has been so faithful and near even in ever-changing transition-filled life, and he has surrounded me with the body of Christ in ways that are so tangible here in the suburbs of Chicago for this time. For that reason, all the more, I was so happy to be a small part of God's work in revealing himself and caring for a family here in Chicago today.

This was about God's glory being displayed in such a simple act of his grace - both to this family, and maybe even more so to me!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not Shaken

I read this Psalm to the kids tonight before they went to bed, and it seemed to penetrate more deeply into my own heart as I read it through their eyes. The six-year-old responded, "So that means God is wrapped around us, he's always with us when I go to sleep." Yes, dear, yes. 

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Temporary Home: Summer Edition

I moved in with my youth pastor's family over a week ago, where I will be living for this next little stretch, until about mid-July. Our youth pastor is leading the outreach team to Slovenia in partnership with Josiah Venture, so I am helping out at home with their four kids for these two weeks.

The two older kids, ages 6 and 4, have been the embodiment of childhood in the summer, which is beautiful. The simple things bring them the most joy - like reading books borrowed from the library, walking to the evening tailgate on Sundays together, eating popsicles on the driveway, waving flags for Fourth of July, and imagining shapes in the clouds.

They have made me smile with their curiosity, their wonder, their joy and spontaneity.

I think the world of this family, and I feel so blessed through this time of jumping into everyday family life together with them. I came into this time unsure of how to adapt and serve this family, since I had only ever talked with them a couple of times at church before this. But the Lord has answered your many prayers since I moved in. These weeks have been incredibly sweet, and I have learned so much from these kids and their mom!

What has the Lord surprised YOU with lately? What trial has he turned into rejoicing? Or what did you fear, which ended up being a gift from the Lord? How has he been near to you in this last week? 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Kingdom and Cities: Why I Came to Cherish Chicago

I hopped in the car this morning, travel mug full of coffee in hand, and drove into the city. Of course, "the city" is always Chicago in my case.

It was a work day at Plum Market, where I demoed chicken sausages. Though the concept of working on a Saturday baffled the kids (the family I'm living with has four kids under the age of six and a half!) in the morning at the breakfast table, I also thank the Lord for the provision of this job and how he shows his kindness even in these times. 

After finishing up my four hours of the demo downtown, I met up with a friend who also graduated from Moody this past year, and we walked around Millennium Park together. I couldn't help but remark on the mercy of the Lord to ease the transition out of the city, into the suburbs, and now back to Czech. For example, though demoing is quite random, the Lord has given me opportunities to go into the city for work every few weeks this way, which has connected my two worlds for this season. 

Chicago will always feel familiar. The "L", and the light blue and red colors of the city (represented on its flag), the streets and the traffic, and the architecture and the Art Institute, and the lessons the Lord taught me in that place. Those will always remain. Friends may move, communities will change, but I praise the Lord that Chicago represents so much of his grace and love.

He used the city to humble me, to show me what little love I had, yet what great love HE has.

When I first came to Chicago, I was overwhelmed by the crowds, sirens and constant noise. I felt a strange inability to worship my Creator in a "man-made city", or so I said. It wasn't until my second semester that I was hit (and convicted by!) by two truths:

1. God's most prized creations are people...and there were millions of them around me every day in the city. What beauty to praise the Lord for, far beyond mountains, oceans, or valleys!

2. The city is God's design. Not only that, but it's how he has designed eternity.

With every person that passes by, I see how broken God's heart must be, yet how compassionate and unending his love is all the same. To know that God wants to redeem cities amazes me. He will usher in a new heavens and new earth with a new Jerusalem at its center - a huge city (about 1370 miles wide and long, according to Revelation 21!).

"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, shining with the glory of God. Its radiance was like a most precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal."

And in this redeemed city, there will no night, no darkness, no corruption or violence, desolation, hopelessness, fear, greed, separation, or absence of God. The Lord will be right in the midst of his people, and all will be made new.
"But I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp." 

I love seeing glimpses of this - his kingdom - here in cities now too. The Kingdom of God is here, and it is not yet. One day all will be redeemed when Christ returns. I'm so excited for that day!

Until then, I will savor the moments where the Kingdom is near in the city - like tomorrow, when thousands of believers gather in churches amidst the broken streets. I will be in the suburbs, but God will be with his people, communing with them, by the Holy Spirit there too. He is near. 

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" 

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God."

I may be moving to Czech soon, but I still pray even now for the Gospel to take hold in these American cities too. Father, may revival spread throughout these regions! Make your Truth known and bring redemption.

I know your heart longs for that far more than mine, Lord.