So, here I am again... all this thinking has been building up awhile and I'm trying to let it out slowly:) But there is always so, so much to say...which is why these thoughts are somewhat random...
I'll start by loving on Austin. I have been welcomed, loved, and throughly made a part of the community here in Austin. It's kind of a funny town (well, if you are where I come from Austin is more of a metropolis!) - people still act as though there are only 250,000 people when the reality is they've passed 750,000 and are still growing!
In any case, I've quickly grown to love the hot, sticky days, the availability of tacos and empanadas at every hour, and the agreement amongst Austinians to be surprised at nothing. Within two weeks of my arrival I had found a church and attended its membership class, found a place to live, visited a Bible study, enjoyed lunches 'out' courtesy of my co-workers, and attended an Irish play. How wonderful!
Here's an excerpt from my journal on July 16, four days after I'd arrived:
Well, I've arrived, moved in, wandered, explored, got lost, been awkward, found my way... and I'm now sipping White Peony tea by a small bubbling fountain under a white-spotted sky. How have I found myself here? What a bizarre turn of events that landed me so far from anything familiar. Yesterday I was challenged to think about what the ALSOs are in my life (I need/desire Christ and ALSO___). This, sadly, is a reflection of me. I desire with my whole heart to love and serve and bring glory to my Maker ...and I ALSO desire to succeed here...and I ALSO desire a trip to Europe next summer... and I ALSO desire for the students to like me... and I ALSO (insert many more)
Hmm... I struggle with my "alsos," but I understand that Christ suffered for those things - those idols - that continually beg to steal worship that belongs to the Lord! I know that by the power of Christ in me, and nothing else, I can choose to give worship wholly unto the Lord. As I just told a friend - the 'alsos'(or closets) in our lives may not be something we need to ask God to take away, but rather things we need to peel our eyes from and look up to our Savior, the author and perfector of our faith. Yes! This Savior who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider CHRIST who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3 paraphrase). These things, these "alsos," attempt to grow us weary and disheartened... but we are blessed to endure! And all the world's "alsos" are a trifle compared to Christ's suffering and the future glory we will see.
I've been reading in Acts (an ongoing affair I only just finished up) and came upon chapter 19. Paul was in Ephesus teaching about the Holy Spirit and blessing the disciples there. His teaching infuriated some, who argued against the Way, but Paul kept right on preaching - TWO years he preached until all in the province of Asia had heard the Word of the Lord (8-10). Can you imagine?
God was healing people and curing diseases through his servant Paul - amazing! The people were amazed too - some Jews went about trying to drive out demons in the name of Jesus. "One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?'"(Acts 19:15) The evil spirit jumped out onto them, overpowered them, and sent them running naked and bleeding. The name of the Lord was then greatly feared throughout their land - people came forward and confessed their evil deeds.
"Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?"
They were right to be afraid - and no more than we should live with holy fear today. I praise God that I know I am His, but I kept hearing that question "...but who are you?" I thought about it when my actions did not reflect a holy fear for my Savior.
I pray that I will not become calloused, but tender towards the Almighty God, who for His glory offered grace to me.
All the alsos will fade like flowers in the dripping, Austin heat, but the breath of the Lord is a strong and mighty wind that evokes holy fear from all of creation.