Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Real Update-- Finally!

Dear All,

I owe you a hefty update. I'm sorry it's so long in coming....

What all has God been up to in my life in the last 2 months?? Probably far more than only 2 months ought to hold. But He's gentle with me, and patient.

I've just gotten back to school after a term break spent house-sitting with 3 of the most gorgeous people God ever made-- each in their own precious way. There were many late night chats and lazy afternoons of studying together. There were attempts at true cooking (which, according to my Dutch guinea pigs, didn't turn out half bad) and lots of American style chocolate chunk cookies in Dutch and Ugandan tummies : ) There was MUCH worship. Much, much worship. Whether it was just me and Adriaan heralding in the afternoon with his guitar and our God or Vinyard and Matt Redman blaring over the stereo at all hours. There was some star-gazing-ful nights, and lots of goofing off on the big trampoline in the back-garden. There was some girly squealing over a certain someone's wedding this Saturday (okay, so sometimes Dorcas and I would dance around the kitchen giggling about her fiance coming in this weekend from Israel until Adriaan and Henk raised some eyebrows but you know, whatever! A marriage built on the Glory of God is worth celebrating!!). There were long walks through the peaceful English suburb (about a thirty minute walk from college), short bus trips to nearby Cheltenham for evening church and window-shopping on this year's Best Shopping Street in the UK (apparently they vote on it), and filling the house up with friends (we had a sleepover with other friends from college for Valentine's Day : )). I managed to convince my Dutch counterparts to see not one but TWO Audrey Hepburn movies with me this week (Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's, for whoever's interested : )). There has been God, major God, going on in my heart (praise, praise, praise, praise, praise!) and I have just spent a sweetly memorable week of my life looking after a house and a cat for my pastor's family on vacation in Austria with 2 lovable Dutchmen and a fabulous Ugandan lady!

And now it's back to class and time to get serious about getting essays done before the end of third term! This term I have been taking a very full load (8 courses out of the required 6):

'Between the Testaments' on Monday mornings is an over-view of the history between Malachi and Matthew since apparently the world wasn't put on hold during that gap of centuries : ) We were assessed through a group presentation for this course which meant putting together a lecture on the Essenes with a few other students. The other presentations were on the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots.

'Wealth and Poverty', the next two hours of my Monday morning, is a course I'm auditing simply so I can attend the lectures that look interesting on the syllabus and skip the rest since Simon-- Principal Steer-- teaches in just such a way to completely put me off learning anything (lovely man, not my style of teacher).

'Islam' on Tuesday morning is one of those classes that I feel I must go to since I have this opportunity to learn something about this huge world religion but I feel no passion for and not much interest in, unfortunately. Still, I'm sticking it out and auditing it with the feeling that it's important to soak up as much as is available to me.

'Developing Spirituality' has got to be one of my favorite courses ever. It gets past all the classes of facts and outlines and zeros in on the actual meaning of all this-- relationship with God. Each week we discuss another key area of relating to God in mainstream Christianity and then we have to challenge ourselves to exercise that area in some way we haven't necessarily done before. Rosemary facilitates it and I adore Rosemary. (She's also working with me on arranging my missions placement which will hopefully be taking place in Ireland this May/June!)

'Primal Religions' is one of the most interesting of my classes this term. To study the beliefs of primal sorts of cultures across the world keeps pointing right back to an innate "eternity set in the heart of man" and I love that... Plus to see the world through another shade of glasses so radically different from what I know is incredibly enlightening...

'Evangelism&Discipleship' is a bit of a challenge because I really don't care for those kind of categories, to be honest. I believe our entire lives, our every moment, ought to be an evangelical mission and a discipling time. I hate thinking of what would be "most effective". JUST LOVE!! Just love with His love. But it's good for me to get a look at the traditional "forms" of evangelism and to be introduced to "what's hot" in modern Western Evangelism, as well as dig a bit deeper into the definition of Discipleship and learn of some good examples and good sources for learning more!

'Post-Modernism' is one of my favorite courses. Partly because I love the way Rob Cook teaches, the way he thinks, and partly because I love philosophy and setting my mind to thinking on such a track. It's very likely my hardest course yet because every thought is so slippery. As soon as I think I've got my mind around it, it flits away. But fascinating, anyway : ) And so great to still study philosophy as I did at Concordia last year but with a biblical basis to fall back on.

I'm taking an extra course on Saturday's in 'Children's Ministry'. It's a full day of classes every other Saturday covering everything from child development to leading a child to Christ to running a youth club. I figure somewhere down the line this might be useful knowledge to have gained!

I'm still doing my concurrent placement on the chaplaincy team at the hospital. I'm still being stretched every Friday morning. I'm still taking a deep breath before I throw open those swinging doors to my ward and I'm still approaching each bed with a fragile smile made firm only in His grace. And I'm still being blessed by conversations and prayers I have with the patients there, while being turned away by others. I'm still learning when to reach out and take someone's hand and when to hold back, when to open the Jesus window and when to simply gaze at them through it, when to speak and when to listen. But I have dear gentle teachers.

My dear dear friend Jenny was proposed to by her awesome, rare, incredible man-of-God boyfriend this term! I got to meet him when I stayed in N. Ireland over New Year's and was so impressed. I think when she came back from a friend's wedding in Scotland with a perfect, petite diamond ring on her finger, I was as excited as she was : ) Since then I've become her wedding accomplice this side of the Irish Channel-- afternoons of dress shopping and evenings of talks and laughter about it all. Jenny is one of the dearest people God has ever made and He will use she and Gary united as a force to be reckoned with... I love romance with a purpose.

Selifishly, I'm thankful because this means she'll still be in England next year since Gary, who's also Northern Irish, will be moving here to Bath for further study.

Which leads me to my next (and final, for now!) subject-- the decision to stay on here at Redcliffe for my degree. I really started to worry about making the decision just after Christmas as I felt I needed to take some concrete steps, but each time I would try to say 'yes' or 'no' I would bombard myself with all the pros and cons and all decision-making capabilities (which are low in my personality anyway) would completely flee the scene... Should I stay on and earn my BA here? In Applied Theology? What about English literature and writing? That passion hasn't decreased. What about America? If I stay here, I accept the 'unbelongingness' of ex-pat-hood as life. And what at the end of the three years? What then? I will be even more not at home where I came from, but I'll not be at home here either, so where will I be? Where will I go? What will I do? I have no certain "call" into traditional missions/ministry after this. And then I was worried about the social aspect of it. We are all people on the move and if I come back next year there will be turnover. I'll lose Jenny. I'll lose Adriaan. Two of my closest friends here. Gracie's family will be in Mozambique, Henk will be back in Holland getting married, Ruth will be in Chile, Darren, Aifionn and Finlay will be in Portugal. Most of the families I babysit for will be gone and I've grown attached. I'm so concious that the next 5 months with them will fly by and then that will be it. On with our completely seperated-by-distance-and-circumstance lives. I realize that there will be new friendships and opportunities to deepen existing ones that do stay on at Redcliffe for the full degree. But I love too much. And I depend on the ones I love. Can I do this without them? And I'm not always wild about these studies. I love to learn, I hate to be assessed on what I've learned. It's very rigid academically whereas I'm all about the artistic expression and personal styles of learning. Can I manage to please these tutors for 3 whole years? Existing completely beyond my comfort level of academia, forcing far too many essays of restricting my thoughts to the presentation they want to see... Can I manage? And can I keep on putting myself out there again and again in working with people? In ministries? I feel as if I have so very little to give and yet there are such high expectations. Can I cope? Can I possibly measure up to all that is asked of us? To all the mission placements and subsequent interactions? To all the bits of leadership we're expected to take on along the way? Can I possibly function so far out of my comfort zone for so long without burning out?

Journaling all this out in a prayer, I concluded with, "Father, can I do this? Should I?" and instantly felt,
When did it become a matter of what best "suits" you?
When did it stop being a matter of My Will for your life and My committment to carrying you through whatever you had to endure on that path?
Lovely, Rest in Me.
Rest in My promises.
I am your Home.
And I will uphold you.
Have I not shown Myself faithful?
Can I be anything but your Faithful One?
You may show yourself faithless but even then, even then I will remain faithful.
Do not calculate the fears. If You fear Me, you need fear nothing else...
Let Me show you.
Give Me your hand....

And since then He has been girding me up. Teaching me trust again. And preparing me to move to England for the next few years. Who knows where I'll be after that! But I don't believe that's really His point...

And so I leave off entreating you, once again, to turn the eyes of your heart to Him. Know this wonder, know this Love, know this God.
Leah <><

"Let all our employment be to know God; the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him."
--Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

Sunday, 12 February 2006

Quick Update

Dear All,

This will be short and to the point! Sorry it's been months and there must be so much to catch you up on-- which I fully intend to at least attempt to do one of these days! For now I just thought I'd let you know---

I'm spending the week (11th-18th) of mid-term break house-sitting for my pastor and his wife and girls with 3 other Redcliffe students; Dorcas-- Uganda, Adriaan and Henk-- The Netherlands. It's so nice to be in a real house for a while and with a good group of mates and do I even have to elaborate on how I'm loving the cultural diversity that is existing side by side under this roof this week? Even as I type this Adriaan and Henk are chattering away in Dutch in the next room. If I should walk in, they will immediately switch into English for me-- which amuses me to no end : ) Dorcas is incredibly enjoyable- such a beautiful sense of humour!- and I love this chance to get to know her a bit better before she's off and married in two weeks time!

I've been babysitting uncontrollably lately, which is so nice because it really develops relationships with people I would ordinarily only sit next to in class, really. One family, Darren and Aifionn and Finlay, have given me an old mobile of theirs-- so nice!! So, in case you should ever need to contact me urgently, do take down this number: (0044) 7794667646. Each minute is terribly dear, even on calls in the UK, but I'm paying as I go so it's really quite convenient.

I do intend to give you a fuller description of everything (because there is SO much to be said!) but for now I'm about to run off and catch a bus (students travel the Gloucestershire lines for free!) to Cheltenham for evening church... My love to you all!

Learning to rest in Him,
Leah <><
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