Part of the 30 day challenge series

Ian, before I begin, I hope it’s clear that no “accomplishment” for me comes without a kind God.  And I’m kind of daunted by all the superlatives in these prompts.  “5 great accomplishments” is easier to answer than “5 greatest accomplishments.” :]

1. Becoming your appa‘s wife.  Not that I had hoops to jump through and exams to pass to do this, though my fears and flesh could be the hoops and dating itself the exam. ;]  But second to following Jesus, this was the best decision of my life.  No exaggeration.

2. Giving birth to you.  I carried you for 10 months in my womb, 5 of which I spent very sick, and labored for 22 hours (sleepless for about 34) and pushed you out!  I still can’t believe that happened.  Then I proceeded to learn how to nurse you, losing even more sleep.  I couldn’t sit down for over a week after you were born, so I had to nurse you standing up the whole time.  Even when you woke in the middle of the night.  When I visited a lactation consultant at the hospital a few days after we were discharged, the lactation consultant said to me, “Oh! You’re the one who nurses her baby standing up!  You poor thing!”  But I’m not sure how much credit I can take for all of this.  Half the time I couldn’t believe it was my body doing this or that.  I didn’t know what it could do!  God’s design.  Uh-mazing.

3. Getting a graduate degree — but not for the reason you’d think.  Yes, getting a degree takes work, but getting a degree I didn’t want, saying okay after 4 years’ battle with your grandpa, and then fighting through ugly, monster-heart bitterness when graduate school became really difficult … Ian, I had to battle my flesh every day.  Multiple times a day.  I had to work through my bitterness.  It ran so deep, not just because of this issue but because every other issue leached onto this one.  But God was faithful.  I still don’t know all the reasons why these three years of my life were in His plan, but if nothing else, it was a place where I had to learn to entrust myself to God through someone else’s will.  What happened in the end?  I thanked your grandpa.  I still don’t think I would have chosen that discipline for my degree, but no bitter heyday here anymo’!

4. Keeping my little cousins close.  It never gets easier keeping loved ones close, especially as life gets busier and people start movin’ away.  But I’m grateful God gave me my “little” cousins.  I’m grateful for the depth of love and friendship He’s given between us.  At least, it’s deep on my end.  They ain’t gettin’ rid of me anytime soon! ;]

5. Learning to be a good friend.  Your grandpa once made an observation about me in high school: You’re a two-year best friend.  My closest friendships never lasted more than two years.  I was fickle and backed away from friendships when they became rocky.  Or it was out of sight, out of mind.  Which is very unloving.  But the two-year best friend streak was true for half of college, too.  In total, that’s most of my life!  But I don’t think this fickleness really changed until my relationship with Christ deepened.  If I can’t be faithful to a perfect Friend, how can I be faithful to imperfect ones?  But by God’s grace, this has changed.  And is changing.

In about a month (one month and one day, to be precise), I’m done with grad school.  Can’t believe it.  I dug my heels in for almost 4 years, not wanting to listen to my dad’s counsel to get an MBA.  That first half year in the program was rough.  As evening classes, homework, group meetings, and the mental Olympics of learning business jargon took over so much of my life, with every hateful complaint in my heart I felt like I was turning into a monster.  So, so bitter.

But the past three years have been humbling.  Many times, especially the first year, I felt like I was “stuck” — hating my lot yet unable to escape it.  But God made the choices clear to me: I could continue in bitterness or I could learn cheerful submission.  I could deem man sovereign and question his motives and plans continually, or I could trust the sovereign hand of God through His human instruments.  I could reckon business studies as irrelevant to God and the gospel, or I could learn to see that the gospel was relevant to everything in my life.  That God’s reign and redemption could never be hedged.

Three years in a master’s program.  What has that accomplished?  Hopefully at least a few things in my brain (shrug) and friendships (smile).  But the master’s degree is wasted unless I’ve also received the Master’s degree — lessons on His character, lessons in fleshing out the gospel.  I know, sounds super cheesy, but I mean it.  Those three years are a sheer waste if all I’ve set myself up to do is climb the corporate ladder, make money, and wear a funny-looking hood for a few hours with other funny-looking hooded people.

Thankfully, my God’s not a wasting God.  And I trust He will bless the labor and glorify His name.

With that said … WAHOO!!!  ONLY A MONTH LEFT!!!  Haha.

P.S. My dad has been gracious and never said, “I told you so!” as I grew to appreciate what I was learning.  But about a year ago, I told him he could have his “I told you so!” moment.  So he did.  With a huge smile.  And I took a picture.  But because I love him, I won’t put it up here.  ;]

Ambition rescued.

February 9, 2011

Sometimes as I walk around my school campus, I’ll see AMDG engraved on the stone faces of different lecture halls.  Other times I’ll see them in smaller initials on bronze plaques.  Ad majorem Dei gloriam. Sweet, visual reminders for every discipline in the university to be pursued to the greater glory of God, because nothing is an exercise in futility when done for that greater purpose.  Are you studying science here?  Great, pursue science ad majorem Dei gloriam. Are you in business?  Great, pursue business ad majorem Dei gloriam.  Are you a dancer?  Great, dance ad majorem Dei gloriam. Are you studying to be a lawyer?  Great, pursue law ad majorem Dei gloriam, too.  Secondary ambitions have been rescued to serve this chief ambition.

But not just at the university.  In all of life.

The early church used a fascinating visual to describe the self-preoccupying nature of sin: incurvatus in se. It means we “curve in on ourselves” … When a hard-wired desire for glory is infected with incurvatus in se, noble ambitions collapse. (Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition, p. 38)

I no longer live for approval; I live from approval. (56)

If our understanding of doctrine creates passivity toward God’s empowering presence or cools the hot embers of our ambition, we’ve misunderstood God’s sovereignty.  When we rightly understand God’s caring control over all things, that knowledge should ignite robust faith toward him and bold desire to act in our hearts. (85)

The focus of true faith is not hills to be taken, battles to be won, or trials to be endured.  The focus of true faith is God — and not just God in the abstract, theological sense.  It’s the God who’s made known in the person of Jesus Christ. (85)

Christ’s humility didn’t restrain his enterprise; it defined it … Humility is not a fabric softener on our aspirations — smoothing, softening, and tempering our dreams to the point where we’re too modest to reach for anything. (116)

Christians are flammable.  God created us to burn.  Not like a match, either — bright and hot but quickly extinguished.  That does little good for others and brings little glory to God.  Ambitions are like a blowtorch.  God ignites them, he points them in the right direction, and eternal work gets done.  The flame is sustained by the fuel of grace.  God’s work in God’s way for God’s glory.  Why burn for anything else? (117-118)

Paul’s ambition was not randomly pointed at many goals, all equally important.  Nope, Paul valued the gospel above all things.  Even Paul’s life wasn’t more precious than that. (186)

It’s beautiful today.  The sun is mild and warm, there’s just a breath of a breeze, and the sky is a clear, clear blue.  There isn’t even a wisp of a cloud in the sky.  In short, it’s too beautiful to stay locked up inside … so what do you do when you have project deadlines and group members who are relying on you to do your part?

What can you do but study like this?

003

At least one of us is able to relax and enjoy the weather …

005

004

The Puritans declared the sanctity of all honorable work.  In so doing, they rejected a centuries-old division of callings into “sacred” and “secular” … This Puritan rejection of the dichotomy between sacred and secular work has far-reaching implications.  It judges every honorable job to be of intrinsic value, and integrates every vocation with a Christian’s spiritual life.  It makes every job consequential by regarding it as the arena for glorifying God and obeying God and for expressing love (through service) to a neighbor.
(Leland Ryken)

God help me see my studies as an arena for glorifying You.  It’s not about me being solely immersed in explicity Christ-related things or a different set of circumstances; it’s about Christ in me.

Study br eak.

September 30, 2008

MBA classes started last week, and I feel like I’m learning a foreign language, especially in my accounting class.  Most of my “colleagues” are managers or have at least a few years of experience under their belt.  I think, in lots of ways, I learn more from them than from the professor or textbook.  In all of my classes, I feel like I’m on the page of one of those children’s workbooks: “What doesn’t belong here?”  :]  But it’s been interesting (really) learning this stuff … especially in light of what’s been going on in the economy lately.
God is sovereign in all things–MBA stuff and the economy alike–and (I pray) I don’t take that fact lightly.

For the past month and a half, I think I’ve sent out about 4-5 resumes every day (except weekends).  Nonprofit organizations were my first choice in terms of where to work, but nothing was going through.  Finally, last week, I found a Human Resources job posting for a Christian nonprofit organization that does homeless ministry, youth outreach, drug and alcohol addiction recovery services, and other inner-city work.  And … I heard back from them!  My interview and “tests” are tomorrow.  But if this job goes through, I feel like it’ll be one of those, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!” jobs.  Neat how God works.  :]

While running today, I was listening to John Piper’s sermon from Resolved 2007 — A Passion for God’s Supremacy and Compassion for Man’s Soul.  If I had to write down all the “quotables” from this sermon, I might as well write a sermon transcript for it … but here’s a snippet from his prayer at the end:

Take these … and burn both these motives into their hearts, and if they don’t feel them right now, if they’re not rising with some measure of intensity, I pray that they would not stop their quest on their face before You, over Your word, until those motives are red-hot … “I am gone for the glory of God and for the rescuing of these people …”