Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Final thoughts before departing SFO

I scrambled most of yesterday to gather all the notes from previous studies and speaking events in order to prepare for the topics that have been identified for me. I received a more full schedule from our Chinese interpreter who is also arranging all the venues. My first reaction was a bit of panic as I started counting the number of times I would be teaching and the number of topics I needed to prepare. Nine opportunities to speak (two are broken up into three sessions) and six topics. My eyes widened and my heart started to race. Okay, God, this is definitely going to be a major opportunity to trust you!

So here are the topics:
  • The Story of Habakkuk (3 hrs)
  • The Story of the Bible (a thematic overview of the whole Bible)
  • Idols in Our Lives: Misplaced Hopes
  • Theology of Sexuality (3 sessions)
  • Mentoring and Discipleship
  • Greatest Need for a Believer in a Consumer World: God's Rest
Four of them are topics I have spoken on before but need major tweaking for relevancy and length. Two are brand new.

Good thing I have a 12 hr flight ahead of me.

So, after I gathered my materials, I sat down to write out what I had worked on over the weekend at the beach - our struggles with contemporary idols. I decided to tell my story of a major idol. It concerns a period in my life when 7 yrs after graduating from Bible school, I found myself in a deep spiritual pit, feeling totally abandoned by God (if He even still existed). I had quit praying and reading my Bible. This Christian thing was too hard to figure out and I was a failure as a follower.

I won't go into all the details, but God showed up in a major way and my life was transformed. But before He did, an idol had to be exposed. My idol was "success." I have always been a big dreamer and have always felt a need to be a part of something big. The problem was that I had my own ideas of what that meant and what success looks like (mostly fame and approval). Unfortunately, my ideas had little space for God's ideas and purposes. The exposure was painful, but my failure at producing my own success was even more painful. I was ready for the real thing, for God's purposes for my life.

Little did I know 25 yrs ago that my journey was not going to be a straight shot to the "big something." Instead I needed to learn to walk with Christ in very small steps and into the very humbling things of life. I needed to learn to make decisions based on His will, not mine, to die to self and live for Christ in all aspects of life, and to grow as well as heal from incredibly painful experiences. Most of the time, I went kicking and screaming into what God called me into, but I learned submission and gained joy.

Now my ideas of success are quite different. Though this idol has been toppled, there are moments of weakness when it tries to wiggle. But I am committed to following Christ and loving Him well is my idea of success.

Is this trip evidence that God is now opening up the "big something" for me? I don't know. Maybe it's just another small step. Maybe everything until I die will be small steps. Ultimately, the "big something" is attaining heaven and seeing Christ face to face. Until then, I am so looking forward to seeing His face on the Chinese people.

See you in China!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Countdown to departure

Amazingly I feel calm. One more day and then I'll be on a plane to San Francisco where I'll meet up with Peggy, the leader of this trip, and catch the flight to China. I think I'm more nervous about keeping my checked bag under 50 lbs than I am about speaking. Maybe that's due to the past experience of speaking without much prep in Uganda. Maybe it's the effect of everyone's prayers for me. Maybe I'm finally learning to let go of control and perfection. Meaning: I cannot prep totally for this - I have to trust God and trust His work in me up until this moment. All I need to do is share my story with the Chinese people. Though I will have a Chinese translator as I am speaking, God is the one who will translate my story into transformation.

This doesn't mean I didn't prepare for any talks. I did. Just a couple. But I have a sneaking hunch other topics will arise. One already did even after Peggy helped identify two for me to work on. This is why knowing a little about a lot of things but not being an expert at any one thing comes in handy.

I finished reading the book Wild Swans by Jung Chang in which she writes the story of her grandmother and mother as well as herself growing up in China during the early years of communism. It was heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Such courage in the midst of terrible suffering. I am so glad I read this before going - it opened my heart to the Chinese people.