Eye Opening

Last Thursday morning the seven of us (Claire, Jane, Olivia, Caleb, Elias, James, and I) traveled to our first spiritual retreat with Debbie Smith at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.  Bench  in garden - St BartholomewI wasn’t sure what to expect as we pulled up to the church’s rectory.  We sat around on retro couches facing a large window in the living room.

After introducing ourselves, we dove into reading and discussing an excerpt from Mudhouse Sabbath followed by an introduction to Lectío Dívína, a process that uses Scripture to listen to God.  However, it was the next session that was the most exciting and out of the box experience.  Debbie had shared with us how to combine praying Scripture and imagination to allow God to speak to us through the practice of gospel contemplation.

The seven of us left the rectory, as we had an hour and a half to spend with God in either the church’s sanctuary or along the gorgeous walking path.  I walked slowly as I opened my heart and soul to receive what message God had for me.  As I walked to my special spot, a bench just off the path, my feet reached the grass of the small meadow that the path surrounded.  I thought to myself how I didn’t want to get my feet all wet and grassy as it had rain that morning but I continued to walk further into the meadow.  To my great surprise, my feet were not getting wet as the grass seemed to be somewhat dry.  That’s when it hit me that God cares even about our smallest and non-significant wants and desires.

As I sat down on the bench, I began to read the scripture that was picked out for us, Mark 10:46-52 and I let my imagination run. Jericho started to come to life.  I smelled bread baking, heard children laughing and the sound of the wheels turning on the carts being pulled by donkeys.   I then saw Jesus surrounded by a large crowd as I began looking around for the blind man, I was surprised to find out that I was playing the role of the blind man.  This surprised me as I thought that I would have been someone off to the side watching what took place.  I began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David!” only to be hushed like in the passage.  When I made it to Jesus he said, “Child, what can I  do for you?”  I suddenly felt the challenge and oddity of this exercise and prayed for guidance.  I then re-entered my mini “movie” and Jesus said, “I heal you from your anxiety.”

It was at this moment I realized that my anxiety was holding me back in worship, fellowship, and in understanding God’s plan for me.  As the hour and a half came to an end, I felt God had said to me, “I OPENED your eyes now didn’t I? I do not work in the ways that you expect but trust that everything is done with a purpose and with my plan in mind.”  This brings me so much comfort in everyday life and with my journey with Siloam.

I am not going to understand all the cultures with which I come in contact, nor the suffering and hardships of the refugees, nor the health conditions of the patients but God knows their individual stories and is graciously weaving them all into my own story.

Madison Brown - CHI 2013 participantMadison is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.

Learning to Start at the Beginning

With graduation rapidly approaching, the past few weeksCaleb Huber - CHI 2013 participant have involved a great deal of spiritual stretching.  God continues to pull me and direct me to expand my vision as I transition to the “real world”. Participating this summer in the CHI project at Siloam will be a superb opportunity to refocus on what is truly important in life: individuals!

Simply treading water and focusing on the pressing issues of my own needs come naturally to me. Instead of investing into the others around me, I become trapped in the daily grind and leave no margin for God to interject. The love, joy, and peace that would otherwise be evident become choked by the worries, riches, and pleasures of the world (Luke 8:14). This project will be a marvelous opportunity to start my post-undergrad life on the right foot and serve others, instead of just myself.

Amidst this, God has been using  Acts 10:38 to remind me of the path to follow. In this verse, Peter summarizes Jesus’ earthly ministry by saying, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Jesus went around doing good wherever He was. He could not help but make a place better (i.e. cause it to overflow with love, joy, peace, favor, and freedom) when he arrived. In the same way God has been reminding me to follow his direction but also to continue to grow where I am planted.

Although raising funds for this project has not been easy, it has been still be a journey of encouragement and growth. Receiving a letter of support causes me to stop and reflect. I realize that God really can use anyone. I remind God that He is going to have to show up since I don’t really have anything to contribute to this CHI project. I think that is what He wanted anyhow. I am trusting God (and often reminding myself to do so!) and am eagerly expecting His next move!

Lastly, I am looking forward to pursuing Jesus in conjunction with the other interns, Siloam staff, and the members of the larger Siloam community! During my college years, God has often used others to change my trajectory and shape the way I interact with others and even my perception of God and his character. I cannot wait to be “sharpened” by the members of the Siloam community!

Editor’s note: Caleb is one of six pre-medical students from across the country who will spend the summer in Nashville in a Community Health Immersion.

Following Jesus

This week, we Taylor University students had the pleasure of having Carl Medearis come to campus and share about his life as a follower of Jesus. In chapel, he briefly spoke about his time as a “missionary” in the Middle East, whichDoezal, James- CHI 2013 began some 20 years ago; with an amused smirk, he remarked that, to his surprise, the Muslims he had initially gone to witness to didn’t have any interest in signing up for a new religion. After a month of failing to “Christianize the Muslims,” he came to the conclusion that he simply wasn’t communicating what he intended to; when he identified as “Christian,” his Muslim neighbors assumed he also meant American, Westernized, and sadly enough, immoral. One person actually responded to Carl’s invitation to become a Christian with shocking refusal: “I couldn’t do that,” he had said, “I love my family too much.” Sadly, in some parts of the world, the label “Christian” has become unassailably associated with hypocrisy and immorality.

Carl continued by telling us how he eventually learned to let go of the title “Christian” (while not, by any means, dissociating from ekklesia, which is central to an identity in Christ). Rather than focusing on religious identity, he discovered that as long as he focused on the person and work of Jesus, people were much more receptive to hearing the Gospel; incredibly more so, in fact. In a quick-and-dirty survey done in Boulder Creek, CO, Carl’s team discovered that when fifty people were asked about how they felt about “Christianity,” fifty responded negatively. Another fifty were asked how they felt about “Jesus of Nazareth,” and this time, all fifty responded positively. Over the next few months, as he shifted his outward identity from “Christian” to “Follower of Jesus,” he found that he was able to more easily able to share about what was at the heart of Christianity anyway: Jesus of Nazareth.

As I reflect on what Carl learned from his engagement with Muslims, I am realizing that the same must be true of my life.  It is not my desire to merely be a “Christian” in some nebulously, perhaps nominally, religious sense; rather, my aim is to follow Jesus. But what does that look like? How do I follow a man who reigns in heaven? In his book Speaking of Jesus, Carl describes the typically Christian lifestyle many people find themselves trapped in as a soccer match. We’re in it to win – to worship God well, to score some converts, and to beat Team Atheism or Team Islam. But if Jesus were to walk in his dusty sandals across the grassy field right in the middle of our game, would I recognize Him? If he looked straight at me and said “Follow me,” would I have the courage to drop what I’m doing and follow Him?

It is my prayer that this summer, the CHI program will help me discover how Jesus is calling me to do precisely this: drop everything to follow Him. I anxiously await the good things He has in store for this team. Please join us in praying for the courage and faith to follow Him in whatever contexts He calls us.

Editor’s note: James is one of six pre-medical students from across the country who will spend the summer in Nashville in a Community Health Immersion.