Today my spirit has been heavy, harrowed with sorrow. Over the last couple weeks I have experienced the steadily increasing weight of the world’s burdens, but today it reached its tipping point. This morning as I distractedly completed my last final of the semester, I was overwhelmed with emotion and sadness for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who, as I’m sure many of you know by now, was followed and fatally shot as he was jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. I could hardly react, hardly process what happened (over two months ago, I might add). And yet, I experienced an irrepressible ache not only for the racial injustices and corrupt systems that plague the world but also for the injustices committed against the innocent on a daily basis. The part that saddens me the most is that WE are inflicting this pain upon each other and upon our planet.
I look at nature, at animals, and I see innocence. I see creatures trying to survive. I see them dying at our hands, hit by our cars, driven out by our expansion, hunted for our pleasure. I see our planet being leeched of its resources. Our planet — and the animals that inhabit it — are desperately trying to adapt and survive to the changes we are so rapidly imposing upon them. It shatters my heart and brings me to tears that millions of animals are dying by our hands. But many people perceive nature and animals as cruel. They see a vulture scavenging a car-struck deer on the side of the road and don’t think for a second that it’s worth saving. They see a lioness kill a newborn zebra and a sympathy is evoked.
But the seeming cruelty of nature — which is survival based — pales in comparison to the evil and cruelty that we are able to conjure in our hearts, lives and societies.
Humanity has become so comfortable in its own sin that when people see something as fundamental as survival in the wild they call it ‘cruel’ whilst simultaneously overlooking the far more horrid injustices we commit to our brothers and sisters. We have convinced ourselves that we are good enough on our own.
When I look at humanity, I see our desperate need for a Savior. It’s obvious that we aren’t able to fix the problem ourselves or we would’ve figured out a way to do so by now. We have forgotten our humanness, our brokenness, our innately evil tendencies.
We have forgotten how badly we need someone to save us.
I called my mentor crying, asking him how he deals with the weight of all the evil in the world. And he reminded me that it serves as a reminder of our desperate need to be saved. It unmasks our humanity, showing us the reality of the human condition, and it makes room for Jesus to come in and heal our hearts, our lives and our societies if we let Him. The hope we get to cling to is named Jesus — He will come and rule the world one day with truth and justice. Until then, we get to cling to the promise that He will do so.
I did a lot of wrestling today. A lot of contemplation with the Lord. A lot of allowing myself to feel everything. I felt physically heavy, a tangible weight pressing on my shoulders. I cried at the world’s brokenness. I cried at the fact that we live in a world in which people are more appalled at the seeming cruelty of nature than they are at mankind’s ability to hate and steal and murder. I cried at the fact that some people will never get to taste the assurance of the hope named Jesus. I cried to the Lord. Then I thanked the Lord for His promise of hope. I thanked the Lord that one day He will rule with truth and justice on the earth. I thanked the Lord that one day we and all creation will be free from the bondage we have made ourselves slaves to.
I encourage whoever is reading this to feel everything you are feeling. Feel the anger, the brokenness, the sadness, the pain, the confusion and anything else. Cry. Lament. Talk to God. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with Him. Ask Him to bring up new things and comfort you in new ways. Allow Him to do so. Commit your hope to the coming of Jesus.
If you’ve never experienced Jesus in this way before, if you have any questions or if you need to just talk, please reach out to me. I’d love to chat with you.
Maybe there's more to having a relationship with the Lord than feel-good mantras, uplifting worship songs and out-of-context Bible verses. But if these aren't enough to get you through the challenges brought up by COVID-19, what is?
I want to establish that, first and foremost, I am talking to myself. This post serves as conviction from the Lord for myself and for others. It also serves as a reminder, however, of what is truly important during this time in which the whole world seems to be collapsing with fear and uncertainty.
We've been in quarantine for about a week now, and I'm doing everything I can to keep myself from boredom, complacency and laziness. I'm not too worried about the virus itself -- I've long expected some kind of crazy pandemic-type thing to hit the US, and I actually trust the Lord about it a lot. It's not hard for me to trust Him with this (Side note: it is very hard for me to trust Him in other areas, and I had to repent for the pridefulness that arose from trusting Him so much over Coronavirus. The reality is that I have a very hard time trusting Him over the things that are of more importance to me).
It is very difficult for people to trust Him through this, and rightly so. This is a lot to be confronted with all at once. Students across the United States have transitioned to online courses for the remainder of the semester. College kids have packed up their dorm rooms and headed home and returned early from study abroad programs and trips. Many businesses across the country have transitioned to allow employees to work from home. Others have yet to make changes, keeping employees at work out of necessity. Many businesses have been forced to close. People are losing jobs. People are falling behind on bills and payments. People are struggling to cope with the uncertainty and changes. People are getting sick. People are losing loved ones. People are experiencing the very real implications of this pandemic.
Western Christianity is finally experiencing a TINY glimpse of what Christians around the world have been facing ever since Jesus walked the earth: discomfort, uncertainty, challenges and the impact of corruption induced by mankind's sin. For many, faith is being shaken. Foundations built upon the sand are crumbling under this storm (One of my close friends Chantel wrote an excellent blog post about what it looks like to be a disciple during this time -- it's definitely worth the read. You can find it here).
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
As I've talked with fellow believers, we've discussed the comfort of knowing that God is here in this time. God is turning this evil into something for His glory, and He's doing it at on international scale. Foundations built on anything other than the rock of God are being shaken, torn down and felled so that lives can be rebuilt upon the cornerstone of Jesus. We are experiencing something we've never experienced before, and we have the opportunity to encounter God in a way we've never experienced before.
But what does a foundation built upon the sand look like? Ah, the enemy is crafty. He has given many people a false sense of control over their lives through financial stability, job security, home ownership, education and degrees, and through the lie that Christians are supposed to "have it easy." There are a couple harsh realities to be addressed here:
(1) Once we give our lives to Christ, they are no longer our own.
Then He said to them, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will be saved." Luke 9:23-24
We are not meant to have control over our lives. The whole point of surrendering our lives to the Lord is trusting that He knows better than we do, that He is a better God over our lives than we are. This is something we constantly have to do, though. I know for me, the temptation is to lay down my life and then pick it right back up again. We constantly have to lay down our lives.
Pause and ask the Lord what it would practically look like for you to surrender your life to Him.
(2) Christianity was never about living a life of comfortability.
This is evident throughout all of Matthew 10, when Jesus sends out the 12 apostles. Wrapped up in this passage is a message that is both an encouragement and a warning. The whole thing is incredibly convicting. If this is what following Jesus is supposed to look like, what is it that I am doing?
God calls different people to different things, and I'm not saying that it's bad to have financial stability, job security, home ownership or education. What I am saying is that it's bad to build your life with those things as your foundation. Why? Because one day the storm will come, and your foundation will be put to the test.
Well, my friends, that day is here, courtesy of COVID-19. We are in the midst of one of the most uncertain times in our lives, and our foundations are being put to the test.
So where do you find yourself presently?
Are you worried about what is going to happen to you and your family in the midst of this? Here are some encouraging verses:
Matthew 6:34: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Do not worry" is a command, not a suggestion.
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Jesus prayed this prayer in the garden before He was taken to be crucified. This needs to be the center of our prayers: Not my will but Yours be done.
Are you not experiencing the worry of the world and instead finding it easy to trust God through all of this? You should tell people, then, in encouragement. Give them an opportunity to have the hope that you were given. Show them the good news that is Jesus.
Mark 16:15: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
A relationship with the Lord more than enough to get you through the challenges presented by COVID-19. It's time for you to assess where you are in your relationship with the Lord. Take this opportunity to grow in trusting the Lord if that's something you're struggling with. The implications are real: it means laying down your life in surrender to the Lord and letting go of control, not just saying "Trust the Lord!" It means changing your language from "I'm so worried about x, y and z" to "Even though it doesn't make sense, still You are God over my senses. God, Your presence is more real. I'll walk by faith and not by sight and put my trust in You" (from Even Though by We Will Worship). It's time for the lukewarm to make a decision. It's time to either trust the Lord or don't, to lay down your life or keep it. But don't be disappointed when you try to employ inspirational quotes and comforting Bible verses to rescue you without ever turning to the Father.
It's time to radically trust the Lord in the way that He was always meant to be trusted.
May the dust of the Rabbi cover you,
Ah, the mission field. I guarantee that if you've grown up in the church in any capacity you have heard about the mission field, whether it pertains to your personal mission field or your church's. When talking about mission fields many people reference Acts 1:8:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
But how do you find your mission field?
I believe that we all are capable of — and called to — having a mission field in senses both specific and broad. I consider it foolish to limit God's revelation of your mission field to one specific way, so please do not take this post the only way to discover yours. Rather, I want to share my experience with you. What I have found to be true concerning the discovery of one's mission field is the work of a couple different factors at play:
- Your passions.
- The good news of the Gospel for you.
I am a firm believer that the Lord has intentionally instilled unique passions in each and every one of His image-bearers.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
These passions can be anything: photography, nature, cars, teaching, music, etc. The list could go on forever. It's important to pay attention to your passions and interests, as the intentionality with which they were knitted into your being can serve as a map to your mission field. What are your passions? In what ways do you feel that your passions could be used to reach a certain group of people? Spend some time in prayer with the Lord sifting through your passions and asking how they can be used to glorify Him. (I find it of the utmost importance to warn each of you how quickly and subtly a passion can become an idol, as it did with me. Always pursue God more than the blessing, the Gift-Giver more than the gift.) God cares about the things we care about. He has put passions in our hearts for a reason.
Personally, I have always been drawn to nature, animals and the wilderness. One day in the fall of my senior year of high school I was exposed to the idea that the scientific culture is a mission field, too. Ever since then, I have been convinced of my calling to the scientific world. While it was my passions that sent me in the direction I have pursued — the direction I feel very strongly the Lord was calling me to — the idea of my mission field has been honed with the revelation of the Gospel's good news to me.
The Gospel's Good News.
It wasn't until recently — like, three weeks ago — that I finally discovered what the good news of the Gospel is to me. Reflect here for a second — if you can't truthfully say that the Gospel is good news to you, that's okay. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you what the good news is for you. And then trust that whatever comes to your mind is the Holy Spirit speaking to you. For me, the good news is that there is no place on this earth — no wilderness — that is more wild than my relationship with the Lord. Now that I know what the good news is for my life, I want to tell everybody, but I especially want to tell people who are like me, people who put their hope in nature rather than in God.
This is where the idea of specific and broad mission fields come into play. My specific mission field is people who are searching in nature for something that only God can provide. I have a heart for this group of people because that's the kind of person I used to be. I very deeply understand where they come from and what they search for. My mentor Brent, on the other hand, has a completely different perception of the Gospel's good news, and that allows him to have a different specific mission field, one with which I am unable to empathize as much. When I asked him how the good news of the Gospel effected his ministry, he replied with this:
To me, the Good News, is that when I was least worth loving Jesus reached past my bitterness and hatred and saved me from myself. I don’t mean that on a grand, theological scale, I mean it personally. Literally, July 7th 2012, Jesus had an encounter with me in my room and stopped me from committing suicide. It’s the first bit of good news I ever heard and the only one I care about. My reasons for loving Jesus are unashamedly selfish; I wouldn’t love him if he hadn’t done that for me, and the Gospel would just be words on a page without it. I wish I was capable of loving him for who he is because he’s worthy of it. But I either wasn’t capable or wasn’t willing to live in such a way before July 7th. And, truthfully, it’s only after many, many more encounters with Him that I’ve found my desire to worship and serve him to be less selfish.
That made my mission field extremely simple. I wanted to reach everyone but, mostly, I wanted to reach the people who were like me.
The ones who grew up hearing about a man they’d never met. The one’s that well-meaning churches and friends and parents had convinced had life in Christ but were, in reality, just like me. Just people walking around, going through the motions, unknowingly waiting for the moment they realized their life was built on nothing. The ones who were like me.
And upon asking a dear friend Chantel the same question, she replied:
For my life, the good news has proven to be that Jesus came to redeem my true self. Not the person I have been taught by society to be. But the person who is most true to the child in me. We live in a world in which everything is predicated upon keeping up with the Joneses or even being the Joneses. The good news for me is that Jesus is the standard and His method of bringing me to Him is coming to me. This has shaped my mission field because, as a black woman in finance, so often black women are competing to be better than the next, simply as a self preservation tactic. I want to bring ministry into my mission field by being the person that is willing to help others realize that they are enough. That the true power of God is in them, and money is nothing to fear. I want to change the paradigm of thought associated with money, power and identity by bringing Jesus into the conversation. The good news is that you don't need "things" and there is nothing to keep up with. Simply be who you are and Jesus will come to you, no dollar signs or titles attached.
The three of us have very different versions of what the Gospel's good news is in our lives, and it is that good news that shapes the mission fields that are very specific to us. Chantel is far better equipped to reach black women in finance than I am, and I am better equipped to reach bush-goers in Africa than she is. This is one of my favorite things about the power of Jesus and His ability to use each of our passions to further His Kingdom here on earth.
Despite our different specific mission fields and the different good news that each of us has to share, each of our messages ultimately communicates the same thing, as my friend Graham pointed out when I asked him the question:
I believe that in this life we all search for two things: love and satisfaction. We search for it in all these different areas of our lives, but nothing other than Jesus will give us the love and satisfaction that we so deeply crave. A relationship with God means that I am fully known and loved by the Creator of everything. Jesus satisfies me and helps me know that I am loved and enough.
This brings me to the broader message that we all have to share: Jesus is the only thing that satisfies. No matter what desire we're looking to satisfy, Jesus is the only thing that will bring the satisfaction for which we search. We can convince ourselves otherwise — and be convinced otherwise by the enemy —, but the reality is that there is no job, no relationship, no accomplishment, etc. that will satisfy us the way that Jesus can and will, if we let Him. Nothing. And it is this broader message that allows us to reach a greater group of people: people who turn to things other than Jesus for love and satisfaction, no matter what that "thing" is to which they turn. This is what allows me to evangelize to a desperate church-goer who has never had a relationship with Jesus or to a black woman competing in the financial world. In the same way it allows Brent and Chantel to evangelize to someone returning from the African bush disappointed by the lack of satisfaction they had set out to find (which, ironically enough, was me about four months ago). While our Gospel experiences will be more helpful to specific people with similar experiences, the message is the same regardless: Jesus satisfies.
Taking these two things into account — our passions and the Gospel's good news to us —, along with dedicated prayer and conversation with the Lord, we are able to find our mission fields. So if you're curious about the mission field the Lord may have in store for you, I'd greatly encourage you to spend some time with Him meditating over these things. If you feel like you already have an idea of what your mission field is, what is it? I'd love to hear how the Lord is using different people's mission fields to further His Kingdom in every area of the world! As always, if you have any questions, please leave them below.
May the dust of the Rabbi cover you,
Happy Earth Day!
This year, there’s a popular saying, of sorts, that “Every day should be Earth Day.” While I am grateful for the awareness that this celebratory day brings to important issues such as climate change, pollution, wildlife conservation and the preservation of our planet as a whole, I do agree that the topic is a very demanding one that needs daily focus and attention. Making necessary changes to our lifestyles, businesses and society is the only way that we will begin to start the journey of repairing the damage we have done to our planet.
It’s easy to become discouraged when considering the ways that we’ve affected our planet. Often I envy the people of the past who were surrounded and living in the raw, wild beauty of nature, unaffected by mankind. I am very deeply sorrowed at the fact that I will never in my lifetime see Earth in that state, one in which wild animals that are presently facing extinction roam the earth freely. Never will I, nor anyone, see the vast populations of trees and wildlife that once inhabited the lands of fallen rainforests and crowded cities. We are racing more and more quickly to a polluted ocean decorated by the skeletons of once-flourishing coral reefs. Nothing will be able to restore our earth to its young, natural state, and nothing will be able to reverse the damage that is being done now and that will continue to be forced upon our planet.
It’s easy for outlooks to be depressed by this mindset. I once had no hope, as all I could do was yearn for the things of the far past, for things that will never return.
But my hope has been placed in something else, something greater than myself.
One day the Lord directed me to Isaiah 65. Verses 17-25 stood out to me, shaking my world and completely reshaping my vision of the future:
It is within these verses that a beautiful picture is painted of the New Heavens and New Earth that we get to live in, that the Lord will create for us to enjoy. This New Earth will be so much more beautiful than what we experience now that we won't even want to remember the things of old, the things right now (v 17). That blows my mind.
My soul now longs for the things that the Lord promises to give us, and I turn to this passage in times of desperation and sorrow when I think about our dying planet. I’m incredibly thankful that the Lord has promised this New Earth to us, along with the animals that will inhabit it. My favorite verse in this passage is verse 25 — guys, there will be animals (even snakes!!!) in heaven that we will get to live with and among. I’m SO EXCITED. I consider this my new hope, my greater hope for a future that is natural and beautiful and raw and untouched and wild, perfectly and intentionally designed by God.
Last Friday afternoon I was volunteering with an organization and, as we were working with the students and chatting amongst ourselves, I noticed someone pull out a Bear YoYos fruit snack. A few minutes later, as students and other volunteers began eating them, I heard people saying things like, “I got Chile!” and, “Well I got Rwanda!” In each fruit snack, as they explained, was a “country card” that described one of 80 different countries and territories from all 7 continents on the globe. Chuckling to myself I thought, It would be crazy if I opened one and pulled out a Botswana card. Dismissing the absent-minded thought, I continued handing out food and talking to other volunteers.
I finally decided to try one of these fruit snacks, and was excited to see which country I would get to learn about (I love learning, so things like this are really interesting to me!). I opened a box of strawberry fruit snacks and pulled one out. Opening the package, my mouth dropped wide open as I pulled out the card:
I was dumbfounded — I didn't even know that Botswana was an option as a country card, and the likelihood that I would have pulled a specific card out of all eighty was 1.25%! I just started laughing, smiling and praising God. For me, that was a gracious, unexpected confirmation that the Lord is sending me to Botswana.
But the He didn’t stop there.
The following Monday night, my roommates and I were hanging out in our room, washing our faces and doing homework, when another roommate came flying into the room.
Oh goodness, what’s going on? I thought to myself. She sounded frantic.
“My computer isn’t working!! It’s spazzing out, and it’s opening different tabs randomly and—“
I was about to inform her that I was likely going to be of little help when she thrust the computer in my face, showing me what was on the screen.
“I literally didn’t touch anything,” she assured. “This tab just came open on my computer screen and I knew you were going to Africa, and I thought it was crazy!”
Google Maps had been opened, and pulled up was the Okavango Delta, which is WHERE I’LL BE GOING IN BOTSWANA. At this point, I started freaking out, too. It was INSANE. God did NOT need to do that, and yet He confirmed for me, yet again, that this is actually happening.
I must say that, for a period of time, I was disappointed that He didn’t want me to go to Texas last summer (I wrote a blog post about it: http://www.kerringtonmaner.com/home/see-ya-later-alligators) and that He asked me not to turn in my study abroad application for Spain in the fall. In each of these specific ways I trusted the Lord but was reluctant to surrender the plans I had to Him because what He wanted for me was so much more different than from what I wanted for myself. But in a period of 4 days, He confirmed two more times to me that this trip to Botswana is what He wants me to do and that His will and my will are aligned. This confirmation was not anything that I felt I needed, as I was already in the process of raising money and making preparations for the trip. However, the Lord knew that this confirmation would be helpful for me, and I’m so appreciative that He was willing to do that for me.
Several weeks ago, I received an email that told me that my spot for the trip was going to be sold and that the only thing I could do to keep it was to confirm my booking by putting down a 20% deposit before somebody else did. I was surprised and slightly concerned — I wasn’t sure how much 20% was going to be, and I didn’t have an exact number for how much I had been given so far. Long story short, the Lord had given me just more than enough to make the full deposit and to cover the fees that accompanied the transfer. Hallelujah!
I’m still in a place of patience, trusting and expectation with the Lord -- there isn’t an ounce of doubt that He will provide the full expenses needed. I still have a balance of $5462 left on the trip, excluding the cost of the flight. I’m praying for the money by April 1st (which is tomorrow), but I trust that the Lord will provide it on His timing. If you feel led in any type of way to continue to support me, please do! I continue to need support in finances and prayer, and both are equally important.
If the Lord had not made it so clear to me and to others that I would be going to Botswana this summer, I would never have pursued this opportunity. But literally all I can do is trust the Lord and be obedient, expectant and patient over this plan He has for my life.
1 Thess. 2:2
"...but with the help of our God we dared to tell His gospel in the face of strong opposition."