Thursday, July 22, 2010

Living in Longing.

Father, I want to know you but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding and I do not hide from You the terror of the parting. I come trembling but I do come. Please root from my heart all of those things which I have cherished for so long which have become a very part of my living self, that you might enter and dwell there without a rival. Then You will make the place of Your feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need for the sun to shine in it, for You will be the light of it and there will be no night there. In Jesus’ name.” –AW Tozer; The Pursuit of God

I was recently asked what the major themes God has been teaching me this summer. It took awhile for me to respond and even in doing so I don’t really feel as if it was an adequate response. One of the students at NYU toward the end of the spring semester publically shared a beautiful and frankly written statement on her history and present struggle with depression. She differentiated between many of the more commonly discussed issues in Christian circles (pornography, sexual struggles and the like) and the less talked-about issues like depression, anxiety and social-psychological struggles. She pointed out that these often get swept into a closet of weakness and shame and wanted to counter the hush-hush mentality of it by boldly addressing it in her life. I still don’t really know for what reason such stigmatization persists. But I was and still am incredibly inspired by her candor on the subject and her personal life.

For as far back as I can remember, I have found myself in the throws of depression. There is part of me that really bristles at putting this in writing on a public forum (especially a ministry forum) because of the self and social stigmatization, I suppose, that manifests in self-talk like “you’re in full-time ministry, get it together” and “your sin is much murkier and uglier than others'” or this gem, “you’ll be thought of as weak and you certainly can't be vulnerable to such an audience least you be deemed 'unqualified'” Lies. Such lies. When I am weak, then I am strong. It’s not as if my life has been a constant stream of memories caked in gloom, I certainly have had an overwhelming amount of joy in my life, yet like winter that appears to be long-forgotten on a July afternoon, it always seems to loom in my heart as something that will certainly return if only for a season. I have sought medication for it in the past which I believe is a good thing if that is where you are lead and have been (and continue to be!) in counseling for 2+ years. It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and highly recommend it for everyone. Everyone.

It’s this depression that has lead me to astonishingly dark places of self-loathing, destruction, self-pity, anxiety, hand-crafted idolatry, an extreme lack of boundaries, emotional and relational dependencies and a visceral loneliness that so often feels like death. But God is Light and cannot nor will not abandon us. I have been asking around to find out the secret. The clandestine contentment found in burning away everything else that Paul wrote about in Philippians 4. If I were you I’d ask around too. And by around I mean up.

So this summer

I have been challenged as of the late with the onslaught of such loneliness returning to me with rabid teeth and unyielding claws. My self-talk says: Get it together, you’re at a summer training program, you’re in ministry, you’re supposed to be a mentor and a leader. You can’t falter now, you’ve got to be the strong one, the joyful one, the goofy one. In this fear, I—like all of us when fear seems to paralyze—become remarkably self-absorbed and self-important. Here in Vermont, in the absence of many of the close friendships I have experienced over the last few years, I am confronted with this piercing and humbling question once again: Who do you give the right to tell you who you are? All day, every day I give myself or my perception of others this right. No wonder my identity is so fragile and at the whim of circumstance.

Loneliness in a perfect world

Genesis 1 & 2 epitomize perfection. God is. God creates. God blesses. Earth, sky, sea, light, plants, creatures, man. All created. All in benediction—blessed, called “good” by their Creator. Delighted in as with a newborn baby. It is not until chapter 3 that sin enters the picture and all that is good is unraveled. Yet in chapter 2 God says “It is not good for man to be alone.” Adam was alone. He was lonely. There was not yet sin. And he was lonely. What?

Our longing for friendship, for companionship is the one longing that is not a result of sin. After sin enters the picture we see pains of hunger, nakedness, shame, guilt, imperfect sexual longings, the need to clothe for the sake of warmth and protection and so forth. Yet loneliness precedes all of these things in the arena of a perfect world wherein we were created for union and relationship; a union from which our very being perfectly aches. How much more should we ache in this imperfect state? And for Whom? Where or to what do we direct this longing if not the One who created us?

It is this realisation that, for the first time in twenty-four years, makes me feel a sublime sense of comfort and joy smack dab in the middle of my loneliness, knowing that I am not crazy and that my loneliness is perfectly human even in human perfection. Jeeze.

What we do with it

It would be foolish to believe that this realisation is carte blanche for trying to absolve loneliness in anything that feels good or numbs the pain. So goes the building blocks of idolatry for we long to worship something—usually that which instantly gratifies however ultimately does not deliver what it deceivingly promises. It would also be foolish to equate pressing into our loneliness to mean that it is inherently masochistic or some form of morbid asceticism. Rejoice in the midst of suffering not in the suffering itself that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1). I have spent years of my life inflicting pain on myself in order that I might match my physical pain to my inner torment. Aloneness and subsequent actions can be like a gateway drug that rapidly begets death if you do anything but seek companionship in the Man who was, Himself, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53).

In her book Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot shares a story of being taught the wisdom of perseverance through her three-year-old niece. She says:

“Seeing that [my niece] was having difficulty with the sleeves, I asked her f I could help her put her dress on. ‘Oh, never mind,’ she said. ‘Papa usually lets me struggle.’ What kind of a father is that? A wise one. Her father is also a sensitive one, aware of the importance of struggle in the process of growth…if all struggles and sufferings were eliminated, the spirit would no more reach maturity than would the child. The Heavenly Father wants to see us grow up.”

Every moment and with every emotion we have the opportunity to allow Christ to forge our maturity and character into His likeness if we yield to Him. Conversely, should we choose to wrestle against such opportunity and linger in our own sense of selfish autonomy, we will get the natural consequences of our defiance which is a spiraled state of our present misery exacerbated by our unwillingness to yield and fall into His rest.

Jim Elliot writes: “Let not our longings slay the appetite of our living.” Depression, anxiety and loneliness (which seem to all have a monstrous kinship with one another) can be crippling. But every problem is a theological problem and what we do with our longings and fears is no exception. How we execute our actions based on our feelings reveals what we really believe about this One we call Savior. If we believe that no good thing will God withhold from us than we must believe that this present circumstance, this visceral suffering is His best for us; not because He is a tyrant but because His mercy is that severe, His grace that good, and that He cares so much more about our character than our comfort.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

We'll miss you, friends!

We love you and will miss you, Brian, Nate, Lauren, Sarah, Sarah, Josh, Kristin, Hunter, John and Pat!!! You've been such a beautiful and important part of our EDGE experience over the past year. We know that you have made eternal fingerprints on all of the lives you've impacted and trust that you will continue to do so as you are lead in different directions.Please continue to keep in touch and let us know how we can be praying for you!

Will be pursuing his law degree at University of Colorado, Boulder in the fall. Pray that he'll be able to do well and find balance as he re-enters into the academic setting.

Will be joining the Marine Corps in October while his wife Michaela will be staying at the University of Maine until the end of the semester before joining him. Pray for vision for ministry among the marines and that he'll be able to endure and flourish during his time there.

Moving to Boston to pursue a teaching job and possibly volunteer part-time with the ministry at Boston University and/or City Life. Pray for easy transition, finding a job and housing.

Sarah C.:
Getting married July 3 and will be moving to Philadelphia with her new husband. Would love to pursue a degree in pastoral counseling. Prayer request for boldness and against the intrinsic fears that come with transition.

Sarah S.:
Will be the 7-12th grade choral direction at the Des Moines Christian School. Pray that she will continue being a laborer and discipler in the school among staff and students. John 12.24

Josh, Kristin and Hunter:
Will be moving to Australia for 5-7 years to help pioneer college ministry with the Navigators. Be praying for the LORD to provide as their budget is doubling. Also pray that the LORD would provide community for them in Cedar Falls. Isaiah 43:4

Unsure about where God is taking him in the next season of life but regardless desires a lifetime vision for pouring into people. He has applied and had a second interview on 5/21 for a tutoring program for inner-city kids to get into private high schools. His desire and prayer is to be a laborer wherever he is. Pray for direction, provision and open doors.

He is beginning the year-long process of studying for/taking the LSAT and applying to law school. He will be staying at the University of Illinois to volunteer until hopefully going to law school next fall. He'll be spending four months studying for the LSAT. His prayer is that his identity would be built upon Christ and not his performance or acceptance; that he would work heard and trust God for the results.



Greetings from Vermont!

"You are the
salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5: 13-16

(Photo above: Looking out over Lake Champlain to the Adirondack mountains at sunset)

I'm writing to you from the Jeanne Mance dorm at the University of Vermont where I have the privilege of staffing a Navigators summer training program called Green Mountain Summer (GMS). Over the course of nine weeks 46 students from all over the country will get jobs in Burlington, Vermont and learn together through training courses and Bible studies how to be salt and light in the community! This week was our first hot, sticky week together, learning how to observe a culture, note its nuances, taste its flavor and see the
imago dei--image of GOD--in every person we encounter. CS Lewis writes, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

One such soul was a young girl named Jordan I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday at our weekly community BBQ. Jordan is from New Hampshire and got connected with the students in the program last summer when she worked alongside a few of them at a local grocery store. Quickly being welcomed into the community she "basically did the program every day" (her own words!) joining the weekly Bible studies, events and hang-out times. This summer she returns with equal enthusiasm to be around "influential people" once again. Last night I had the opportunity to chat with Jordan for almost two hours as she very quickly opened up about her life, broken relationships, struggle with faith, self-condemnation, and longing for community.
"Some time, would you mind sharing with me your story of how you found a relationship with God?" she asked me earnestly through the noise of 46 other conversations surrounding her. Today we have made a coffee date to get together and I am thrilled with the opportunity to get to share with Jordan the places Jesus has taken me.

Would you pray for Jordan today?

Please pray:

  • That she might be drawn deeper into our community
  • That she would encounter Jesus, know that she is precious in His sight, and surrender her life to Him
  • For our GMS community to be salty beacons of light; that we might be growing in depth and love for each other, Burlington, and Christ--seeing the weight of each others' glory and un-ordinariness!
Thank you, friends!
Love to you--


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Springtime Happenings

Pray For ISU Team Ethiopia

Greetings! I hope this message finds you all well. This semester, as the first, has just flown by. I can't believe it's almost May! Next week is finals for students, and then I head to Colorado for my last EDGE Summit May 10th-16th. After that, Amanda, Hunter, Samantha, Ben and myself (pictured above) will head to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from May 19th-June 23rd. While there, we will work with current Navigator Staff, Mark and Israel. We will help and serve them on the campus, work with students, lead Bible studies, do discipleship and evangelism. Please pray for our time as we continue to fundraise and pray for our hearts as well as the hearts of the Ethiopians we will work with. Above all else, pray that God would be glorified in our time there and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be boldly proclaimed. Please pray for Luke 17:10 and Mark 10:45 hearts of servanthood. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support!

Also, next year I will be teaching 7th-12th Choir at Des Moines Christian School. Praise the Lord!! He has clearly opened the door for me to go back into teaching, and actually provided two job possibilities. I had to choose! Pray for preparation for the students and myself in this transition. I know August will come quickly! Thank you for your prayers as I made this decision whether to continue on with EDGE Corps or go back into teaching. God is good, and He has made His way for my life very clear. He is the Great Provider, Sustainer, Our Rock and Our Redeemer! To Him be the glory alone!

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me. When you seek Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

Love in Christ,
Sarah Ann


Monday, March 15, 2010

It's that time of year....

Spring break is upon us! I'm just curious to see what some of the other Nav ministries around the country are doing for spring break.

Here at ASU, we're going to Lake Tahoe for a few days of fun in the snow. We wanted a trip that would appeal to non-believers because we've seen more of them stick around this year than ever before. We have quite a few of them joining us for the trip, which is really exciting and gives us a chance to be lights to them for an extended amount of time.

So, what are you doing (or have already done)?


Wednesday, September 30, 2009


For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 28

I cannot get these last two verses in Acts out of my head! Paul was in a RENTED house and boldly he preached and talked about God. This is EDGE!

Living in a house that's not my own was truly challenging at first. It's not like the woman Alissa and I live with is horrible or anything like that. In fact, she is so amazing and kind. But there is something I grew quite fond of in being able to decorate MY house and rearrange things every-so-often I am not privileged to now.

Long Beach is more and more becoming my home. I went 4 days in a row without getting lost! That's a blessing! I'm still in need of a community and friends here, but God is faithful and I feel since having been around the Navs in college so much of the time I find myself saying,. "OH! That's how this happened!" or "that's why they our staff this!"

I've been amazed at the number of International Students I've run into and how God has very clearly opened and shut doors of ministry at Cal State- Long Beach! I am praying you all continue to stay encouraged and I look forward to some sweet time together in Florida.

Remember our job is not about a return of investment, but to love and love well!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Old Funding verse

While in funding school one of the verses we looked at was II Cor 4:16-18. I was praying over it the other day and found it encouraging.

16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Ariel and I just returned from our last funding trip and slept for over 15 hours. I've never been more exhausted since as far back as I can remember. I found this verse extremely encouraging.

p.s. sarah i liked the picture idea so much that I had to copy you...


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