Taking a Risk: Leaving the US to Serve in Brazil

planting

And also planted some flowers for our Easter service in good company! Photo Credit to @NyackChurch!

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Nyack College’s PSF class 2014 !

So much has happened since I last blogged; Lots of tears popped out of my eyes, anger was explored and roots of deception and bitterness in my life were finally uprooted. I Am now free from years of brokenness, internal struggles and dark secrets. I joined the healing prayer team for my church, Living Christ Church, and learned how to walk in my authority as a daughter of God. I witnessed a class of Nyack college students experience the freeing and the healing love of the Father. Then I began training the new admissions associate for the Alliance Theological Seminary as I prepared to transition. I accepted the position as Area Coordinator for Simpson Hall at Nyack College this Fall and said “See ya later” to my amazing roommate over a turkey bacon & egg breakfast (as we are both moving out of our shared space). I finally ended my 2nd year at seminary with a 4.0 GPA- this woman got Straight A’s.

These last few months have been incredibly difficult, transformational, and emotionally unnerving. But somehow I got through them all and I am now preparing for my next adventure; Spending 10 weeks this summer in Recife, Brazil working with Shores of Grace in their efforts to rescue women and children from sex slavery. I leave May 28th! woooohooo

off of the streets“In 2010 it is estimated that 40,000 sex workers were active during the World Cup in South Africa. Now four years later, the World Cup is on its way to Brazil, a country already known for its exploitation of sex workers…hundreds of thousands of women & children will be at risk for trafficking, violent sex crimes, disease, drug abuse and death. In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to see 4 children pulled off of the streets of Brazil and placed in a home where they were given a safe environment to live in for the very first time. God broke my heart over the injustice and exploitation of Brazil’s women and children. So in the summer of 2014, just as the World Cup begins, I will head back to Brazil to be a part of God’s rescue mission for the vulnerable.”

 (An excerpt from my support letter that perfectly articulates the need, & my heart to serve this summer.)

I am taking a huge risk; I resigned from my job, I am moving out of my apartment anbrokem by God's loved I bought an airline ticket believing that on the streets of Brazil loving those women and children is EXACTLY where I am meant to be. The center of God’s will for me this summer will be in a place of vulnerability to the unknown, of risk and of deep trust, as I count on Him to be everything I need to survive.

To say that I am excited is an understatement. This is a thrilling adventure into the unknown, may it be the first of many!!  In the moments of fear and discouragement (because they have come) I am holding on to those memories of last summer in Brazil, when God broke my heart and put his love in me for that beautiful nation and its people.

As a graduate student in Intercultural Studies, I have the opportunity to use this trip to fulfill degree requirements (2nd continent experience — required of ATS’ MA IC students), and put all I am learning in the classroom into practice, gain experience and hands on training in missions work to the poor, hurting, and marginalized. At the end of my trip I will put together a thesis that I will present to my Intercultural Studies professors.  How awesome it is to be a part of a seminary that sends its students out to do the work of the gospel!!!!!

 I cordially invite YOU into my adventure into the unknown. Please partner with me in this mission! I want to share my experiences, heart breaks, victories and day-to-day moments with you.

Throughout my time in Brazil I will blog weekly, so check-in to get the scoop of all that’s going down on the streets of Recife during the 2014 World Cup.

Also please, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! I need prayers for courage, wisdom, and strength as I face these transitions.

 www.gofundme.com/MaddyBack2Brazil – If you have a heart for women & children in sex trafficking, but cannot physically go, you can still join in this mission by partnering with me. Your support will make a lasting impact in the life of someone who needs YOU.

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Thank you for partnering with me, believing in this mission and praying as I go into an “adventure into the unknown”.

 

 

 

“God doesn’t Heal…”

“…Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they praying for healing in Biblical Theologyshall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away…” 1 Corinthians 13: 8 

( Our Biblical Theology class praying for the healing of one our classmates on 10/1/13 led by Dr. Chan—>)

 Throughout my career as an undergraduate student at Nyack College, I heard many arguments for and against the move of the Holy Spirit to heal humans beings physically. I listened to professors I respect greatly, use the verse above, amongst others, to explain why the move of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, such as healing, are no longer in function within the Body of Christ today. But I also heard stories of faith from many others who witnessed physical healings, and/or strongly believed on a Biblical basis for the gift of healing today. 

I shared in one of my posts God used words to create…so be careful with ’em.” ,  my personal experience with the gift of physical healing. As I, last September experienced a complete healing from rheumatoid arthritis, after a time of praying during my “Divine Healing” class here at ATS.  That moment changed my spiritual walk, forever. 

 You see, like many of you, I’d struggled for a long time with the thought that “God doesn’t heal…” and even if He did, He certainly wasn’t going to use me to do it.  After all, I was just a little Christian college student, who was still fairly new to the faith and still struggling and working through a lot. During my time at Nyack college, I’d seen pockets of the move of God, but not much in the area of healing. And so while outwardly I looked confident and sure, inwardly I was just as insecure as a person receiving their first swimming lesson, after almost drowning a couple of weeks before. 

I’d prayed for healing for people, even though I didn’t believe much in it and for a long period of time I saw… NOTHING… Confession time!! While I do recall the several occasions during the small group “The Fire” (which I led my junior and senior years) seeing moments of healing and restoration, my faith was still small and filled with doubt. The constant reminder that God does not and could not use someone like me, kept my eyes off of Christ’s ability to heal, and on my limitations as a person.

CTA button for Blog UGUp until that point I believed that God didn’t heal others, when I prayed, because of me and who I was. Yet all along His healing touch was and is completely dependent on Him and who He is.

As a good friend reminded me of yesterday; “God’s miracles are not contingent on my belief in them.” –Darren Wilson in “Furious Love” (paraphrase)

That evening in class, when I encountered the God who heals, I recognized that it brings God nothing but pleasure to heal the wounds, diseases, sicknesses of His people. I encountered a God who delights in making His kingdom tangible in our bodies. A God who desires to display His authority over sickness, death and sin, by the complete removal of anything that manifests its effects. And a God who works through broken, hurting, disobedient, faithless people to display just HOW faithful, good and LOVING, HE is. 

I went on a journey as I took the Divine Healing Class offered at ATS, praying for the healing of several others. And I saw TEN people who that semester were HEALED; physically and emotionally. 

My favorite one was when my friend Matt was healed. Matt had severe pain in his foot, his foot was swollen and it was difficult for Matt to walk and stand (both of which he did all day) at work. My friend Bill and I decided to pray and pray we did. We began by asking Matt about his pain, the nature of his injury and so on. We then spent some time welcoming God into the moment. Bill led out in prayer, praying some specific blessings over Matt. As Bill prayed, my right hand felt like it was on fire, I immediately put my hand on his foot and I prayed. Long story short, by the time we stopped praying there was NO swelling, and NO pain and Matt stood up and literally ran around the house. We began rejoicing in the Lord so loudly, we woke up Bill’s mom, who also then praised God for the healing as well. GO JESUS!

Here is the cool thing about that story, Matt was not a Christian, He didn’t necessarily believe in God… but that encounter THAT night, led him to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! 

So here is where I challenge YOU. If you believe God cannot, and does not heal; if you’ve never experienced the move of the Spirit of God in healing, whether personally, or seeing it in someone else; give God a chance to BLOW your theology out of the water and go after healing! 

It would please the spirit of God to reveal to you the mysteries of God (Ephesians 3) in healing. 

I bless you to “seek, ask, and knock” and see that truly the “fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much.” 

                           love through hugs

                           (and sometimes the healing we need is in our hearts….) 

Personal Advice for Seminary Student at ATS

ATS Faculty Blessing New students

ATS Faculty Blessing New students with some words of wisdom at Orientation. ( Pictured left to right: Dr. Lim,  Amy Nehlsen director of AGSM, Dr. Widbin, Prof. Dressler, and Dr. Liu.)

As I look back and reflect on the last year of my life, (thanks to a good friend of mine, who through her blog, encouraged me to remember the faithfulness of the Lord),I am grateful for the many things I’ve learned in my first year as a seminary student and as an admissions associate for the Alliance Theological Seminary. Some things I learned the hard way-through tears, sleepless nights and what felt like endless struggles. And others I learned through the wise counsel of the many amazing seminarians I met. So this blog is a letter filled with words of wisdom from some of us to all of you.

Dear Seminary Noob,

1) Please be pessimistic when scheduling your time to do work, rather than being optimistic in assuming that you will get all of yourGet Started Right away work done. Seminary work requires more time and effort than undergraduate work. You are building a foundation for your ministry in Seminary. It is important that you give it your best and take your time. – Sam Lee 3rd year Masters of  Divinity (M.Div)  Bible & Theology, with Chinese Ministries student.

2) Stay as long as you can. Do not rush through your courses. -Kong Hang 3rd year Masters of Divinity Church Development student.

3) RELAX. That’s right—relax! This doesn’t mean you should get lazy, be irresponsible, or spend all of your time in leisure activities (instead of studying, researching and writing). Rather, choosing to RELAX is about adopting an attitude or trust-ful rest. It means choosing peace over anxiety, faith over fear and “good enough” over perfectionism.

4)  Don’t start “catastrophizing”. You’re here for a reason. And Katie Getting us Orientedyou’re not alone. God is with you. He will help. And you are surrounded by a community of others who share your experiences. concerns, and burdens. SO…

5) Embrace the resources God—and ATS—provide. -Katie George, Administrative Assistant to the Academic Dean.

6) Invest fully, while you  are here. There is a worthy cost to the great cause of ministry. The benefits will far outweigh the cost of your development; Spirit, Soul and Mind. – Drew Strecker 3rd year M. Div. Church Development Student.

7) Schedule free time and don’t forget to breathe. You will need the rest because your brain cannot work without it! – Terry Arcia ATS Alumni 2013 – Masters of Professional Studies, Church Development.

8)Have FUN! Enjoy your time in seminary!! – Dustin Collins- 3rd year M. Div Bible & Theology with Greek Student.

9) Seek community– ATS is a safe place. It is the best place to start dealing with all the “junk” in your life…so do it. – Eugenia Ko ATS Alumni 2013 – M Div. Bible & Theology.

10) Ask for HELP! – I survived my first year with its many ups and downs because of the many people in this community who were willing to invest in me. Whether you need tutoring, help writing a paper, someone to pray for you or even a hot meal, we are here to serve one another! So ASK!- Madelyn Badillo M.A. Intercultural.

And so with all that being said, enjoy your first year and welcome to Seminary!!!!!!!!

With Love,

The ATS Community

Receving the Blessing

Our new seminarians receiving a blessing from our Dean Dr. Ron Walborn and Faculty as they begin their journey at the Alliance Theological Seminary.

¡Wait?!

Traffic in Brazil

Waiting in traffic in Brazil.

There is no four letter word I  dislike more than the word “WAIT”. Now before you think me a little crazy, my issue isn’t with the word itself but rather the verb, the action of “waiting”. I dislike waiting on lines at stores, I particularly loathe waiting in traffic ( I think EVERY HUMAN DOES). I don’t like waiting at drive thru’s  I mean come on, it’s a drive thru, there should be no waiting involved!. And I really, really don’t enjoy being told to “wait”.

Yet the last couple of weeks all I keep hearing is “WAIT”.

“… but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

As a college and now seminary student, one of my biggest struggles has been waiting. Waiting on God to fulfill His promises. Waiting on Him to complete His work in me. Waiting on Him on to bring the right person into my life. Waiting on Him to open up the right doors for ministry.

Waiting is not something I do well. Mostly because we’re told to hustle and make things happen. Yet sometimes all God wants us to do is WAIT, on HIM.
He can make things happen A LOT better than you and I, ever could.

I have recently realized that waiting means letting go of all control, truly surrendering and trusting that God will piece it all together in the end, just like He said He would. My issues with waiting go beyond, waiting. It is an issue of trust. It is much harder to wait, when you don’t trust that the one you are waiting on will actually come through.

And that’s just it. I will either choose to believe that God is absolutely good and has good things in store for me as His daughter ( as one of my amazing ATS friends/co-workers reminded me). Or I will continue to buy into the costly lies that He won’t come through for me as He says He would. Both time and testing has proven, even over the course of the last two months, that HE ALWAYS comes through for His children. I have no reason to fear, no reason to doubt, no reason to think that if I wait, it will not end well for me.

So I have chosen as I start my second year at the Alliance Theological Seminary to practice the discipline of waiting. To genuinely STOP trying to figure things out. Or stop trying to make things happen and TRUST that my Daddy, will DO everything He said He would for me.  Even if the picture isn’t painted with the colors I’d like them to be. Or the brush strokes don’t happen as fast as I would like them to. Or the picture as a whole is completely different from what I hoped for, I choose to wait, I choose to trust.

Because it’s in the waiting, it’s in the trusting that I am coming to truly believe that His WILL is perfect. It’s not just something that sounds pretty in scripture. This is absolute truth. HIS WILL IS PERFECT. SO if HIS will is perfect, then when I wait on HIM, and He is in control, the outcome of my life will be EXACTLY what it’s suppose to be. And it will be perfect for me.

I know a lot of you reading this have perhaps struggled with this very same issue, or are struggling with it now. I encourage you, find comfort, as I have, in knowing that really, He is a good father, who gives GOOD gifts to His children. He has not forgotten you, you have not been overlooked. He sees, He knows, He hears your prayers. And in due time every single word, every single promise He’s ever made to you, will unfold in your life.

I am a witness that those who wait upon the Lord, renew their strength and WILL rise up on wings like eagles…

In the clouds
…Or a plane… My view as I arrived at Rio de Janeiro.

” No one who waits for you will ever be put to shame, no one who waits for you will ever regret it!”

 

The Harlot

brazil flagAs many of you might or might not know, this Thursday I am leaving to Recife, Brazil. I am going with a ministry called ” We See Jesus Ministries”(http://www.weseejesusministries.com) . Our team is joining with Shores of Grace ministries (http://www.shoresofgrace.com) in Recife and our plan is to work with the women and children that flood the streets through the sex trafficking industry.  We are going to bring the love and light of the Father into some of the darkest corners of the earth. A light and love that I, myself need, all of the time.

I sit here thinking about the adventure I will be embarking on, about the lives I will be able to touch and the women, the women who are being abused, mistreated, judged, labeled, abandoned, rejected, devalued. And I recognize that I have been just as broken as they. And though my pain, my sufferings, could never truly be compared to theirs, we are no different. Humanly speaking, we have the same hopes, dreams, desires and longing to be loved, accepted, welcomed, forgiven, and embrace. We long for the ones who would give us a 2nd, a 3rd, or a 4th chance. In the sight of God we are identical, we are His children, whom He longs to embrace in His grace for all eternity.

Yet I find myself in a very distinct place and I wonder. I wonder, why is it that I, who have encountered the grace and love of God sell myself short for other passions, other lovers, time and time again. Why do I find myself like Paul, embracing the things I hate, while shunning the things my heart actually desires? Why is it that God has to, time and time again buy me from another? When He already paid the ultimate price for me.

I realize I am no better than an adulterous woman, I am no better than a prostitute forced to sell herself to live, I am no better than a harlot. I too needed to be rescued, I too needed a holy man to enter into the dark, unholy corners of my life and set me free. And I too have a price, sometimes, way too low for my worth, with which I sell myself to any seemingly promising lover.

I am no different from the worst and chief of all sinners and broken persons, and neither are you. While the gravity of our mistakes and failures and shortcomings varies, truth is, to 1 degree or another we are all messed up and in desperate need of grace.

And yet when the God of the universe looks at you and me, He sees a beautiful, spotless bride He longs to marry. He sees a dream come true. He is filled with unshakable desire and passion. He sees someone who’s worth exceeds the finest of diamonds and whose price would empty the bank account of the universe to pay.

 So as I go to Brazil, I go with my sin, covered by the blood of Christ ever before me.  I have been the harlot, but today I am the Bride of Christ.  I go with a new perspective. One that recognizes that the most important thing one could ever offer/receive is the love of God. Because only a true a encounter with the love of the Father could set the captive free. Only His love can heal the sick, only His love can save a lost and dead soul. It is only by HIS love.

 “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”– Hosea 2: 19-20

Pierced by Love


knowing I am lovedA couple of nights ago I was laying on the floor, on my face at Resting Place House of Prayer in New Jersey ( lots of Nyack College students and ATS students visit this place). And I was crying. I was crying over the fact that God is a high and lofty God. He is unapproachable light. His power could crush the universe. I was saddened by this amazing truth, because I realized that this same unapproachable God, is my Father and as much as I would want to approach Him, hug Him, run and sit on His lap in the throne room one day, I can’t.

It’s safe to say that my sentiment moved God’s heart. And instantly I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of love and longing, which were not my own. I felt the affections of this powerful God towards me. I felt a love that saw all of my dirt, all of my sin, all of my mistakes, all of my past, present and future failures but loved me the same. I felt this love wrap around me like a tight, strong, passion-filled hug.

And what I saw next has changed the depths of my being.  I saw a man clothed in white garments, He had a gold belt around His waist, and hanging off of His belt was a sword. He pulled the sword from its holster and carved as holes into the sword was the word ” LOVE”.  This man turned and the piercing light coming from His eyes kept me from being able to see His face. I tried hard to see what He looked like, but I couldn’t. And this man took His sword and pierced me with it. It was not an act of violence or hatred, but of penetrating truth. Seconds later Ali, one of the leaders at Resting Place says while praying: ” He wants to (Jesus does) pierce you with His Holy love…”

CTA button for Blog ATS

Needless to say, I was undone. I wept and wept, because I got a glimpse that night of the length, the depth, the height, the width, of God’s love. A love that knows no bounds, that holds no records of wrongs, a love filled with grace and compassion. A love that is not only for me, but for all of mankind.

I have been reading a book by one of my professors at ATS called “Pathways to the King”. In chapter 2 Dr. Reimer talks about our pursuit of God… After reading this chapter, I took on the challenge of pursuing God. I recognized that, throughout my career as a college student in Nyack and even in my first year at ATS, God has always been in pursuit of me. But I have never really been in pursuit of Him. So for nearly a month now, I have been sacrificing; time, money, hanging out, etc. to seek the face of God. 

And in seeking, asking and knocking as hard as I can; I have been pierced by the transforming love of God.  The penetrating truth of His love, is not something for me to soak up and then continue living life, business as usual. His love calls me into action. It calls me to serve, to care and to hunger and to thirst for more and not just for myself, but for all those around me. It is a truth that has ever so gently forced a change in me. 

 His love is a love that has challenged me to view others, even love actsthose who hate me, as people who are also worthy of grace and redemption. It is a love that has moved me to sacrifice, not just for God, but for the sake of a sister who was in need.  It is a love that is truly not envious. It is a love that seeks the well-being of others.  Love that is marked not by word but by deed.  Love that has been teaching me, what it looks like to die to myself, pick up my cross and truly follow Him.

We read passages like 1 Corinthians 13 and we make great Hallmark cards out of them. We quote them, pray them, long for them. But yet never take the time to; A) find that piercing love and if we do we, B) don’t allow it to do the work it is meant to do in us and through us. 

And may I just remind you, that this same love led Jesus to hang on a tree, bearing the weight of sin for all mankind for all time, as He swallowed the wrath of a powerful God, and tore the veil of eternal separation from God we truly all deserve, once and for all. 

I challenge my seminary and my Nyack college fireworksfriends, and everyone else reading this blog- Seek, Ask, Knock. Go on a real pursuit of God. Let Him pierce you with His Holy love, so that you can go out into the world and pierce others with His Holy love, in you. 

 

 

God used words to create…so be careful with ’em.

“God used words to create this planet so be careful with ’em.”- Andy Mineo ( “Still Bleeding”- Heroes for Sale) 

Words. We use a lot of them, every second of every day, to create, inspire, teach, relate, share, love, confess, repent, rejoice, bless, worship,  pray, but also to hate, destroy, tear down, criticize, judge, condemn, make fun of, reject, inflict pain… Without ever realizing that some of the most of powerful weapons in this universe are: WORDS. Because while sticks and stones always break bones that eventually heal, the impact of an ill placed word, can last a lifetime.

I find it interesting that we read verses like ” In the beginning was the WORD… or  until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter… by any means will disappear…” (John 1:1; Matt 5:18) And somehow overlook the fact that not only do God’s words hold that much weight but ours, as his children, do also.

 I mean it’s in the scriptures folks: ” Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Provers 18:21

So where do we justify and find it okay to gossip, back-bite and slander one another? I guess in the fact that we can say whatever we want, whenever we want, to whomever and it’s cool, because YOLO we got freedom of speech.

Or do we justify our hateful words, snide remarks, and hurtful comments in our hearts because what’s in our hearts is just as poisonous as the words we speak?

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

Now please don’t get me or this post wrong, no one is talking about me ( if they are, it doesn’t matter to me) and this isn’t directed to any specific person in particular. In fact, as a woman in Seminary, I am so guilty of this too. I can think of the times in Nyack college, I chewed people up verbally. But I can also remember the wounds all too well inflicted by Christians shooting rounds like “she’s too deep… she’s too fat… she looks like Steven Seagal…she thinks she’s better than every one else… get away from me, I want nothing to do with you….” – Sounds familiar, eh?  I’m, writing this post because frankly, I am done  listening to people cut each other down, and using freedom as the excuse to do so.

 Perhaps the issue isn’t the words that we so creatively use against one another. Because a word, standing alone on a blank page, means nothing, perhaps the real issue, the force behind what we say lies in the; heart. 

When God spoke, he revealed his heart to us, his heart to create, to establish, to be in relationship, his heart of faithfulness, holiness, love, and grace. With his heart he formed a word, that would become the redemption of mankind. His words could sustain the universe and all that lies within because of the life force his heart provides to those words.

It is the same when we speak!

This past September in my Divine Healing class at ATS, God healed me from rheumatoid arthritis. The dean of my seminary inquired, during the time of prayer I was receiving, as to when this disease began to affect me. I replied that it started as I was about to begin my first year in Nyack College. A few seconds later, a classmate began to pray against any curses spoken against me. Ron Walborn, our Dean at ATS followed the students prayer, by saying ” people have been speaking against you in ministry… they’ve cursed you with their words.” Ron broke those curses spoken over me, and began to speak blessing. I NEVER had another flare up again.

Moral of my story; THE POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH ARE IN THE TONGUE .

And what comes out of your mouth FLOWS from you heart and has the power to give life, renew and restore or to kill, steal and destroy…

Before I can change the way I talk about others, I need to allow God to transform my heart and renew my mind and the way I view myself and others.

I am a work in progress, but I am proud to say, God has placed a distaste in my mouth for any words filled with venom.

I invite you, join me and let’s fast from gossip, slander, negativity etc., and used our words to Bless and give life to one another, permanently!

What do you say?

Words; Written and spoken over me by dear friends, left posted on my desk as a daily reminder of God’s faithfulness…. ( click on the pic and you can read them.)

I Found Rest in Vision

May I always See what HE sees... pic with De'Andre Ralston

May I always See what HE sees… pic with De’Andre Ralston at America’s Keswick, where NYACK College and ATS led two youth retreats, this winter.

Since my last post, I have been utterly exhausted and drained  emotionally and physically in every sense of the word. I never realized how tiring dealing with one’s pain could be, especially in the midst of final papers as the end of my 2nd semester at ATS draws near. But in the struggle with this exhaustion, I have found rest, deep rest, in places and ways I least expected.

I found rest in VISION.

A huge part of my turmoil laid on my perspective and the vision I had of myself, that was tainted by what I saw and what I didn’t see. What I saw was ugly, unwanted, unworthy, and undesirable  and what I didn’t see was my need for a partner met.

But my vision was wrong. What I saw as flawed, was only flawed, as I looked through the bifocals of ; lies and unmet expectations. When I looked in the mirror, I saw through the contact lenses that said things like “maybe if you were skinnier, guys would find you attractive…or… there are other girls who are much prettier than you…”.

We are visual people, we believe only what we see and what we see is tainted by what we’ve heard and experienced throughout the course of our lives. But there is one who’s vision is perfect and pure. His vision isn’t tainted by the hardships of life, the demands of culture and the desires of  perverse people. He sees things for what they truly are. He doesn’t wear the bifocals of lies and unmet expectations, his vision is truth and faith.

On Sunday as I sat in the home of my fellow seminarians, for my mentoring group (I told you, we are big on community and accountability at Nyack and ATS) I became aware of this reality. I’d shared with my friends my struggles and my need for their support in prayer and as they gathered around me to pray, one of my friends said ” I will pray for God to give you His VISION…”. And it suddenly clicked, the way that I see myself and my situation is the total opposite of the way God sees me and my life.

As we sat in the living room and prayed for one another, my eyes were opened, I was given new sight and I began to find rest in HIS vision.

My friends when God, the creator of ALL looks at us, He sees perfection. Listen, see this truth, GOD the father, DOES NOT see us as; messed up, ugly, nasty, fat, disqualified, unworthy, sinful people. HE sees the BEAUTY of HIS Son, when He looks at you, when He looks at me. THAT my friends IS VISION; to see past the lies, the unmet needs, the mistakes that we’ve made and see the beauty and perfection of Jesus Christ. And there we find deep rest.

Find rest as I am, in the vision of God. At the end of the day, HE IS THE ONLY one who’s vision and opinion will last forever. So why continue to hold on to and striving to erase fading, false beliefs, when the eternal truth waits to be discovered by us.

Ask, as my friend did for me, and as I do even as I write this post, ask for his vision.

” Lord, help us to see what you see. Remove the lenses that we wear tainted by hurtful words spoken over us, by situations that broke our hearts, and the expectations of a visual culture. Give us eyes to see the beauty of your son, as we look at our reflections in the mirror. Give us a vision of truth and faith, to see even that which is invisible. God, when you look at us you see deep beauty, you find great pleasure, you smile as your heart is filled with overwhelming joy. We are your beloved ones, we are perfect in your sight, you do not see our sin, our flaws, our pasts, our inabilities, but instead you see kings and queens worthy of your kingdom. Help us, Jesus, to see what you see. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

“…in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

 “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” Mark 6:19

“…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

My friends, we are RIGHT now seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and He is seated at the right hand of the Father, where there are pleasures forevermore. SEE right now, that YOU are the pleasure that sits at His right hand. Find rest in the vision.

Yet we are more beautiful still...

Yet we are more beautiful still…

One of those Nights

Never again will I believe the lie that I am not pretty enough…

A couple of nights ago I had what I like to describe as,  “One of those nights”. We’ve all had them. One of those nights when the lies, doubts, fears, insecurities and loneliness overwhelms our hearts, minds and souls. You know exactly what kind of night I am referring too. The ones where we want to scream, cry, or run to some other kind of distraction that would numb the pain and the dark reality we’re facing. (Yes, it’s okay to admit that as students at a Christian college and seminary we struggle with this…)

Yeah, I had one of those nights. You see I am 25 years old in seminary and single. I have been single for 5 going on 6 years (pretty much since I got to Nyack College). I have gone on dates, talked to guys and gotten to know a few, but all that ever resulted in was  heartache. This reality hit me like a ton of bricks, when the desire for a relationship bubbled up out of me, seemingly out of no where. Truth is, CTA button for Blog ATSI’ve wanted some one to share my life with all along, but I suppressed that longing with the Christian ideologies that: “once you’re content with only the Lord, then you will meet the one” or ” you should only be seeking God, first”… When really, God created me for relationship, longing for one is absolutely normal and being discontent in my situation is also okay.

I was bound by the lie that told me my feelings and desires were wrong. And attached to that lie was the greater lie that the reason why my desire for a relationship wasn’t being satisfied was because I am not pretty enough. That night I stood in my room, staring in the mirror absolutely hating the reflection that looked back at me.  All I could see were the flaws that surely have kept a man from wanting to be with me. After spending what felt like hours hating on myself, I laid on my bed and I cried. I cried tears I didn’t know were waiting to be released. Tears of a longing that was laying dormant within me. And tears of  pain I didn’t know I possessed.

My heart was aching with the thought that I would never be beautiful enough, or good enough for the man of my dreams. As much as everything within me wanted to crawl out of my skin and find some sort of escape, I laid  in my bed and I felt every bit of the pain, I’d carried for so long.

 Instead of turning to empty escapes, I turned to friends ( I learned through Nyack, in our darkest moments, community is so important) and a real conversation, with a good friend, helped me to process and recognize the lies, fears and insecurities that held me captive.

I still have much to release, and freedom to find in this area, but one thing is certain: I know that truly I am beautiful! and I am more than good enough!  I know that God has promised me a spouse and he is not a man that he should lie. I know that I could trust that he knows what is best for me. I know that I am not alone and that we have all, whether male or female felt this pain, and that true freedom and rest, lies only in the comfort of the father. I know that one day every tear will be wiped from my eyes. I know that I can keep it real about my pain, I don’t need to hide, I don’t need to suppress. God very much cares about EVERY detail of my life.

My friends when you find yourselves caught in the middle of ” One of those Nights”, run, run to God, run to community, and receive the truth: that no matter what the voices in your head tell you;

You are NOT alone… For He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.

You are beautiful… Because He made you beautifully and fearfully.

You are NOT forgotten…  His eyes are always on you.

You’re Loved … With an EVERLASTING love.

And while for the night, pain is your reality there is always a sunrise…

Hudson River view from Nyack, NY

Hudson River Sunrise view from Nyack, NY

Fearless: The Struggles of a Young American College and Seminary Student

And Free from anxiety!

And Free from anxiety!

“…The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:5-6 

Some times I wonder if Paul understood the struggles of young American college and seminary students while writing these words. How could he possibly tell us to not be anxious? We have lots to be anxious for; our futures, relationships, finances, loans, families, papers, exams etc. How could I not find myself worrying and caring about the things that will affect and impact the rest of my life? How could I not be distracted with thoughts about my future spouse, or the impending loan repayment that awaits.

Anxieties. Distractions. Worries. Cares. We all carry them. And yet the scriptures remind us, that if we pray and “cast all of our cares upon Him (the one who cares for us)” ( 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22), he will take care of us and the peace of God, will guard our hearts and minds. If this is true, then how come so many college and seminary students find themselves like me, in a constant battle with anxiety?

While I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I do have MY answer. MY battle with anxiety was one that I fought long and hard.  I found myself constantly mulling over different scenarios and options for my future. You see, I need to have all of the answers. I need know the how’s, what’s, when’s and where’s that have yet to come. But those are the questions I rarely have the answers for when it comes to my future.

My battle with the HUGE distraction of anxiety, came from the need to KNOW and the need to CONTROL my future. I needed to know and I needed to control, because I didn’t trust the one who holds my future in HIS hands. Because I believed that he couldn’t possibly have something good in store for me.  I truly believed that only I, could know what is best for me. And because I feared that the God I serve, didn’t love me enough to give me his best. So I wanted to find myself In the Center of my will, instead of his.  I filled my mind with pictures of what I wanted my life to look like, and I obssesed over them.

Thoughts of what my future romance should look like, drowned me in my own mind. Ideas of the ministry I one day want to partake in, blinded me from the opportunities right in front of me. And the idea of the more, kept me from the intimacy that God the father so longed to have with me.

My battle with anxiety came to an end two weeks before orientation at the Alliance Theological Seminary. I’d driven up to Camp of the Woods (www.camp-of-the-woods.org/), where I had worked the previous two summers as a Nyack College Student. One night a group of Nyack friends, others and myself had a bible study, at the end of the study, a dear friend of mine pulled me aside and said the Lord told him to tell me; ” to stop looking so much into the future.” I walked into my room knowing there was something more God was trying to say. With my roommates sleeping, I went into my bathroom and asked: “Lord, what is it? What are you trying to say?”

The answer rang loudly: ” Would you be content if you never got married? Would you be content if you never preached again? Would you be content if you never got the family or the ministry you so desire? Would you be content with just me?” 

I began to cry when I realized how little I trusted God. My reply was simple: ” Lord, help me to be content with just you.” That night, the chains of anxiety that plagued my thoughts and heart were broken by the realization that God IS more than enough and what HE has for me is WAAAAYYYY better than ANYTHING I could think of or imagine.

I was reminded of this victory this past Monday, when at Resting Place ( a house of prayer, many Nyack and ATS students frequent) the Lord removed yet again the distraction of future earthly hopes.

I found rest from my cares in the midst of the crowd...

Resting Place: I found rest from my cares in the midst of the crowd…

 God is a good Father, who gives amazing gifts to his children (Matt 7:11). There is truly nothing to worry about. When we leave our lives in his hands, we can trust that he will give us his very best. Find freedom and rest, knowing that HE LOVES YOU. Let go of control, let go of the need to” know” and embrace the truth that what’s ahead of you is: “…far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” Ephesians 3:20

In the Center

Dr. Widbin from ATS, lecturing in Gennesaret.

Dr. Widbin from ATS, lecturing in Gennesaret. Where will the “center”lead you?

In the words of a good friend of mine, I am a “go-getter”.  The moment I set my heart on something, I pursue it. Whether or not it’s meant to be, is not my concern, my desire for that particular thing, drives me.  This is a great quality to posses, with a huge downfall.

 Like all of you, I have made plans, paved my own path and often times dictated to God what my life will look like. The idea that I can make my own choices and carve my destiny is a juicy one, after all, we have free-will don’t we? While I won’t attempt to argue the issue of free-will, I am making one point and that is that the best thing we could do  is find ourselves

“In the Center”.

In the Center of what? God’s perfect will for our lives.

This was a lesson I learned a couple of months ago, while standing under an umbrella in the Biblical Town of Gennesaret in Israel, as Dr. Widbin an ATS professor and guide for the ATS Israel trip, shared the story of the demoniac. For those of you who might not know the story it goes something like this: Jesus arrives to this town by boat. Immediately upon leaving the boat, he encounters a severely oppressed man. This madman lived in the tombs with uncontrollable strength, and spent day and night crying out and cutting himself. After a brief encounter, Jesus commands “legions” to depart from him and into a herd of pigs nearby.  The pigs then run off a cliff and drown. People from all throughout the region come to see what had taken place. It was duly noted that the once madman who lived in the tombs was no longer in severe bondage, this scared them, so they asked Jesus to leave. Mark 5:1-17

BUT this is not the part of the story that moved me. It’s what comes next:  “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” Mark 5:18- 20

Here was this man truly set free, with a good intention to follow Jesus and yet Jesus denies him and tells him to stay in the place he knew only through a lens of bondage. All throughout his journey, Christ asked others to “follow him” but on this occasion, when a man asked to follow him, he told him to stay. And although it was NOT what the man originally wanted, he obeyed and though not noted in the gospel of Mark,  that entire town eventually became Christian.

Often times we want to pursue things, we make plans, we have goals, and we ask the Lord to bless them, especially as seminary or college students (whether in Nyack and ATS or elsewhere). We try to figure things out, rather than simply seek God in the waiting.  Instead of saying “God, here is my will, do it.” We should be asking: “God, what is your will?”

The center of God’s will isn’t always going to take us where we want to go. I mean let’s be real, the center of God’s will took Jesus to a cross, but then an empty tomb three days later.

So the question isn’t : “God, will you bless my plans?” But rather; “What plans must I let go of? What ideas should I stop pursuing, in order to position myself in the center?”

Today as I remember what I learned on my trip to Israel with Dr. Widbin and ATS I have finally learned to ask:  “In what ways do I need to be obedient?” So that I can be in the Center of God’s perfect will for me.

Walking the streams of Dan; ATS Israel trip 2013

Walking the streams of Dan; ATS Israel trip 2013. Where will HE take you?

 

Just “BE”

 

Just BEing on the Sea of Galilee

Just BEing on the Sea of Galilee

 

I have been a lot of things to a lot of different people, but it wasn’t until a couple of months ago, at ATS that I learned to just BE; To just be a daughter, to just be Madelyn, to simply be.

In the past I had been that connect who was always in full supply for her customers. The ride or die chick who was down for whatever, for her set. The crazy girl, who didn’t care about a thing. The rebellious one, who thought only about herself and her interest.

And then when I became a Christian, I became a follower of Christ. A disciple. A worshipper. At Nyack College, I became an R.A.,  a small group leader, a peer mentor, a preacher, and a friend to many.

But every role, I have ever played, has always been with the goal and purpose of receiving love, acceptance and an identity that I, ultimately could never find apart from Christ.

The thing is you, reading this, are just like me, you too have worked hard trying to be something to some one and I my friend have good news; You DO NOT have to work anymore! 

For me this revelation came during a time of ministry in one of my seminary courses at the Alliance Theological Seminary. My professors Dr. Walborn and Dr. Reimer announced that they were going to end class early in order to have a time of ministry. I knew at that very moment that God had something up his sleeve for me. After praying with and for several friends, it was time.

As two of my friends began to pray, in my mind I saw a picture of huge wall, with words written all over it. These words were the names of things I had tried to be for so long. Then I saw a massive jack hammer strike the wall, until the wall began to crumble. What I saw next changed everything; I saw myself as a baby in a crib, in a dark room, alone. I was crying, and crying and no one was coming. And I thought, “why isn’t any one coming to me”. That’s when I saw the door open and this man clothed in white walked over and picked me up, he held me tightly to his chest, and said ” I have always been with you”.

Tears and snot were falling down my face as I wept, nearly uncontrollably as healing overwhelmed my soul. Seconds later my friend began to describe the same scene, saying that Jesus was and always will be with me.

I learned that day, that I DO NOT have to try harder, I do not have to do a thing; I can simply just BE. Because I am already loved, I am already accepted, I am already good enough! I am already a daughter, I am already a friend, I am already everything God intended me to be.

And so are you my friend. There is freedom in knowing that before you even try, God our Father already loves you and is so deeply proud of you! 

YOU are God’s beloved. His beloved daughter, His beloved Son. You are HIS.  Just BE. 

 We don't have to work harder, we can just BE.

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