when self-contempt and Jesus collide

[mk_page_section][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ padding=”20″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]”I[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522295736406{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]came back for you.”

I hear you say it, your hand at the small of my back, your arms holding me. For years it was my Father’s voice I recognized. Opening my imagination. Cracking open my heart. When I see me with him. When I hear his voice.

But I didn’t think I could hear yours. Or think I ever wanted to.

I let myself believe that you, underneath the almond tree, eyes filled with tears, stayed only because you couldn’t help it. You couldn’t not be there, loving me, despite me. Because you are Love. Because rescue is what you do. Because rescue is who you are.

I twisted your acts of love into an act of obligation. Not choice. Not beauty. Not treasure. Not freedom. Not life.

A part of my heart rejected you, held you off.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5824″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522292135764{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]I did this even though I knew your sacrifice, your surrender, your suffering, your death, was all a choice. Everything you did was what you chose to do. But I made you small. I warped the truth and said it didn’t apply to me.

Despite the truth. Despite how you came. Despite how you returned me to myself, restored my broken heart, turned darkness into light, and ransomed me.

I wanted to retain control, keep punishing myself by hating myself. But now you teach me this: When self-contempt defines a person, and generational wounds cut deep, kindness to self can feel like a mountain impossible to climb, a summit impossible to reach. But you smash through our self-hatred with a love that rattles heaven.

“I came back for you.”

Yes, you did.

Yes, you do.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5846″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522294254844{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]We hear you.

We see you. We know your laughter.  We feel your breath against our cheek. Your strength upholds us. Your kindness fills us. We dance. And you help us each to stand.

We trust your steps. How you guide us forward, and then back. You invite us to let our arms fall to our sides and then lift them up. The air is sweet, grass lush and soft underneath our bare feet.

We hear your music. Feel it in us. Respond to it with hands open, our feet running now.

Waterfall pounds ahead. River wild rushing hard. We know it is okay to jump. You are here. You will catch us. You show us what we didn’t know before: we love to dance, yes. But we also love to race on rapids with you.

You are taking us deeper now. We see you. We will follow you where you go.

Be safely unpredictable, Jesus. Be extravagantly sure. You are the beautiful one. The brave one. You take us to places messy and wild. Show us more. Show us more. Make us ready to say yes, to wherever you call, and go.

It is easier for us, Jesus, to believe in our despicable nature than surrender, let ourselves be loved anyway, despite it being the last thing we deserve.

But, Jesus, life with you is just too good, you are too good, to not trust you. Help us do whatever it takes, whatever it takes, for more, more of you.

Jesus, help us recognize our biggest struggle right now. Is it trusting you? Is it facing our fears? Is it letting you into the silent, darkest places of our hearts and trusting you to come and heal? Is it doing the hard work of dying to self? Is it following where you lead?

We thank you for how you come, how you are here, how you come back for us, rescuing us, again and again. Never stop. And help us go forward with you, in all that you have for us. In your name we pray, Amen.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

a new year, and God in the snow

[vc_row fullwidth=”true”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”A NEW YEAR, AND GOD IN THE SNOW” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:30|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]I[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516315353848{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]t is cold the morning we climb. Strap snowshoes onto our boots. Head out while still dark. House quiet. Kids asleep.

The break has been needed. Away from home. The pace of running too fast, too long. I look up here. White aspens, bare fingers stretch to the most pale blue sky.

I am a Three on the Enneagram, which means slowing is counterintuitive. Going forward, doing what feels productive, is what feels comfortable.

But this is not what is best for my soul.

It takes intention, this battle for the health of my heart.

This is the second time I climb the snow-packed hill. The first is on a whim. In a restful house full of friends and family hundreds of miles from home, days before New Year’s, I pull on boots and walk into approaching dusk.

To walk in beauty. To look for Father’s footsteps. To grasp Jesus’ hand. To listen for Holy Spirit’s voice.

It is a hard, steep climb, my feet not accustomed to the snowshoes’ width, legs tired from skiing most of the day. Half-way up, I have to start pausing to catch my breath. And then begin counting steps each time I stop. 80. 100. Keep going ‘til you get to that fence, then that tree.

At the top, my calves burning, I am quiet. My God is quiet too. I feel no pressure to find words. Whether I can feel Him or not, my heart knows He is here. I am confident He is close. I am a daughter who loses her way, a daughter He, over and over again, tucks in close and brings home.

He is with me, in the silence, in the waiting. And I want to remember His presence with me here. So I bend forward where I kneel, my knees crunched in snow. And I pick up a piece of wood, a smoothed, flattened nub of branch, a half-inch wide and two-inches long. It is tucked in the snow at the top of the hill. Here, I remember, is where I climbed, and waited, and anticipated the presence of God.

It is quiet here. Darkness falling. And I don’t hear anything–not His voice, not a nudge, not a whisper. But I recognize His presence. I feel his breath, the cold air on my face. He is with me. That is enough. I stand, holding the stick in my right pocket. My left hand holding Jesus’ as I walk down.

* * * 

I want to climb the hill again.

It is early morning of New Year’s Day, two days after my afternoon walk, when Justin and I climb together. It is much easier this time—legs fresh, lungs determined. We speak little, listening to the crunch of snow under boots, the sound of our breath in our wool-covered ears. We watch the sky begin to turn. Deep blue. Slightly pink-gold. We reach the top and stand, holding hands, consecrating this moment, this morning, this day, this year to Him.

We pray, give our hearts again to our Father. God, what do you have to say?

And I hear Him this time. Justin prays aloud at this very beginning of the new year, his hand in mine, our boots in snow, the sun rising behind mountains, his voice speaking out thanksgiving, hope, promise, return. And I hear the voice of my Father, his voice in my heart, speaking over us: the promise of hope in the midst of trial, his presence equipping us to face challenges as we lean into Him, standing in his truth, fighting alongside Him.

And this standing with Him . . . begins with fighting for our own hearts.

Fighting for my own heart is something I have been neglecting to do for months now. Many months. What I love to do? What I am made to do? These things I have been ignoring. I have been chasing the satisfaction of the urgent rather than the important. And what is urgent is often a distraction from the important—a task, a request, a situation that, actually, ironically, can usually wait. For the important pulls me into deeper relationship with God. The important fuels what I need for the urgent. The important is both practical and romantic—a move, an action, a decision that leads to falling more deeply in love with my Father.

And above all else, I want to fall more deeply in love with God.

He keeps speaking, the sun glistening on snow. And, while of course I know He knows I hear Him, I want to acknowledge my own hearing, I want to respond. He is asking me to stand. He is promising that I will stand. He is inviting me to trust Him and follow Him and stand.

And the sacred echoes of his voice continue, as I listen, and I wait, and I respond—my heart hungry to answer the call of the Father, the call of the important, not the urgent.

I learn that “stand,” in Hebrew, means to endure, to remain—to stand both in body and attitude.

Father, this is what I want to do: stand with You, in every way. My whole heart is Yours.

And Justin and I walk down.

What excites you about this new year? How is God inviting you to fall more deeply in love with Him?

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”5749″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5748″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5752″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5751″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5750″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1485823148009{margin-right: 50px !important;margin-left: 50px !important;}”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

abandoning the script in Kenya

[vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”ABANDONING THE SCRIPT IN KENYA” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:35|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”100″ padding=”25″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.8)”]T[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1509233195970{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]he five of us return from Kenya today–a mission trip with a team of twenty-four others people, adults and kids. I scratch out these words on the plane ride home, my thirteen year old son asleep on my right. Two of us in the family are sick now, but they both will tell you the experience was worth it.

When you spend a week with a few hundred orphaned children, ages three to fourteen–and you see how they are loved and how they  know they are loved–you can’t help but be forever changed.

The Holy Spirit inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). And a desperation for God is magnified in rejoicing and in truth and in song. Our team leader, Monte, led us with one main objective–give God our heart, trust Him with it, watch Him lead us, and then love on these kids.

And my heart was broken wide, which surprised me. For I remember, before the trip, thinking, how can something so amazing happen with such a simple promise: “Love these kids, and be forever changed”?

How do we let God make our hearts break?

During our time with the kids there were no construction projects, no Vacation Bible School, no set schedule or plan other than this: be open, listen to God’s whispers, let Him lead, notice what He is showing us–about Himself, about His children, about love. And that is what we did.

We joined the kids at their school each morning at 8 am. We visited their classrooms and supported the teachers in the lessons. We played with the children; we joined in their games. We sat and listened and encouraged the teens telling of their stories. And yes, we fell in love with them.

These orphans own nothing of monetary value–their notebooks, filled with hundreds of pages of notes and instruction, are stuffed in weathered backpacks with broken zippers or disintegrating plastic shopping bags stored on the floor underneath their desks. Many wear uniforms ripped and torn or falling apart. Socks have holes in the heels where the foot rubs the back of the shoe.

All of the students have either no family at all who take care of them, or a mom who is unable, due to the difficulty of women getting jobs, to provide funds for her child to go to school. But there is love in this school, and joy here. The kids and the teachers are a family, and they worship God with a gratitude and a freedom unlike anything else I have ever seen.

The children’s passion for learning–their determination to persevere, their commitment to giving everything their all–comes from a gratitude to God for what He gives.

Oh, they are loved and they  know it.

Friday morning the team stuffs itself into one of the classrooms to worship with the kids. The children lead–their voices exuberant and beautiful and loud. It is a cacophony of jubilation–of singing, one song blending into another, and dancing and clapping and jumping and laughing. Here, in that room, we glimpse the kingdom of God. Brothers and sisters basking in the delight of the Father.

Behind me, I feel my husband, Justin, place his hands on my shoulders. We feel the Spirit moving and we can hardly stand for the joy that fills this place.

Justin tells me later he asked God, just for fun, how much He loves this moment–this moment of children and teens singing and dancing and shouting out praise. And that is when Justin, the Spirit rushing over him, almost falls down. The Father is ever-present with us. In His kindness, He helps increase our awareness of Him. He pours out His love on His children who know Him and love Him and adore Him– expressing themselves in praise.

Yes, this is when God’s Spirit comes even more, rushing in.

When we are present to God’s love–open and eager to receive it–we will not be disappointed.

Saturday morning, a few hours before we begin the eight-hour bus ride to Nairobi and the 18 hour plane rides home, we sit and process together what God has been doing in our hearts this trip. We listen for God’s voice, and this is what I hear Him say to me about the children and the Achungo School:

“This is a holy place. I am praised here. I am known here. I hold my children close. These children work hard, and they give Me the glory. They know they are loved. They know they are not forgotten. There is no striving–only gratefulness. They respond–the work of their lives–with gratefulness. So their hearts are protected. . . When they leave the grounds of Achungo, it is important that they take Me with them. For they will feel less protected. They will be distracted.

Remember what is true. For in my truth they will carry themselves, my message, as my light-bearers, all over the world.”

And then I ask God what my role is here, in going forward, after this trip. And this is where it gets personal:

“Be protected with my truth. And walk in my truth. And spread and uphold my truth. And be my light-bearer in the world.

Pesiliah [one of the teen girls with whom I connected] called you a mother. Be a light in how you mother. Uphold my truth in how you mother. And work from a heart of gratefulness for what I give you. I uphold my name in your home, and I send my angels to guard your home. Keep my name sacred. Practice Sabbath and keep it holy. Rest in Me–and then work hard, with zeal, knowing that you work from a plce of abundance and not scarcity.

Let yourself be filled by Me. This is your main job–and then you love. And you feel freedom–the joy of your Lord in you.”

I come home sleep-deprived and heart restored. Sometimes it takes stepping out of my ordinary, too-busy-for-distraction life to appreciate a different way to see, a truer way to love.

My heart continues to ponder what God has for me to learn from this visit to Kenya. Those children have changed me, and my heart is heavy. I miss them. What more are you doing, God?

Heading off on an adventure with no script, trusting God to guide us, might help our hearts pay attention to what matters most.

What adventure are you saying yes to? What is God showing you?

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”4706″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”4710″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4708″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4709″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4713″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4711″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4707″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4727″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4712″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4721″ img_size=”600 x 800″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]