Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the living letter. . . send me.

This one time, I spent a summer in Romania. 
I lived with 8 other people, and they became my family. 
Sometimes it really sucked and things were really hard. 
There was a lot of ham stew, conflicts in relating, and misunderstandings.
Sometimes it was really good, and things were too good to be true. 
Many nights we distorted our faces with tape, played endless amounts of card games, and laughed until we cried.
I know it's horribly cliche to claim a mission trip changed your life and your teammates are your family. . .
but sometimes, it's just really true
I found an unexpected sister in the least likely girl. 
I found a brother through teasing rivalry. 
I watched a girl grow up right in front of me and blossom into a young woman.
I held a baby girl with visible lice and loved her anyway. I learned how to persevere and forgive. 
I stood up and spoke with shaking hands and trembling words all about an incredible love. 
I ate a sheep's tongue and shoveled gravel until my blisters popped. 
I watched one of the most radical guys I've ever known kill a fish with a rock and hide it in his pants to get past a crazy man and his dogs. The same guy later pulled me out of a moving horse and buggy when a translation mix up almost got us kidnapped by gypsy family. I watched a lot of sketchy music videos, overdone soap operas, and laughable reality shows. I learned a lot of card games and played one too many rounds of "Oh lei lei". 
But the most amazing and remarkable thing about that month was something much simpler. 
I fell in love and had my heart completely captivated by one incredible Savior. 
I heard His still, soft voice through the streets of each village. I saw His love in the eyes of an orphan. 
I felt His peace in the quiet moments we found together. I heard His loud, audible voice atop a mountain at sunrise telling me this was just the beginning. He romanced me and captivated me and radically turned my life around. 
He took a selfish, broken, sinner and turned her into a beloved, treasured, daughter
And ever since, my life has never been the same. 

It seems weird that we are going on two years since this adventure.
It seems weird how time goes so quickly and yet moves so slowly. 
Sometimes it even seems crazy to me that Romania actually happened.
Sometimes it feels like a really beautiful, intense dream that I just woke up from one day and moved on. 
But then I look at my life, where I have been and where I am now and where I am going, and I know that 
Absolutely nothing, other than that first big step of faith, could have moved me the way Romania did. 
And even when months pass between communicating with my teammates and it's easy to go on with life as though nothing has changed, I only have to stop and listen for that same still, soft voice . . .
and I know that it did happen. It wasn't a dream. Nothing is the same. Everything has changed
And I don't have to be across the ocean or loving on orphans to hear His voice and remember what He has done
and what He is doing now and will continue to do,
because He is here just as much as He is there 
He is constant, present, living, active, moving, sending
For me, it started with Romania and moved to Thailand, then to my very own college campus.
And from here? Who knows.
But where ever He is sending, I'm ready. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

three down, five to go.

I'm home for winter break. 
The freedom of emerging from finals and having no real obligations is a bit unsettling. Waking up this morning I felt something akin to a baby giraffe trying to stand for the first time, all awkward and tripping over its new found legs and wide open world around it. 
Handling this awkward adjustment to freedom meant that I spent the entire morning in my pajamas drinking a lot of bizarre homemade coffee creations (chocolate chips and hazelnut creamer . . . the jury is still out on that one), making pepper jack macaroni and cheese, and watching endless episodes of Criminal Minds. There was an uncomfortable moment when reality tried to squeeze it's way back into the picture in the form of my winter class syllabus, but I recovered gracefully by choosing to put off really reading over the details until this weekend. For now, I am choosing to sit back, relax, and enjoy the freedom to read whatever I want, cuddle with my cats, and not feel guilty for spending excessive amounts of time on Facebook. 

Expectation: Now that the obligation to wake up is gone, I'll choose to get up before 11am. I'll get back into a routine that involves daily pilates and actually eating breakfast. I'll set aside time to do the work for my winter class and bring my GPA up. I'll finally start pulling out those recipes I've so happily bookmarked and learn to actually cook them. I'll clean out my closet and finish reading the five different books I've started throughout the semester. 
But if we're honest, we all know none of this greatly responsible plan will actually occur.  
Reality: Over the next three weeks, I'm going to wreck my sleep schedule, my pilates DVD is going to continue collecting dust, and I'm going to be even more emotionally invested in the lives of fictional FBI profilers.  

At least I've had time to accept this and have had time to cope with it. I have all of next semester to develop responsible habits and all that jazz (but I say this every semester, so we'll see. . .) 

What kind of expectation/reality situation are you looking at this Christmas season? 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bangla Road: Video

Over the summer, I spent two months in Phuket, Thailand with a team of 23 other women. During our time there we partnered with a ministry that helps women stuck in the sex trade to get out of the bars and teach them skills to find another job to support themselves and their family. Over the time we were there, we saw incredible events and indescribable works of God's love. We saw women leave the bars and women coming to realize the love Christ has for them as His precious daughters. We saw people be healed and stared demons in the face and declare Christ's power, love, and authority over the darkness.
There is no way to even begin to summarize the miraculous events we saw, but I have put together a short video showing an overview of the ministry we did during this time on Bangla Road.

God is alive and definitely moving, and He is claiming the hearts of every single one of His children.

Bangla Road. from Sarah Arant on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No Offense, But. . .

For the longest time, my idea of Christianity was anything but offensive. It was a lot of sweetly worded songs about love and redemption and a whole lot of empty promises of "I'll be praying for you" when someone tells you a problem in their life. But then you move on with your life and it's nice to mention God when things are hard or uncomfortable, but you never really do anything about it. This idea of Christianity is the one that largely rules the American church and is shown by American Christians. It's become the norm to sit in a comfortable house with comfortable things, living comfortable lives with comfortable jobs and attending a comfortable church. We admire those who accept the call to the uncomfortable and move their families across the ocean to live among the impoverished in other countries or take time off of school or quit their jobs to serve a different ministry, but we'd never actually do that ourselves. 
"God may have called them to leave their comfort behind and be so radical, but He would never call me to something like that."
. . . Right?

Somehow I don't think this was the plan God had when He sent His son to be rejected, beaten, and murdered like a common thief to save us from an eternity in hell that we totally deserved. Sending your perfect son to die for a lot of disgusting people that you love is a pretty radical act, so it actually seems a little bit crazy to think that He would go to those lengths just so we could live comfortably and drive a nice car. I'm just saying. 

Let's face it: We're called to be uncomfortable and offensive.
Flattering, right? We're called to step out and live uncomfortable lives and to be offensive. Every. single. day.

Webster's dictionary defines offensive as "causing displeasure or resentment". It wouldn't be far off to say most beliefs in the Christian faith cause displeasure or resentment to the world. Everything we are called to fight for and believe and everything we know as truth is exactly opposite of what the world deems acceptable. Right from the beginning, choosing Christ is choosing to be offensive. 
But if you look at the Christians you know, how offensively would you say they live? 

I'm tired of being comfortable and unoffensive. 
As Christians, we're really quick to claim that Satan's best weapon against us and biggest hold on the world is the stuff everyone finds to be evil: genocide, slavery, famine, and poverty. I don't believe this is true.
Satan's biggest weapon that he uses against Christians is his ability to scare us into silence, to keep up from speaking up about the truth in fear that we'll offend someone. We find it so easy to speak out against tragedies like children dieing from AIDS and entire people groups being killed off, and we're quick to run to the rescue on a mission trip. It's easy to go to another country with people you'll never see again and tell them all about the things God has done in your life and the love He has for them. Then you go back home to your normal life, your comfortable life, and that Jesus stuff isn't too relevant anymore. But what about the person behind you in the grocery store? The person sitting next to you in your English class? Your next door neighbor or even that really good friend you've known for years, but you've never tried to share Christ with them because it might be offensive and ruin your relationship? We're so quick to run off to Africa or Asia and claim they need Christ, when we can't even share Him with the people in our very own country, where every day an endless number of people are suffering and giving up and dieing without knowing Him. 
This should scare us way more than it actually does.
We weren't put on this earth to live comfortable lives in comfortable homes with comfortable relationships. We weren't put here to make the most money and know the most people and go on a comfortable beach trip every summer. We were put here with the sole purpose of being Christ's light in the darkness and sharing His love with those who don't know Him or of the outrageous sacrifice of His son. 

We're called to be offensive. In fact, I'd go as far as to say we were made to be offensive. 

Is that easy? No. If I'm being totally honest with you, I've sat staring at my computer screen for 15 minutes trying to think of a different way to word a lot of things I've just written in fear that people might take me the wrong way and be offended. (If that isn't ironic, I don't know what is.)
However, just because something is right doesn't mean it is easy, but just because we're called to be offensive doesn't mean we're called to stand on a street corner and scream that the world is going to hell or slap everyone you know over the head with a Bible and point out their every fault. We are called to love people and live out our faith through love, but loving and condoning are two different things (but that is another topic for another blog).

Pursue relationships, share the truth, but the most effective way to share your faith is to live it out in love.
While we're called to be offensive, we're called to love. Ironic as it sounds, it is possible to love offensively.   
And that kind of love pretty much always means leaving your comfort behind and stepping out in radical faith, whether that means moving your family to another country or simply speaking to the person next to you on the bus, no matter how offensive His love appears to them.  

"Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,"    
                                                  - Matthew 16:24