Monday, February 28, 2011

Full Circle

When I was laid off from my last job in January 2009, I didn’t expect I would find full-time work in the South Carolina Lowcountry again. I did some freelance writing and fundraising, moved to my mother’s house in Georgia for a month, then left to go live in South Africa. As I prepared to return to the States last December, I sensed that my time in Cape Town had really drawn to a close, that my ministry was finished, and that God was calling me back to my home country for a new season of life. I just didn’t know what that would look like.

For the past two months I’ve been applying for jobs and sending out resumes. I had one job offer a few weeks ago, for a counselor position with a school in northeast Georgia that works with troubled teens. On the surface it seemed tailor-made for me – helping kids, just as I had done in South Africa, and living in the southern Appalachian mountains, which I adore. But something about it just didn’t add up. Certainly not the pay, which was a pittance, but also the peace factor – it just didn’t feel right.

Now I’ve landed a job that I certainly didn’t see coming. Next Monday I’ll start work as communications coordinator for the Sea Pines community on Hilton Head Island. It’s not a drastic change from what I was doing before I got laid off; I just didn’t expect there to be another such opportunity in the area. It’s certainly not a missionary role in the sense of what I did in Africa. But Christians are called to be missionaries wherever God sends us, so I’ll be back on Hilton Head, where I first lived almost 13 years ago when I moved from Atlanta to join the staff of a golf magazine. I’ll be back with my home church, LowCountry Community, and am looking forward to attending LCC’s island campus. My house in nearby Bluffton is rented, so I’ll be living on the island, five minutes from work and two minutes from the beach. (I know, I know, it will be a tough life.) I’m looking forward to being part of a community again, to reuniting with old friends and making new ones, to getting involved in volunteer ministry within the LCC family.

One verse in particular had been on my heart the past two months as I sought God’s direction for where to live and work. Psalm 32, verse 8, says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” That was comforting throughout those weeks of uncertainty when the phone wasn’t ringing and I didn’t know where I would end up. When God's instruction became clear, it wasn’t through an audible voice or a message written in the clouds. It was just an unmistakable sense of peace, of knowing this is where He is calling me.

Another verse that's always given me great comfort with regard to location is Acts 17:26. In the NIV translation, it says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

Thanks to those who prayed with me that I would hear from God on where He wants me to be. Where He leads, I will follow.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Bucket List

Of the countless ways to bare one’s soul on Facebook, a feature that gained widespread use a while back was the “bucket list.” The idea was to send your friends a list of cool things you’ve done, then they could send it back and show you all the cool things they had done. At the bottom of one such list I received – which was full of all sorts of impressive globe-trotting adventures – the sender commented, “Life is looking pretty good right now.”

The thought occurred to me: “But how’s the next life looking?” Because no bucket-list accomplishment is going to be worth anything when one passes from this life to the next. Then, the only thing that will matter is how that person responded to Jesus’ offer of eternal life by virtue of His death and resurrection. Sadly, many people miss out on this offer as they race through their limited time on earth, searching for meaning in everything but Jesus.

In his book Eiger Dreams, Jon Krakauer described the sensations a climber experiences on a wall of ice thousands of feet off the ground: “The accrued guilt and clutter of day-to-day existence … is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose, and by the seriousness of the task at hand. At such moments, something like happiness actually stirs in your chest …” Purpose and happiness – that’s what we want. Not just mundane existence, but something meaningful, something to make us feel satisfied.

King Solomon, who had all the riches and wisdom a man could ever want, discovered he was walking a dead-end road without God. “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun,” Solomon wrote. “All of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Reflecting on this meaningless existence, Solomon finally arrived at this determination: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

To fear God is to honor Him as Lord of all, to worship Him, to be in close relationship with Him. That was His intention since the beginning of humankind, and it is possible through Christ, who offers the ultimate fulfillment to man’s longings. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).