At Urbana, pretty much anyone you ask would say that the reason they were at Urbana was to learn more about God's will in their life.
I've now shared about several different perspectives or thoughts about what I experienced at Urbana. I will now delve into areas where I felt God speaking to me, and how I dealt with each of the little lessons God taught me.
Over the past year, several things have resonated through my thoughts and prayers.. if you looked through my blog entries (at least the ones that were serious and non-sports-related) over the last 2-3 months, you would remember several posts related to the following:
I've already been over my missions decision-making and prayerful requests for direction. To summarize, I felt God nudging me towards serving at Longlac once again this year, based on the general lack of concern for these people at a missions conference as large as Urbana, on God speaking to me through scriptures, on people I spoke with in regards to missions and their experiences.
2) Meaninglessness at work
To summarize, I have felt for a long time that the work I do is meaningless. What purpose do I have, for supporting a web-application at work? If I stopped, how many people would be critically affected? Is God pleased with what I do?
I registered at Urbana under the "Open for Business" track. Seminars belonging to this track were related to BAM (Business As Mission) and other business-related topics like money management, goals and ambitions, greed. I registered in this track having no intention of attending any of the seminars. I'm in computers. Who cares about business? I'm just a geek.
Over the conference I met several people, including Joe, an IT guy who worked at Saddleback (Rick Warren), and another guy named Brian, an owner of a software company that uses their income to fund missions. Both of these guys had valuable insight on the IT vocation, and how we can be used to further God's kingdom. Joe was a staff for Saddleback, and he talked to me about his missions work in China teaching computer and also psychology (he was now taking psychology in school). They'd travel from factory to factory in China to educate people about relationships, work ethic, and spirituality, and of course God would be a central focus on the latter. I met Joe completely at random, he was assigned to the same section as I had been, for the Stadium Servant (usher) job that I had volunteered for.
As for Brian, another chance meeting, I happened to sit down at his table for breakfast and found about his ministry. He had a software company that was using its proceeds to fund missions. He had created an openSource portal software, that gained popularity and advertising money through the Internet. He was now working on a content-management portal for churches (this is actually something T3C is, or at least should be, looking into).
I was really surprised when I talked to these two people and learned of the usefulness of what I do. It excites me in knowing that God uses everyone in some way, even computer nerds like myself.
I also ended up taking a seminar where a man spoke about innovations and inventions, creativity and entrepreneurial efforts that were used to further God's Kingdom. One story that particularly touched me was a group of women from Europe, who brought fabric and sewing materials to Africa, recruited sex workers and prostitutes, and made their own clothing line. They then shipped these back to Europe and sold them, creating a steady income for these women who could now support their families without needing to sell their bodies and risk the transfer of sexual diseases. What an amazing idea that essentially provides a sustainable income for a group of people who really needed it.
I don't believe in coincidences. God placed these people in my life so that I could have a chance to hear their stories and to learn about ways that I can use my skill set to build on His kingdom. No longer am I going to work just so I can evangelize to my co-workers. There are several different options out there for me to experiment with.
This truly gave me a renewed sense of excitement and passion about my work.
I've lamented throughout the year about girls, the perfect wife, being single (and loving it). It's been a topic that seems unavoidable at times, due to the sheer volume of friends getting married or engaged, co-workers asking me, parents, etc. There's just no way around it.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I truly believe that it is up to God whether or not we find that special someone. Some people function better with a partner, others excel by themselves. There is no right or wrong. God says yes or no, and that's it.
Maybe I sound foolish in saying this, but I put this entire thing into God's hands. I am a true believer that God provides when we ask. God answers prayer.
(You may be wondering how this fits into my Urbana sharing. It just does..)
I have been asked to lead worship. Personally, this notion scares the crap out of me. I am not sure I can think of anything more scary than leading a congregation for *anything*, let alone the possibility of playing an instrument, while singing, while leading. That is just plain scary to me. And to have to have the onerous task of trying to get the congregation into the right mood, the right "place" -- seems almost impossible. I have enough trouble down in the pews trying to find a way to stand before the Lord and truly worship Him myself.. and then now, to have the responsibility to get people there? Yikes.
I have been asked to lead worship and I am scared at this prospect, because it's been asked several times now by different people.. people who don't even know eachother so I couldn't just blame it on a secret plot against me. It's not just a big coincidence.. God's trying to tell me something.
At Urbana, I repeatedly found myself at that "place". Coming before God, in His presence, being filled with the Holy Spirit. The emotions I felt, the freedom of letting go of myself, releasing my self-awareness. Of looking up and reaching out for Him, arms out and inviting Him in.
I don't know how to bring people to that place. But I am interested in finding out.
This is a topic that I will have to revisit because I am just totally scared at this point at the prospect of leading. I'll be praying but I'm asking you to pray with me.
So to summarize:
God answers prayers.
God places people in your life for a reason, not by coincidence.
God will tell you things you may not want to hear, but you should listen.
God has put you where are today for a reason.