Ben and I went away on a very quick planning trip a few days ago. It’s official name was (drum roll please) “The First Official Looking Forward, Northern Illinois University, Staff Retreat.”
(For those new to Sassy Pants, Ben and I are moving from the University of Wisconsin to Northern Illinois University this summer to pioneer a campus ministry there with The Navigators – a nondenominational Christian mission organization.)
And since Ben and I are the only staff, it was just the two of us. (Thanks again Susie and Erik for watching our monkeys.)
The Lord has laid Isaiah 61 on both of our hearts over the last year as we think about moving to Dekalb, and even more so, after the campus experienced the awful shooting this past winter.
I admit, whenever I see scripture in a blog, I skip our skim past it, but just take minute to at least slowly skim this passage…
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]
2to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.
Obviously, we know there will be much comforting, and healing, to be done after such a terrible tragedy. We are anxious to meet students, who in the aftermath of death, are ready to investigate the hope Jesus offers.
Being gifted in mercy, I look forward to having our home be a place where students can experience peace, safety, and rest. I also feel ready to respond to the “How could a loving God let that happen,” piece of the puzzle. Releasing my own version of the “American, Western Christianity Dream” of safety and security and prosperity has prepared me for some of the thoughts I think we’ll encounter.
We also are steadily developing a heart for the typical NIU student. NIU and UW don’t have very much in common. UW attracts the best and brightest and is located in the heart of a very trendy, urban area, with tons of attractions to keep students on campus year round.
NIU is a lower tier school, located in the middle of a cornfield, with little to keep students around past Thursday, let alone year round. We want our new students to begin to feel the value of their souls in a powerful way. We want them to have a firm foundation in God’s word, and a heart for serving His people. We want our students to see God planting them in His word, to display His glory.
Suddenly, coming from the quiet cornfields of Dekalb, and without a grand fanfare, we want to see students rising out of the mediocre and being sent by God into the nations. Wouldn’t that be amazing??
Anyway, the weekend was spent dreaming with the Lord and His word and trying to figure out the practical side of doing our part to facilitate this vision. We know only God can do so much of it, but we want to be faithful to lead out and do what we can excellently.
It’s overwhelming to think of all that needs to happen to get us started there. But, for 24 hours, for the first time in a while, we began to re-experience the passion for our new calling to NIU.