Monday, November 10, 2014

Back to Basics and a bit of Confirmation...

  This past week I had an opportunity to go on a much needed retreat with my teammates.  To be honest I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, mostly because I had finally gotten myself in to a nice daily routine and I knew leaving home would only interrupt that.  Plus I hadn't seen some of my teammates in three months and I was nervous about seeing them again!  Well, the retreat did in fact throw off my routine...but only for five days (today I jumped right back into it!) and as far as being nervous about seeing people, well that was just silliness on my part!  I had a great time and it was so nice to see everyone (and meet our new team members in person!).
  The speaker who came to share was us was really awesome and completely down to earth.  Normally when I go to retreats or conferences I do everything in my power to completely avoid the speaker (both when they are speaking, by averting my eyes, and then also during down time), but I felt really comfortable around this guy and had no problem talking with him (maybe since he was from the USA and it was like having a little taste of my other home).
  God did some pretty great things during this time as well...both in me and, I believe, in my team as a whole (which I am quite excited about)!  I am sure I've talked about it in the past, but something God has really been teaching me and speaking to me about over the past several months (if not since I moved to this country) is that I am called to treat people not based on how they treat me, but rather based on the love of Christ for me.  I am not suppose to live tit-for-tat (meaning you hurt me so that gives me permission to hurt you back...or you treated me bad so I can treat you bad), but rather I am suppose to love others unconditionally because Christ has loved me unconditionally and I represent Him (although sometimes trying to decipher what the most "loving" thing to do isn't always easy)!
  To be honest I've always struggled with that because while I can try to live that way (although usually in my own strength) for small periods of time, I eventually get hurt and offended and decide that it's just not worth it and give up.  Then a little while later I try again...and the same cycle happens...over and over.  It's frustrating and I often beat myself up for going around and around and around this same mountain, when I obviously know God wants something better for me.
  Our speaker started off his first message talking about two very basic things though, that brought this whole struggle back into a little more perspective.  He said that we need to know our identity in Christ and we need to trust God (two things that I think pretty much go hand in hand, because if you know who you are in Him it's easier to trust God and if you trust God it's easier to believe what He has said about you).  I mulled this over all retreat and then on Saturday morning when I was spending some quiet time alone with God I had this "ah-ha" moment where it dawned on me that when I walk in my true identity, relying on God and trusting Him to work in and through me, then I will be able to love people unconditionally (I think this is what it means, in part, by walking by faith)!  That was a simple and yet quite profound moment for me (one of those things I've always known in my head, but had finally started to let it seep down into heart kind of understandings)! And I was so grateful for the confirmation of God moving in me through it!
  Now to only have a more clearer understanding of how to keep myself from condemning myself when I fail at this and don't walk by faith and turn my back on everything I know to be true....because I know those moments will come (no matter how brief they are)...they always do and like the apostle Paul, I get frustrated because I keep doing that which I don't want to do and that which I don't want to do, I do! But this is a journey and I'm not going to figure it all out in one night (or even in five days), so for now I celebrate the current victories and I trust God to bring more and more clarity and revelation to me, as I draw closer to Him.  Amen!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It Starts in Us...It starts in Me...

  Today my teammates and I went prayer walking in our community.  We do this every Tuesday, although not always in our community, and for the past several weeks I've been really struggling in it.  I haven't been sure what to pray, I haven't been feeling very "productive" in my prayers, and honestly at times I have wondered if it's all just been a waste of time!
  Today however I took some time to go off on my own and pray as I walked up and down the different streets near our house.  As I was praying I was starting to get a bit annoyed with myself as it seemed like I kept coming back to the same prayer which really had more to do with my team than with our village.  I kept hearing myself pray "Lord give us your heart for this people...help us to see our neighbors how you see them....help us to love them like you do....give us a cry deep in our souls that can't be shaken, for revival and renewal to come to this place".  BUT THEN in the midst of all those prayers I felt this unexplained peace, like God was smiling and saying "Yes, this is the Spirit through which I can work.  This is where is begins".
  My initial mindset in most things is to try and figure out how to do things on my own.  It's not necessarily that I want to make a name for myself, but more so that I don't really like relying on other people...sadly, sometimes that even includes God.  Over the past month there have definitely been times where I've sat down and logically thought about how we as a team can truly reach this community with the gospel.  I can come up with 5 point plans and step by step instructions on what I think will work, but in the end I always hit a road block when it comes to one important point.  I cannot make anyone come to God; I cannot make anyone become a Christian.  It's soley the work of Christ that can move in a heart and bring them to himself!  I can lay the ground work, I can even encourage and teach a person, but it's really not what I do that matters, but rather what God does that really changes a life.
  This is not to say that we shouldn't try or that we should just sit on our butts all day and hope for God to rain down miracles.  Clearly the way God has chosen to move in this world is through us and thus I think the most important thing that we can do is just make ourselves available to Him. 
  It's like I wrote in my journal the other day...a person can't lead someone else anywhere they are not willing to go themselves.  Meaning that we can't expect the people in this community to run whole heartily after God, if I myself  am not doing so first!  Leaders lead by example!  And so, for that reason, I will pray all the more for God to come and in work in me and give me His heart and mind; that in becoming more like Him, I may be the door through which people will meet Him for themselves!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Dislike for 3am....

  I'm really starting to hate 3 o'clock in the morning!  For the past couple of weeks, several nights a week, I wake up from a delightful sleep just around this time (usually anywhere from 2:15ish to 3:30ish) and I cannot for the life of me fall back asleep!  I have seen more Saraguro sunrises than I ever planned to and have yelled at my phone (aka my alarm clock) more times than an sane person should, and I just can't seem to figure it out!
  I've gone through the normal questions....am I drinking too much before I go to bed?  Am I eating the wrong thing before going to bed?  Am I stressed about something?  Am I going to bed too early? And the answer to all those things seem to be "No!".  I've even started going down the spiritual route...is there something God wants me to pray about during this time and once I do I'll fall back asleep?  But that doesn't seem to be it either as I've spent many of those hours in prayer (although honestly a lot of those prayers are that God would please just help me fall back asleep)!  It's not like I do anything during that time...I literally lay there in bed, with my eyes closed waiting for that moment of pure sleepy bliss!  And it's not like I'm not tired....I feel tired.... like I should just roll over and be asleep....but it just doesn't happen!
  What's really annoying is that because I'm not sleeping all night, every night, I am tired during the day!  Friday I was so tired after only getting 5 hours of sleep the night before, that I ended up sleeping my entire afternoon away!  Then this morning after being up from 2:15ish until 6:30am, I woke up at 9am so grumpy that every little thing was annoying me!  That's no way to minister to others! And I certainly want to be careful not to switch my body clock into thinking day time is when we sleep and night time is when we play!
  So does anyone have any suggestions?  I've tried drinking warm milk and tea in the middle of the night....of which only the tea seemed to help and that was only one time.  And I've started saying that I'm not allowed to eat or drink anything during the four hours before bed time.  But I'm open to other suggestions or ideas on the topic.
  And just to clarify, the problem is not falling asleep when I go to bed.  I have no trouble with this.  The problem is waking up in the middle of the night every couple of nights, and then not being able to fall back asleep.  All I know is I really don't like seeing 3am on my alarm clock!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Putting Myself On the Priority List....

  I moved down here to Ecuador over 9 months ago now (CRAZY!) and it's taken me until about two weeks ago to remember something I learned almost 7 years ago!  That is that you can't take care of anyone else unless you're first taking care of yourself!
  I use to be pretty fit and I took a lot of care to exercise and eat healthy every day.  Sadly over the past several years that hasn't been exactly true of my life and my body and my soul have paid the price for it!  Since moving to Saraguro, my teammates and I have put a lot of focus on taking care our ourselves spiritually and making sure that we are filling up on Christ so that we can be poured out for Him in our community!  This got me thinking about the other areas of my life where I need to "fill up" in order to be able to be "poured out".  And although exercising and eating healthy don't seem like things that would fit into that category at first glace, the more I thought about it (and actually started doing it) the more I've realized they most certainly do!
  Over the past two weeks I've made a more concerted effort to exercise five times a week and to cook a majority of my meals at home using the fresh veggies and fruits from our local farmers market.  I've also started drinking more water and going to bed early enough to be able to get at least 8 hours of sleep (although sometimes that just means me laying in bed quietly resting and not actually sleeping until I'm down to more like 6 hours).  These are all practical things....healthy ways to take care of myself....and I honestly can feel the difference they make in how I feel!
  I use to think, especially when I first moved to Ecuador, that I couldn't take the time to exercise or do any of those other things to focus on myself.  I moved here to share the message of the gospel and my focus was suppose to be Christ and others...not me!  Now I'm realizing it's okay to put myself on that list...in fact it's important!  When I take care of me, when I give myself some priority, I have more energy, feel better and can go longer...and that makes a huge impact on how I am able to minister!
  It's pretty easy to put yourself on the back burner in life and to take care of everyone else before yourself.  It's even possible to feel guilty for taking care of yourself, especially when you have a very relational "Job".  But no matter how true each of those things are, it's just as true and even more okay to take time for yourself!  God can use anything to glorify His name, but it's a lot easier to give Him your everything when you've put in the effort to take care of the body He's given you!  So here's to taking care of myself in order for God to use me to take care of others!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Lesson Of Being Inconvenienced....

  Today a young girl from our community was waiting for me outside our gate, hoping that I would play with her.  Instead of saying yes right then and there, I instead told her I would come play basketball with her tomorrow because today I was just too tired.  In my mind I had a totally valid excuse for saying this considering I had just gone to church, hung out with two of my friends and shopped at the market.  Yet, the second she walked away I started kicking myself because I know I could have done better!
  The truth is there are times when we are all busy and times when it's important to rest and recuperate, but when given the opportunity to love the one in front of you, it seems like it's always better to do so then to push it off for some other time.  This little girl just wanted a friend, someone to hang out with and make her feel important.  And basically I did the opposite of that and now I feel a bit ashamed!
  People think that being a missionary is all about these big things you get to do...hosting medical brigades, leading youth groups, bringing people to Christ. Those things are great, but what I am learning is that true missions is about learning to love the one in front of you.  It's taking the time to say "I see you" and "your important"...not because it's convenient for you, but because that's what God wants to say to His children and you are His mouth piece in this world.
  And so yeah, today I chose to place myself before another.  I decided it was more important to sit in my room and watch a movie, rather than spend an hour with a little girl who was just looking for a little love.  Tomorrow I will try to reconcile that, but for now I need to remember this feeling....this gnawing of knowing I could of done more and didn't...and hopefully next time I won't make the same mistake!  Lord help me to be a better ambassador for you!  Amen

Monday, October 13, 2014

Writers Block Over...

  For the past couple of weeks I have had what I guess you could classify as writers block.  Someone told me when I first started blogging years ago that you should write every day because only then will it get easier and you will always have something to say.  Well, I honestly can't say for certain if that's true or not considering that I've never been all that consistent of a blogger, but I can say that not writing for weeks really makes it hard to get back in the groove of things. 
   Plus I have to continually remind myself why I started writing in the first spot.  I didn't create this blog for followers (although I do like share what I've written with my friends).  I created it to help me process and remember all that I'm learning in life.  And who knows, maybe fifty years from now I will look back on this blog and be able to remember my "youth" in a deeper way because of all the things I have written here.  So It's back to business...
   I think the lesson of this year (and/or longer) has been learning to love people unconditionally and not allowing my attitude and actions towards others to be determined by the way that they treat me, but rather by the what Christ has done for me.  You'd think by now I would have that all figured out and be living a life that is so pleasing to the Lord that it shines brighter than the sun!  But...well...I'm sure you can guess that's not the reality!
  Instead, it seems the more that I examine my own life and try to be a better person, the more I realize how wrong I usually get things and how grumpy and stubborn I can get!  I want to be the kind of person that is known for her love and her joy, for being accepting and forgiving, and for thinking of other people better than myself.  Unfortunately I don't think I exemplify any of those things on a continual basis and thus I always feel like I'm hitting the reset button on a game I can't seem to figure out!
  The good thing is, realizing how much I screw it all up forces me to constantly come back to Christ, asking Him for forgiveness and begging Him to teach me how to be more like Him.  I don't think we can really be the kind of people that Honor God 100% of the time if we aren't letting God live and work through us.  It's really only by His strength that we can do it!  So maybe it's a good thing that I constantly trip over my own self-centeredness, since that's the very thing that helps me put God back at the center of my life!
  So what about you?  What lessons have you been learning lately?  How is God working in and through you?  Let's learn from each other!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Warnings, Threats and the Intimidation of Man...

  So I've never really been threatened because of my faith before.  I mean granted I've lived most of my life in the safe confines of the United States were the worst someone can do is tell me they don't like me because I'm a Christian or make fun of me for my religious beliefs, but that's it.  And yeah, more and more Christian "rights" are being squandered in the USA, but even that doesn't really count as "persecution" in my book.
  Since moving to Ecuador though, I've heard stories about different people being persecuted for their Christian faith.  The previous missionaries in Saraguro told us about the time they had stones thrown at them in one village and had to run for their lives from an angry mob in another village. And our pastor friend who lives in one of those villages often shares with us the struggles he and his family face for hosting a church in their house or for even just talking about their faith. But to be honest, all those stories have just been...well, "stories" to me... until today!
  Today my teammates and I went to one of these villages to prayer walk and visit our friend...at least that was our plan, since that's what we have done before.  So we arrived in town, prayed together and then split into two groups to pray and walk around opposite sides of the village...ultimately meeting in the middle again in order to visit our friends together.
  My half of the team and I walked around without incident.  In fact we said Hello to plenty of people who were outside and even took pictures of some of the kids who were just walking home from school, as we prayed and sang worship songs.  Then we met up with out other teammates and were just talking together and preparing to head to our friends house when out of the blue this indigenous man approached us.
  Now to be honest, when the man came storming up to us, I didn't think anything of it.  In fact I reached out my hand to shake his, thinking that maybe we knew him some how or that maybe he was coming to having a friendly conversation.  I should have figured that was not the case when instead of shaking my hand, he gave me his fist.
  Before we knew it this man was going off on us, telling us that this land is sacred and we have no right to come on it, bringing our gospel.  This was kind of funny to me considering up to that point we hadn't talked to anyone about the gospel and because when he approached us we weren't talking about anything religious.
  The man continued on, pointing at me and talking about how we Americans from the United States come into villages bringing our Christian ideas on the one hand and then destroying people with fighting and war on the other!  I couldn't help but shake my head, because clearly he has some mixed up ideas about North America and of Christians.
  At one point the man even began to tell the children who were gathering around us that we are the "destroyers" and that they should never listen to us! And just when I thought things couldn't get any crazier, he threatened us, telling us that this was our final warning and if we ever came back Him and a group of other people would harm us! 
  Honestly, in the moment I didn't know what to think.  We decided not to visit our friend out of fear that after this altercation, this man would link them to us and cause even more trouble for them (which they've already experience enough persecution).  But honestly, even though I was the one that suggested we not go, I felt like by walking the other way and out of town we were letting him think that he had won and scared us off.
  I guess a part of me was scared.  I was certainly thinking that I am not sure I could run all the way up these hills back to the police station if he started chasing us or if some of the people he spoke about to came out to attack us.  But mostly I was just taken aback.  Like I said in the beginning of this post, I've never been physically threatened before because of my faith and it completely took me off guard.
  The really cool thing was, immediately after we walked away from this man, we ran into two ladies separately, that we know from the village and each woman excitedly told us it was not only a blessing but a "miracle" that we were there!  For me it was like confirmation from God that He was with us.
  Not only that but as I thought back over this altercation with this man I couldn't help but think how God had led us to stop in an say hi to president of the community when we first arrived.  It was like God knew we were going to run into this man and that we would need to say by what authority or with what right we thought we could be there (not that our ultimate authority isn't Jesus...but I'm pretty sure the man would have started fighting us all right then and there if we answered with that!)
  It's so strange to think that this man would get so angry over people coming into his village to pray for it.  It's was even stranger that he would know were are carriers of the gospel without even ever talking to us.  And then for Him to call us the "destroyers"...such a strong but somewhat strange word choice, was by far the weirdest for me  (which jokingly afterwards we said amongst ourselves that we were destroyers...destroyers of the darkness that is).
  I guess it just proves that we are standing for God and that when we pray for God to be in us and shine through us, He does just that!  I have no doubts that what happened today in this village was a spiritual battle.  And if anything, it makes me all that much more aware and overwhelmed for this village and for God to move in it.  Obviously we are going to have to use some wisdom the next time we go back to this village.  And we will need to really be prayed up and listening to what God is saying as we go.  But I'm not scared to return.  I really believe the battle is the Lord's.  And I think...judging by today... the devil is scared, cause he knows he's going down! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Control...and the Little Games We Play...

  The other day, in one of our team prayer times, one of my teammates mentioned that he had been struggling and he had finally figured out why.  Basically, he said he realized he hadn't been giving God full control...as so many of us often struggle to do.  But the best part was that after sharing this with us he said, "It's okay though, because I came up with a ten point plan on how to give back control to God"!  Honestly the whole thing made me laugh out loud (literally!) because what he was actually saying was that he had figured out a way to control how God controls!  That's pretty hilarious...but honestly isn't that how we all act sometimes?!?!
  Okay, so the truth is I can't really talk for anyone else, so I'll just talk for me!  I may not have a ten point plan to control God (although it's a tempting concept sometimes), but I certainly do still try to control God in other ways.  For example, I have an ever increasing list of things that I now refuse to pray, because I know if I pray them then God will answer! 
   For example, I decided months and months ago to NEVER, Ever pray for God to give me patience!  I have heard the stories from one of my Guayaquil teammates of how God answered her when she began to pray for this and I just know, no matter how much I may need to be a more patient person, just asking God to move this way would mean opening the door to every long line, interruption and time lagging thing that could come my way!  So I added that to my list of "Caution:  Pray at your Own Risk" prayers!
  Then a few weeks ago, I actually started praying for God to teach me how to love like he does...you know in that "I'll never stop no matter how much you push me away" and "Even if I have to wade into your muddy mess to reach you, I will" kind of way.  All of a sudden it seemed like some of the hardest people to love were making their way back into my life or the people who were already there, were starting to do some really annoying things.  I automatically traced this back to my prayer to love better, and decide that maybe I'm okay loving  the way I do!
  Now to be honest, I'm being a little facetious here.  I really do want to be a more patient person, and to learn to love people in the unconditional way that God seems to, but these are really hard prayers to say...because the answers hurt.  These are the kinds of things that God wants to work in me and is completely overjoyed to answer, but they come at a cost....to me, and my comfort, and my pride.
  The truth of the matter is God can do any of this in me without or without my prayers.  He's not waiting around hoping that some day I'll get up the courage to begin praying them again.  But my thinking that it's my asking for Him to do this in my life is what makes Him move, is really just my own way of trying to control Him.  Like some how I can bind up His hands by my lack of praying these things!
  Basically, I am saying that I think I can open and close the doors to what God can and cannot do in my life based on how I pray.  But God is and always has been bigger than what I imagine Him to be and even if I don't recognize it, He truly is the one in control, not me!  So maybe I'm not quite ready to ask God for some of my blacklisted prayers yet, but I don't really think this will stop Him.  I can pretend I'm in control all I want...but in the end God knows the truth (and so do I)!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just Please Don't Make Me Too Weird....

  So I'm starting to get the impression that God's testing me to see just how much I mean "I'll go anywhere" and "I'll do anything" for Him.  I'm not a big fan of drawing attention to myself and I truly don't want to become one of those weirdo Christians that people are totally turned off by, but it seems God keeps putting me in positions where I end up doing these really strange things for Him.
  Two weeks ago, we were praying in one of the local churches and I felt like God was telling me I needed to go outside and pray in the doorway of the church with one hand on each side of the door frame.  I basically looked like the incredible hulk trying to topple the building with my brute strength!  It was weird and uncomfortable, and it happened to being during the exact week when hundreds of people were trekking through our village on their way to see the Virgin of Cisne (so a bunch of people watched me do this!).  But, it also felt right and I felt like God was using it somehow to speak to me and through me (I seem to keep saying this in my posts...but I promise I am not weird!).
  Then today we went to prayer-walk in Gera, a community that is about 30 minutes from our home base.  I've been there a few times now...to pray and just to look around....and one of my favorite spots is on the edge of this cliff where you can see all these mountains and the valleys collide...Mixed with the river below and the sky above, it's absolutely breath taking!  Pretty much my whole team loves this spot, so we all walked there from the center of town to pray. 
  I had it all planned out.  I had brought my bible and my journal, and found the perfect spot to sit down and pray and seek God for this community. I was ready! Apparently God didn't get the memo about my plans though, because after a little bit of praying and journaling, I felt like God was telling me I needed to get up and walk a little ways down the dirt road we had just walked up, back towards the center of town.  Honestly...I debated with Him and myself about obeying.  And believe me, I can come up with all sorts of reasons as to why I should do things my way and not God's way.  But in the end...as it should be...God's will won out and I went.
  I didn't walk very far back down the road before I felt like God was telling me I could stop.  I had just passed these two mud brick houses and was standing about five feet from a horse, whose rider was walking the yard doing who knows what, when I felt God tell me to look up and see the view of the city before me.  Then he told me to do the most ridiculous thing....He said to stretch out my arms towards the "city" and pray for it, out loud!
  I'm not going to lie....I looked around me and when I realized the man in the yard was watching me, I tried to get out of it.  I mean, it wasn't like I heard the audible voice of God...this was just something I felt in my spirit that He was saying....so I didn't really have to do it...did I?!?!  I did!  I knew I did.  I could feel it inside of me...the welling up of heat that I couldn't explain, sweaty palms, a faster heart-rate.  All of this said to me....this is of God....OBEY HIM!  So I did...I stretched out my hands and began to pray!  And God totally overwhelmed me....tears streamed down my face...and I cried out for the people there to turn back to God.
  I really don't know why God keeps calling me to do these seemly strange things.  Maybe it's for the people we are serving, but honestly, I think He does it to break something or work on something in me.  It's like God's trying to train me to obey Him in the small things so that some day when He calls me to do something much bigger and much more ridiculous sounding than praying in a door frame and stretching out my hands towards a city center, I will just do it...no questions asked!  I don't know...maybe I'm being too "spiritual" about it all...or maybe I'm starting to get a little weird.  Who knows.  But if it is God...I'm open to Him...and I'm excited to see where He is leading me in all this (Just please don't make me too weird Lord! Amen!).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Keep Running and Chasing After Him...

  Last night I finished reading Angie Smith's book "Chasing God".  To be honest, I really wanted the book to be better than I thought it was.  Like I was saying the other day, I love Angie Smith and usually when I read one of her books I feel like I'm sitting down to talk with an old friend.  That's what I expected to encounter this time around as well...especially since there were so many times during the first chapter when I kept thinking "Yes", "Exactly", "You get it" and "I'm not alone"!  Unfortunately that feeling didn't last long and as I got further and further into the book the more I felt like I was being left behind....but it wasn't Angie's fault!
  The whole premise of this book is that we should stop chasing after God because it's only when we stop running after Him that He can capture us.  That sounds all good and well...and I know in reality that what she is saying is true, but...to be honest.... I've always been kind of a God chaser and I'm good at it! It's comfortable and I don't want to give it up!
  I think it was in High school that I read the book "The God Chasers" by Tommy Tenney and ever since I've always secretly wanted THAT kind of God connection....You know the kind of relationship with Him that you read about in the bible or seem to see in the lives of these celebrity Christians.  Heck, I even look at Angie Smith's life and think, "If only I could have THAT kind of relationship with God".
  The problem is, I always stumble over the HOW?  I read my bible, I pray, I go to church, I have theological discussions with my friends...but there always seems to be these times when I feel like I'm still missing something....like I haven't quite done enough to get God's attention.  And I know as a Christian that God loves me and cares deeply for me and I don't need to strive for His attention.  But sometimes...well...I  still just feel like I need to!
  Angie talks about feeling some of this herself in her book, but then she shares how in the end she's discovered that there's nothing she can do to capture God...and she had to let it all go.   That's when God captured her! It all sounds so....easy.  And that's pretty much how she lost me. 
  There's a running joke amongst me and some of my friends that if there is a hard way of doing something, I will discover it and do it that way.  I don't know what it is, but I have a knack for finding the hard route and taking it.  I think maybe I might enjoy knowing how much work I did or how much effort I put into getting something.  And I think that maybe I enjoy knowing that "I" did it...it was me...a little too much! 
  Maybe that's why I find the easiness of what she's saying to be so hard!  Maybe the whole point of God waiting to capture us until after we stop chasing after Him is so that when it happens, we know it was Him, not us.  From the beginning it was He who created us.  He was the one who led the perfect life, died on the cross and rose again to redeem us.  And He is the only who can bind us to Himself.  This is the truth...and we must accept it! 
  Yet, as easy as that sounds....somehow it's the hardest thing in the world for me.  And as I was finishing up the last few pages of the book last night, frantically searching for any last minute thing that would make this all so much smoother to accept, I realized why.  You see, I think deep down I fear that if I stop chasing after God, that He won't continue to chase after me (never mind capture me!).  I think that maybe I do all this stuff and give my best effort to Him, because a part of me still believes that in doing so I can make myself good enough for God and force His hand into loving me!
  I know the Sunday school answer.  God already loves me....and not because of what I do but because of who I am.  I can recite every clique christianese statement out there about how I could never make God love me any more or any less than He does right now.  I know all this stuff in my head.  I just need to keep letting it all sink down into my heart.  And as it does I'm sure that I'll realize that it's time to stop running....because God's ready to capture me into His arms!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

UnExplained Happenings...

  Let me start this out by saying, I'm not weird....I promise (Talk to the people who know me....or actually maybe don't, they might just tell you something different!).  I know some of the things I share below may sound weird and to be honest I feel a little weird sharing them, but that doesn't make me a weirdo at my core (Insert big nervous smile here).  I share these things only to try and make sense of them in my own mind.  You can agree or disagree, understand or not, believe or not believe it, and it's all okay.  I myself am in the middle of all that as well, so I understand!
  When I was in high school I attended what I would now call quite the Charismatic church.  I had just "accepted" Jesus and I knew that any fire that was sparked in me would probably die if I kept attending my parent's church and so I went searching for something with a crowd a little more my age.  I found it pretty quickly and just as quickly got involved in as much as I could in this church.  I think I must have heard someone say that the most holiest people are the ones who are in service every time the doors are open, because I would drive my parents up the wall with begging and pleading to get me to those doors. 
  The services in this church were pretty normal in terms of what you find in most U.S. churches.  There was worship, a message and some time for prayer afterwards.  I had, and to this day still have, a lot of respect for the pastors who led there.  But there were some things about the services that kind of weirded me out. 
  I could handle the raising of hands  and even the dancing in worship.  I could understand why people would take notes of everything that was being said and would flock to the front for prayer after service.  I got that and often times even tried to replicate it.  But I never quite got the other stuff....the gold dust that would fall, the people falling down or shaking from the power of the Spirit hitting them, or even the whole holy laughter thing. ( Not to say that I didn't try to get it....I even clearly remember times I "experienced" some of those things, although to this day I can't really explain It). 
  Today, years removed for this particular church, I'm somewhere between what you would consider a Charis-Skeptical and Charis-Friendly person....somewhat skeptical of what I have seen and see and yet still open to the possibility that it's how God is choosing to work.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in the supernatural. I believe that God can heal and that God can restore and that sometimes when He's doing those things strange stuff happens that can totally weird people like me out.  The weirdness doesn't mean it's not God and to be honest I don't necessarily need to understand it.
  That leads me to the other night when I was sleeping and woke up suddenly because I felt someone staring at me.  I opened my eyes and rolled over in bed and very clearly saw a man about my height with short black hair, tanned skin and piercing brown eyes standing next to my bed.  Fear rushed through my body in that instant, but the second I blinked the guys was gone.  It took me a while to fall back asleep after that (as you might imagine!!!) and  I spent much of the next few hours just praying and proclaiming the name of Jesus in my room!
  The next morning at our team prayer time I shared with my teammates what happened and we all decided that it was probably best that we all pray over my room.  I told my teammates where I had saw the man and one of them stood in that spot and shook like he had shivers and let out a noise like you do when you see a gross spider.  I thought he was just making jokes, but after we prayed he stood there again and said whatever he had felt there before was definitely less, so I guess he wasn't joking!
  Then my other teammate shared with me that when we were praying she felt on fire...like heat was welling up inside of her...and then it just burst out of her like a rushing wind.  She thought this was the Holy Spirit working through her and attacking whatever was in the room.  And for her that was enough to believe that whatever spirit was in the room, had left.
  I thought about these things all day yesterday, about how they weird me out but also about how the bible says that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:2), and I couldn't help but think that maybe this was all part of the spiritual battle.  I mean clearly the devil isn't all that happy about my team being here in town and all sorts of strange things have happened, so why not this too?
  Then last night this train of thought was confirmed to me when my other teammate (I have four in case you're confused) informed me that she has noticed the witch doctor camping out in front of our house the past few days!  When she told me this, I immediately tensed up because I remembered seeing him that morning (although I didn't know at the time he was a witch doctor) standing across the street looking into our dining room window while I was doing my morning devotions.  I remember having this strange feeling when I saw him too, but I passed it off as nothing, since I can so easily freak myself out.
  I guess what I'm trying to say in all of this is that just like I never really understood all the supernatural Charismatic stuff that happened in the church I attended growing up, I certainly don't understand all this supernatural spiritual battle stuff I'm experiencing now either, but that doesn't mean it's not real!  God is at work in this village and through this team, and I am sure that the devil is not happy about it (I think he probably though he won back the city when the last missionaries left before we arrived).  This is not the first weird, "I feel so strange talking about this", story I have from being here and I'm sure it won't be the last.  The battle is real.  The Devil is real.  But thankfully I know who wins the battle in the end! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Beg Bug Saga of 2014....

  I've come to the conclusion that there might not be anything more worse in the whole world than bed bugs (okay, so obviously there is....I mean we have ISIS and Ebola and Human Trafficking and Hunger and...well the list can go on and on, so clearly I am exhajerating).  Anywhoo, somewhere about 2am on Monday morning I discovered that my bed might actually be covered with some kind of bug that liked nothing more than to take chunky bites out of my back.  I tried to sleep through it, but until I was absolutely completely exhausted (which was somewhere around 5am) I couldn't.  Instead I socoured google for any ounce of information I could get about what I could do to get rid of these bugs and formulated plans for what I would do as soon as it was morning enough to start making noise around the house.
  We originally discovered the bed bug problem about a month ago when one of my housemates thought one of the blankets in her room might have them.  She prayed and stopped using that blanket though, and the problem seemed to just go away. It wasn't until a few days later that I was informed that our one couch was infested as well  (Did you read that...our ONE couch...meaning the only place you can sit in our communal space minus at the table!). That was right before we went away for a week long ministry outreach and  I doused the couch with some "Kill'em all" spray my other teammate had. When we returned the problem seemed to be fixed once again.
  Well... that was until a few days later when my other housemate discovered that the little buggers must have run from the fumes sprayed on the couch, right under the door and into her room!  She ended up having to clean all her sheets and sprayed in her room as well.  But that seemed to do the trick and the problem disappeared again.  At this point I was feeling pretty lucky, I had basically escaped the "Bite-fest" of 2014....or so I thought! 
  Then Sunday night into Monday morning happened.  Like I said above, I could not sleep for the life of me that night.  I kept tossing and turning and scratching and I couldn't figure out what was going on (of course at the time I blamed it on a ill-advised decision to eat a giant chocolate bar just hours before bed).  That's when I felt it...the first of many bites on my back.  That one was followed by another and another and before I knew it, it was obvious, the bed bug were attacking!
  Monday morning, as soon as the sun was up, I stripped my bed and threw it, along with every bit of clothing I thought might have somehow even touched my bed, into the laundry (wash and dryer...since it's apparently the heat that kills bed bugs but the water drowns them).  Then I sprayed my bed, my pillows and my sleeping bag (which apparently is not washing machine safe) with our bottle of chemical death and waited the 10 minutes the bottle says you have to wait, before re-entering my room.
  Apparently the bottle doesn't know what it's talking about because after 10 minutes my room still smelled like fumes.  So I ran in, opened my one tiny window, turned on my fan and ran out, believing after an hour this should do the trick.  An hour later my room still smelled like you needed a gas mask to be anywhere near it.  At this point I made the not so wise decision to open my bedroom door believing that if I opened the window in the kitchen as well, it would create enough wind in the house to air out my room quickly.  In reality all that did was make our entire house smell like fumes.  So next I opened every window in the house and froze my butt off for hours believing that surely THIS would make my room safe to stand in again, while also airing out the rest of the house as well.  That didn't help though...at least not in my bedroom.
  Somewhere around 3:30pm I braved my room again and discovered that my sleeping bag was pretty potent with the fumes.  So, at the suggestion of one of my roommates, I threw it in the tub and gave it a bath.  Good thing too as doing so I watched brown murky water flow off of it the more water and soap I used.  After that, I hung it up outside, over two chairs to dry and thankfully it actually smelled much better.  Unfortunately, my room still smelled like chemicals, so I ended up having to take two thin mattresses from my housemates room  (Mattresses that may or may not have had bed bugs themselves) and I slept  on the them in the middle of the living room using two blankets from her room as well (blankets that again she was unsure of, in terms of whether or not they had bugs). 
  Surprisingly I slept really well last night (probably cause I had no sleep the night before) and woke up this morning with the bright idea to air out my mattress and pillows outside as well.  So that's what I did for several hours today.  And guess what?!?!  That worked! With my mattress back in place and my blankets fitted back on it, my room is officially back to the healthy smelling zone...and hopefully all the bed bugs have either run away or died!
  Here I was thinking I was the lucky one for going weeks without having to really deal with these stupid bugs and it turned out I was the one who had the hardest time trying to get rid of them!  I've learned my lesson.  Now, let's all pray that the bugs don't come back and that there's no sickness that occurs from any lingering fumes that I know not of in my room!  If all goes well, then hopefully this will be the end of the beg bug saga of 2014 (let's keep those finger's crossed)!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Resting in the Wrestling....

  I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe that God connects us more closely to Himself in the midst of our prayer times and that the type of intimacy prayer gives only comes through that type of communion with him.  I think it pleases the Father when we come to Him and pour out our heart to Him and ask of Him.  I think God longs to hear our prayers and to meet with us in them.  I believe all THESE things are true...
  I also believe that God is all knowing and all powerful.  I believe He knows the beginning from the end and that even though He gives us free will, He already knows what we are going to do.  I believe God know every finite detail about me and my life...and you and your life.  I believe He knows all that's going to happen in this world as well, and that nothing takes Him by surprise.  I believe all THESE things to be true....
  But somewhere in the middle, where these two things collide, I get confused.  And maybe the truth of the matter is I'm suppose to be confused because if I could figure it all out then what would be the point of having God...since in fact I would basically be God.  Then again, God is not the author of confusion, so I'm not so sure he wants His children left in a state of confusion.. 
  Last night I couldn't sleep so I decided to read (darn you month of you-tube tv show fasting...that usually puts me right back to sleep!).  I'm reading through a few books at the moment...."Barefoot Church" by Brandon Hatmaker, "Overrated" By Eugene Cho, and "Chasing God" by Angie Smith....the later of which I chose to pick up.
  Angie Smith is, in my opinion, and amazing woman of God who writes so down to earth that often times I feel like by picking up one of her books I am actually choosing to sit down to talk with a good friend.  I don't know her, but I love her!  So, it seemed to make perfect sense that I would pick up her book to keep me company in the middle of the night.  Maybe it's the chapter I'm reading, mixed with where I am at in life, mixed with being half asleep and exhausted, but this was certainly the wrong choice and ended up only playing into the confusion I wrote about above.
  Now in all fairness, Ang (like how I did that there...addressed her like my good friend who lives down the street!  Sorry Angie Smith, if I've overstepped my bounds) is not saying that prayer is bad or that we shouldn't bother praying or anything like that.  In fact she goes to great lengths to share exactly why she thinks prayer is important, and powerful and God ordained.  It's just the questions she brings up....questions I have had before about prayer...that have lingered and were not quite cleared up for me (although in all honesty I have yet to finish the chapter).
  The book calls these confusions "gray areas"...in other books they are considered "doubts" or 'struggles"....and I don't think they are wrong or bad.  Actually in my track record of faith, it's usually in trying to figure out theses things that  I am drawn deeper to God and into my relationship with Him.  So for now I sit in the wrestling...and continue praying...and continue trusting....knowing that one day it will all be clear (either here or in eternity).  But boy it's not fun living in my brain!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I'm Not There Yet...

  There's something about blogging and knowing that other people are actually reading what I've written that leads me to want to put on a show and pretend that I am such a better person than I actually am.  But...the truth is....I still have a lot of growing up to do (Apparently it's true that it's in your 30's that you realize just how wrong the 20 year old version of yourself was about having it all figured out)! Last night God smacked me in the face with the realization of how dark my heart can still be and I was brought to my knees in repentance because of my lack of humility.
  Anyone who knows me, or follows along on my missions facebook group, or even follows along on here, knows that I spend a lot of time proclaiming that I just want to see God's Kingdom come and His will be done.  I go on and on about how all this is His work and I am just so privileged to be used as an instrument that points back to Him.  I act like I truly understand what it means for my life to be "all about Him and not about me".  But I'm not there yet!
  Like I said, it was last night that God brought this to my attention.  We had just finished up a fun night of girl bonding...complete with make-up, nail polish and a movie (a movie that I never noticed had so many sexual innuendos, but I digress).  I was walking my teammate Andrea out to our gate, where her husband was waiting to pick her up and bring her home.  But as often happens in these situations, the three of us ended up meeting at the gate and having a brief time of discussion before they got in the car and took off.
  During our conversation, my teammate Darren (Andrea's husband) shared about how during the worship team meeting our "short-term" team member had that night at the church, a mini-revival broke out among the teens whom we work with.  He said we would hear more about it tonight, but that basically the teens began to share their testimonies with each other and as they became more and more vulnerable with each other the spirit of God fell among them!  There were tears and forgiveness and healing.  It's really exciting stuff!
  Sadly, my first reaction wasn't excitement....it was jealousy.  I so wish I didn't have to admit that, but I do.  I am not perfect and I'm still growing...and yes I was jealous that God had chosen to use our short-termer among "our" teens, when we weren't there to claim some of the glory.  How sad is that?!  It was like in that one moment I realized just how much I still try to steal God's glory and try to make ministry about making a name for myself, even though I claim it's all about God!
  After that realization , I spent a lot of time last night praying and repenting and asking God to cleanse my heart and make me more like Him.  I don't pray things like that to sound super spiritual.  And I don't share it here to somehow show a redemption quality in my story.  I do these things because I actually mean them.  I am so grateful that God sent Jesus to die for my sins and that ALL my sins...including this one... are nailed to the cross.  I want to be more like God and seek His kingdom and not my own.  These are my prayers.  I'm just not there yet....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Saying Yes to Crazy Things...

  Today one of my housemates and I were sitting in the dining room talking about the bible and how sometimes God calls us to do crazy things.  She was telling me about a time when God called her to give away something that meant a lot to her, to a guy she had just met. She didn't want to do it.  The item was a bookmark of the footprints poem and it had quite a bit of sentimental value to her.  Yet after going back and forth with God about it, she got over herself and gave it to the man.  Now this man wasn't a stranger on the streets or anything like that, but she didn't really know him either.  He was sitting alone, kind of outside of the group she was sitting with and although it was probably pretty awkward, and people were probably were wondering what she was doing, she walked over to him, sat down and handed him the bookmark.  She didn't know what was going on in this mans life. She didn't know that he was a recovering drug addict that had just come to Christ a few weeks before and was feeling super out of place at this missions training they were all meeting for.  And she didn't know how badly he needed to read that poem and to be touched by God through it.  But God knew these things...and because she was obedient, this man was brought to tears!
  As my housemate told me her story, it reminded me of the Hairbrush story that Beth Moore often tells (If you haven't heard it, you should watch the youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcjE5a6mVaA).  I ended up showing this video to my housemate as well, because I think Beth Moore can tell her own story much better than I ever could.  After it was over I shared that in all honesty I don't think I could have done what Beth did.  Don't get me wrong, I would totally want to do it.  In fact I ask God all the time to use me and allow me to be His hands in feet in this world.  Yet, more times than not, when push comes to shove I chicken out.
  There's a story in the Bible about a wealthy man who goes on a journey and while he is gone he gives each of his servants some of his money.  As soon as the man leaves, the servants who had received the two highest amounts of money immediately go out and double what they had been given.  But the servant who had received the smallest amount of money buries his share out of fear.  When the master returns he is quite pleased with the first two servants, complimenting them and blessing them by saying "well done my good and faithful servants, you have been faithful with few things, I will put you in charge of many". However, when he finds out his other servant has only buried the little bit of money he's been given, the master is furious...so furious in fact that he takes the money away from him and throws him out into the street.  Usually when I hear this story it's shared in relationship to people's talents as an admonishment not to bury what God's given them.  However, this time when I thought about this story, I thought about it relationship to these crazy things God calls us to do. 
  On Tuesday when our team was prayer walking in one of the local churches here in town, I was sitting in one of the sunday school rooms and I felt like God was telling me I needed to go outside and stand in the doorway of the church building and put one of my hands on each side of the doorframe while I prayed for the church.  It seemed so strange to me...especially since this isn't like a normal church in the United states that's got it's own lot and a double entryway so no one would really see me.  No this church is on the main road, with the wood door literally two inches from the street, and there were a lot of people outside shopping, talking or passing through town on their pilgrimage.  Basically I knew doing this would be kind of embarrassing, and so at first I fought with God about it.  I just moved to this village a month ago, people don't really know me, I don't want to start off with a bad reputation.  But then I had this thought....What if when God calls on us to do these seemingly strange things, he using them to stretch us for bigger works?  And what if by refusing to do them we are cutting ourselves off from being entrusted to do more in the kingdom?
  It wasn't easy and I'm sure I was red in the face as well, but after that revelation I made my way outside, stood in the doorway, and began to pray.  People were looking at me funny as I stood there praying with my arms outstretched and my mouth moving as I spoke out loud in a tiny whisper. I am sure I looked quite the sight (I can only imagine I looked something like how Samson from the bible did when he pushed on the two pillars in the arena and made the whole building collapse, killing everyone!).  But as I was lifting up my heart to God, He began to fill me with revelation about the church, where it's at and where He wants to take it (most of which was confirmed by my teammates in their prayers as well).  It was like in the midst of my obedience, God was saying..."see, if you're faithful with little I can give you more".
  I can't sit here and say that next time and forever more I will always choose to follow God's lead.  I wish I could, but let's be honest, pride has a way of winning out some times.  However, my prayer is that God will continue to make me stronger in Him and in hearing His voice, so that when I do feel his tug on my heart, it won't be hard to know what to do or even to have the guts to just do it.  Here's hoping for that some day at least. Amen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trading Out my Addiction...

  I have a confession to make....I am a sucker for European soap operas.  I know, I know...how Unchristian of me!  (That's sarcasm...unless of course you're a bit legalistic...in which case, sorry).  I could honestly watch them all day long.  In fact...to be honest... I have.  There's just something about the accent and the drama that just sucks me in and before I know it half my day (or all of it) is gone!  So I made a decision a few days ago that for the next 21 days I would give them up as kind of a "sacrifice" to God.  I know, kind of a strange thing to sacrifice to the Holy One, but totally necessary none-the-less.
  You see I had been starting to realize that I was spending so much of my free time sucked into these made up stories, that I wasn't really living my story any more.  I mean I was...during working hours....but then when it was time to go "off the clock" I would relax with my make believe TV friends and miss out on the community and life and growing up going on around me.
  On top of that, I found myself complaining a lot to God that I felt distant from Him.  I would tell Him, "God, I am seeking you with all that I am and all that I have but I feel like there's a blockage between us and I don't know what it is.  Why are you hiding your face from me?!". Yet in reality I was spending more time seeking after the next great storyline, or catching up on sleep because I stayed up way too late to watch the last storyline, than actually seeking God with my everything.  I even doubt now that He was hiding His face from me.  I think I just wasn't really looking for it. 
  So Sunday morning I quit cold turkey and I decided that instead of spending my days staring at a computer screen I would  instead spend my time with my bible, or a book, or a friend.  Instead of living vicariously through people on a TV show filmed a continent away, I decided that I would instead yield myself for real to God and allow Him to live in and through me.
  Can I admit something though?!  It hasn't been all that easy.  Don't get me wrong, the benefit has been that in the past few days I have found my missing excitement to read and study the bible...and I have bonded more with my friends and housemates.  But I've also found myself longing for the brain-deadness of you-tube.  What is it about things that don't really add any value to our lives that are so addicting?!?  And why is it so much easier to get lost in the things of the world than in the things of  God?!
  I know God's got better for me and as I take time to separate myself from these things, He will speak to me.  I even know this is the right decision for me at this time....and who knows maybe I will never go back...but for now I long for the momentary relief of some one else's drama. 
  Clearly I realize that my desires are a little out of whack though and thus, that's why I am sacrificing this ridiculousness to God. And I pray that during this time of sacrifice God will fill me with a hunger for Him that's not satisfied with the distractions of the world, but rather with a desire to be captivated only by him.  Amen

Saturday, August 30, 2014

When Your Own Words Come Back to Bless You...

  I struggle with being a perfectionist and because of that I've always been really hard on myself.  It seems no matter how good I do something, I can always think of ways I should of done it better.  No matter how hard I try, I feel like I could have given more.  And even when other people tell me I've done a good job, I have a really hard time believing it.  Sadly, I am never quite good enough for myself....and what's even worse is that sometimes that feeling seeps into my heart and I start wondering if I'm also not good enough for God. 
  The past week I have been wrestling a lot with this.  It's hard because I can envision the person I want to be, but then I see the person I am and I am disappointed in myself.  This can quickly turn into the downward spiral of me thinking that maybe I am also disappointing God, and then before I know it I am once again wrapped up in the lie that God loves me based on what I do instead of Who I am to Him.
  Ironically, this week it was also my turn to prepare and lead our youth group on a study about the new identity we receive in Christ.  I must have repeated in my own sermon a hundred times that we are completely, unconditionally loved by God and that love is based not on us, but on a God who created us and then gave His son so that we could forever be united with Him. 
  I sat there and told these teens that God will never turn His back on us and that there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us anymore or any less.  Then I begged them to let those truths seep the eight inches from their heads to their hearts so that they wouldn't just have the knowledge in their mind of a loving God somewhere out there, but that He would live in their heart and they would know Him intimately.
  As we closed our meeting, I asked my teammate to play one last song and pray over the group so they we all could just focus on God and Christ would have a moment to work in each of our hearts.  I was expecting God to move upon the youth, to breathe on them, to confirm to them the truth of the words I had shared.  Instead (or hopefully along with that) He chose to breathe on me.  In that moment every ounce of studying I did and all the scriptures I had read to write my sermon, came flooding back to me and it was like God said, "This is for you too...because no matter what you say, no matter what you do, no matter how much you try to be perfect and fail...I LOVE YOU"!  And those were the exact words I needed to hear in that moment!
  It's always amazing to me how as humans it takes hours, days, and some times even weeks to pray and prepare a message for God's people, but that God can preach a sermon, change a heart and rebuild a life in the blink of an eye!  He knows what to say, how to say it and perfectly when to do it.  He's our good Shepard!...And yet sometimes He uses your own sermon to speak to your heart!  Thanks God!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why I'll be Praying for Mark Driscoll...

  I don't normally like to get involved with spiritual mud fights that happen in the Christian community.  I think it makes us all as Christians look bad and only confirms the belief of the world that we are judgmental and hypocritical.  So normally I keep my mouth shut and don't say anything at all when it comes to our "family drama".  That's not to say I don't have opinions though. 
  In fact I was reading a blog today about everything that's going on surrounding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church and I honestly felt myself getting more and more annoyed as I read.  This blog post was about how we should all be praying for and showing grace to Mark and his family since we all, like him, have sinned.  I actually agree with what was written.  We should be praying for him and instead of casting him out of the Christian community like some form of garbage, we really do need to be showing love.  However, I was annoyed because I actually really respect the person who wrote this blog and yet I couldn't help but feel like in his effort to share the truth of what it means to live and love like Christ, he was also saying that it was okay for Mr Driscoll to treat people as he as and to have done the things he has done.
  Now in all honesty, I don't really know all that much about what Mark Driscoll is accused of.  Like I said I usually try to steer clear of Christian on Christian bashing, but I also have a hard time pushing aside what I do know, as if it does not matter.  Do I think we need to love each other...YES, of course.  Do I think he should be shunned for his actions....NO, not at all.  But isn't there still consequences when it comes to sin?  Yes Jesus paid for our sin on the cross.  Yes I believe in His grace and mercy and that we not only need to receive it, but also give it to those all around us.  But I can't seem to bring myself to believe that means we should act as if no wrong as been done.  That's like saying a murderer can evade jail because he's said he's sorry.  It just doesn't seem right to me.
  So here I was reading this blog and actually having a mental argument with it's writer for trying to defend a brother in Christ, not for what he's done but because of who he is, and it dawned on me....isn't this how Jesus treats me.  When God looks at me, he sees His child and he loves me unconditionally, not because of the things I have done, but because of who I am.  Yes I sin and make a mess of things all the time, but God doesn't give up on me.  And yes there are consequences to my sin, but that doesn't mean I stand condemned.  When I repent and turn from my evil ways God looks at me and sees only the righteousness of His son; it's as if I've done no wrong.  In fact He looks at all His children this way.
  So instead of being judgemental and getting annoyed, I realize that I need to listen to this bloggers advice.  I don't know Mark Driscoll personally...I've never met him and I've only read one of his books about half way through...but I will be praying for him and for his family. And I hope that despite any wrong he might have done, that the grace and forgiveness of God will flood through the body of Christ and this whole situation will bring him and others only closer to god!  What the enemy means for evil, let God use for good.  Amen!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unless the Lord Builds the House...

"I lift my eyes towards the heavens.  I tune my ears to your commands.
Help me boast in my condition.  You're the God and I'm the man." 
  I've been living on the "field" for the past seven months, but I only recently moved from the city to a smaller village up in the mountains.  Since moving it's become more and more clear to me just how much we can't do anything outside of the power of God and that it's only in coming to know Him more that our lives will have any impact on the world around us.  In fact, the truth of the matter is...it's all His work, we can do nothing.
  I moved to this country with great ideas about saving the world.  I had envisioned things going much differently than they have and I think a part of me truly believed that I could change hearts and minds for the gospel.  Since being in this village though, I have realized more and more that it's not me who does the work at all.  Only God can do that...if I allow Him to work through me.
  One of my teammates likes to quote the verse "Unless the Lord builds the house the builders build in vain" (Psalm 127:1).  It's a constant reminder to himself and our team that anything we do in our own strength, through our own abilities, with our own agenda, will not last.  We could pour out every last drop of ourselves into this community, but if it's not of God....if we are not listening to his voice and allowing his spirit to work through us...then none of it will matter in the end.
  That's a hard to truth to swallow....but it's truth none the less.  My human nature tells me to work hard and preform and give 110% because only then will things really be accomplished.  But Jesus himself said that the only work God wants from us is to believe in the one who has sent Him (John 6:29).  I don't believe Jesus was saying we shouldn't minister and be involved in outreach (if I did  then I might as well pack up my bags and go home).  But I do think that Jesus is pointing to a greater truth and that is that it's only in Him...in knowing Him...that we can ever truly make Him known.  Jesus has to flow in us and then He will flow out of us.  It's the only way. 
  The world doesn't need more of me...the world needs more of Him.  So instead of trying to force my own way and do things as I see fit...I think I'll just take my time to sit at the feet of Jesus and see what he has to say.  My glorious unfolding is His story to tell....I just get to live it out!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Letting Go of Normal...

  Living a life on mission has it's perks.  I mean, what other job involves spending your days hanging out with people and investing in their lives.  I get to spend moment after moment in conversation over coffee and tea.  I get invited over to peoples houses for lunch and dinner.  I am even offered free food and gifts of thanksgiving from friends and neighbors.  It's actually pretty amazing.
  But there's also the downside to this life....things that don't make it so easy.  There's a responsibility that comes with it that forces you to carry other peoples burdens and walk in their pain.  There's a daily moment (and usually more than just one) when you have to die to yourself and your own comfort in order to swim in the messy ocean of humanity.  And there's the constant realization that people are watching your every move and judging you by every word you preach. Sometimes it just seems easier to go back to normal.
  The thing is....I'm not sure I'll ever really be able to go back to normal.  I was trying to explain this to some friends the other day, because the Big question already being asked is what will I do when my "commitment" is up...as if this life I am living really has a deadline (sure the agency does but if I'm here for them I've truly missed the point).  I think normal might be ruined for me though and I'm not sure that I'll ever feel comfortable going back to it.
  When I was younger I wrote a letter to my future self and in it I said something like when I grow up I want to go to a top college, have a brilliant carrer, get married, have kids and settle down.  There's nothing wrong with any of that...in fact I still want some of those things.  But that life, which is pretty normal, just doesn't seem fulfilling to me anymore.  In that life I am living for my own comfort and joy..and while that's good for me, what about everyone else?!  If my life is only about me then really what's the point?! (to be honest I could be quite content with a bag of chips, a sofa and Netflix everyday....but is that really living?!?).  God promises us "Abundant Life" and that's not found in any of those things listed above!
  I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this...I didn't do a very good job the other day either....but I feel like in a sense I've been unhooked from the Matrix and I've realized that there's got to be more to this life.  I don't have it all figured out yet.  It seems I only get glimpses here and there as I walk out this journey....but I can see there's something more....God's got better for me and for all of us.  We...I....just have to let go of normal and  I think I am ready to do just that!.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Does Real Love Have a Line...?!?!

  My pastor once sent me a quote by Timothy Keller that I ended up saving to my phone for over a year.  The quote went something like this...
"all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.
 If you love a person whose life is all put together and has no major needs,
it costs you nothing...But if you ever try to love somebody who has needs,
someone who is in trouble or who is persecuted or emotionally wounded,
it’s going to cost you. You can’t love them without taking a hit yourself.
A transfer of some kind is required, so that somehow their troubles,
 their problems, transfer to you."
  I was reminded of this quote tonight after a conversation I had with one of my friends on Skype today.   She was telling me about a situation
she is struggling with involving one of her other friends and she asked out loud where a person is suppose to drawl the line between loving
others  and standing up for yourself  against their abuse.  I didn't really have any answers for her...as I myself get it wrong more times than I 
get it right....but I heard myself tell her that maybe there is no line.  I mean obviously you need to use wisdom, but maybe it's less about a line
and more about how to be most loving.  When you think about it that's how Jesus treated us when he went to the cross.  He did the most loving
thing on earth by "taking the hit himself" in order to pay for our abuses.  There was no line for Him....He went all the way for us!  And if He's
our example then maybe we are suppose to do the same for others.
  Now believe me I know it's not all that simple....I think about women being abused by their spouses or friends and families dealing with the
actions of addicts....and I know it's not all that black and white (nothing in life ever is).  But I can't help but wonder if we spent more time
asking ourselves what it looks like  to really LOVE one another, would we really even worry about a line any more?!  A line suggests some
kind of defense mechanism,a way to protect ourselves.  But maybe real love is walking in the humility that places others above ourselves and
says I won't give up, even when it hurts, because it's not all about me.  And maybe real LOVE is wrapped up in denying ourselves and taking up our
cross daily, since it was in fact on the cross that the greatest act of loved was ever shown!



Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Glorious UnFolding...

  On of my favorite singers/song-writers is Steven Curtis Chapman and he recently came out with a new album called "The Glorious Unfolding".  The Title Song from this Album says...

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun
...For so much of my life I have run from my "calling" (or whatever you want to call it).  I've wanted to fit in and belong and in every sense of the word be normal.  But NOW...now I believe and now I know life was meant to be anything but normal.  Life is a Glorious Unfolding Adventure that seldom goes according to plan and rarely look like what we expected...and yet it's all a gift from God!  And like the song says..."There's so much of the story that's still yet to unfold" because "The story has only begun"!  Here is where I'll share my take on my own unfolding story.