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