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!