Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Good Day...

  So this afternoon I went out to hang out with some friends.  I wanted to mail some letters and I knew I would run into one friend there and then my other friend works in the center of town so I always know where to find her!  I love that I can just "hang out" with "friends" here!  It so awesome to know I have "people" here and not just people I minister to but people who also minister to me!
  I was reminded of that today when I was hanging out with one of the friends mentioned above.  I must have talk with her for about an hour and it was so nice to listen to her beautiful heart!  I was so encouraged by her spirit and desire to see people reached and changed by the gospel!  She's such a history maker and it's so cool to see her stepping up and stepping out in Christ!
  I think sometimes it's easy to be on the field and feel like you are there only to "give", but the truth is, all of life, whether your at home or 3000 miles away, is made up of a bunch of give and takes.  Today I got to take away encouragement and friendship and the realization that the gospel will go forth long after we are gone!  I'm so comforted by all of this!  It was a good day!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Freedom of Knowing You're Accepted...

 "Be Still & Know that I am God
Be Still & Know I am
Be Still & Know
Be Still
~Shared in a sermon by Jason Upton
  On my wall I have a self made poster of all the things the Bible says I am in Christ.  Things like, "I am chosen and appointed by Jesus to bear his fruit (John 15:16)" and "I am a part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession to proclaim his excellencies (1 Peter 2:9-10)".  I guess I put this on my wall because I have a tendency to forget it.
 This world has a way of drawling me into it's never ending race to "be someone" or "make a name for myself".  While I know in my heart I was made for something much more than this, at times the bright lights of earthly significance call to me, and I go running after it thinking that if I just "get there" I will finally be accepted.  The thing is....there is no THERE...and I am already accepted!
  As I mentioned in my last post, my friend and I are doing a bible study together concerning God's one way love towards us.  I don't know why I picked this study for us to do but obviously it was more of a "God thing", considering of the 100's of studies available to choose from, this is the one that caught my eye and it seems to be filled with all these things I need to hear and be reminded of at the beginning of this new year!
  This week while studying I just kept coming back to the place of recognizing that the "burden" of Christ is light because in Him there is no more need to strive and fight for our respect, acceptance and even love.  When we come to Him and stand firm in who HE says we are, instead of trying to find that definition of self in the world, then live out of that GOD DEFINITION, we are able to love freely, forgive quickly, give grace unconditionally to everyone else around us.
  When we recognize and live out of the truth that everything we need has already been given to us in Christ Jesus, then we no longer have to try and force others to fill in those gaps for us.  We don't have to try and get people to like us, we don't need to work for their acceptance, we don't even have to strive to make a name for ourselves!  When we just BE in Christ, we live in freedom and joy and security, because we know we've already have it all!  What we've been running after for days, week, months, and years...is ours!  It is finished! 
  I've seen glimpses of what this looks like in my own life, over the years, and to be honest I'm sure, even though I feel like this is the "biggest glimpse" I've gotten in a while, I know there is more understanding to come.  I think this might be a part of what our relationship of God is all about....discovering who HE says we are and learning how to walk out in it.  And I think, it's in the learning to walk it out that others begin to see Christ in us, more and more.
  So this is my desire....to not just have head knowledge but also to walk out in the heart knowledge of who God says that I am.  That way I will be free to release people from my expectations of them and instead be able to love them and show them the grace of God!  Lord let your kingdom come and your will be done in my life I pray!  Amen

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's the Deal with Grace?!?!

  I'm working through a bible Study with a friend right now called, "One Way Love".  It's all about God's one way love towards us and the grace He shed's on us so freely and undeservingly.  To be honest I thought I had this whole grace thing down.  It's taken me years to move from a faith based on works to a faith based on Grace, and I think I had almost tricked myself into believing that I had no more work to be done in that area...that I was all done learning.  Boy was I wrong!
  This morning I was sitting down after my bible time, going through some of the questions that are in our study and I came to this set of questions: "Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.  In what ways are we undeserving of grace? Are there ways in which we attempt to deserve it?  Or attempt to determine who can and cannot have grace?"
  At first the question was easy....I mean there are a million ways that I prove that I am not deserving...in fact I am completely UNdeserving....of God's grace.  So in my journal I began to list all those ways, thinking "I've got this question in the bag!  Kuddos to me" (So humble, right?!).  Even now I look at what I've just written and can't help but think that the very fact that I can point to ways in which I don't think I am deserving of grace, means there has to be a list of reasons why I do think I am deserving...but in the moment I hadn't quite gotten there. 
  Even as I went on to ponder the next part of the question... "Are there ways in which (I) attempt to deserve (grace)?".... my immediate answer was "OF COURSE NOT!" (Me thinks the lady doth protest too much)!  But then I got to the question, "Do (I) attempt to determine who can and cannot have grace", and....well that's when the you know what began to hit the fan!
  At first, I'll admit, I had the "I would NEVER do that" attitude going on (read that picturing an over acting women in a 1960's movie!).  But then I started thinking about the people in my life that I have a hard time loving...people who seem to not care about God at all or completely abuse any grace that is extended to them by anyone....and all of a sudden my feathers started to ruffle!  Why should someone like that continue to receive unconditional grace!  How can someone so ungrateful be worth of it! 
  That's when my ugly green monster of pride busted out from the cage I try so hard to keep it locked up in and it stepped onto it's soap box.  I obviously fail all the time at trying to live this perfect Christian life....but the key word there is TRY!  I TRY to be a good person.  I TRY to keep growing.  I TRY to honor God in everything.  I TRY not to commit the same sins over and over again!  Clearly I am a step a head of that no good grace abusing non believer...and thus I am clearly more deserving!!!
  WOW!  Talk about a slap in the face!  In that moment, not only did I come face to face with my own ungratefulness and judgementalness and blatant self-centered-ness....BUT  I also realized that in fact, what I was really saying is that Grace is something that is deserved....something based on what I do...on works!  CRAP!  The Bible clearly states in  Ephesians 2:8-9 that GRACE IS A GIFT and CANNOT be EARNED BY GOOD WORKS ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.").  SLAP #2 in the face!
  Now I could try to clean this all up now and make it look pretty and like I've finally gotten my act together in the last 12 hours of this day, but the truth is that's not real!  I'm wrestling with the fact that this is the state of my heart, that I haven't come has far as I think I have in my faith journey on this topic, and that I'm become really good once again at giving the "Christian" answer to things instead of really investigating what's going on in my heart! 
  This isn't a sitcom....in real life things don't get resolved in 30 minutes!  And just because it's tempting to put on the "I'm a Missionary, I'm suppose to know all of this down pat to the core of my soul by now" mask so that I don't feel looked down on, I'm not going to do that...not tonight anyways....because I honestly believe it's good to wrestle with these things and to mull them over in your mind and to be truthful enough to bring them to God without the polished veneer on it! 
  So tonight I sit in the uncomfortableness of it all, realizing it's okay to not have it all worked out and to not be completely put together.  If infact grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver, then maybe my struggle (and not my pretend put togetherness) is what puts me in the perfect place to receive it!   

Monday, January 12, 2015

This is the Start of something New...

  So I am back in my village now and getting ready to jump back into ministry and pretty much anything God has for me this year.  I have to be honest though, my heart is a little torn.  On the one hand I just left home so I'm missing all my friends and family there, but on the other hand I'm so happy to back with my friends and "family" here.  I don't know what the next year holds, but I have a feeling that feeling of being "torn" is only going to continue to grow.  So I guess the best strategy will be to learn to just live in the moment and breathe it all in as it comes.  God knows the future and he's given me this present, so I should just enjoy the moment and be grateful for it!
  That being said, I'm really excited about this year.  I don't know why but I have a feeling this is going to be a huge year for me in terms of personal growth.  There are so many things I want to do this year too, that I almost wish there were more hours in the day.  But more than just "things" I want to do, I feel like there's a deeper intimacy with God that I am being called to.  Last year when I first came to the field I was forced by circumstance to learn a lot about relying on God and turning to Him instead of people to sustain me.  This year I feel like I'm setup to build on that reliance and grow more in just how I relate to God and how I allow Him to speak to me and through me.
  The next three days my teammates and I have set apart for a time of prayer.  Maybe it's wrong to have such high expectations for a time such as this, but I truly believe that this time is going to be a sacred moment that will have a huge impact on everything we do from here on out.  I'm not saying that it's going to be easy...I mean we all want to hear from God but taking the time to just sit and BE with Him isn't something that tends to come naturally to us humans (or at least to this human).  Plus moments like these, God tends to use to stir things up in us....and stirring has the tendency to bring our struggles to the surface. That's a good thing....but hard none the less.
  So pray for us over the next few days that God would really speak to each of our hearts and help us to grow closer to Him.  Pray for clarity of vision and that we would have ears to hear and eyes to see God's vision and not just our own.  And pray for me that I would stay open and allow God to do the work He needs and wants to do in me, both this week and through out this year!  Amen!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What These Past Three Weeks Have Taught Me...

  I am so blessed...sometimes I forget that so please feel free to remind me in the future. The last few weeks have only served to remind me of this fact. I have friends....amazing, supportive friends...who are honest and real, loving and forgiving, encouraging and challenging, and so much more. They listen to me when I am freaking out in fear or dreaming beyond big. They remind me who I am when I start to forget and keep me growing and staying strong on this road of faith. And they allow me to see them for who they really are, opening themselves up to me, and allow me to be there for them in good times and bad.
 Then I have this church family....people who represent God in so many different ways that it reminds me that God is so much greater and complex then I ever could think. Brother and Sisters in Christ who seek God and see things about Him that I often miss and who teach me and help me to never give up in seeking Him and help me grow in faith. They are so generous...so unbelievably generous...and bless me more than I could ever say!
  And then there is my family.  My parents and sisters and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and cousins....all of them, so important and precious to me! We are a crazy bunch...with ups and downs, laughs and tears, good times and bad...but I love them and I know they love me! Like any family we annoy each other and get on each other's nerves at times, but I would go to the death for any of them! I just love them...1000 fold!
  I am so glad I got the opportunity to come home and celebrate This holiday season with all these precious ones! I wouldn't trade any of it for anything, because coming home refreshes me in a way nothing else ever could!  I wish I could pack them all up in my suitcases to take them back to Saraguro with me...and I guess in a sense I can, since they all make up pieces of my heart...but it's not exactly the same and thus I am gonna miss them all!
  So for all of you reading this who fall into any of the categories above....Thank you! Thank you for being so loving and caring and supportive! Thank you for welcoming me into your life and taking the time to invest in mine! And Thank you for taking the time to listen to me and for allowing me  to spend time with you over these past three weeks.  As I said above....I am so blessed...and you all are a part of the reason why! So Thank you!

Friday, January 2, 2015

New year, new start...

 Wow it is so crazy to think we are already into 2015!!! It's been so nice to be able to ring in this new year with my family and enjoy much of the comforts of the USA. But with the ringing of the new year comes a new focus and new goals and a new start. This year I want to focus on my health....obviously that won't be my only focus, considering I am still living life on mission...but something I started to believe at the end of last year is that unless I am taking care of my body, I'll never fully be able to honor God or have the complete confidence to step out into all I feel He is calling me to.
  With that said, I started off the year trying to eat healthier and with a bit of exercise. I have also decided to track my food in a more public kind of way...using Instagram...for the added accountability. My goal is to exercise at least five times a week as well, but until we return to our village, I will have to be bit creative in what I do (well yesterday my sister and I went for a walk which is more boring than creative, but still).
 I have no idea what the next year holds...but I know that God is with me and as I honor him with my life...and my health...I am sure He will lead me closer to His heart as we continue this adventure together! So here's to another year...CHEERS!!