Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stepping outside the Bubble and Waiting on God...

  About a week and a half ago now, I left Saraguro to head to Guamote for a medical brigade my whole team (or at least the majority of us) were participating in. After that I headed to Guayaquil for a few days and now I am in Cuenca with plans to head back to Saraguro tomorrow. While I truly enjoy living in the village I do, it has been so nice to experience something new, to be around new people, and for once to actually take a bit of vacation. I think a part of me forgot that the world of Ecuador included more than the two other people currently working with my part of our Ecuador team (plus those in our neighborhood) and I think that God knew I needed this moment of refreshing to get away with people from my own culture and just relax. It's been so nice.
 It's also been a bit hard too...only in the sense that it's made me second guess some decisions I thought I had made up my mind about. This year has been hard. When I went home for Christmas, I didn't really feel like I got my fill of my friends and family....in fact in many ways I felt robbed of that time because I was more concerned about being a good hostess then really investing in being "home". Then when I returned back to Ecuador, to my small team in our small village, I immediately felt myself longing to be back with my amazing friends and family in the states. In a way, I think I left a part of my heart with them and I felt heartbroken.
  Thankfully, I do actually enjoy the work we do...especially our children's ministry program in one of the local villages in our area... So it was pretty easy for me to jump back into ministry and push the homesickness away (at least a bit). But then, in March, my housemate left for Guayaquil in order to lead some other ministries for a couple of months, and the loneliness factor kicked into high gear. The truth of the matter is, While I am a bit of an introvert and I need some time alone, I really do enjoy being around people and doing things with them. Even though my housemate spends a lot of time in her room and doing things on her own, I really started to miss at least having that other body in the house with me. And while I do have two other teammates, they are married, which often leaves me feeling like the odd man out and not always completely understood.
  Anyway, all of this and a rekindling of a dream God placed in my heart over 10 years ago, made it seem pretty obvious to me that what God called me to Ecuador for, was much different than what I thought and that at the end of my commitment, I should head back home...taking all I have learned from Him here....and step out into that dream. It will be hard, but I will have my friends and family around me supporting me, I will be in my own culture speaking my own language, and in many ways pieces of the "how do I actually do this God" puzzle seem to be coming together for this. I have even found myself getting more and more excited by it all and counting down the days until I would be launched into this new thing.  Then I came to this medical brigade, and I saw God use me in ways I forgot He could. Plus I have gotten to spend quite a bit of time with my field leader and his wife and I've caught onto the vision they have for this Ecuador team ministry, and that excites me. How can I walk away from something like this, just as God is turning the ship to a new horizon?!?
 So yeah, Now I am in a place of re-evaluation. I don't want to make the decision to go home based on loneliness and homesickness, but I certainly don't want to forget and give up on the vision/dream God has given me for when I return. I also don't want to make a decision to stay based on the emotional high I have gotten through the medical brigade and my vacation time with my field leaders. So I think what I am going to do is take a suggestion from my American Mom here (aka my field leaders wife) and put out a fleece for God. I need Him to be very clear, since no matter what decision I make, both will be hard (just in different ways). I am going to ask God to do something ridiculous...something a bit out of the ordinary....something that shows its only God who is speaking... And then I will go from there.
  If there is anything in life that I am certain of in this moment, it is that God is in control and that my life is not my own. I want to live fully and completely for my God. I want everything I do, every decision I make, to be about Him and for Him.  So it only makes sense that I wait on Him and trust Him with this decision. I don't like to go back on my word....I don't like to say one thing and then do another....but if God called me to it, I would change my mind on things and follow Him wherever He leads.....I just need to be clear of the direction. Pray with me to see it....I am trusting Him. amen

Monday, June 15, 2015

Kill'em with Kindness...

  People are messy...and hard...and uncontrollable.  We want to love them and serve them (or at least I hope WE do), but it's definitely never easy and sometimes that exactly why we give up on even trying.  The other day I was reading a stream of messages online about some kid (aka, teen...cause apparently anyone younger than me is now a kid in my mind) who was completely rude to the guy who posted the original message.  The guy had responded with some kind of snazzy remark and a bunch of other people had chimed in on this thread to cheer him on or offer alternative smart-alec remarks he could have said.  But honestly, as I read through majority of the thread, I just became sadder and sadder.  We treat each other so horribly in this world...and we cheer each other on for responding to  unkindness with unkindness.  What ever happen to loving your neighbor as yourself?!  Turning the other cheek?!?  Forgiveness?!?!  Or right...that's hard!
  I get it, I do.  I am human as well and when someone treats me like crap, my immediate reaction is to respond by throwing crap right back at them!  But what does that really accomplish anyway?!?  It only escalates the problem and turns me into someone I don't want to be.  What if instead, we responded to "jerk-faces" and "crap-heads" with love and understanding?  What if when they were rude, we were kind?  What if when they hurt us, we tried to bless them?!?!  Sure it's hard, but it would also make the world stand up and take notice!  Plus isn't that what Jesus called us to when He gave us all those One Another's in the Bible?!  Oh right, I forgot, those are the "rules" only for dealing with other Christians, not for those in the world!  Right?!?!  NOT!  At least I don't think so!  Imagine it.  A bunch of people who love Jesus, rising up and loving the world....loving those who seem least loveable and completely unforgiveable... what a difference that would make for the kingdom!
  Unfortunately, we're not much better off in the church, are we??!  I was also reading another online thread this weekend , where a bunch of people were sharing how they have been hurt by the church and received some really harsh treatment by those who claim to be serving God.  I can't point the finger at anyone else, because I've done my share of mud-slinging and ax-welding, damaging my brothers and sisters in the church as well.  But what if in the future, I put down my weapons, took up my cross (like the Bible says!) and actually lived like my savior did?!?!  Yeah it's hard.  Yeah people can be pretty sucky sometimes.  But what if instead of always pointing out the speck in other people's eyes and condemning their behavior as the problem, I instead dealt with the plank in my own eye and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through me to love without a reason or a cause!  What if you did the same?  Imagine the church we would have....Imagine how the world would change....Imagine how we would see the kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Early Morning Activities...

  I am not that old, but every night, about nine o'clock, I start hearing my bed calling my name and before I know it my body has been convinced to put on pajamas and climb under the covers, even though my brain has plenty of other things I still want to do in my day (of course there's always something "more" I want to do in my day!).  While this totally helps me get in the 7-9 hours of sleep per night that scientist recommend....it also usually means I will wake up, for at least an hour, at some point in the middle of the night.
  Last night I climbed into bed about 9:15pm, read until about 9:45pm and was blissfully off in dreamland before 10pm.  Then at 1:30 in the morning I woke up...I mean woke up in the "I'm wide awake, so let's start our day" kind of way.  Well since no sane person starts their day that early, I started going thru the list of not so sure fire ways I know to fall back asleep.  I made a list of all the things on my mind, I prayed, I counted sheep, I tried this weird hold your breath then breathe slowly thing I read online, and then finally I gave up and decided to read my Bible.
  I don't usually like to read when I wake up in the middle of the night, as I have a tendency to want to keep on reading and I completely forget the point was to actually get back to sleep.  However, last night, reading was really soothing for me. I find sometimes that when I read the Bible, just to read it and get it in me, not necessarily to study it, it ends up leading me to pray.  I read the stories of Jesus and His disciples and I want to be more like my king.  I don't understand something, and I want to know what it means. I see something in me that God is literally speaking about, and I want to make sure my ears and heart are open to His voice.  So I pray.
  Now I'm not one of those very "religious" pray-ers.  Often my prayers just sound like the conversations that I have with my bests friends, but none the less as I am reading those pages in my Bible, and these words are bubbling out of my soul, I sense Jesus is listening and rejoicing and coming to my rescue.  And that brings me so much peace (which is probably why after about an hour I was able to fall back asleep).
  I use to hear about people who would pray through the psalms and think it was so cool, but I never really could "get the hang of it".  Doing it myself I always got lost in the "kill all my enemies" verses.  There was once I prayed through the book of James, but that's a pretty practical book so it makes sense to me why I would be able to pray it all out.  But  last night was one of the few times  I unintentionally started praying about what I was reading, and I realize it's definitely something I want to continue.
  So what about you guys?!  Anyone have a particular psalm or book of the Bible they really like to pray through?!  Any one else find that in just reading God's word, it often leads you into prayer?  Tell me about it... I want to know more...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

YOU be YOU...

  If you've been in the church for any length of time, you've probably  heard someone preach on the following verses...
"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.
So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,
some are slaves, and some are free.  But we have all been baptized into one body
by one Spirit, and we all share the same spirit.  Yes the body has many different parts,
 not just one part.  If the foot says, "I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand",
 that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, " I am not part
of the body because I am not an eye", would that makes it any less a part of the body? 
 If the whole Body were an eye, how would you hear?  Or if the whole body were an ear,
 how would you smell anything?  But our bodies have many parts,
and God has put each part just where he wants it...."
1 Corinthians 12:12-18
... these verses are often used to remind us that we are all part of the family (the body) of Christ and the body of Christ cannot function correctly without each of us doing our part.  Personally I have heard the message of "Be who God created you to be", so many times now that you would think it would have finally penetrated deep into my soul.  Yet, there are so many times I find myself trying to be like someone else.  I hear a preacher who is so charismatic and full of the spirit that I find myself wanting to be like Him.  Or I meet another missionary whose so prophetic and outgoing that I long to have that gift.  Or I will work with people, or read about people, that seem so much more spiritual than me and before I know it, I'm trying to conform myself into their image.  But God never called me (and He never called you) to be like someone else....in fact the only image we should be conforming ourselves to is HIS.  So why do I do this?!?!
  Well, I'm actually not going to answer that question here, but I bring this all up to talk about something that came up for me this morning during our team training time.  We were all sitting there talking about this one particular preacher and as I was speaking, I had this moment where it became so clear to me how important it is to just be me.  In fact I  was saying something about how I'm never going to be a "Heidi Baker" or a "Todd White" and how sometimes the things that speak to other people, don't always speak to me....and out of the blue it hit...this is because that's the way God designed it.
  I know, that kinda seems like a "DUH!" thing to say, but think about it for a minute.  God could have created all of us to walk out our faith in the exact same way.  He could have given us all the exact same gifting's and abilities, all the same voices, all the same form of expression, when we became Christians, but he didn't.  He created us all individually and our differences are actually what make us fit together perfectly as one body of Christ.  If we don't take the time to be ourselves, to explore our gifting's and allow God's Holy Spirit to work through us as we are, those people in the world who will only respond to our type of Christ "Expression" will miss out.  Not only that but the Body of Christ will miss out!
  So yeah, I might not be a Heidi Baker, a Todd White, a Jason Upton, a Judah Smith.  But I am a Jessica ------.  I am exactly who I am suppose to be and God created me as I am in order to be able to do what He has called me to do and to touch the people He has prepared ahead of time for me to touch.  If I try to be anything other than THIS person, the Jessica L--- W------ that He made, it's not only me who will suffer...but the Church and the World will to.
  I need to remember this.  It's so easy to forget since we live in a world that is constantly telling us that you need to DO this, BE that, GET this, HAVE that.  I need to stop listening to the voices all around me and instead listen to the only voice that matters...God's.  He created me, with a purpose, and He knows exactly who I am suppose to be.  He wrote the instruction book for my life....I think it's about time I start letting Him have full say over it.  I hope it's time for you too!  Amen.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Pressure's Off...

  Tonight we started a new series with our youth group about being radical for God....which I know in some circles can have a bad connotation, but we're talking about the kind of Radical that allows God, the God of love and grace and mercy, to shine in everything we do; the kind of radical that says Jesus is everything and therefore I give Him everything I am! 
  To kick off this series we each took some time tonight to share with the youth a bit of our testimony and then talk about someone who has influenced us to be radical for Christ.  I was the only person who shared someone I know personally, while others shared authors and missionaries from years ago.  I actually think this gave the youth a good overview of how people can speak into our lives in different ways (whether thru personal contact, in literature, or just thru how they lived).
  Anyway, this was the first time in a really long time that I wasn't worried about what I was going to share...probably cause I was talking about myself, and well, that's pretty easy for me.  But what's even more amazing is that this was one of the few times recently that after I shared I didn't stress about what I said or what I didn't say, I didn't analyze every thought that came out of my mouth, I didn't regret anything.  Normally after I share, I pick apart every bit of what I said, until I've pretty much convinced myself it was horrible and that I should never be allowed to share in public again (I am not dramatic at all)!
  I guess, for once, I walked away feeling like it wasn't about my words...in fact it wasn't about me at all.  God is going to do what God is going to do....and His spirit can touch anyone using anything!  I honestly believe that I could read off names in the phonebook and if God's Spirit entered into it, lives would be changed (not that I ever plan on trying that)!
  There's such a freedom in knowing it's not about me....that I can't do it wrong, if God is in it!  It takes the pressure off of me and allows me to just BE myself.  And I think that's how it should be.  Whether it's a youth meeting, sharing in church, talking to a class, or just chilling with friends, I don't have to try to do anything or be anything.... I can just pray and trust God, following His lead!  I guess that's what it means to truly be His , huh?!?!