Sunday, October 16, 2016

He is Worth it All

Today is Sunday. One of my favorite days of the week. I was especially excited about this Sunday. I was going to visit a new church. I had visited once before and I was excited to go again. I was going alone, which for some might not be enjoyable, but for me it is. It was going to be me and God and I was going to enjoy every minute of it. I needed refreshed. I needed to have life put back into perspective. I needed to remember why ministry is important and why I do what I do. I needed to be fed by the Word. Well, I had my idea of how that should go but as the Lord tells us through the prophet Isaiah, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD." Our God knows exactly what we need and how to get that message across to us. 

I got up and put together the perfect outfit. I even called my sister to make sure I chose the perfect shoes. I snuggled on my cat and made a cup of coffee. I grabbed my Bible and headed towards church. As I was driving, I talked with God about my dilemma. I knew I was struggling. Struggling with the same thing I struggle with day in and day out. Some days are better than others. Really it is more like week by week. I was struggling with where he has put me and what he has called me to do. In the world's eyes I don't fit. I can hear some of you now trying to reassure me that I do fit but the truth is I don't and I shouldn't. A mid-western girl in her mid 20's should have met the love of her life in the 3rd grade, married right out of high school and had 2-3 kids by now. But that is not where I am at...not even close. I am by no means writing this post to whine about not being married and having a family. I don't really desire that. However, it does effect my life a lot. I don't know if I can explain it. It is honestly, mostly in my head. Needless to say it is a struggle to not desire the Pinterest life and dream about what I would make my life look like if I had the chance. What would my house look like? What would my wardrobe look like? How would people view me? What other titles would I hold? How would people look up to me? All of these things focus on myself and what I want. It has nothing to do with God or what he has in store. Not just for me...this has nothing to do with me but about his glory. I had gotten so caught up in myself this week that I had forgotten why I exists in the first place. It is for his glory, not my own. So I prayed what I knew I should pray. That God would open my eyes to his work and his plan and not my own. That I would be focused on the eternal and not the earthly. At this point, I had driven through the mountains and was on the outskirts of town when I saw a sight that immediately made my heart drop.

There she was in a brown tattered and torn uniform. She looked dirty, bent over by weight of who knows what. She carried a tattered black purse in one hand and two plastic bags in the other. I was going 50mph but I could see her. I saw her struggle along the side of the road and I knew. I immediately knew what God was telling me to do and I denied it. I kept driving as the Spirit tugged at my heart and wouldn't let me forget it. I thought, "There is too much traffic." then I prayed, "Lord what can I do?" I heard him loud and clear. "Turn around." 
"But Lord! That isn't safe!" I told him my dad wouldn't approve. I told him it was dangerous. I then told him that I would be late for church and I shouldn't forsake the assembly. I told him that by this time she probably won't be there. But he wouldn't leave me alone. 

Here I am, a missionary, teaching young men and women how to be a missionary, and I didn't have enough love to immediately stop and help. My excuses?? Did you read them? I realized how stupid they were when I began talking to the Lord about them. Dangerous? Really? That lady was bent over, older, ragged. Honestly, if she did try and over power you Jack, I think you could handle yourself. I mean you have been running, working out. Even if she did somehow over power you... If it was a life or death scenario... WHAT IS YOUR LIFE? 

"What is man, that you are mindful of him?" 

I had just asked God to tune me into his plan and his will. Here it was. And I didn't like it. I turned the car around. As I drove back to where I had seen her, I silently hoped she might be gone. MY HEART! Oh how desperately wicked it is. I was shaking as I pulled over beside her, parked my car and got out to greet her. I gazed into the face of a person. A person created in the image of God. She was beautiful. She was fearfully and wonderfully made. She needs Jesus. 

Yeah, I missed church this morning. I didn't get to give her the whole gospel message. I didn't get to hear her whole life story. I don't even know if I will ever see her again or if I made any impact at all. But that doesn't matter. God knows. It is his plan after all, not mine. 

I drove away from where I dropped her off, the smell of her still permeating my car. As I drove down the road my heart broke all over again. Ok, God. I got it. This is your world. This is your plan and it is all for your glory. Help me to continually think not about not my pinterest life, not my latest idea for my apartment but instead about others. Help me see the brokenness. Help me love people the way you love them. Lord here I am, SEND ME! Send me to the broken and hurting and lost. Send me to those who have struggles and problems and help me love them. 

You know God always has an amazing plan and he is so good at leading you right where he wants you if you surrender. I was thinking this great experience was to send me overseas, to go minister to the homeless, to do something crazy. Well, he may call me to do some of that but as I asked him to send me to the broken, to the ones that struggle, he quietly said, "look at your doorstep." I have 10 young men and women literally come to my doorstep every year. They may not be homeless on the street but they bring with them their insecurities, their struggles, their brokenness. Am I loving them? Am I loving them the way GOD LOVES THEM? 

God has sent me. The way he sends us and where he sends us is not always as romantic or exciting as we wish it to be. But he has sent us. He has sent us to the broken, to the dying, to the struggling, to the hurting. It may be someone on the side of the road. It may be an orphan. Or maybe it is the next door neighbor. Maybe it is that kids in Awana. Maybe it is a sibling, a cousin, a grandparent. It may be a number of different scenarios. BUT ARE WE FAITHFUL? Will we listen when the Spirit prompts us? Are we faithful in the little? Are we willing? Are we willing to go anywhere or stay anywhere? Are we willing to talk to anyone, care for anyone, love anyone? 

I often come to the place in my life where I say, "Here I am, Send me!" but often when I get the assignment I shrink back.... I should BODLY and FEARLESSLY serve my Lord no matter WHAT THE COST! Have you counted the cost? Have you given it to him? Are you willing to give it all for the cross? Not everyone is called to the jungles of Africa but we are all called to SACRIFICE. What is he asking you to give up? Guess what? HE IS WORTH IT!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Greater Communion with Him

SUMMER IS OVER! I seriously can't believe it. It was a whirlwind of traveling and adventure and service. Right after summer ended we launched right into the intern overseas mission trip. We had one week to debrief the whole summer with 10 interns and then turn around and prepare for our mission trip to Moldova..... SEVEN. WHOLE. DAYS. It was exciting to say the least. There are a lot of hilarious and amazing moments that maybe I'll blog about soon but something else is on my heart....

Here I am finally back home in the mountains of TN. I was sitting in my office one morning, two bibles lay open on my desk. My computer was open. There was a word document with scriptures and the internet where I was doing word studies. My headphones were plugged into my phone and my dad was on the other line. I love talking to my father; there is something special about it. I think God the Father designed it that way; maybe to show a picture of what it should be like with him. I know not everyone has the amazing relationship that I have with my dad. I'll be honest, I almost lost it. Which makes times like the one I'm describing even more precious. My dad and I aren't just alike in almost every way...I mean I even inherited his big feet...but we have double blood relation. Ok, that is a weird way to put it... but as I have said before, my dad always told me that blood was thicker than water, Christ's blood is thicker than blood, but the strongest bond of all is a double blood brother. You know, when they are your real brother or relative but they are also your brother/sister in Christ. Well, my dad and I are that. That is a pretty unbreakable bond.

Anyhooooooo... my dad and I are sitting there discussing scripture and somehow get onto the return of Christ. (Probably because its COMING SOON PEOPLE!!) In a moment of revelation I said to him, "There was a time, even a year ago that I dreaded the Lord's return, or I didn't want it to come anytime soon. But now, if he came right now, I honestly would be the happiest person in the world!" My dad's reply?

"It's because you're in greater communion with him." 

That phrase has been stuck in my head: "greater communion with him." What on earth does it mean to commune with God? I am so glad you asked because I did some research. :p

 "...And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."- 1 John 1:3b
"God has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." 1 Cor. 1:9

The Greek word for communion is κοινωνία. Look a little "Greek" to you? lol that was a bad joke....anyways let's use the transliteration shall we? The transliteration is: koinónia. When you start looking into this word it gets really cool. This is why I love word studies ya'll! It is used 19 times in the New Testament and is translated: Participation, Fellowship, Contribution, and Sharing. This word means fellowship, communion, association, community, and joint participation. It can also mean contact, fellowship, intimacy, in communication. 

When we think of fellowship we often thing of "hanging out" getting to know someone or chilling with someone we know, but it is so much more. To be in fellowship with the Father? This means first and foremost COMMUNICATION. How much are God and I communicating? This summer, compared to last summer? 10x more!! Why? One was because I dived into prayer. Prayer is so powerful. I know you hear that ALL the time as a believer. But if you have ever tasted it...truly tasted the power, the sweetness of prayer...well you know exactly what I am talking about. It literally opens up a whole new world. You are engaging in the spiritual warfare. Your eyes are open to the working and moving of the Holy Spirit. It is incredible! How can you not be closer to the Father when communicating, heavily communicating through prayer. 

PARTICIPATION. This is an interstesing word to find here isn't it? Fellowship, Intimacy, these things should come naturally right? You should just "FEEL" them if they are right. At least that is what our world tells us. But that is not the biblical model. We must participate. God is waiting; he has invited us to participate in fellowship with him. That is amazing! We have an invitation...what are we going to do? Look, can I be frank? I have been walking with God close to 20 years now. It hasn't been easy. It is not just a "feeling." It goes up and down sometimes and most of all, it TAKES WORK! I have to actively pursue my relationship with Christ. No, I'm not saying my salvation is based on anything I have done. I'm saved by the grace of God. We aren't talking about salvation here...we are talking about fellowshipping with our Savior! He is always ready to listen, he has given us his Word to read and he is working all around us. He has invited us to be a part of it, to participate, to fellowship. I don't always want to. Sometimes, I like doing my own thing. But, if I go off and do my own thing, then I am not in close fellowship with the Father. I may not be doing anything bad, but our relationship is not benefiting from it. We see this concept in imperfect human relationships....why would we assume that it should be different with our Savior? Did he not design relationships to show us, to show the world, himself?

Then we come to these two words: CONTRIBUTION and SHARING. Well obviously, we need to share our recourses and time with the Lord. I mean that is the go to christian answer. That is something that is true. However, I think it goes deeper than that. We are talking about being in communion with God; to be in an intimate relationship with him. Maybe I am crazy and don't know what I am talking about, but I don't think we get into a close relationship with someone by just saying "well, I will spend several hours talking to you and then spend 10% of what I earn on charities you like." I think more realistically, this is talking about being open and vulnerable with God. This sounds funny cause we all know that God knows everything but for some reason we still live like we can hide things from him. That we don't need to tell him things. That we can figure it out on our own. That we don't need to deal with it. All the while, he is begging us to open up to him; to come to him hurting and broken, overwhelmed by our sin. We can go to him. We can talk to him. We can lay it all on the altar. Share with him. Not just your time or talents. Share with him your burdens, your struggles, your sin, your brokenness. Watch him pick up the pieces. Watch him make a masterpiece. Watch him comfort you. Watch him fill all your loneliness and unworthiness with worth and purpose and love and peace. Bring it all before him. Lay it bare at his feet.

"O come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh what a Savior. Isn't he wonderful? Sing alleluia, Christ is risen. Bow down before him for he is Lord of all. Sing alleluia, Christ is risen." -Oh Come to the Altar

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Caught in Chaos

"The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies." -Napoleon Bonaparte

I am a full-time missionary... and there are some confessions I need to make. I don't know about you, but when I was younger and read about or watched missionaries, I thought they were full of FAITH. Well, technically they are.... but there is so much that we often don't see. I thought about how nice and easy it would be to work in an environment where everyone believes the same thing, where your whole focus on God. It would come naturally to read the Word, study and pray. I don't know if I am just a really young and crazy missionary who doesn't know how to do this missionary thing right or what but that wonderful place I just described isn't reality. Missions is messy!

Now don't go running away covering your ears or gasping in horror. Take a moment and listen. I believe missions is suppose to be a messy business. I know that sounds weird but its true. What is missions?? My pastor used to say "Ministry is People." People, as we all know too well, are a messy business. We are broken, anxious, too confident, not confident enough, and imperfect. As believers, we are called to go into the mess and bring hope. How on earth, in a position on the front lines of spiritual warfare, can we think everything is rainbows and unicorns??? Yeah, ministry is a messy business. But that is actually a rabbit trail.... The main reason for writing this is my own personal journey with the Lord. I have to be honest, I struggle. I know that isn't anything new to those who know me. Spend any amount of time around me and you know I am a mess! Half the time I call my interns by the wrong name, can't find my glasses and have about 50 sticky notes of "to do" lists because at heart I am a 85 year old lady who can't handle technology. Ya, I have problems. I am the first to admit it...normally. But as a missionary, as an intern coordinator, Sunday School teacher, former counselor, I hate to admit one area that I struggle with. That is my personal devotions. I harp on the importance of them all the time. I know how important they are. I love doing them. I love the idea of them. I love teaching about them. But for some odd reason I struggle to be consistent in them!!

It isn't from lack of desire. I desire to sit with my many Bibles, concordances, maps and various other recourses laid open all over my living room floor. I would love to have a never ending pot of coffee, many highlighters, cute notebooks and good ballpoint pens at my disposal as I search the scriptures. But (yes there is always a "but").... Honestly you could fill it in with many things. But I have a meeting. But this intern needs me. But I have a recruiting trip. But I need to get the schedule out. But I need to work on this fundraiser. But my house needs cleaned. But I need to call that family member I haven't talked to in a while. But I need to catch up with that supporter. There is always something. It never stops. I get so caught up in ministry. The older I get, the more I identify with Martha. Shoot, she was doing some awesome things. Things that needed to be done! Do you know how much work ministry is?? 24/7 I am available for interns. 10 interns in the program and all the interns who have graduated. I need to make sure I know where they are at, at all times. I need to know their spiritual and emotional and physical well-being. Make sure their schedules are put out and everything is outlined clear. Answer questions. Take phone calls. Check Facebook messenger. Grade papers. send out notifications. Schedule classes. Meet with potential interns. Go through applications. Update social media. Work on the website. Take pictures and post them. Call colleges about recruiting trips. Talk to camp directors about rotations. Plan weekend activities. Send birthday cards. Send encouragement cards and care packages. Send out receipts. Write thank you notes. Update supporters. Go to staff meeting. THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE. It is ministry. But in the midst of this I am supposed to set aside time to spend one on one with the Lord????

The problem is I have been thinking about it all wrong. I have serving the ministry and not my God. It sounds horrible, because it is. But it is something that I struggle with. I have a "here and now" mindset and not an eternal mindset. Does it really make that big of a difference? Absolutely!! When I focus on the earthly, here and now, deadlines must be met rather than my God's law. Things and tasks become the most important rather than people and their spiritual well being. I begin building a legacy, a ministry, a building, a company rather than realizing that I am an alien bound for another place. My soul existence is based upon Christ's imminent return!! Yes, deadlines need met and meetings must happen (I should work diligently as unto the Lord); but how can I not choose the greater thing and sit at the feet of Jesus?

When I begin to focus on the eternal (I must admit I am learning. There is no way I have mastered this yet!), I begin to see more clearly the spiritual warfare taking place. This summer the Lord taught me a lot about prayer. He began cultivating prayer in my life. Let me tell you, when you pray, you see God. You start seeing him everywhere! It was like my eyes were open to this giant war that was raging all around me. I began to realize that there was no way I could continue being an intern coordinator without consistent prayer. I just couldn't tackle the battle on my own. There is nothing I can do to change the heart or mind of an intern.... however, HE CAN. He can protect them. He can comfort them. He can guide them. He can change them. I can pray. Turns out the Lord is now convicting me of the same thing only with my daily devotions.

How on earth can I continue in this ministry, in the chaos, without Him! I mean being CLOSE to him. I need to sit at the feet of Jesus. As Martin Luther said, "I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done." I don't know how this makes sense. The math doesn't add up. (not that I am that good at math.) I have more to do than the hours in a day. In my mind I should be maneuvering tasks so they don't take as long, not adding another item to my list that will take MORE time out of my day. Yet somehow, that is the key. It doesn't have to make sense. 1 Corinthians tells me that "God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength." 

I can't explain how it makes sense, I just know that it works. There are days that I still struggle. It isn't easy getting up earlier when interns love to hang out and stay up late but its worth it. Somehow it works; and I don't want to go back. I want to keep sitting at my savior's feet. Each day I want to choose what is better. Not my cup of coffee, not a phone call, not an extra 30 min of sleep. Those all might be good but they are pale in comparison to the ONE who is better.

"But one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her." 
-Luke 10:42

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Believer's Battle Cry

I am in a battle.

Not a battle against flesh and blood, but agains principalities and the dark forces of evil. Summed up... I am in a deep spiritual battle. I know these words are normal in a christian society but don't let them hit you and fall in the box of normality. Let them wash over as a new revelation. Being in a physical world, it is often hard to open our eyes to the spiritual warfare waging around us. But that is what is happening. SO PRAY. For PRAYER is what opens our eyes to see clearly.
"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked. "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." 
Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full or horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." -2 Kings 6:15-17

When we come to Father and begin engaging in the warfare, we begin to see things differently. I don't know how to accurately explain it and even if I could you wouldn't understand unless you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you. All I know is I am in a huge battle and its becoming more real to me moment by moment.

These past 2 months I have been on the road. I have been traveling from camp to camp, serving, encouraging, counseling. It is week 8... to say there have been bumps in the road is an understatement. It is hard to explain because a lot of what I have been dealing with is invisible. Nonetheless, it is very real. It is attitudes, character, trials, testing and temptations. As you can imagine, I am tired... more like exhausted. You know those times...those times when you are wore out, to the breaking point. That is where I am at.

When I am tired, all I want to do is take a break. I want everything to stop. I want to get away. The problem is, I can't. Not because I don't have vacation time, or because there are too many people around or too much to do. (Although most of those things are also correct.) It is because you can't stop in the middle of a battle, unless you want to lose. Everyone knows that.

When I get to that point in my life, I start slowing down. I begin to drag my feet and my eyelids flutter trying to stay open. My desire is for a break. My prayer becomes, "Lord, please let me rest. I need a break....." It wasn't until I talked to my mom and she reminded me that I can't do it. I can't win the fight alone. Then I remembered that I was in a battle and it won't stop until the Lord returns or He calls me home! That hasn't happened yet. So, I have to keep going! However, I don't have to go at it alone! I need to remember the God who goes before me and the God who stands behind me. I need to remember the God is always stands by my side. This God will fight for me! All I need to do is stand still....

So my prayer became, "Lord, help me. Don't let me quite. Help me fight. Arm me. Help me put on the belt of truth and the breast plate of righteousness. Fit on my head the helmet of salvation and strap on my feet the shoes fitted with the gospel of peace. Help me wield accurately the sword of the Spirit and help me hold up the shield of faith." In this moment, I felt revived. Because I was no longer fighting alone. Yes, I am still tired. But my God is fighting before me. He takes the blows. All I need to do is stand still...armed. ready. prepared.

For I am in a battle.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer Camp- The Beginnings

June 1st recently came around and besides all the happy anniversary remarks to my cousin on facebook, the birthday reminders, graduation pictures and engagement photos, I was reminded of a very pivotal moment in my life that started on June 2nd, 2012.

I had just arrived home from a semester at Bible College. I had just said goodbye to my friend Steven, who went to be with the Lord a year later, my best friend had just told me she was engaged and my cousin was getting married! It was a crazy year. My cousin, my best friend and I didn’t know it then, but my childhood friend, all would be married that year. They all now have adorable little kids who I love to pieces but that is for another story for another day. The very first of June was my cousins wedding and it was magical. I always waited for that day. We talked and dreamed about it as girls and then I got to watch it unfold before my eyes. It was perfection. The next morning, already wrecked with emotion, I found myself sitting on a plane headed for Florida, the “Sunshine State.” Late that evening, Mr. and Mrs. Pritt picked me up from the airport and we ran through a McDonalds drive through. It was dark so I couldn’t see a lot of the state but I did see big poles shaped into a Mickey head as we passed nearby Disney. That night I settled in their guest room on the lakefront of Camp Gilead. The next morning, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the lake and I sat on the covered porch and did my Bible Study. It was amazing. I was so blessed to be there. Mr. Pritt joined me and pointed out a swimming creature in the lake. It went from beautiful to terrifying as that afternoon that “swimming creature” was an 8ft gator they pulled from the lake! And then they had the audacity to tell me I would be swimming in there all summer and do life-guard training that weekend???? UHHH???? SAY WHAAAATTT?????? (really it ended up being fine, despite my Kansan freak out moment. But I'll explain that later on.)

That afternoon Mrs. Pritt showed me to Cabin 5. I walked in and saw pink letters on every bed. I found mine at the back of the cabin and opened it up to read a letter from none other than a Jamie Simmons. Little did I know the adventures that laid ahead of us. In fact, I barley saw her that Summer.... I didn't really know who she was until that Fall. But again, that I'll explain that later. I soon met Mama D or D'Anna, the girl head counselor that year. I love that girl to pieces. She did a fabulous job. Training week was incredible! There became a bond between us counselors like nothing else. It is a neat phenomenon, when you go to a new place where you no absolutely no one and yet suddenly they are your best friends, your family.

There are so many memories from that year of camp I could hardly begin to count them all. I do vividly remember practice witnessing with Caleb Jones (we were super hard on each other), and being attacked by Myles with a bucket of slime (that was exciting....) I also remember being asked by Lauren if there were people in Kansas.... KANSAS CITY!!! (only Camp Gilead people will get that....) I wore a different wig for every Wacky Wednesday and collected the beginnings of my I <3 Camp shirts. And yes, I swam in a Floridian Lake. In fact, I passed my waterfront life-guard training successfully! Over the course of the next three years I would swim across the lake and back both width and length. And I never once encountered an alligator. 

I am so thankful for where God has brought me. The ability to be able to be used to further His kingdom and be a part of raising up the next generation of leaders blows my mind daily! This year I will be a part of 8 weeks of camp at 8 different CBM Camps in 5 different States. Camp Gilead wasn't the first camp I worked at but it was monumental. God used that Camp to train me, prepare me, and lead me to where I am today.