Monday, August 30, 2010

A Semester (Indefinitely?) Off Explanation

Here's a quick summary/beginning of the email i sent to my parents this morning:

I'm sorry to spring such a huge life decision on you last minute...and now my advisors would like to know in a matter of hours. The thought of taking a semester off just hit me last night. I've been praying about really honoring the idea of a Sabbath day and setting aside Sunday as a day of rest - yesterday was my first one. So, after going to church and resting while seeing friends, it's sort of a God thing that this thought were to hit me while i gave more time to God.

My life has always been go, go go. You have known and seen that. And school sort of fell into "the plan" - aka, my plan: Go to college, graduate as early as possible and, since i was in this really great relationship with this really great guy, we'd get married fresh out of college. And when God asked me to surrender the really great relationship, i was still left with this really great career i had been passionate about since...forever: teaching. So i sucked it up, and kept on going, full speed ahead (if not faster).

And here i am, a college graduate (well one lousy paper away from graduating). About to start student teaching and embark on the part of the journey i've been anticipating all this time. And the night before, THE NIGHT BEFORE, i feel a thought enter my mind: Take a semester off. Uhh...what? WHAT?! This is not like me. I have planned since day one, and though i'm "go with the flow" at times, my plan is where it's at mostly. But when the thought came in, i just felt a lot of peace. It was like this heavy and huge thought crushed a lot of the walls i had built and wiped out a lot of fear and need to control. The reason i'm so at peace with this thought is because it's really not anything i'd construct or think of. It's quite the opposite. I know God has been calling me to rest and slow down, lately. And though you may not have seen many results of that, it's been happening slowly but surely. I never would've thought in a million years it would mean slowing down this much.


So, this is a season of rest. I am still praying about taking the middle school class in mid-November so i could still be on track with the Licensure Program if i do so choose to go back in the Spring. At this point, i don't know what's next. There's been things that pop into my head - long term missions, ministry, going to school for family counseling? All of those things are good, but they are also a safety net of plans keeping me from facing, truly, the UNKNOWN. I need to let God. Things WILL fall into place. Whether i go back to school or not, next semester or in five years, this is where i need to be.
I feel really passionate about devoting more time to the girls i mentor - investing more into their lives, being able to start a bible study, etc. I also feel really passionate about being involved with middle school/senior high ministries at church. So that's a start. And while i already feel a need to fill my now EMPTY schedule up with...more plans...i must refrain and face the unknown. I have a passion for teaching. I do. But i am now aware teaching may look different than in an elementary school. I don't know where God's leading. That used to freak me out, and though i'm a little apprehensive still, i'm so very at peace.

Today's (August 29) My Utmost For His Highest had a perfect, fitting verse: And this same God who takes care of me will supply ALL your needs from His glorious riches... -Philippians 4:19.

So, this is where i'm at. I'm FINALLY seeking refuge in the watchtower. I HATE waiting...but God's calling me to rest, so i may earnestly wait.

I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There, i will WAIT to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complain.

-Habakkuk 2:1

Saturday, August 28, 2010

To All Unbelievers, Seekers, the Beaten Down and The Church Alike

As i was driving home from St Cloud today, i had time to spend time meditating and worshipping God. He laid something huge on my heart - how badly, how horribly we portray His unfathomable love to others that have yet to encounter it - to unbelievers, to seekers, to those that have been hurt by the church, turned away, beaten down by US - so called "followers" of Christ.

To Christians, Christ-followers, Catholics, Protestants, The Body, The Church:
We, as the church, the Body of Christ seem to forget that we owe it all to Him. We allow our minds to resemble the religious Pharisees - focusing on living a rigid lifestyle free from sin. At one point or another, we all fall prone to this way of thinking. And when we live our lives focused on the laws and regimented lifestyle, we allow our hearts to believe we have to earn God's love, God's affections - it is up to us and our good deeds, what we do.

And how, then, does this look to those on the fringes, those beginning to dip their big toe in to test the waters of church and God and faith, before they really jump in? Our need for perfection, to live a life that God would be "satisfied" with or "proud" of, our need to earn love, to live a regimented life grounded in the strictness that is religion and LOOK DOWN ON those we deem outcasts - Homosexuals. Addicts. Druggies. Alcoholics. Prostitutes. Sluts turns people away and turns them off from wanting to know the Author and Perfecter of Love Himself!

Who are WE to turn people away because of their visible sins and "unclean lifestyle"? And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! ...I was a stranger and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked and you didn't give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me." - Matthew 25:40,43

Here is the truth we all need to face: we have all sinned, and all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The human race is depraved. We are disgusting sinners, filth, SCUM, full of selfishness and damned without Jesus Christ intervening on our behalf. Had the Lord not stepped in, had He not been the perfect, spotless sacrifice and given His life for us, we'd be...screwed, for lack of better words. There is NOTHING we can do to earn His love, no good deeds are ever enough. For what we give back to the Lord, He has already given us. Without His mercies, His unending grace, His presence in my heart, my soul would not be accounted for. It is by His grace alone that we are promised everlasting life. So we, the church, need to reflect that depravity by claiming what we really are: Disgusting sinners, Poor in Spirit, yet LOVED and REDEEMED by God's grace alone. Every time we feel a need to perform, to "do" good, to earn His affections, to wear a mask, remind yourself - hiding behind perfection and not claiming our brokenness is disheartening, misleading to those that do not know the Lord. Embrace the broken pieces of your life, EMBRACE your depravity and sin, for they are reminders of how much we need God. Not religion, not a regimented lifestyle, but the Lord's love overflowing. We need to REFLECT Him - not our 'need' to do good.

To All Unbelievers, Seekers, Those turned away, Struck Down, Hurt and Beaten UP:
I cannot apologize enough for how much i have misrepresented God - in my judgement, in my stereotypes, in my feelings that i am better than some, in getting caught up in my own feelings of having to do good to earn His love. I am sorry. If you have been hurt, turned away by the church or beaten down by someone proclaiming the Lord's name, I beg you, do not give up. Do not build walls up, hoping to defend yourself from a God that loves with unfathomable greatness, to a God that knows you and has loved you and will NEVER fail you or forsake you, even if you have turned away from Him.

The so-called church? The Body of Christ? We are absolute hypocrites. We live like we have it all under control, like we've done something that sets us apart from you. But you want the truth? We are broken, we are disgusting, we have sinned and messed up and failed. Please, do not let the church and our own...humanness turn you away from knowing the Greatest Love of All. Because here's the truth - we are all the same. This body is imperfect and has failed countless times. The only thing that's different, is that we have chosen to know and seek Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. We have made a choice, that despite our brokenness and our pain and our imperfections and sin, we choose to trust in and follow after God. And this God is what sets us apart! Why? Because He forgives. He loves perfectly - God is LOVE. He accepts us right where we're at. Do you believe it? You better.

Absolutely NOTHING can EVER separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39

Please, do not allow the imperfections of the church as a body of believers to turn you away from the Greatest and PERFECT Love, our Good & Merciful God and and the everlasting life we find in Jesus Christ.

If you do not know the Lord as your Savior, all you have to do is ask Him:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all of my sins. I believe that You died on the cross, and You were buried and on the third day, God the Father raised You from the dead. Right now I open the door to my heart and I receive You into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for saving me. Amen.

Here's the catch: once we invite Jesus into our lives, our lives are not all about rainbows and sunshine and complete happiness. In fact, we may face more trials and persecution. But it is worth it. He is worth it. We must lose this life to gain a far greater one. As followers of Christ, when we encounter hard times - divorce, financial problems, confusion, hurt, heartbreak, cancer, disease, death, etc. - we know that nothing is greater than God. Nothing is too big for Him to handle. He will use all things for our good, He holds all things in His hands. He loves us and He has promised us eternal life with Him, in heaven.

To All That are Reading:
I'd like to end this post with an excerpt from one of my favorite books. I encourage you to check it out - The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I may not be able to answer them, i may not be completely 100% knowledgeable about the bible or theologies, but i have tasted the goodness and perfect love of the Lord and caught glimpses of His glory and redemption. Ask someone, seek encouragement, find a church - keeping all of our imperfections in mind. Regardless of your decision, know the Lord loves you. No, it's not cliche, because we all forget it time and time again. He loves us. HE LOVES US. He loves you. Right there, as you are.

Hyperbole, bloated rhetoric, and grandiose testimonies create the impression that once Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, the Christian life becomes a picnic on a green lawn - marriage blossoms into connubial bliss, physical health flourishes, acne disappears, and sinking careers suddenly soar...The New Testament depicts another picture of the victorious life [we have in Christ]: Jesus on Calvary. The biblical image of the victorious life reads more like the victorious limp. Jesus was victorious not because he never flinched, talked back, or questioned; but having flinched, talked back, and questioned, He remained faithful.
What makes authentic disciples is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter and verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness...After life has lined their faces a little, many followers of Jesus come into a coherent sense of themselves for the first time. When they modestly claim, "I am still a ragamuffin, but i'm different," they are right. Where sin abounded, grace has more abounded.
- Manning [Ruthless Trust, 181-182].

We need God. We have all sinned and all fall short. But He loves us, right where we're at, where we've been, despite what's to come and how many times we turn away from Him. He forgives, He redeems, He renews, He revives. He conquers, He reigns, He loves loves LOVES something fierce. So let's fling off the masks and facades that we have it all under control. Let's tear down walls of hurt and run to Him, as imperfect and broken human beings SO in need of a Savior.

Check it:

"Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do..For i have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who KNOW they are sinners." - Matthew 9:12,13

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bedtime Stories

As i sit propped up in bed and reflect on all that has happened in the past...week ALONE, i am so very grateful for the blessings and the Lord's faithfulness. On a more materialistic note, i am now a proud owner of a 2005 black Honda Civic Coupe - a belated college graduation present from my parents. I am elated, it's a beautiful car :) And thus began the search for the perfect name. It couldn't be just any silly name, it had to be THE name. (Yes, yes, i know, all of this for a car - can you imagine the naming process if/when i have kids?!) So, i searched high and low, browsed through baby name websites, glanced through countless meanings and various languages. After browsing through Song of Songs today before actually deciding on a name, i stumbled across one of my favorite verses:

Like the finest apple tree in the orchard is my lover among other young men. I sit in his delightful shade and taste his delicious fruit -Song of Songs 2:3

A word in Hebrew meaning shade/shadow is Tsila . Shade = black. My beloved brings shade, He brings refuge as we rest in Him. So, my black beauty of a car is named Tsila - Tilly for short - as a reminder of the Lord's presence. Is this silly? I feel a little silly putting so much thought into a name for a car...but thus is the result of overflowing excitement i have a hard time containing :).

And now, the bedtime story. Settle in, get comfortable, turn on relaxing music. I have learned from a Children's Literature course and throughout life that good stories have a moral and/or wholesome message woven into the plot. So be prepared.


Once upon a time, there were four friends who set out to climb to the tallest point in all of the land. They had set their gazes high and their hopes even higher. What was a mere seven miles through delightfully cool forests, past flowing streams and placid lakes? That mountaintop experience, that feeling of ecstasy in reaching the top, the view that awaited them was so highly anticipated and totally worth the trek.

So they set off - wandering through the dirt trail into the dense forest. Soon, the dirt-packed trail became narrower, barely wide enough for two to pass through walking side by side. Still further into the journey, large boulders and knotted tree roots covered the trail. The four passed through bogs on creaking, wooden planks, their minds focused on the view awaiting them.

After an hour or so into the pilgrimage, one of the hikers began to wonder how much longer it would take to get to the tippy top. She began to feel discouraged, as the trail seemed to be leading them lower and lower, rather than to the glorious peak. The impatient and weary hiker began to ask those that passed by, on their way down from the peak, "How much further?" Rather than feeling encouraged, she began to feel frustrated at the mixed responses: "Oh, you're not far. Keep going" and "You've got quite a ways to go" and "about 300 yards" and "about 1,000 yards, and a steep climb left" and "You're not even close to the top". Though she knew she was well on her way to the glorious site on that mountain top, she was burdened by the need to ask questions and the reception of inconsistent responses.
Kim, one of the four friends, led the way. She was a weathered veteran and had climbed to the tops of many high places. She kept her eyes focused on the path ahead, and encouraged her discouraged friend to keep moving and stop asking questions.

Allison, the third friend, brought comic relief and a breath of fresh air. Though silent for most of the journey, (as she contemplated the mounds of rocks she had to climb over and the surging rivers in front of her in her own life) Allison only allowed kind and encouraging words to escape from her mouth. She made her discouraged friend laugh, as they relieved themselves in the forest and scared passer-byers.
Cassie, the fourth friend, would break out in laughter at the most random things. Joy flowed from her, as she brought up the rear. Her steps were careful, her strides were thought out, as she focused on finding firm footings and the path that lay ahead.
And finally, the four friends reached the hardest part of the trail - the side of the mountain. The trail went from horizontal to a strictly vertical climb. As the four friends heaved and stopped to catch their breath occasionally, the discouraged climber became frustrated: "How much FURTHER?!" she said, short of breath.

Before any of her friends could answer, the four noticed a clearing. They stopped in their tracks, for they knew, they had FINALLY reached the mountain top. The highest place in all the land provided a view of the valley below - the treetops miles below them, meshing together, the rivers and lakes nestled in between. The view alone brought sheer ecstasy and excitement, as the weary travelers realized their journey was more than worth it. Every rock, every bump, every frustration or river that needed to be crossed made the view even more delightful. And so, the four friends soaked up this glorious view and found sweet rest.


The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

-Habakkuk 3:19

Sunday, August 15, 2010

His Glory Appears

"Who is like you among the gods,
O Lord -
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?"

-Exodus 15:11

This heart is soaring, in wild abandonment and crazy joy, as the Lord's glory has been so thick, lately. Something in me is different. Something has shifted, something has been rearranged, rewired...reawakened. It seems as though this change of heart and sudden joy has crept up on me, unexpectedly. Like the formation of a river, i know this reawakening has taken time - while glimpses of hope and the Lord's work were seen every once in awhile, i felt like my heart was dormant and doomed in the darkness. And yet, the Lord is so incredibly faithful. His light has shattered that darkness; His presence provided abounding joy.

The season of looking inward has long been gone; rather the Lord prompting me to look outward has opened my eyes to the magnificent glories that surround me; He is SO at work in this fallen world. When we marvel at how the Lord is working in others' lives, when we wonder (and sometimes envy, as is only human) how this person can be so close to God, how blessed this other person is that they can sense the Lord's presence, rest assured the Lord is at work in this person's life, and this other person is sharing in His glories, i think we're missing something. Sometimes, all it takes is opening our eyes - letting scales fall off, shedding disbelief and doubt like winter jackets, wiping away the sleep from our eyes, breaking through self-absorption or self-wallowing - to see that the Lord is truly at work in our lives, too. Sometimes, sharing and witnessing the Lord's glories takes patience - You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory - Psalm 73:24. We may have to journey through a season of despair, grief and loss or enter into a desolate and lonely period where the Lord appears absent or unresponsive. But trust, in times that require great patience and heart, His glory WILL appear.

His glory is so apparent at times - on mission trips, in worship/church service, in Bible studies, etc. -when we are tapped in or pressing in to Him. In the mundane routine, the day to day life, we tend to overlook, ignore and forget to acknowledge and look for the Lord's glories. He is always at work, even if we are not aware.


I had sat down at the computer tonight to write about camp, the humility of feet washing, the remarkable beauty of new life or the sweetness of divine appointments...yet this is what the Lord has laid on my heart. Whether or not i feel led to write about these topics in the days to come, they all point to God's glory. His ways are perfect, His love is magnificent, His mercies are humbling. The life He gives, His creations, redemption, revival, babies, new beginnings, forgiveness, service, solitude, laughter, divine appointments - all of these are reflections of His glory. GLORY - this is the word that Has been laid on my heart, affirmed by a divine appointment at work today. Glory, glory, glory. All to the Lord. Do you sense it? Do you see it? If not, what is He asking? That you allow Him to open your eyes? That you remain steadfast in Him and have patience?

Glory, Lord. May we see Your glorious presence, your workings around us and within us, as we seek You more and praise You all the days of our lives.

1 Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
2 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
the splendor of our God.
3 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
4 Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”
5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
and unplug the ears of the deaf..

-Isaiah 35:4-5

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.
-Psalm 57:11

Songs to Check Out:
-Show Me Your Glory: Jesus Culture
-His Glory Appears: Hillsong
-Glory of it All: David Crowder Band

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Do you have something/someone you have kept on a pedestal? I'm not talking about someone you admire, appreciate or look up to; rather, someone you hold higher than necessary. I'm referring to someone/something you've built up to be something great, to a point where you are blinded by their imperfections, flaws, inconsistencies, their humanness? Whether you've put money, a parent, a friend, a career, a relationship, a significant other, a boy/girl, a mentor, a celebrity, a car, a clothing item, etc. - i pray that we allow the Lord to absolutely annihilate anything we have on a pedestal other than Him.

In a matter of 24 hours, i have been convicted of keeping someone on a pedestal. And in the same 24 hours, after God has fully opened my eyes to how i act, how i've compensated for and reacted in the shadow of that pedestal, i am floored. I have made up countless excuses, i have defended their actions and behaviors until my last breath, i have allowed myself to be stomped on and taken advantage of. In the past, i've felt a need to impress, to reach out and interact with this particular person, to be swept off my feet and focus strictly on the beauties this person holds. After realizing that the past however many months have been lived underneath this pedestal, i was finally finally able to release it - to allow it to come crashing down. I have finally had enough. Today, i went through so many emotions - sorrow, a feeling of liberation, anger, injustice...quite the roller coaster, let me tell you. Yet a necessary roller coaster, that has allowed me to purge and gain clarity on the situation.

Whatever we hold high, whatever we build pedestals for, we serve and worship, in a sense. People/things/possessions/relationships - whatever it is, if it is on a pedestal it is an idol. Sometimes, we unknowingly place things on pedestals. We think we are serving the Lord, but there are times we may realize there is something else we are holding in high regard, in a place it does not belong. I urge you, dear friends, to examine your lives. Ask the Lord to test your heart - what, if anything, am i putting on a pedestal? What am i serving, besides God? What exerts power over me, who do i try to impress, what possessions do i idolize? What person - their reactions, responses, the things they say, the advice they give - do i allow to control me? When we allow God to convict us, it is then He is able to break down pedestals, and we may turn our gaze fully back to Him. When we keep the place we hold people/things in check, we are able to be released from a need to serve anyone/thing other than God.

Trust me, when you try to serve someone or live in the shadow and the control of what you have placed on a pedestal, you will be let down. You will be living a life in bondage. The Lord is the ONLY good and perfect One, the ONLY constant, the ONLY one that will NEVER fail or forsake us. It is Him we should serve, with EVERYTHING we have. It is under His shadow, under His power and faithfulness that we should live. It is bowing in adoration, falling facedown at His feet that we should resort to.

Lord, shake up our worlds. Tear down any pedestal we may have constructed and let us worship You alone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Late Night Musings

I spent yesterday evening with two of my best friends - Kim and Allison, and Ally's family. We made a veggie pizza and a huge cookie and just hung out before Al headed off to Las Vegas on a family trip. Surprisingly, i got home by 11 and tried to go straight to bed. It didn't work. I turned off the lights, only to turn them on a few minutes later, feeling a need to read my book and turn to scripture. Those nights when you're so exhausted and just want to sleep and you can't are definitely frustrating - when your mind keeps racing, or you're too hot/cold to fall asleep, etc. But last night was different. After reading for a while, i ended up listening to some Shane and Shane and dozed off eventually, in the early hours of the morning. I woke up again at 5:30 am and was alert. My eyes were exhausted, but i could not rest. I felt awake and a need to press into God. I don't know what's different about today, or why i was so restless last night, but it's definitely the Lord working on my heart.

As a lover of reading and writing, i am so blown away when the Lord speaks directly into my situation through a passage, a book, an excerpt. In this situation, late late at night, not knowing what God wanted or what to pray for, i read a beautiful reminder about prayer. While this spoke to my heart and affirmed different ways to pray and dwell in the Lord, it also reminded me of the difficulty and fears we have in learning HOW to pray. Some of my lovely middle schoolers and high schoolers are apprehensive about praying out loud and often claim they don't know how. While i was reminded of some of them in particular, i think this is an issue people have in many other walks of life, as well. We need to affirm and encourage each other regarding the beauty and intimacy of, and the inability to mess up prayer. God just wants us to do it - to commune with Him, spend time with Him, behold Him, however that may look. Let me share this passage with you:

Prayer is another area that many struggle with because they aren't aware that in the freedom of the Spirit there are as many ways of praying as there are individual believers. The cardinal rule in prayer remains the dictum of Don Chapman: "Pray as you can; don't pray as you can't".... A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad prayer.

A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms. As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention is flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep. Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms. Our prayer is much like that. We settle down in our Father's arms, in His loving hands. Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to Him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will. It is very simple prayer. It is very childlike prayer. It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom

-The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning (p 155-156)

Prayer is communion with our Creator, our all loving and merciful Lord. In prayer, He may reveal something to us, He may do a working in our hearts that is unseen or undetected by us, He may answer a prayer. Whatever the outcome, we are spending time with our Lord and Savior.

To end, listen to this song. I can't get enough of it (ignore the video) :) Have a blessed day.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

El Salvador Part 3: There is God

Almost three weeks after our return, I feel as though my heart is ready to reflect on just a portion of God's movement in our trip. It is Sunday - a day of rest, and i am just beginning to understand the importance of responding to the Lord's call to put aside a Sabbath day.

On this unforgettable journey, the Lord revealed Himself on so many levels. As a team, we grew closer as the trip progressed. We cast aside any differences or fears, we were open with where we were at and we allowed God to move in our hearts - to soften them, break them and use them as He willed. Watching each one of the students and fellow leaders pursue Him and enter into the school/orphanage assemblies with passion and joy, to reach out to those God placed in our paths - despite the language barrier was SO humbling. One of my most favorite memories in watching the Lord work in our team was the prayer night the fifteen of us women entered into. Day 3 of the trip (the second day in El Salvador), the power went out as a storm rolled in; the girls were making bracelets as usual and winding down for the evening. Surely the power outage was God-ordained - we felt an urgency and calling to press into Him - to pray for unity, personal healing and the preparation for the hearts of those around us. Oh my goodness, did GOD MOVE! What seemed like a half hour turned into FOUR solid hours of prayer. Some of the girls were baptized in the Holy Spirit - God was totally at work. Walls came down, prayers were answered. One woman prayed out loud for a friend, as her fears and feeling of inability were broken. One woman received a clear response and instruction of what to do in a situation that had been weighing heavy on her heart. Probably three hours into the prayer session, I felt God calling me to sit in silence and BEHOLD. At first i felt confused why i couldn't pray anymore - it seemed like i was taking a backseat and succumbing to my exhaustion. And yet, the Lord comforted me as I felt His presence so strongly in taking in the sight. The girls, these beautiful women of Christ, were singing to the Lord - praising Him in beautiful harmony, gathered around each other in UNITY. I didn't need to be part of the prayer for God to move - how HUMBLING and BEAUTIFUL to sit in reverie and watch how He moved.

As the team bonded and witnessed the wonderful power of God, there He was at work in Guatemala and El Salvador (as He always has been). In the schools and orphanages, there He is - in the smiles of each child, in the laughter, in the tears. He reigns over EVERY situation. In the game of softball we had the opportunity to play with some El Salvador women, there He was. In poverty, in riches, in pain, in joy, there He is. To see the Lord move, to see His power and presence at work in these beautiful countries was astounding. It was SUCH a joy to witness His workings for ten days.

Part of the school assemblies involved putting on a human video to the song Everything by Lifehouse. The song is hauntingly beautiful, and when paired with a skit that portrays the Lord's redeeming love and His mighty hand even through our addictions and distractions - to sex, alcohol, money, drugs, depression, suicide, etc. He is beckoning for us to return to Him, He redeems, He forgives, He transforms ashes into beauty. The students performed this skit more than a dozen times - and each time i was reminded of our amazing Savior. It was neat to see the students' faces - the big eyes and gaping mouths, standing in awe of the message of salvation :)

Another place we saw God move was on our way from the base camp in Guatemala to El Salvador. As the countries are in the middle of their rainy season, it torrential downpoured the majority of the drive. When we came to a bridge we needed to cross in order to get to El Salvador, we found out it had collapsed a month ago. So we took an alternative route - through a muddy field and side of a hill, already slippery and worn down from so much use. The river was raging. We had to cross a part of it to get to the makeshift series of bridges. Let me tell you, these bridges were barely big enough for one vehicle to pass - they were constructed on tiny spots of land amongst the raging river. As we tried to cross, we ended up reaching a traffic jam. Since the bridge was only big enough for one car to cross, traffic coming from both directions created a standstill. And we were at the front, stuck on one of the bridges. When confronted by the traffic coming from the other direction, Jonathan refused to move - we couldn't, as cars were lined up behind us and unable to turn around. The men coming from the other direction flashed their handguns, but Jonathan (our missionary) still refused to move. Jackie, one of our team leaders felt the urgency to pray. So, in our fear, we cried out to God, asked Him to reign over the situation. Within seconds of us finishing the prayer, the oncoming traffic started to back up. And somehow - all the glory to God - we made it over the bridge and into El Salvador. GOD IS GOOD. I turned to the Psalms for comfort and just "happened" to come across this one:

The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.

-Psalm 77:17-19

How amazing is that?! God brought us to the great waters - His way was through this raging river. We needed to rely on His power and trust in His presence in a situation totally out of our control. He had a way and a plan for us in El Salvador, and while His footprints were unseen, He LED US. I was reminding that the Lord brings us through and into situations that are much too big for us so that we may cry out to Him and surrender, so that He may work.

Finally, on a more personal note, there is God in our individual experiences. He speaks to us on a personal level. In our last orphanage visit, we spent time loving on the kids in a Special Needs orphanage in Antigua. Here, the Lord affirmed my God given passion for kids. Simply saying their names would make the kids light up and smile. A simple touch, a simple outreach spoke of the Lord's love. Whether the Lord leads me into an elementary school/middle school/ different country/ ministry, I trust He will prepare me and give me the passions. All for His glory.
I am still in awe of how the Lord has proved that HE IS FAITHFUL, and that He truly does work everything together for our good (Romans 8:28). While I have struggled amidst a season of darkness over the past year, God has given me a testimony. God has used my scars, my wounds, my grievances to show His power and His redemption. I lost a love, only to find out more of the Lord's eternal love. I gave into temptations, to lust. And while it tore apart a relationship, it has given me stories and grounds to relate to other young women in similar situations. I now KNOW the necessity of keeping the Lord the center of all relationships, i now KNOW i am forgiven and renewed. I have seen God work through my past struggles to give me a testimony. And there are a few girls in particular that God allowed me to relate to, reach out to and bond with. The thought - that my pains, my struggles, my story of lost love bringing others to see the beautiful redemption of the Lord, His faithfulness, power and works - brings me to my knees. God is faithful. GOD. IS. FAITHFUL.

I have seen prayers answered. I have seen God's workings in my heart and the hearts of others - even back here in Lakeville.
While the team was able to take part in the Lord's movings in Guatemala and El Salvador for a brief period of time, the Lord is still at work. He was, He is and always will be present, active and reigning. And He is good. In every season, in every circumstance, there is God.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

El Salvador Part 2: Beauty in Simplicity

Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter - in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, in a child licking a chocolate ice cream cone, in a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover His loving presence in the world around us - Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (p 91)

Truly, there is beauty in the simple things. When life isn't crowded by stuff, when we live in each day and focus solely on the present moment - simplicity. Something that really struck me in Guatemala and El Salvador was how different the act of living seemed. It was more laid back, less constricted by time and appointments. That could just be what i experienced, but i will say that life in these countries was totally different from life here in the US.

Simplicity is beautiful. As a photographer, photos that are simple in content, yet so brilliantly constructed are my absolute favorites. As a follower of Christ, i am floored when the Lord uses the simplest of concepts, the simplest of events or parts of nature (that are complex) to speak to us. When our hearts are softened by a child's laughter - as happened for so many of us at the schools and orphanages we visited - when a simple meal is widely celebrated and appreciated, when you catch a glimpse of the Lord's power and majesty in the crashing waves or the view outside an airplane window. Simplicity.

This revelation, this renewed appreciation for simplicity has been tugging on my heart. To bring simplicity into my crazy, busy (yet fun) schedule, to realize how much consumerism and a need to complicate my life with STUFF has a grip on me. Thank you, Lord. I love how our complex, multifaceted, HUGE God reveals Himself in the simplest of ways, in the simple things at times, so that our tiny human minds can catch sweet glimpses of who He is.

Let me close with a quote from a book i'm reading (I LOVE READING, just putting that out there):
The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become - the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. Awareness of our poverty and ineptitude causes us to rejoice in the gift of being called out of darkness into wondrous light and translated into the kingdom of God's beloved Son.
-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (p 81)

It's simply really, and humbling. God sent His son to die for us - to take on ALL of our sins, to redeem us. His blood has set us free, free to choose a relationship with Him or not. His longing for us is simple - that we may trust Him with our lives, lay our lives at His feet and take up our cross. His love, while complex and deep and wide and HUGE, is simple because it's unconditional. It's forever. Embrace simplicity.

Also, check out my dear friend Brie Peters' blog - living in the moment. I had the privilege to help lead the mission trip with her and grow in relationship with this amazing woman so passionate for the Lord. Her blog is insightful and beautiful, and i know she has so much of her own to say about this trip. :)

Simplicity. May God give us wonderment, open eyes to detect and embrace simplicity.