Monday, September 1, 2014

bloody knees.

 I have this idea that maybe, just maybe, everything that ever happens is intended to inspire within us worship of our almighty, all powerful, all sustaining creator; and maybe, just maybe he has a better grasp of everything going on around us than we could ever imagine. 

If you read the post I wrote at the beginning of the summer, you know what I’m saying when I talk about utter chaos ensuing in my life over the past year, and the ways that I have been able to see the Lord’s hand at work in those situations.  Well, this summer, he didn’t let up.  More trials, more lessons, and more questions.

After hearing about some substantially surprising and upsetting news on one of my 2-4s, (the 24 hours we get off from camp a week) I asked my dear friend Jen Ford to share a meal with me so that I could process through some things with her.  She’s a phenomenal question-asker, and one of the most proactive initiators I’ve ever met.  She recognizes needs, and moves to take action.  As I sat with her, I sobbed about how unfair it all seemed… that I would be facing yet another trial.  “Its just one thing after another,” I cried, “how much am I going to have to give?”  She looked me square in the eye, and with her sage wisdom, knowing exactly what I needed to hear, she replied with a smile, and said, “everything.” 

That was definitely not something I wanted to hear in that moment, but those words will never escape me.  Everything. 

What does it look like to live with everything surrendered to the Lord?   I think this is the very lesson I have been learning this year. 

When I think about someone who lost everything, my thoughts fall on Job.  Job was a blameless and righteous man, and he experienced many worldly blessings because of it.  Yet, when he lost everything, he continued to bless the name of the Lord. 

Now, I haven’t lost anywhere near as much as Job- he literally lost everything in his life in a matter of minutes.  All of his wealth, all of his family, and his good health.  Gone.  And yet, he blessed the name of the Lord. 

It’s incredible how little I recognize God’s hand in my life when I face trials.  Honestly, my thoughts turn more often than not to, “God, why?” “Where are you?” “Don’t you care for me?”

But it’s important that we look at the context of these so-called ‘trials’ in our lives. 

Scripture says in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James later goes on in verses 12-15 to say, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” 

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 

It’s important that we recognize the difference between temptation and trials.  By definition, a temptation is a desire for something wrong or unwise.  God will never give us a desire for something that contradicts his word or his will.  Temptation is not of God, but of our sinful nature that desires sin over righteousness.  And when we are tempted, we need to understand that we are not alone, because no temptation is new to mankind.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Soapbox moment:  There is power in vulnerability.  Share with trusted brothers and sisters in the faith what it is you are being tempted by, because chances are they have been tempted by the same thing at one point or another, and they may be able to see what the promised “way of escape” might be better than you can.  Don’t hide your sin in darkness.  Trials on the other hand are defined as a test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or something.  So, when it says in James, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him,” we see that God does allow us to face trials in order to test our faith… why? To show steadfastness... to show the qualities of our character... to show off the way that the Lord transforms the lives of those who love him.  He allows us to face trials for one reason- to glorify his name, just as Job does when he looses everything. 

I think one of the most fascinating parts of the book of Job comes in chapter 1 verse 7.
“The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Did you catch that?  God suggests to Satan that he consider Job. He’s putting his trophy on display- showing off exactly how much Job loves Him.  God confidently chooses to allow Satan to test Job, knowing that in the end, He will be glorified.  God chose to win an open victory though his servant Job. 

And when calamity strikes, how does Job respond?  He falls to his knees, and he Worships His maker. 

When we face trials and calamities in our lives, how do we choose to respond?  I don’t know about you, but my first response usually isn’t to worship God.  

But from the moment He created us, God has been seeking one thing- true worshipers; and true worship is shown in the times when it is hardest to express.  So rather than questioning him, and wondering why on earth God would allow us to go through these times, let us express the true steadfastness the Lord desires from us, that our faith may have its full effect, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

All this to say, when calamity strikes, and all of a sudden we find ourselves wallowing in our own self pity- wondering where God is, rather than dwelling in our doom, we should rejoice in the goodness of our God.  Our knees should hit the ground so fast and so hard we should all be walking around with bloody knees. 

Let’s allow God to claim victory over Satan by the ways that we react when he attacks.

 “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  -2 Corinthians 12:7-10


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

rain.

          For the past 12 days, I’ve been at kamp for staff training week.  This time is all about us getting K-2 up and running before the kampers come through our gates in just two days.  Now kamp, being uninhabited for the past 9 months, required a good bit of TLC before it could be presented as “the happiest place on earth.”  (To be honest, if looked more like district 13 when we started…)  My point is, we had a lot of work to do.  We worked hard all day raking leaves, cleaning out cabins, and turning kamp back into a livable environment.  But for the past few days, we’ve done nothing but sit and wait for the rain to cease. 
            Now, kamp has always held a special place in my heart.  The lord has been using Kanakuk as my place to truly meet with him since I was 9-years-old…and here I am, 12 summers later, still learning new things about him constantly.  This week, its been through reflection. 
            The past year was a hard one to say the least.  In fact, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that it was the hardest year of my life so far.  The past 12 months have been full of heartbreak, disappointment, and missed expectations.  But upon looking back at what the past year has taught me, that’s not what I see.  Instead, I see restoration, humility, and blessings in disguise.  What often times felt unbearable, now seems indispensable.  Those things that caused anger, bitterness, doubt, and tears are now things I can rejoice in, because I can now see the fruit they’ve brought forth. 
            Now bear with me… This could get a little cheesy- but through he rain the past few days, the lord has revealed a lot to me about himself.  The past few mornings when I’ve woken up, I’ve gone outside to spend some time in solitude on our porch that overlooks Table Rock Lake.  Nestled up amongst the trees, I am amazed by the beauty of God’s creation, and the way that He sustains it so perfectly.  If you think about it- no one is out there nurturing each individual shrub in the forest, and yet these rolling hills are covered completely by the leaves of thousands of tall, strong, and healthy trees. 
The other day I was driving a boat, and I stopped in the middle of the lake.  As far as I could see, in every direction, trees encompassed the lake, reflecting their beauty on to the water as it glistened in the sun.  Trees- they provide such majestic beauty as they deliver the radiance of the sun and guide our eyes to the sky- to the heavens; where we see God’s true beauty. 

“The heavens declare the Glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
-Psalm 19:1

            I am astounded by the beauty of the creation that God simply spoke into motion- by nothing we do, we are blessed by his immaculately beautiful creation.  We’ve spent nearly two weeks trying to turn kamp into something even just worth living in, and nothing we have done or could ever do is anywhere even close to the things that God simply spoke into being.  It is by his power, and for his glory that each tree in this forest stands.  The lord doesn’t need us to make his forest beautiful, that we might claim the glory, but he provides everything it needs to grow… Not just sunshine, but rain. 
            Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.”  Likewise, in Genesis 1:27, scripture says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Just as God reveals himself to us through the beauty of nature, he has created us to bear his image.  And like the trees, God provides everything he needs for us to represent his beauty.  He doesn’t need us to make ourselves more beautiful, but to trust him in both the sunshine and the rain. 
            Realizing the importance of the rain, its no longer a burden to sit and wait for the rain to pass.  Now that I recognize it’s value, I have an entirely new appreciation for the rain… And it should be no different in my life.
            The storms I’ve endured this year were by no means easy storms to face.  In fact, more often than not, I wanted to give up; to throw in the towel, and move on to something I knew would be easier.  But my God knew what I needed.  He knew what it would take to make me grow up healthier and stronger that I was before.  He knew what was necessary for me to truly bear the image of his name, and be a small testament of his beauty.  He knew what it was going to take… and this time, it wasn’t sunshine. 


 “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  
  -2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Thursday, November 28, 2013

not always is it wonderful.

it’s the most wonderful time of the year. 
families are gathering together.
christmas lights are strung up on houses.
wish lists are being written with hopes to find each item under the tree on christmas morning.
it’s impossible to quit eating with food at every turn. 
sales in every store.
christmas carols, sugar cookies, and snowmen.
you can come in from the cold and cozy up next to the fire with a blanket and a mug full of hot chocolate and marshmallows. 
ugg boots, leggings, oversized sweaters…
whatever it may be that makes the holidays special for you. 

it’s a joyous season for a lot of us. 

a lot of us… here, in the united states.  a lot of us… looking at this blog on our laptops or iphones or ipads or iwhatevers.  for a lot of us, here in our privileged little towns, this is the most wonderful time of the year.  but for a lot of people, it is the worst. 

but how often do you stop to appreciate those things.  the small things.  the ability to bake cookies.  the cup of hot chocolate you can make after coming in from the blizzarding cold. the winter clothes that you have to keep you warm.  the house that you get to come home to…

unfortunately a holiday that started out as the greatest gift ever given, has turned from celebrating what has been given to us, to what can we get.  greed has over come us.  we donate one day of our year to focus on being thankful, and the next day we trample people to death trying to get more.  we are a people consumed with getting more.  having the best.  having the most.  having it all.  and in doing so, we fail to see the true meaning of the season.

think about it. 

i was born into a family where i have never once had to worry about where i would sleep…what i would wear…where my next meal would come from.  and my guess would be that a lot of you haven’t either. 

but we don’t see it. 

the past week i spent in kansas city with link year.  for those of you who didn’t see my last post, i asked for prayer.  prayer that we would be safe; prayer that we would be impactful; and prayer that hearts of our students would be broken.

we were in the middle of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.  we had the ability to go and shine light in the darkness, and boy did we put up a fight.  it wasn’t only the students that were impacted.  my life was forever changed. 

our first day we spent in inner city kansas city working with a ministry called the hope center.  it’s literally in the middle of a poverty stricken, crime flooded neighborhood.  the hope center provides education, and discipleship to every child they come in to contact with.  they provide the students with something that they might not see anywhere else around them…hope.

that day we did a demonstration with our students to show them exactly how privileged they are.  all week they were divided into groups of four or five called their ‘family groups’.  for the sake of the demonstration, we had each group draw a number.  they drew either 1,2, or 3.  what they didn’t know was that out of the 10 groups, five of them drew 1, four of them drew 2, and only one group drew 3. 

as the students grew impatient waiting for lunch, we set up the meal next door.  we had the 2s come over first.  they were seated on couches and plastic chairs where they found a plate with a pb&j, chips and an apple waiting for them.  next, we had the 1s come over.  they were seated on the ground where they found two large bowls of beans and rice with three or four spoons in each bowl. 

the mood of the room started to change.  they could see what was going on.  some were angry; some were confused, and most were just in awe.  

“would everyone stand to your feet?  we have some very important guests joining us for lunch today.  every one join me in welcoming group number 3!” as the third group walked in, the rest of the room gave them a standing ovation as they were escorted to the center of the room, seated at a table with comfortable chairs.  still confused, everyone sat down and waited to see what they would be given. 

the doors opened again, and as the staff graciously served group 3 a bountiful meal of chickfila nuggets and chicken sandwiches, accompanied by waffle fries, dipping sauces, and sweet tea, you could see the impact our little ‘demonstration’ was having on the group. 

only one rule was given. there would be no sharing of food between ‘classes.’ 

two girls in the ‘middle-class’ group couldn’t even bring themselves to eat their sandwiches seeing the group on the ground eating rice and beans. 

the girls in group three sat at the table weeping, eating their chicken simply out of guilt, being waited on hand and foot, and knowing that what they didn’t eat would go to waste. 

after everyone had finished eating, we discussed what happened.  one of the girls in the chickfila group explained it best… “i did nothing to deserve that food.  i didn’t win a contest, i didn’t pay for it, i didn’t even request it… it was just given to me.  we drew a number, and that’s it.   we didn’t even know what the number meant.  it just makes me realize that i did nothing to deserve the family i was given.  i did nothing to deserve parents who can support me.  i did nothing to deserve a house, or food, or warm clothes.  it was just given to me, all because of the family i was born in to.” 

one of the girls from the middle group told us why she couldn’t eat.  “it’s just unreal to see how much poverty there really is in the world.  i sit at that table every day and eat until my stomach is full, and then i eat some more.  it’s just so hard to physically see what so many people face on a daily basis, and not be able to do anything about it.  i just feel so selfish.”

i did nothing to deserve to grow up urbandale, iowa, the definition of suburbia, with parents who have always worked hard so that i wouldn’t have to.  i did nothing to deserve the life i’ve been given.  i did nothing to deserve the food i eat every day.  i did nothing to deserve the roof i have always had over my head.  i did nothing to deserve the clothes i wear, or the ability to go shopping with my mom every time i come home.  i don’t deserve it. 

later on that week, after helping pack meals for the homeless, and serving in a soup kitchen, we had our students stand out on the street holding signs with statistics about homelessness.  they were given no time to change their clothes, or grab hats and gloves or even a sweatshirt.  they went as they were, and stood outside for an hour and a half holding signs. 

they came back and reflected on their experience.

“hardly anyone even paid attention to us.” 
“i’m so cold, i can’t feel my fingers.” 
“only one lady waved at me.  it was really nice to see someone cared.” 


what if that was what you had to do all day every day just to feed your family at night.  what if you had no hat, no coat, no food, and no house to come home to.  what if you were out there, on the street, for 5, 6 hours at a time. 

for a lot of the students, and even myself, that was when it clicked.  they finally realized what they had been missing all along. 

for some people, this isn’t just a week…this isn’t just a ‘learning experience’…this isn’t the staff coming up with different ways to make us feel guilty…this is real life. 

this is reality. 

our lives are so privileged, we don’t realize that there are people less fortunate than us everywhere.  mission work doesn’t require a plane.  it doesn’t require an organized trip, and it doesn’t require a group of people.  everywhere we go there are people in need.  in your hometown, there are people in need.  in your church, your school, your office, there are people in need.  when you ask god to help you see, you won’t have to look very far. 


i guess what i’m trying to say is be thankful.  truly, truly thankful.   as you feast this season, be thankful that you have food.  as you bust out your winter jackets and fuzzy boots, be thankful that you have clothes to keep you warm as you walk from your front door to your car, and your car into whatever building you’re entering.  be thankful that you aren’t standing on a street corner, or sleeping on a bench.  be thankful that you have so many luxuries that other people may only dream of.  be thankful.  you don’t realize how good you have it. 

watch this video and realize just how blessed you really are.  and be thankful.


"pray also for me, that whenever i speak, words may be given me so that i will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which i am an ambassador in chains. pray that i may declare it fearlessly, as i should."-ephesians 6:19-20

Sunday, November 17, 2013

THIS IS WAR.

Hey yall.  This is usually out of character for me, but I’m writing today to ask you for something.  I’m writing today to ask for prayer.

It’s easy to say that the past few weeks have been hard.  Not just like, I have lots of homework, I’m not getting any sleep, I hate my friends kind of hard… But the WE ARE AT WAR, front line, enemy firing shots at us without letting up kind of hard.  This may sound insane, and you may think I’m being dramatic, but just hear me out. 

For those of you who don’t really know what the heck I’m doing with my life, I am currently living in Branson, Missouri, working for a gap year program called Kanakuk Link Year.  I completed the program last year, and was offered to come back and help out as an intern.  Link Year is a gap year program designed to help 18-20 year old high school graduates develop a firm foundation in their faith before going to college.  The goal in doing this is that these students would be equipped in their faith enough to go out and impact their campuses for Christ.  Well, guess what? It’s working. 

This year’s class of students has a spiritual hunger unlike that of any group of young adults I have ever seen.  They are digging DEEP.  It’s incredible, and so encouraging to see these guys and gals go through exactly what I went through last year, only with so much more passion.  They are doing everything I wish I did.  They are taking full advantage of the many opportunities they have been given to learn and absorb as much as they can about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and what it means to truly live for him.  It is so humbling to be a part of the way He is truly changing each and every one of them from the inside out. 

This campus is burning with a fire so vast that it cannot be tamed.  And that is a challenge that the enemy is willing to accept. 

Like I said, we are at WAR.  Not a physical war, but a war against the spiritual forces of evil that currently control this earth.  I’m talking spiritual warfare. 

In the past few weeks, an overwhelming feeling of darkness has consumed my heart.  I have been frustrated for no apparent reason.  My joy was literally ripped right out from under me.  I couldn’t stand to be around people, and I was rude to everyone around me.  I was definitely not representing Christ well.  I felt like there was this huge barrier between the lord, who I used to walk so closely with, and myself.  I didn’t know why, and I was afraid to admit it to anyone.  I was afraid to admit my struggles, because I am in a position of leadership, and I didn’t want to show my weakness.  I thought that to be a good example, I had to have it all together; and guess what? I don’t. 

As time went on, I kept hoping that things would get better, but they never did.  In fact, they just got worse and worse.  I was consumed with things, doubts, struggles that I hadn’t dealt with since leaving high school.  I thought I was completely alone.  I thought that no one would understand.  I had actually convinced myself that my boss would send me home if he knew.  Satan isolated me; he trapped me in my own fear.

It wasn’t until last Wednesday night that I understood why. 
Every Wednesday night after our weekly church service, we have a time of questions and answers with one of the directors here at link year.  One of the guys asked a vague, yet personal question.  He asked if we could change God’s plan by neglecting his will.  He was directed to Isaiah 55:8-9 which says…


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways,” 
declares the Lord. 
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts.”


But he couldn’t even finish reading before he excused himself, and ran out the back door.  Before the doors even closed, we could hear him screaming.  Crying out to God.  Taking out all of his frustration. 

The rest of us were silent.  We didn’t know how to react.  Adam Donyes, the man leading our discussion prayed for him, and then, again, we sat in silence.  Donyes shared with the group about some personal things he and his wife have been walking through the past few weeks, and all of a sudden, it was like a ripple affect.  Person after person, story after story, they began to open up.  We had all been experiencing the same oppression; the same separation from God.  This was not coincidence. 

Two weeks ago, 6 students and one staff guy went up to a church near Springfield and wreaked havoc on the darkness that that church had been consumed by for years.  They spent time with the youth in a three-day conference, and showed them for maybe the first time what it means to follow God.  Satan had a foothold in that church.  There was darkness in that church.  But what happens when light comes to the darkness? Everything within the darkness is exposed.  And that is exactly what happened that weekend.  And guess what? Satan was pissed. 

He has seen the work that these students are capable of.  He sees the potential these student have to change the world, and it TERRIFIES him.  Why would he not try to stop it?

That’s how I know that this is not coincidence.  It is not a coincidence that this has been happening for the past two weeks.   It is not a coincidence that this group of students is experiencing this oppression more than any group before.  It is not a coincidence that we are leaving tomorrow to spend the week serving Kansas City Missouri.  It is not a coincidence. 

Satan has a foothold on the college campuses these students will end up at.  Satan had a foothold in that church.  These students came in and spread the light that has the power to kick him out flat on his butt.  Satan has a foothold in Kansas City.  We are going to be right in the midst of the second most dangerous neighborhood in the United States.  You better believe that he is going to do everything he can to prevent us from going out and spreading the good news of the gospel. 

THIS IS WAR.  We are at war with the spiritual forces of evil that rule this world.  We are on the front lines.  All of us.  Daily.  If you are a Christian living your life to impact the world for Christ, this means you too. 

Its time to fight.  It’s time to be fitted with the Armor of God that Paul describes in Ephesians chapter 6, and take up our shield and our sword and FIGHT.  There is no room for complacency.  There is no room to hide.  There is no room to let Satan in.  He is not welcome here. 

Prayer warriors, I come to you in need of prayer.  I come to you asking for help.  There is nothing we can do to combat this warfare other than pray, and we need you on our side.  

We have been given the opportunity to go and make war on one of the darkest neighborhoods in the United States.  But we cannot let the darkness overcome our light!  This week will either make us or break us.  If we can continue to stand strong in this war against evil, if we can continue to combat the darkness with the light, we have the potential to do great things for the sake of the kingdom.  BUT, we cannot allow the darkness to overtake us.  We cannot allow the enemy to distract us from the mission at hand.   We cannot ease through this week.  WE ARE CALLED TO MAKE WAR.  

I have a strong feeling about this group.  I know that the Lord has huge things in store for them.  This confliction is unlike any other I have ever experienced.  And that’s not a coincidence.  I truly believe that there is revival in store for this nation, and I truly believe that it will start in Branson, MO. 

Your prayers are appreciated.  Pray for boldness, safety, and faith.  Pray against distraction.  Pray against temptation.  Pray against complacency.  Pray that we may stand strong against the attack of the evil one.  Pray. 

Thank you. 

 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” – Ephesians 6:19-20