Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Story

I can't believe it's finally here. The weekend I used to look forward too as a child for so long mostly for the hopes of Easter egg hunts, coloring eggs, and a special church service, has arrived. Good Friday has just passed and resurrection Sunday is here. It's the weekend we as a church dedicate to Christ's death and resurrection on a cross. A weekend we try to focus extra hard on the purpose of His death and how it changes life for us as Christians for all of eternity.

I can't help but meditate over the last few weeks and this semester and think that it was hard. That my life right now is in a place I never thought it would get. This semester has possibly been one of the darkest semesters of my college years and maybe my whole life, not specifically for one reason, but I've just been struggling through some things. Today though, as I helped with Sonrise, God reminded me of what He's done in my life and some ways He has worked in me and He reminded me that He will finish the good work He has started.

I think so often we hear the stories of Jesus yet we do not experience them. We hear about His death on the cross for us, so many times, that we may forget the power and the glory. We become numb to experiencing the emotional experience of what Jesus' death and life mean for us. In this way, acting is so powerful because when we can truly see and hear, we realize this is real. This is not just a children's story or a fable but this is my life, my destiny, and my Savior in His hands and He went through this for me. The thing I can say from the bottom of my heart, is that it is well in my soul and that is only because of Christ alone because He has defeated all darkness for my sake.

As I helped with Sonrise for a few hours yesterday ( which is an amazing, immaculate production of Jesus's death and resurrection), God reminded me of a huge miracle He did last summer for me and for Wewoka Woods camp. Last summer when I was spiritual director I had the opportunity of co-producing a drama called "The Story" which was a day two journey through the past to meet people whom Jesus' life changed and then ultimately to meet Jesus and experience His death and resurrection.

I think for me I will never be able to describe the way this story changed my life. Never before has His story  became so real: Jesus' sacrifice and the glory in the hour of His death. There were just so many miracles that went on week after week behind the scenes in the production of the skit and just in the story itself that I saw God in a whole new way.
It was one hour before the story and none of the cast was dressed. We were down three actors for the play and we had three brand-new people subbing in. 30 minutes later, we were all running wild, putting on the costumes, the makeup, trying to get ourselves and some of the new lines together. Something is wrong we thought. The atmosphere is different. Soon the blind campers had arrived and our program was still in shambles. We must start with what we have.

The play needed to begin. The blind campers were waiting. We gathered together and prayed and joked that we should pray some more.Then the story began.. just like it had many weeks before. The campers' met Jesus and walked with him..

 The Last Supper, then the Garden of Gethsemane. As I paused in my lines, I heard one of the adult blind campers' crying out to God "Why? Why did you suffer for us Jesus? He did it all for me." He was yelling out to God, vocalizing the intense feelings that many campers felt in their hearts.

Then came the trial and the walk to the cross. The walk was down a steep hill and we tried to see if a golf cart would make it down the trail, but our efforts failed. As the music played we wondered how we will get some of the campers down that hill. Then two of our male staff had an idea.

"Could we carry you? they asked *Sarah one of the campers who couldn't walk? Yes, she smiled with relief, eager to participate and see Jesus' death. Gently, carefully, step by step they carried Sarah down the rocky hill and gently placed her on the bench.

Jesus began to die and the sky began to darken. As we heard the final cries of Jesus, it all went quiet. The pastor began to make His call. After His call *Henry walked up and looked at Jesus. He cried out to Him "Father father I have sinned against your name. He began to cry out to God for forgiveness and talk to Jesus on the cross.

I stood beside *Henry in my angel costume. It was an awkward- yet beautiful moment and all the camp staff watched from afar curious of what was going on. Finally *Henry quieted down and asked for prayer. I stood beside Him as we prayed and thanked Jesus for His sacrifice for us and resurrendered our lives to Him.

My heart was heavy as I listened to His prayer and I longed for the honesty and genuine of this man. I wondered at his dedication. The way He ran to Jesus. The way He talked to Him. The way He didn't care what others thought of Him as He knew He must talk to His Savior.

My heart knew only one thing "this is why I'm here." This is the best part of camp: telling the story of Jesus. And I longed within me to break down and cry at Jesus' feet just like this man beside me. My heart felt heavy as I realized summer camp was ending. Today is my last day with the blind campers, and after that all we have is camp meeting.

How did summer camp change me? Did I make an impact in any of the staff or campers' lives? I don't know yet and maybe I'll never understand the full picture until the day Jesus comes again.

One thing I can say for sure is the story changed my life the most- this play- that started as only an idea that we doubted could really happen- became the highlight of camp. And I want this story- His story to be the gold and the stage and the heart cry of my life forever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Grand Canyon part 1

It's hard to consolidate my thoughts over this  spring break GRAND ADVENTURE with friends. It was so much fun, but more than that- it was water to my soul, water in the desert that God blessed me with and restored my thirst for Him again.

A road trip indeed, through the planes and deserts of New Mexico and Arizona and time in Oklahoma and Texas (my home land)- beautiful sunsets, wild animals, and friends that felt like family.

Before the trip, I was tired of nursing- feeling a bit discouraged- a bit in a rut with my relationship of God. I felt like I was in a desert all alone. And though God provided nourishment, I was dehydrated, weak, and struggling.

The Grand Canyon trip was only some on a whim idea Ana and I had about 8 months before. We didn't really think we could go or pull it off. And when it was about four months til the Canyon and we applied they told us that they only had one more spot in the Grand Canyon left- nothing short of a miracle three days later we got the spot at Indian Garden Campgrounds.

The trek itself was vicious and we had a ranger at our campground tell us we wouldn't be able to do it before we went. It was 13 miles the first day- heading down to Phantom Ranch at the very bottom and then five miles back up to Indian Garden. The second day was five miles of intense climb lugging heavy backpacks up and down- our legs were shaky, but we were alive, and down for the journey! We survived the climb with flying colors (cramping legs and blisters) just going to show you not to let people define your limits or get discouraged.

"I will go where there are no easy roads with the comfort that I know. I will go where there are no easy roads. I will go. - Steve Green
It's about the journey, not the destination.

The Grand Canyon was BEAUTIFUL. It wasn't just the top that was gorgeous, it wasn't the bottom, it was the entire picture- the glory was in the vastness, the journey, the climb. The whole time we were backpacking I had this song in my head my mental clinical instructor sang "I love the mountains. I love the rolling hills. I love the flowers. I love the daffodils. I love the fire side when all the lights are low." The climb was hard. We were sweaty. We were tired. But we were all together, supporting each other (ok at times impatiently bickering or running on ahead)- and it was a glorious journey.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's not about me

When I was in 5th grade I got baptized and shortly after I read a book called “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper which is a pretty intense book for a young person to read. Well I’m not going to lie to you, the book made me totally angry. It was actually the most frustrated I’ve ever felt towards God because the book told me something different than what I had grown up hearing about in church. The book wasn’t about “Jesus’s love for me” which was what I thought following Jesus was supposed to be about. Instead the book was about how my life purpose was to glorify God with everything I did.

This made me angry because isn’t a God that creates me for His own pleasure selfish? He created millions and millions of people and he names us all and makes us each uniquely for Himself? I couldn’t wrap my head around how this could be the same loving God who I had heard about for so long. The God who holds our hands, our dreams, and our tears, who pursues us, could it be that He really created us for Himself?

I decided that I didn’t want to serve a God like that. Because I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted, pursue my own ways- my own dreams, but instead my life would have to be all about Christ. I didn’t like that following Christ meant that I would literally have to surrender EVERYTHING.  I wondered if it was worth it- if following Christ (this God who created me for His own glory?) was worth my life.

The story of Job begins with the most righteous man of his day who diligently seeks and loves God. Satan goes to talk with God and tells God that Job only loves Him because of God’s blessings for Him. So God somehow, for some reason lets Satan mess up Job's life- totally mess it up (kill his children, give him a terrible disease, take away his reputation, prestige, and live a life of pain). And after all this suffering, when Job questions God, He replies like this “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself  like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know…. Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (Job 38: 2,3,41)

We can accuse God all we want too for the suffering in this world, for letting it happen, for the injustice (because He gave us choice and we created sinful consequences). We can place ourselves on pedestools and look up at the Master of the Universe and say “I will never serve you” and He will look down at us and remind us that He gave us this right also. We can ask God how dare he create us for his own glory or we can recognize that selfisness is a result of sin and will never make anyone happy.

Yet when we will realize we are mere mortal sinners whose poor decisions lead us to a destiny of a fiery death. When will we recognize that we were created out of dirt and will go back to the dirt? That without God we have no hope. That this life is not about us (who can die any minute; who sin all the time) but about a bigger purpose- about a more just King, a better reign, a heaven to come.

If this life was all about me, then I would have to worry about death, about my influence on others, about my reputation, career, ect. Because my life is not about me I can find joy rejoicing in the best thing this Universe has. I can find joy in Christ. I can rejoice in the fact that my life is not significant but that His reign is. 

The Fact that this life isn’t about me changes everything. Glorifying God frees me from the bond Satan has over me. Glorifying God puts my eyes on the true Savior of the world instead of the deceiver. Glorifying God is the only way my heart can truly be filled from the inside out and I can experience the love of service that Christ died for me with. Glorifying God gives me purpose and peace beyond my own life.

How often we have it all wrong. The world teaches us to look after ourselves, to establish ourselves with a top position in a high paying career, to win the most sexy husband or wife who will help us live the life of our dreams, to spend money and buy buy buy striving to obtain for ourself. Yet as we try to take and get and receive and earn, we strive for things that are useless and wind up in a rat race never feeling content with ourselves, our own hearts, or each other. We become depressed and stressed trying to measure up to expectations. It is from this selfish heart and sinful consequences that God offers us freedom from.

Service, humility, and sacrifice change everything. By glorifying Christ, we are filled with a new love, transformed into a new lover, and we are changed into a new, truly set free daughter or son of Christ. It’s not about me. Jesus does love me but the question is do I love Him? Am I ready to glorify Him? For until I can give up my selfishness, my sin that Satan has captured me in for so long, I am not fit to walk with Christ. 1 Chronicles 16:29 Give to the Lord the glory that He is due to His name, bring an offering, and come before Him, worship Him in the beauty of His holiness.

how you judge

Should we judge a book by it's cover? Should we judge a person by their outward appearance, their first impression, their initial defining characteristics?

I believe we should and to venture beyond that I would definitely say that as a society and even as a body of believers we do. We judge our pastor by the way he dresses and by the way he shakes our hand and greets us after church. We judge our employees by the way they present themselves to represent our business. And we judge our friends to decide with whom we might like to make acquaintance with and get to know better.

This cover, this reputation thing is important. Psychology says that in the first three minutes of meeting someone people decide whether or not they would like to get to know you better. Thus if we are trying to reflect God's glory, we must scrutinize whether our first three minutes show the love of Christ.

Of course the most important thing is the heart. This is Biblical and this is what God looks at to judge (1 Samuel 16:7). Yet how can we see each others' hearts? Are not the words of our mouths and the look in our eyes reflections of our hearts and inner most souls? Love is manifested by actions and good intentions will never be enough in Christ's kingdom; our hearts are reflected by the way we live (Proverbs 27:19).

So should we judge others? I would venture to say that some judgement is necessary yet as Christians we should strive to look beyond outward appearances and look at the hearts.

Should it not be our personal goals to not judge other people by their covers yet to live in such a way that someone could judge us by ours and meet Jesus face to face in disguise? Wouldn't this be beauty- the ultimate witness is the one whom does not shout Jesus with his mouth nor wear the canvassing t shirt or goody two shoes sticker yet manifests a captivating character that draws in people by love and shows them a glimpse of a greater God?

When I was younger I believed that makeup and frivolous time doing hair and dressing up was an activity that displeased God and was vain. I thought this art of femininity was not necessary and that as Christians we should solely be focused on our inward thoughts and personality. Yet as I have matured, I have learned that Christ created beauty and is beautiful and pure. Whether it is right or not, society places a high value on external appearances. People are drawn to clean, beautiful, joyful people so I believe that women in particular can witness to the beauty and purity of Jesus' character by the way they dress and act (which are often judged by first appearances).

I don't believe this means that women need to wear, or should wear makeup all the time. I know far too many girls who look and feel like a ghost when they take their makeup off because they wear it so much that is their identity and security. I think this is sad and believe that God created individuals uniquely beautiful in His own image and that Christ wants us to feel secure in the body He has given us. What I do believe is that we need to recognize that as Christians the most powerful way to witness may not be the words we say but in the way people perceive us and if they see love written on our arms and shining thru our eyes.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God we're making his appeal through us. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

One thing you lack

Mark 10:21 Only "one thing you lack"- Go and sell EVERYTHING you have and give it to the poor.

I think it's funny because as we begin to follow God we truly and genuinely believe that we have surrendered and given up everything to Him. And we say here God take my life I lay it down and He begins the process of changing and remaking us into a totally new creation.

Yet somehow even after weeks, months, and years of following God- we hear Jesus' gentle voice "only one thing you lack,,," and I'm like what God, you mean after 10 years of following you I still haven't gotten it right? So day by day God asks me to lay down my one thing to Him, my everything to Him over and over again.

Sometimes I say but God I've already given you that and He says surrender it to me one more time. Sometimes I feel but God this is impossible for me to give up. How can I stop thinking about this? How can I truly surrender this to you?

And He reminds me that nothing is impossible.
And that for each thing I give up I will be blessed in abundance in one hundred times more in this life AND in the life to come.

I've realized that when I'm comfortable and think I have it all together, I'm probably not following God's call for my life. But when I'm totally out in the middle of the sea, in a storm, on a rocky boat, that's when God asks me to walk on water with Him. It's scary surrendering everything to God yet it's more scary following our own evil desires and dealing with the consequences of the flesh.

God is so patient and gentle with us. That's why He says "give me that one thing"; let's just focus on this right now. He doesn't want to overwhelm us; he doesn't want to burden us. Instead he says let go of this and let me lead you one step at a time to a better life =)