Monday, September 20, 2010

Telling the Teens

A few nights ago Jon and I went before the youth group to let them know about our plans to move. This was something that was as difficult as it was exciting. This is our 6th year to be involved in our church's youth group. We LOVE hanging out with the teens, going on retreats, worshiping with them, texting and Facebook-ing them--we just love being with them as they do the things they do. We have grown such close relationships with many of them, and we will truly miss this ministry that we have become part of.

It was really neat when we first told our youth ministry team about moving. They were super supportive and very excited to hear all of the plans that were already in action. They wanted us to tell the teens ourselves, and they realized that in only a few weeks they had scheduled a mini-series about Missions and reaching out to the world. They had already scheduled the first 3 weeks' speakers and invited us to share our story on the fourth week, commenting how it might be very touching to them, especially since they know us so well. Following God's call isn't something that only a select few are qualified to do. In fact, that would be one of our main messages to them that night--something one of Jon's Harding professors had told him: "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." They know that we are just regular people and that there is nothing special about us. What makes this special is that we are just trying to work where we see a need in the Kingdom.

On September 1, the night to tell had arrived. I had become pretty nervous in the stomach before we actually walked up to the front--I just wasn't sure what the reaction would be. To open the lesson, I had prepared this video full of funny photos of Jon and myself throughout our lives, trying to tell our story in a light-hearted way.

video

It worked--we definitely got a lot of laughs at the beginning, but towards the end I noticed that some of the girls were getting a little bit teary as they started to realize where the message was leading.

Next, Jon started with the lesson he had prepared. We didn't want our time in front of them to be all about us and what we were planning on doing, but rather to be about how we wanted them to have the courage to step out and follow when they felt God calling them to be a part of His big plan. Jon shared the Francis Chan quote that I blogged about here in August, "But God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."

How if we ignore the parts of the Bible that make us uncomfortable, or the parts that we don't think apply to us, we are really missing out on the mission that God has for each one of us. What if we looked outside the walls of our churches, past the nice houses in our neighborhoods, beyond where we are actually present at? Would we see a calling that God has for us? If we did, would we have enough faith to step out and pursue that calling?

Sometimes that can seem pretty scary. It can be easy to let fear hold us back, but we are promised that God is with us wherever we go. He will give us what we need, and if we commit our plans to him they will succeed.

I love to share how I have seen God work in my personal life and Jon shared a little bit of it with the teens that night. I had the desire to work in the mission field all through college, and had planned on doing that even after graduation. I also had the desire to marry and have a family too, though. When I met Jon, I felt like I had to choose one or the other. I love the family that I have, but also had begun to look back and wonder what would have happened had I chosen not to marry. I feel like I have been so blessed with a great family and a godly husband who shares the same desire that I do to serve God in the Kingdom. I feel like my cup is overflowing because it turns out that I really didn't have to choose from those two things--God has blessed me with both. Jon shared this verse that means so much to me, personally, because of this:
"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
--Psalm 37:4
I firmly believe that God 'working all of this out' is that he wants to show us how much he can bless our good intentions. We truly want to serve Him, and even though we don't always get it 'right' he still blesses our efforts, and that can be so encouraging.

To wrap up, he shared this verse that has meant so much to me personally since I came across it in high school. I read it to several friends back then, and couldn't understand why they weren't as excited about it as I was. To me, it's a verse that shows just how much God wants to bless our efforts, and I just love it:
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
--Malachi 3:10
Malachi the prophet records God talking to his people about offering up their tithes to God, and in return he will bless them. The principle of a tithe is for people to relinquish control of a small portion of what they have as a sacrifice to God, and here God is begging his people to trust him. If he give him what we have, he can make so much more out of it that we could have ever imagined!

We have decided to answer God's call and test his promises to be faithful to us. We don't have much to offer, but we will do whatever we can to spread the Good News to the people of Honduras. We are just ordinary people. There's nothing special about us, and this story isn't even really about us. We haven't done anything to make any of this happen. This is just the story that we are letting God write.

A couple weeks ago I was sharing our plans with someone and she said, "What makes you think you and Jon can do that? What makes you think you are qualified?

How do you answer that?

So I said, "Well, I'm not exactly sure why we can do that. But I also see no reason why we can't."

God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

We encourage everyone to listen for God's voice in your daily life. Listen for his calling. If you are a believer, then he has work for you to do. You may not be able to move somewhere far away right now. Some of you reading may not even be old enough to drive or able to afford a car! But I bet there's someone at your church or school who could really use a friend right now. I bet there are people who don't know the reason for the hope you have. There are people everywhere who need for someone to reach them.

When you don't know the right thing to do or exactly the thing that God wants you to do, don't let fear or shame or anything else stop you. Be bold. Step out in faithful action. He will bless your efforts. He will bless your faithfulness.

At the end of class, one of the youth ministers came up and prayed over us and our family and the plans that we were making. Then someone started leading "What the Lord Has Done in Me" and the whole youth group surrounded us up front. The lights were off and the singing was beautiful. It gave me chills and it brought tears to my eyes and my heart swelled. It took my ability to sing away, and I could only listen, but it blessed me immensely. I can remember it so vividly, and I hope I always will be able to. It is one of my favorite, most touching memories. Ever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Carrying Mats

I recently got a new Bible. This was a huge decision for me, as I had grown to love my old used, worn, highlighted, marked-up Bible. There were so many notes and comments from teachers, preachers and mentors that I have known and respected throughout my life. When “the seas parted” and Genesis 1-7 were completely broken away from the rest of the Scriptures, and when Ephesians 1-5 were no longer permanently attached I thought I might be nearing the end of that Bible’s daily use, but when the binding broke out and nothing was attached to the outside cover anymore I knew I had to break down and purchase a new sword.

I had decided that I wanted to have my notes and underlinings handy, so I sat down for several evenings and transferred all of the markings from my old into my new.

I loved this for so many reasons—one of which was that it helps bring back the comfort of knowing where some of my favorite passages are located, but another was just the benefit of reading through and remembering all of the lessons and comments that have meant so much to me.

I noticed one of my notes was by Mark 2, and I just loved reading over it, especially since I felt that the concept fit so perfectly in my life last week. So do you think I was shocked when Sunday night at Fall Family Worship that the lesson was on the exact text that I had already been meditating on? No, of course I wasn’t, because that is how God has been doing lots of things in my life lately. I guess he knows that I might not catch on if He tells me once, but once He finds lots of ways to tell me over and over and over I start to get the hang of it and take notice!!

The story in Mark 2 is about when Jesus came into Capernaum and began to speak in a home. Four men wanted their paralyzed friend to come to and see Jesus so badly that when they couldn’t go through the door they went up onto the roof, dug open a hole, and lowered their friend down into the house. Jesus saw their faith told the man that his sins were forgiven. Jesus knew that some men were wondering in their hearts who this man, this Jesus, thought he was, forgiving sins and all. And just to show them the authority and the power that he had, he turned and told the paralytic that he was healed and to pick up his mat and go home.

Next to Mark 2 in my Bible I have written these notes from a lesson I heard:

*Faith*

paralyzed physically and spiritually

Who has carried you on their stretcher?

Who have I carried?

This story is amazing because it shows such a sense of community. That man’s friends knew he needed to see Jesus. On his own accord, his physical conditions would have kept him away, but in faith his friends overcame that physical obstacle and brought him to Jesus. While we may not be paralyzed physically, how often do we become paralyzed spiritually? Overwhelmed by our circumstances. Attacked by the evil one. Weary. Distant. Hurt. Scarred. Unsure of how to even move on. Sometimes we even know that we need to find our way back, that we need to find Jesus again, but we just aren’t sure where he’s at, how to get there, or if we’ve got it in us to make the journey. Paralyzed.

That’s where the family that God has given us comes in. We are supposed to be that support for people. We are supposed to be so involved in other people’s lives that we know that they are struggling; know when they need help getting back. And as brothers and sisters, we are to pick them up on their mat and take them into the presence of Jesus. It sounds flowery and beautiful written out, but practiced it takes a lot of work. A lot of time. A lot of prayer. A lot of love. It's quite a responsibility, if you think about it. Sometimes getting involved in other people's lives can get pretty messy.

I know in my life there have been many who have carried me on my mat. There have been times that I have been so hurt, so lonely, so lost… The troubles of this world can seem to crush in all around, and knowing that there are friends and family who will pray to the Father on my behalf is amazing. At Fall Family Worship this week, David Skidmore talked about this same story and stressed the importance of having friends who would bring them closer to Jesus, especially during difficult times. He asked them, “Who’s your four?”

I am so thankful for the friendships that God has blessed me with throughout my life. I feel so blessed to have had strong, mature mentors to guide me and friends to encourage and strengthen me along my journey. Friends that I could shoot a quick "My family is being attacked and we need extra prayers this week" email and I got responses back within minutes assuring that they 'had our backs'.

I hope and pray that I have been that kind of friend to others too, but I fear that without having consciously made the effort that there are so many opportunities that I have missed out on. I can only say that from here on out I am resolved to ‘carrying the mats’ of my friends who need help getting closer to Jesus, because if I can’t do that then nothing else I do matters much.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Career vs Calling

Jon has been reading the book The Hole in our Gospel for the last few weeks, and he has shared some of the striking quotes and concepts that Richard Stearns presents in the text. Stearns’ story is actually quite amazing—he was a very successful business man, but left all of the prestige and luxury that came along with that when he began to feel a calling from God to minister to the children of the world. He went to work with World Vision and he and his family have been making an impact in the name of Jesus since then.

One of the things Jon read to me was this:

American society does not talk much about ‘calling’ anymore. It is more likely to think in terms of career. Yet for many people a career becomes the altar on which they sacrifice their lives.
A calling, which is something I do for God, is replaced by a career, which threatens to become my god.
A career is something I choose for myself; a calling is something I receive.
A career is something I do for myself; a calling is something I do for God.
A career promises status, money or power; a calling generally promises difficulty and even some suffering—and the opportunity to be used by God.

For many years, Jon and I have focused mainly on career. Well, really we have focused on money. Everything we did seemed to be focused on our financial situation, no matter how fast it seemed we made our wheels spin. We have found ourselves drowning in student loan debt and credit card debt, which became an even bigger ‘god’ in our lives when Jon would lose jobs or be laid off. Even when he is working full-time or extra-full-time, there just seemed to be no satisfaction or joy in the work he spent almost all of his waking hours doing.

The rat race of Jon going into a job that has no eternal worth or value, being gone from our family for 8-15 hours a day and being exhausted and drained had really stated to wear on our family. It seems a little crazy, then, when we say that we are leaving that behind for something that may be even a little bit tougher?

Being in another country will for sure bring its challenges. The distance from our loved ones, the culture adaptations and the language barriers will definitely add to the list of challenges that being a godly family already brings. However, we really believe that God is calling us to this work, so as faithful servants we must answer his call. We trust that his divine power will give us everything we need for life and godliness and that when he works through us he is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, and if we commit our plans to the Lord they will succeed. That’s only a few of the promises we are leaning on, there are so many more!

Following a calling, I believe, doesn’t really have much to do with our status here on Earth. I am pretty sure that we will never be financially ‘rich’. We are never going to have the nicest things or the fastest cars. It’s not about that. I have heard, though, that up in heaven there is a 'bank' where we can store up treasures, and that is where we are choosing to make our deposits!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where in the world is....

Santa Rosa de Copán?

Here is a map of Honduras to show where we will be working. Santa Rosa de Copán is in Western Honduras, and is in purple lettering. It is 6 driving hours from Tegucigalpa (the capital) and about 2 1/2 driving hours from San Pedro Sula, which has the nearest airport.

Santa Rosa de Copán is the capital of the department (like big counties) of Copán. It is not as modern as Tegucigalpa, but has an urban feel and many of the amenities of a larger city.

Many of you know that Jon and I have also been involved in the groups that go to Mission Lazarus, and have wondered if our full-time mission work is going to be with them. Mission Lazarus is in Southern Honduras, about 45 minutes east of Choluteca. We may spend some time visiting with them, but will be working primarily in the Western region.

In June 2009, Phil and Donna Waldron established Mission UpReach, which is a work focused on spreading the Word to and helping the people in Western Honduras. This is the mission that we will be involved with during our time abroad. There will be more about the Waldrons and Mission UpReach in the future!