Wednesday, July 28, 2010

somewhere between Plan A and Plan Z

Things change so quickly here that for even the easiest of tasks I feel a need for a backup plan...just in case.  Not living and working in the same place calls for some thinking ahead for the "what if" moments that could happen the day.  15 minutes is a long drive when things need to take place "now".  Take yesterday, for instance, I hoped to go to Native New Life again...I knew I wouldn't be back at my room before time to go so I had grabbed a sweatshirt along with my jacket so in case I got something on my t-shirt, I could slip on my sweatshirt and be all nice and clean for church.
Before I even got in the van to go to Calvary (where the teams are housed) I dropped my sweatshirt in one of a thousands puddles.  Not just wet, but black...(dirt is very black here as Mr. Bobby pointed out to us last year during a very hilarious moment on a van ride...he was looking at a pile of asphalt).  I had my jacket, so I picked up my sweatshirt and got in the van anyway.  Maybe I could throw it in with someone's laundry during the day, I thought.  I folded it up and placed it on a table thingy beside the washing machine in hopes someone would do a load of clothes I could throw it in with sometime throughout the day. 
Good plan, but then again, plan B's and C's aren't always up to me...it got thrown in somewhere, but it wasn't the washing machine.  Try the trash can, which was then taken to the dumpster, which is where yours truly had the priviledge to go dumpster diving in order to find it.  NOT in my plan for my day.  Now added to the wet, black spots were red and orange spots too.  More Shout applied and I once again folded my wet, dirty sweatshirt neatly and placed it in the same spot it had been, this time with a note on top that it was mine.
Plan B sweatshirt was out.  Still had my jacket that I could keep zipped during church since my t-shirt seemingly was like a magnet to food and liquid particles all day...until I had to go dumpster diving.  It was pouring rain.  Although waterproof, my jacket was wet on the outside...I get too cold to keep a wet article of clothing on inside an already chilly church.
I considered just calling it a day...not feeling well, raining, dumpster diving, familiarizing myself with a new week, a new place, and new people, getting stuff all over my shirt...I wasn't "fit" for church.  Then in comes Traci with my staff shirt.  New clothes...new person.  I was acceptable...presentable...because someone came to my rescue and I had a Plan H (it was a long day, just trust me).  Throw my new shirt on over my other one and wear my jacket to keep the rain off...but, able to take off my wet jacket once at church because of my new shirt I had been given.  Nice.  Although I have been joking with Traci about not having my staff shirt yet, God knew exactly when that shirt would do me the most good.  His timing is impecable.
God had it all under control.  I really am glad He's my Lord and Savior.  Jesus did for you and me what Traci did for me with the new shirt.  Gave us a clean slate, an acceptable look about us, because of His atonement for our sins.  No longer does God see us in our stains of sin, He sees us under the blood of Jesus, His Perfect Plan.  Washed whiter than snow, we are acceptable.  God is so good!   

Monday, July 26, 2010

18 inches

"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." Deuteronomy 7:7-9

God has really been impressing upon me this week that out of my heart...those things that I truly believe...comes what I need to live an effective life for Christ.  If I believe in my heart, soul, mind and strength that God is God and in control of all things, then my life will reflect that in my thoughts, words, and actions.  If I truly believe prayer changes things, then I will pray more.  If I truly believe that God has called me to do something, then I will get it done to the best of my ability.  If I believe power lies in Him, then I will run to him to gain my strength.   
Nothing that I believe or don't believe will change who God is.  He is who He says He is.  What will change is how I think and act...how I love and forgive...how I step out of my comfort zone into the unknown.  God has done His part and continues to do His part faithfully.  It's time to believe He is Lord with my whole heart, so that my life reflects more of His love, faithfulness and power. 
Those 18 inches between my head and my heart make all the difference... 

Friday, July 16, 2010

forget.me.not (revised edition)


" 'Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel.  I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you.  I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me, for I have redeemed you.' "  Isaiah 44:21-22

What an awesome God we serve.  So many things He has done and continues to do for us who are His...created, loves, forgives, redeemed, claims...remembers.  No one is forgotten.  It's easy to feel like prayers go unanswered, but these verses (and the entire chapter) reminds us that He is working out His perfect plan as only He can.  Our safest place, our perfect place, is in His presence.  
Ever get concerned how people will remember you?  I have...the bad choices and  embarrassing moments through life...they seem to be very hard to live down.  Our Heavenly Father sweeps away our offenses like a cloud and our sins like the morning mist...He only remembers us.  
Isn't that the hard part?  Putting behind the memories of all the wrongs we've done in life?  We think less of ourselves, so we might assume the same of God.  How could He forget what I've done?  I don't understand it all, but I believe it all.  He redeemed us by the blood of His Son Jesus, He forgives us when we sin, and He desires us to be with Him. 
Looking at it another way, God sets before us a great standard for forgiving others.  Have any lingering clouds between yourself and another who's hurt you?  I have a few.  We can't truly see them because we haven't let the cloud of anger, hurt, or how they've wronged us lift from our memory.  Forgiving is the easy part...forgetting how they've hurt us isn't.  
Time to let the Son shine in and sweep away the clouds... 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

doubts and dreams

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.         Romans 8:21-27

This past week has been one big emotional roller coaster ride.  I don't like roller coasters.  Never have. 
Frankly, I want off. 
Realistically, I volunteered myself for the ride. 
Thankfully, God knows when and how the ride ends and I trust Him to take care of me.
Family...friends...faith...they've all been challenged (or been challenging) in some fashion as of late.  Several reasons as to why this is all happening could come into play.  The biggest one, I believe, being spiritual warfare.  I leave for Alaska in two days...and satan would like nothing better than for me to be totally distracted and exhausted by things of this world so that I am less attentive to what God has for me and how He wants to use me. 
I am praying my way through these last days before AK.  If you care to, please join me in prayer concerning these things...
*I am headed to Alaska alone.  Will meet up with friends once there, but beginning this journey solo.  This is different than the two previous trips.  Always been on a team before...my team this year consists of God and me.  Glad I know Romans 8:31-39 by heart...
*Leaving Scott, Alex and Tim for two weeks this time around.  The boys will be in Indiana with my family for one week and then at their Nana's the second, so we're all going to be apart.  The tears have already started to fall time to time, but we're all holding it together as best we can.
*My father-in-law is having heart surgery later this morning.  There's nothing minor about heart surgery.
*Once in Alaska, the tasks before me are different than before and remain quite a mystery to me yet.  Praying for clarification of expectations and for a flexible heart that accepts whatever awaits me.
*Distractions of my own design have made their way into my thoughts and are taking my energy and time.  I need  to move on but don't know how.  Please pray that my focus is regained and my mind is set on things above and not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:1-10
*Doubts keep creeping in...pray I focus less on my giants and more on my God.  He must become greater and I must become less...John 3:27-30
*Dreams don't always come true and this is okay...first and foremost, my hope is to be in the Lord.  Isaiah 40:31
*Pray that joy comes each and every morning...not just in Alaska, but everyday of my life, and is evident to others on even the roughest of days.  Psalm 16:11; 30:5,  Jeremiah 15:16
*Pray that I am a blessing to someone...someway, somehow.  2 Corinthians 1:3
*Praise God for allowing me this opportunity to return to Alaska...I do love it there!
*Give thanks for my being able to be a part of something that is bigger than myself...it makes me feel alive!
*Thank God for friends who pray!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hope

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him."  Psalm 62:5

Yesterday, as I worked outside in the flower beds, I was reminded of how God used flowers to prove a point to me earlier this year.  He made hope become real to me...in a way I will soon not forget.  Moses had the burning bush.  This is my story of the "blooming bush"...
This story starts almost 4 years ago, when we purchased our house and all the overgrown bushes and unkept flower beds along with it.  It was fall, so it was pretty much going to be a "wait and see what happens" kind of thing until spring brought out the best in all things outside.  Spring brought several surprises across the property...daffodils, crocus, irises, jasmine...I loved seeing the treasures pop up and show off their beauty.  Down by the garage, however, stood a bush all fall and winter long just as green and full as can be...surely it will bring a show of some sort come Spring.  Nope.  Didn't do a thing but stay green.  Thinking positively, I thought maybe the heat of summer would bring out blooms.  Again, nothing.  
Fall returned and while out preparing the flower beds for winter, I decided to just get rid of the bush.  I hacked the thing down to ground level and thought the cold months would get rid of my bush that never did anything.
It grew back, just as green and full as ever.  Well, since it's that hardy, maybe the pruning would bring flowers this year...not a chance.  Again, all four seasons came and went with the green bush just sitting there.  Thinking that maybe if I left it alone and didn't viciously hack it in the fall it would bloom.  Wrong...just a taller bush this time. 
Come fall, I hacked it down again.  It grew back again.  Didn't bloom again.  Stupid bush.     
Fast forward to fall 2009 (repeating same process each year with same results).  I consider the bush hopeless and am really in want of it to be gone for good.  No chance of digging it up (I tried) and no hope of anything but green leaves, I hacked it down to ground level again and wished it gone for good.  A very long, cold winter came to GA.  Faithfully, as anything could, it grew back.  I told myself, "Self, as soon as it's warm enough to be outside, go and trim it down and spray brush killer on it and be done."  
On a warm spring day, I am oustide down by the garage working on the camper and I remember my conversation with myself about getting rid of that bush.  I had been having a really hard day and really feeling hopeless about a situation I had been praying about and seemingly not getting any answer to.  A good bush beating would make me feel better.
I walk around the camper and something caught my eye...no way...pink blossoms?  What?!!  
That bush bloomed!  And, I find it on a day when hope seemed gone.  With tears in my eyes, I thanked God for the lesson He just provided me.  When I have given up on things, it doesn't mean He has.  If we would get everything we want when we want it, we miss out on God showing us His awesome timing in all things...even the littlest of things.
Ever since this lesson, hope rides high even with odds stacked against it at times.  I was thinking about my blooming bush one day and the verses in Hebrews 11:1-3...

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
(Yes, Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter, but hope has its place here too.) 
and Romans 8:22-27...
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
 I started to think about hoping for things and why we hope for them in the first place.  It's because we don't "have" them.  If we did, there'd be no reason to hope for them. 
And then I thought about when I wait for something for so long and once there, it disappoints.  Admit it, it has happened to you as well.  The wait was so much more exciting than the actual moment.  The hope of something brought joy and anticipation unmatched by the thing hoped for in the first place.  Maybe the thing I'm hoping for will not be as good in the end...maybe that's why I'm not "there" yet...maybe this isn't always such a bad thing to have to wait for them afterall.  Consider with me...if that bush had bloomed that very first spring the dramatic effect would have not been there.  The memorable lesson on hope and God's timing not happening in such a fashion to change my life...that would have been my loss for sure.  Now, when things seem hopeless, I am reminded that waiting is all part of God providing for me...His best in His time. 
My hope is in God first and foremost...and I thank Him often for the lesson he taught me through the "blooming bush"!    

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

whisper a prayer

In a just over a week, I will find myself once again on a plane to Alaska.  There's something just as exciting this third time around as there was on the previous two trips...an element of the unknown, I guess, helps keep it this way. 
I have to say that the greatest impact my mission trips to Alaska have had on me has been in my prayer life.  Prayer is powerful...not only for the ones being prayed for, but for those who praying.  Time and time again, God has answered the whispered prayers of my lips in most impressive ways.  God has shown Himself to be great, merciful, and a God of  "the little things in life" in the ways He has answered the prayers of His child who loves all things Alaska. 
Prayer has kept Alaska very real to my heart.  Those I've met, played with, served, I hold dear and pray for everyday.  And, for those who still need to hear about God's love and His Son, Jesus...pray that they hear the Truth from us and believe in the One true God. 
If you are reading this, I challenge you to whisper a prayer for the people of Alaska and for those serving on mission trips there throughout the year.  Pray for me this year as I go and serve on staff with GraceWorks for two weeks.  A new adventure awaits and I cannot wait to see how God is going to answer our prayers this year!
(please scroll down and pause the music before playing the video) 

7.4.2010