Thursday, December 16, 2010

J is for Jesus, E...Emmanuel, S-U-S!


Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
his name is called Emmanuel. 
God with us, revealed in us.
His name is called Emmanuel.

            His name is called Emmanuel and I met him on my first trip to Guatemala 2 years ago.  I wasn’t one of the original team members to go on this particular mission trip.  In fact I only decide to go at the last minute (which seems to be the only way I get to Guatemala sometimes!) One of the team members had to cancel the day before the team left.  That same snowy, frozen January day, my youth group was to leave for our weekend retreat. But after talking with my youth sponsors about the 4 inches of snow, rain and sleet on the roads we decided it was best that we not go on the retreat. So, I called the pastor to tell her we were canceling the retreat. I was expecting a little hesitation on her part but her response was, "Okay.  That’s fine. Do you want to go to Guatemala?”  
            I was standing in my kitchen with my jaw on the floor, my heart in my throat, and my brain doing cartwheels. I stood there wondering what it was that I was about to do… but I knew  well within my heart the answer.  Even though I was almost 30, I called my parents to tell them that I was leaving for Guatemala in the morning at 4:00a.m.! I ran around that day in the snow going to Target, trying to take care of missing classes at seminary which meant missing the first week of class—and my professors were NOT impressed with my new found opportunity!
            So there I was trying to re-organize my life to prepare for what was going to be a simple weekend retreat to preparing to go on a 10 day mission trip to Guatemala.  All in less than 18 hours!

            And so it was that I met Emmanuel.  Emmanuel was a young, hard working, Christian man who has worked for the National Methodist Church in Guatemala. Emmanuel was a vital person to the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) program in Guatemala.  Emmanuel was the experienced bus driver who works with all of the VIM teams.  He was a trustworthy, dependable, honest person who I, and many others, trust our lives with during mission trips.  Many teams from the U.S. request for Emmanuel to drive for their teams because he is trusted. You see….you had to be able to trust your bus driver in Guatemala with your life…. for many interesting things can happen on the journey.  So there we were on a six hour bumpy, dusty, bus ride down the winding dirt road to the village of San Juan Cotzal.  The roads were so steep that Emmanuel had even welded off part of his bus to accommodate the switchback roads.  Our team alone paid him $1800 to drive us, work with us, and be present with us for 10 days. He was funny, hard working, a joy to be around.
            During our time in Guatemala Emmanuel had spoken with a friend who told him that somebody else had been hired to drive the next four mission teams.  This did not make sense to Emmanuel because he had been working for the VIM office for three years and was told that this year he would be driving all the mission teams. Emmanuel had reason to believe that it was just a rumor that someone else had been hired. 
            On our last night in Guatemala, I saw Emmanuel at a table in the courtyard and from the way he was sitting I could sense there was something wrong.  As I approached Emmanuel, I could see he had been crying and I realized that his greatest fear came true. Emmanuel had been fired from his job of driving the mission teams.  
Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
his name is called Emmanuel. 

            Initially, this was devastating news to Emmanuel. This had been a great job.
I know that some of the details got lost in the translation, but I remember that Emmanuel lost his job because one of the pastors of the church owed somebody other than Emmanuel a favor. The pastor fulfilled this favor by firing Emmanuel and hiring a friend to drive the VIM teams. This left Emmanuel without a job and four kids and a wife to care for.  Emmanuel had been replaced….He felt depressed, discouraged, and disenchanted for there was nothing he could do to change the situation. Of course, my American way of doing things came from the point of view that said, “That’s not right! They can’t just fire you because they owe someone a favor.”  But, oh so humbly, Emmanuel said, “It’s okay…God is with me...”  
God with us, revealed in us.
His name is called Emmanuel.

Later that night at dinner,   I cried because I would be leaving the next day.  I cried because I had to leave a place where I had most fully experienced God’s presence in me and with me through the Guatemalan people….and especially in Emmanuel. And Emmanuel cried because he just lost his job. And Emmanuel said this….. “You cry because you have to leave.  I cry because I have to stay.”  And in that very moment, I knew God was with us.  I knew that the God who would give peace and comfort to Emmanuel was the same God that would give me peace and comfort; different people, different situations…. but the same God with us and revealed in us. 

 Because Emmanuel knew who HE was and whose he was, he was able to believe that everything will be fine….even though he had just lost his job.  He knew that his identity wasn’t wrapped up in a neat little package of being a bus driver.  He knew that what he did for a living didn’t solely define who he is…..
Emmanuel the bus driver taught me that when times are depressing, discouraging and disenchanting we find out who we are and we find out who Emmanuel the Christ child is.  We won’t find peace and comfort in the drama and chaos that all too often surrounds us and blinds us and prevents us from seeing Emmanuel--Christ child-- in the manger.  Emmanuel taught me that God is with us no matter what.  He taught me that we are never without God’s presence, power, and promise of the coming of the Christ child who never leaves us and   
Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
his name is called Emmanuel. 

The words of that hymn tell us who Jesus is…..We call Jesus by the name of Emmanuel….which does mean God with us.  I think that if we asked Jesus the same question the priests and Levites asked John, “Who are you?”  The simple answer from Jesus would be…I am Emmanuel….I am God with you. 

In this Advent season, we don’t have to simply wait for Jesus to be with us…for in Advent we discover that God comes to us in Jesus Christ who never abandons us, fires us from a job, or leaves us alone in foreign lands.  Emmanuel promises to be with us always:
            *even when a biopsy comes back positive
            *even when the money never seems to make it to the end of the month
            *even when the drama and stress feels like it will never end.
            *even when the days feel like they slip away like sand through the hourglass.
            *even when the gospel holy day of Christmas is all too often a consumer holiday

Advent is more than a journey to Guatemala or to the shopping mall. It is a journey to Bethlehem …we will be guided by the star that we find at the end of the journey…hanging there….just above the manger.  And that infant in the manger….that Christ child who is Emmanuel…..who is God with us….he will guide us on the journey…for many interesting things can happen along the way….…This journey to Bethlehem isn’t easy… was never meant to be easy.  We are challenged on the journey….challenged to testify to the power of Christ in our own lives….we are challenged to be prepared to know who are and we are challenged to proclaim to the world what Emmanuel is up to.  And that is exactly what Emmanuel the bus driver did.  In knowing who he is… he knows who Christ is…...he knows what it means to witness to Christ…..For being able to witness to Christ means being able to answer the question “who are you?”
            In our gospel lesson today John the Baptist was asked that same question……..The priests and Levites didn’t ask him, “what do you do”, but they asked him, “WHO are you?” Interestingly enough though….that in this Gospel According to John, John is never identified by the title of “the Baptist” he is just John and he knows who he is.  He knows who he is…he knows that he has one purpose and one purpose only……to witness to Emmanuel…the Christ child… who we meet along the journey.
            The journey will end and we will arrive at Bethlehem and somewhere, sometime, someplace along the journey you just might be asked, “Who are you?” 
            May you meet Emmanuel on your advent journey just as I met Emmanuel on my Guatemalan journey. 
Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
his name is called Emmanuel. 
God with us, revealed in us.
His name is called Emmanuel.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MVP #4

Greetings!!! This time tomorrow I'll know about the contest winners for the She Speaks contest and scholarships!!  You just never know......all I DO God is in control!! No worries!

I started reading a new book yesterday. I read two chapters! Now, don't think I've got all the time in the world to sit around and read. :) One...I could read two chapters because they are S-H-O-R-T!! :)  Just my speed! And two, I could read because Hannalee took a second nap (since she had been up at 4:45am there was enough time in the LOOOOOOONG day for a second nap) and I had JJ lay down for quiet reading time too!  So....I read!  This book is by Lysa TerKeurst and called, "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith."  So far her books are so practical, down to earth, fun reading and have short and easy Bible questions at the end of each 6 page chapter!!! Yes, 6 pages!!!  She's just my speed!  I think she has 5 kids!! That's why HER chapters are short!! Ha!!! :)  

She starts off describing the five phases of faith that go hand in hand with the five fundamental truths of God:

1) God has a plan for me.
2) God is with me.
3) God will make a way.
4) God isn't surprised by death (not only physical, but spiritual and dying to self and our own ideas)
5) God brings dreams to life.

Then she states the different ways Satan tries to kill your dreams and get in your way of following God. There are five phases of faith:

1) Leaving: in order to get to a new level of faith with God, you've got to leave behind the old.
2)Famine: In this new place, you'll realize your comfort zone is gone, and you'll learn to depend on God like never before.
3) Believing: You've always wanted to really believe God, but now your experience of Him becomes too real to deny.
4) Death: coming to the end of your ability to make things happen.
5) Resurrection: In a way only He could, God makes your dream come true.

A few notes that I underlined from her first chapter:

*God has a plan for you...a dream perhaps you can't even imagine.  Priscilla Shrirer calls it "beyond beyond."  God goes beyond your beyond.

* find great hope that God really can use any woman who surrenders her inadequacies and circumstances to Him.

* live the dream God has given you.

* unwrap the blessings of serving, loving, and enjoying the mundane at home.

* perspective is the key

* learn much by being faithful in little, everyday responsibilities and eventually God is able to entrust larger responsibilities.

* be willing to honor God NO MATTER WHAT!  doing the laundry, when feeling overwhelmed, when cooking meals, when disciplining kids,  honor God and do it with a grateful heart!  

* align my perspectives with God's and honor Him in great and small things.

* spend time in God's Word even when the to-do list seems more urgent.  Get filled with Him first so you can love and give and serve out of an overflow rather than relying on own strength.

*  choose to keep a good attitude

* God wants our obedience  (that is my new word....obey, obey, follow that stirring...)

* hold closely to the Lord.

So then, all this leads me to my MVP verse for the first two weeks of this month....
I love how Lysa pointed out the paradigm of this passage....satan will flee and God will draw close!!!  
Here's my verse:
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you! 
James 4:7-8

So then...what's YOUR verse?  Leave a comment below to share!  And don't forget to check back tommorrow to see who won the She Speaks contest and scholarships!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Public Pomp. Holy Circumstance.

This is a sermon I wrote and preached while I was at seminary in Kansas City.  I preached this on Palm Sunday...about 10 years ago.  Oh my! Ten years?????  WOW!  Seems like maybe 5 at the most!  Hope you enjoy....

Public Pomp. Holy Circumstance.
Throughout this Lenten journey of self-reflection and repentance, we have traveled with Jesus through many events since Ash Wednesday.  We have eavesdropped in on a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus late at night wondering what it means to be “born from above” and “born of the Spirit;” we’ve learned about the faith of the Samaritan woman at the well; and we’ve experienced Jesus resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. And now here on this Palm/Passion Sunday, we continue the Lenten journey as we hear from the Gospel according to Matthew how Jesus entered Jerusalem:
            “When they came near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage at the Mount of Olives………….”
            Those crowds, those disciples………….they look suspiciously like you and me; and that road looks suspiciously like Interstate 70.

Now,  I’ve never been to Jerusalem but I would expect, that in Jesus’ time, the road would have been crowded with holy people…….clerics and saints….people like Mother Theresa who would have kindness wrinkled in their faces and comfort lingering in their voices…….

But this!  This is more like rush hour….horns blowing, people rushing, arms waving, voices shouting…….this is not what I envisioned!    O God, we’ve only begun the way to Jerusalem and I fear we’ve already lost our way.  Surely this is not the road…….This Lenten journey calls for holy retreat, for reflection and repentance…….

But instead…..the highway is crammed with the cacophony of chaos; the parades, the shouting, the palms……Is there no back road to Jerusalem?  No quiet path where angels tend to weary travelers?  No sanctuary from the public pomp of the world?  Just this?!  Can this hectic highway full of public pomp be the highway to Jerusalem?  The highway to heaven?!  

Parades are usually about accomplishments and honor; about power and victory; all of which demands public recognition.   It sounds not unlike our own parades for heroes and for ceremonies of pomp and circumstance.  All types of ceremonies are of great wonder and great accomplishment.  But for Jesus…it’s different.

It’s different because Jesus conceives of human greatness in terms of service (20:25-28).  For Jesus, the parade is about service to one another; it’s about taking action in whatever way you can and by whatever means Jesus directs us to do.   His entry into Jerusalem, which is the center of power, is a prophetic sign of action and service.  The Roman Empire’s goal is to dominate……. but Jesus’ goal is to serve.
            And serve is exactly what those two disciples did.   Jesus sent them into the village to collect the donkey and the colt.    And they did just that!  They just went…..and went without the questioning!  And you know what I think is the best part of that?!   That Jesus prepared them!  Jesus provided for them!  Jesus told them exactly what to do “in case of an emergency.”   He said, “If anyone says anything to you, just say this…..  “The Lord needs them.”   Jesus anticipated that someone might think the disciples are odd or were out of sorts for taking the donkey and the colt………but Jesus gave them everything they needed in order to do the mission he asked them to do.  Jesus prepared them and provided for them.   Are we as faithful as they were to fully and to completely trust Jesus?  Would we be as willing as those two disciples to just go and collect the donkey and colt?  I would most likely stand there on the way to the village and question Jesus.    “Well, what donkeys?  Are you sure they are there?  How will I find them?  Are they just right there in plain sight or do I need to ask directions?”    I would definitely be one to question him.  Are we faithful enough to go where Jesus sends us and do what Jesus directs us to do?  I wonder, did what the disciples do make a difference?  On the surface, perhaps not.  All they did was bring a donkey and a colt to Jesus.  I wonder…………if Jesus knew where these animals were located why didn’t he go get them himself?   What does it mean that the disciples went to collect them for him?
*it meant that Jesus was able to enter Jerusalem with meekness and humbleness;
*it meant that he was not going to give in to the ways of the dominant culture;
But most of all, simply because the disciples did what Jesus asked them to do and did it with willing hearts, it meant that the disciples were serving the Lord; it meant that the disciples fulfilled what they were called to do.  Because the disciples had fulfilled what they were asked to do, Jesus was able to completely re-frame the whole meaning and purpose for his grand entry into Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is the place that is the center of all political, religious and social power. There you have Herod the king; the temple, the palace of the high priest, and the governor’s headquarters.  It’s a place filled with parades that are for kings who have great human achievements of power and victory.  So, for Jesus to be coming in on a royal animal in the form of a parade, Jesus is reframing the ways of the Roman Empire into the way of God’s empire. 
Could this have been possible had the disciples not fulfilled their mission?  Could Jesus have completely reframed a parade that is so important to the dominant oppressive and political powers without the help of the disciples?  I don’t think it would have worked if Jesus had to get the donkey’s himself and it wouldn’t have worked if Jesus simply walked into Jerusalem; for that is not reframing the dominant culture and turning it into a meaning which brings about God’s empire.  How is Jesus asking you to reframe your life in order to help bring about God’s empire?

Can it be as simple as bringing two donkeys to Jesus?......perhaps that exact opportunity won’t arise here in urban Kansas City, but we can learn a lesson from the disciples.....we can respond without questioning (though hard sometimes); we can simply follow through, with willing hearts, to fulfill what Jesus calls us to do and to be who Jesus calls us to be.  Those disciples look suspiciously like you and me.

Those  disciples quickly became a part of the larger crowd. The crowds on the way to Jerusalem are participating with Jesus in order to make fun of the elite in Jerusalem. They weren’t making fun of them because of their power or because they were the elite… was a “parody of parades” because those who normally participated in parades were opponents of God’s will and God’s empire.  Jerusalem, though a holy city, is a powerful and dangerous place.   “To be holy” means that something or someone is set apart for service to God.  The city, unfortunately, needs help from the disciples for the city is not living up to its name.   The crowd is poking fun at the empire and their royalty by cheering Jesus on as he comes in on a donkey and a colt. The public crowd has gathered around and is participating with Jesus in the triumphal entry and by doing this they are proclaiming that they are taking sides with Jesus.  They are willing to stand against the things that are opposed to God’s empire.  They are willing to shout out Hosanna’s and call Jesus the King.  This surely tells us at least one thing about Jesus!

 Jesus was a radical!  This is a very radical thing to do, to come riding into the holy city and to proclaim yourself as LORD, to come riding in on a donkey that represents royalty.  It’s an amazing scene as this parade that takes place from the rural countryside to the urban core of the city.  The crowd is with Jesus, they are siding with him, and they are willing to be radical with Jesus and for Jesus!  Who wouldn’t?!  We ourselves are with Jesus, we, though sometimes it’s challenging, we can be radical disciples as we follow Jesus.  It’s not easy being a disciple but they, and we, need to be willing to serve the Lord regardless of fears, questions or doubts.           This crowd is not a passive crowd; they are active and involved.  Pastor Lynn said a couple of weeks ago, “If you’re going to follow Jesus, you gotta be moving.”  Some of the crowds were walking ahead of Jesus.  Some were following from behind.  But they were all moving…. but what about those that aren’t mentioned in the scripture?……… remember….it’s a parade, a procession, there are those who were ahead of Jesus……those who followed Jesus…..who is not mentioned here?   What are they doing?  What are those people doing that aren’t in front of Jesus and aren’t behind Jesus?   Those people are just watching Jesus pass them right by……they are a part of the crowd…..but they are the ones who are just sitting back and watching Jesus walk right past them.  If you are going to follow Jesus, you gotta be moving.   They are pilgrims on the way to the holy city; look suspiciously like you and me.  Once the parade arrives into Jerusalem, the city is in turmoil asking,  "who is this?"   Who is this man that thinks he can come riding into town creating a parade of sorts?  Who is this man that causes people to shout hosannas?   Who is this man that causes people to say he is blessed and is to be praised?  The crowd that is moving with Jesus gives the right answer!  They are correct!  They claim that he is the prophet Jesus!  They know that he is from Nazareth in Galilee! They publicly proclaim the right answer!  In the midst of turmoil, they know Jesus and claim Jesus to be the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

So, what went wrong?  What went so terribly wrong between the parade of Hosannas of the day like today and the parade of resurrection on Easter?   What went wrong?   The crowd turned on him.  They were no longer shouting joyful Hosannas, but come Friday, they were yelling and screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  Are these the same disciples?  Are we still on the right road?    What went wrong?  Why did the very disciples that followed Jesus’ directions one day turn and join in with the crowd that was against him?   What about those disciples now?  Do they still look suspiciously like you and me?

We can’t just get from “Hosanna’s” this week to “Alleluia’s” next week without the horror of Friday.  We must know how to live between parades.  I by no means have the answers of how to live between parades.  That is between you and God.  We know what the disciples did on the day like today, and we know where they stood and what they yelled on Friday.  But for us, we don’t have to be the ones yelling on Friday.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again…we’ll deny Jesus, we’ll side with the wrong crowd, we’ll get caught up in the turmoil of a crisis and we’ll forget who we are and whose we are.   But it doesn’t have to be that way………….We can live each day with public pomp or we can live each day with holy circumstance.

With our hosannas sung and our palms branches waved, let us go with passion into this week, for on the darkest of days, each of us must stand beneath that tree and watch the dying if we are to be there when the stone is rolled away.

Only then will public pomp become true alleluias sung;
Only then will the true dancing of the parades be exalted.

Then, and only then, begins the holy circumstance; holy, consecrated, and belonging to God. There is no back road to Jerusalem for the only road to Easter morning is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday. The public pomp is over now and holy is the week.  So I ask, how will you live between parades?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

S.H.E. S.P.E.A.K.S.

The other day I posted about my first mission trip to Guatemala I mentioned a contest I am entering through a ministry of Proverbs 31.  You know my new favorite author, writer and speaker is Lysa TerKeurst (see her blog link to the right).  For me, she just may surpass Beth Moore (GASP!!) I said "may" ladies…MAY!   I first heard Lysa speak earlier this month in Tulsa at the Extraordinary Women conference. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and every year they put on an event called "She Speaks."  

This is a rather impressive, and expensive, conference in North Carolina.  In the readings and prayers that I've been doing lately, I keep finding the Lord stirring my soul…stirring my heart to continue to seek and do His will for my life.  I've recently finished reading Lysa's book "The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained: How to Deal with Mommy Stress."  I thought…"Hey! I've got stories like hers!  I've been to seminary and been a missionary and  a preacher."  So I thought I'd get out some of my old writings and sermons and re-visit them and have been posting them here on my blog.  (See links to the lower right about what I've posted already.)

Here is a little bit about why I want to win the scholarship for the She Speaks Conference and what She Speaks is about. Please click around, follow the links, and read my stories. I've used the letters for SHE SPEAKS as an acronym for why I want to win the scholarship, go to the conference and what She Speaks is about.  Thanks for reading and thanks for glimpsing into my heart.  

Stirring…that is how I know God is talking and working within me…I've got that "stirring." In the process of revisiting my call story and old sermons, I've found that "stirring" again. I know what happens when I get that feeling….it means change is coming, God is working, and we'd all better hold on for the ride.  Remember the Bolivia call story and Guatemala? I’m just sayin'…. Someone asked at the EWomen's conference in Tulsa, "how do you know that the Spirit is talking to you?"  Her answer was that it is either an "uh-huh"  or an "uh-oh."  It's that feeling when you just know. I call it a stirring.  She Speaks conference describes it as a "tug at your heart."  She Speaks is about sharing your stirrings; sharing the stories God has laid on your heart with those around you to lead them closer to Jesus.  
Heart of God.  We all want to live in the presence of the heart of God.  How's the song go…"come and make my heart your home."  That's what I see as my goal in every writing and every Bible study I write and lead...for others to be led to the heart of God.  I think this conference could help me develop that more uniquely.
Encourage and equip women.  This is what the She Speaks conference is about and this is one reason why I would love to be able to attend….how nice to be encouraged and equipped so I could come back home and do the same in my church and town and state!

She Speaks conference is in Concord, North Carolina on July 30-August 1!  Any place in late July has got to be a tad "cooler" than Oklahoma, where the famous song has a line that says, "where the wind comes sweeping down the plains." Forty mile an hour winds, 105 degrees, and 95% humidity in July is reason enough for me to be willing to travel half way across the country for the conference.
Peace, perspective, and purpose.  The mission of She Speaks Conference is to bring God's peace, perspective, and purpose to busy women.  Can I get an amen, sisters?!  Proverbs 31:26 states, "She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue."  There is only one way to do that my friends and that is with God's peace, perspective and purpose!  Amen? Amen!
Every generation is welcome at the conference!   This conference is for any speaker, writer, or women's ministry leader of all ages. They even have a track for young teenage writers.  What an exciting opportunity to gather together an eclectic group of women from numerous walks of life!
Apply God's Truth to every area of your life.  When I wrote the WOW Bible study, "Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible" last fall for my church, I found myself constantly challenging the ladies to make it real to their lives.  I tried to teach them how to observe the Scripture, interpret it and then to apply it to their daily lives.  What a blessing they were to me!  But now what do I do with that material?  God placed that ministry on my heart…what's next?
Kids.....I love my children...they are a gift from God and that I get to stay home and be with them is a blessing! They are also why it has taken three days to write this post and be creative about it!!  I'm writing between fixing french toast, doing a load of laundry, pushing "play" so we can watch Handy Manny and feed the dog! But my husband and I are committed to doing God's will for our lives not only for our own spiritual lives, but for our children. One of Proverbs 31 principles is that they work with and encourage women so as to"nurture the next generation, shaping and molding the children who will one day define who we are as a community and as a nation."And that is why Dusty and I are so committed   about raising our children in a Godly home.  Yes, there are dirty dishes, dirty floors, and dirty clothes. But I want to spend any time that I can becoming the woman God  created me to be so that I can teach that to my children!
Seeking to explore the calling on my life.  My calling is still there. It doesn't go away…even if you try to ignore it.  But it has changed and grown, and morphed, and been lived out many different ways over the years.  Maybe this is something new that God is leading me in; in the direction of more intentional women's ministry, more speaking, more leading.  Driving four hours home from Tulsa a couple of weeks ago I didn't turn on the radio.  God didn't let me.  He wanted to know how willing I was to obey Him…that was the question He placed upon my heart.  It might have been a simple thing as not turning on the radio.  But it was more than that.  It was being willing to do what God has placed before me.  How willing am I? Willing enough to enter a contest, that numerous other women far more gifted and talented than I, are entering as well.  Willing enough to obey His tug at my heart.  Willing enough to be vulnerable with my faith stories and to share them. So ask the question, "How willing are YOU?" 

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Face of God

I have a friend from my Up with People touring days that is in Guatemala right now.  He posted on Facebook last night about the small village in which he was visiting and doing service work. He said it sounded as if every church were giving a rock concert with Christian music...they are all in full swing with preparations for Holy Week. And let me tell is the highlight of the year there.  

While I was reading his post about Guatemala I found myself immediately transported to being back to Guatemala myself and remembering my very first mission trip to the small village of San Juan Cotzal. My heart swelled with fond memories only to be followed by tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  The Holy Spirit led me to lifting that village, and several others that I've lived in, in prayer and laying their names at the foot of the Cross.

If you know me, there is a "God Story" about how in the world I ever ended up in Guatemala in the first place.  It could be due in part to the fact that on my third, and final trip, to Bolivia (the one where I had my appendix taken out, the same trip where the team was robbed at gun point, and the SAME trip when there was an earthquake) my father told me "that you  had better get one last good look  because you are never going back!"  I haven't been to Bolivia since.  Guatemala became my new "home away from home!"   And how I love it!   Let me share a story with you that I wrote several years ago after that first mission trip that I went on while in seminary in Kansas City. 

(If you like my stories, be sure to click on the link here (and my next post) to read about a contest that I'm entering to win a scholarship to a She Speaks Conference with Proverbs 31 Ministries.)

Where Have You Seen the Face of God?

I think I sang, or whistled, or hummed a song everyday while we were in Guatemala.  Everyday except for one! 

I wasn't one of the original team members to go on this trip.  At the last minute, one of the team members had to cancel the day before the team left.  That same snowy day, my youth group was leaving for our "2000 Ways to Sing God's Praise" weekend retreat.  But after talking with sponsors about the 4 inches of snow, rain, and sleet on the roads, we (and God) decided I had better cancel the retreat.

So I called the senior pastor to let her know about this change of plans.  Her response was, "Okay.  That's fine. Do you want to go to Guatemala?" I was standing in my kitchen with my jaw on the floor, my heart in my throat, and my brain racing like crazy.  I was wondering what it was that I was about to do but knowing well within my spirit the answer.  Even thought I am almost 30, I called my parents to tell them that I was leaving for Guatemala in the morning at 4:00am! I ran around that Friday in the snow going to Target, trying to take care of missing classes in seminary, and trying to reorganize my life from going on a simple weekend retreat with the youth to now going on a ten day mission trip to Guatemala...all in less than 18 hours!

I knew about this mission trip for the past 6 months I've been working at this church and I never once planned on going to Guatemala.  Which is interesting because I speak Spanish, used to live in Bolivia, and I love Latin America.  But this trip never seemed like an option. I had planned on a weekend retreat with the youth and I had planned on being in classes in seminary.  Going on this trip just didn't seem like it would work out...according to MY plans.  Of course I am quickly reminded of the passage in Jeremiah 29:11, "for surely I know that plans I have for you, they are not to harm you, but to give you a future with hope."

I left with the mission team Saturday morning for Guatemala.  On Sunday, while on our 6 hour bumpy bus ride down a a narrow, twisty-turny road to San Juan Cotzal, I had a conversation with God.  Not about the road especially, but I just began to wonder why this trip? Why now? What does this mean for my ministry?

Monday night we had a "song fest" after our devotion and sang for a couple of hours.   I went to bed Monday night with a song in my heart and Spirit in my soul.  The next day was Tuesday, and as I woke up, I remember very distinctly that God told me NOT to sing, hum, or even whistle that day.  Which is a very hard thing for me to do.  But God has really placed silence upon my heart that morning. God wanted me to be still and to listen (Psalm 46:10).

I was so quiet that everyone thought I was sick or that there was something wrong because I wasn't singing or laughing.  But I knew that I had to be quiet so God could  tell me something. I was standing in the concrete block window of the church we were building, standing on two pieces of plywood board gingerly laid across two columns of cement blocks for support, I paused for a moment. As I looked out across the beautiful landscape of lush, green  mountains, I saw the face of God in the people of the village below.  The beauty was overwhelming to me and the simple way of life was humbling.  They way the women carry water buckets on their heads, the way the children play with sticks, and the way the men carry firewood tied up in bundles on their backs  were ways they showed me the face of God.

It was in that very moment that God spoke to me in my silence.  In my heart I heard God say, "This is your calling."  In the full sun of the day, with a cool breeze on my face, I stood in the grace of God in that window in that humble church.  I felt completely renewed in my calling for ministry, which seems to have been forgotten in the activities of daily living, work, and seminary.  It was as if God sent me to Guatemala to get me away from my busy life just long enough for me to remember that God calls each one of us to be still and to listen.  

I stood in the church window while tears dripped off my face and landed onto the cement I was trying so diligently to make smooth. Through the faces of my Guatemalan brothers and sisters, God simply and quietly used my mission trip to Guatemala to gently remind me to be still and to listen. Yes, I saw the face of God there.  God renewed my heart, my spirit, my soul, and my mind..."be still and know that I am God."  

Where will you see the face of God today?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cochabamba, Bolivia

The day I left for Bolivia, I was probably the only person in the Miami International Airport that was praying they didn't see their luggage in the baggage claim area. Miami was the third airport I had been in that day and my luggage was supposed to be going on my next flight with me to Cochabamba, Bolivia, South America. Since I had a four hour lay over in Miami, I decided to check the baggage claim area to make sure my luggage wasn't taken off the plane and left in Miami.

In three big, blue plastic containers, one big duffel bag with wheels, and one well-traveled suitcase, I had packed everything I could anticipate needing for the next ten months to teach English in a third world country. The Volunteers in Mission program through the United Methodist church put me in contact with a school run by the Methodist Church of Bolivia. 

The city of Cochabamba sits in a valley between the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 8,400 feet. The school I worked and lived at, Instituto Americano, has 5,000 students. In the morning, there are approximately 2,000 students in grades pre-k thru 12. The school is private and those students pay tuition. In the afternoon, the school is open to the public and there are approximately 3,000 students and the government provides their education. The grounds of the school are covered with flowers, green lush grass, huge old, palm trees, pine trees with red berries, and beautiful poinsettia trees with deep, dark red flowers. 

I taught three English classes in the mornings and five classes in the afternoons. My students taught more more Spanish then than I could ever remember learning in high school. They learned the colors, the numbers 1 to 30, the days of the week, the alphabet, approximately 40 vocabulary words, some animals, and memorized a book, and a song or two...all in English. 

There were times I was amazed that I was living in a third would country. I looked at the teeth of my children and they were rotted out and black. Women and children pounded laundry in a sewage-choked river and lay the clothes on rocks and branches to dry. People wore clothes that were three sizes too big because that's all they had. Other people sat on street corners to beg for money. Nothing tugged at my heart and soul more than a motherless, seven year old street kid who would hold out this small, frail hand begging for a penny or two. Old, dead palm trees were used as brooms. Some people ate soup with their dirty, filthy, black, calloused hands because they didn't even have a spoon. I saw moms breast feed their three year olds because they couldn't afford food. Toilet paper was expensive and used by very few people.

Business men and politicians strutted around the plaza wearing their crisp, white dress shirts that were scrubbed by the day before by their servants. The military men and policemen carried clubs and sometimes tear gas and machine guns. Old ladies carried groceries and children in colorful, handwoven blankets wrapped around their necks. Some people made $25 a month working for the government. They were truly barely surviving. But then, on the other hand, I had email, could send my parents a fax, and saw the separation of the classes while the rich were driving VW bugs, Toyotas, Hondas, Explorers, and even BMW's. Bolivia is definitely a country of injustice where the government and rich people take advantage of the poor and treat them like slaves and servants.

I learned to look at the world with third world eye and gained a greater appreciation for my home, my life, my country, my language, and my education. The year I traveled in Up with People, I saw what American didn't have in comparison to Europe. While in Bolivia, I saw what American has and how fortunate America is in comparison to Bolivia and other third world countries.

I loved where I was and I loved what I did. For some reason, I knew that God sent me there and I always knew I had a calling to work and live in the mountains. I just thought it would be Colorado and never dreamed it would be Bolivia! Living in another culture was a challenge and brought new experiences everyday. Whether it was the craziness of the traffic and taxi drivers, to the government wanting to won more than they should; the prices of things; my students and their love; or the way they sold things on the streets and at the market...there was something or someone that made me smile and I would shake my head in amazement. Each day was a new day and I loved my life and truly had a sense of inner peace. Though we are from different hemispheres, different countries, different cultures, and speak a different language we al still have the same common, basic needs in order to survive life. We just have a different way about meeting those needs and need to learn to respect those differences.

I've always wondered why God created so many different languages and cultures. After traveling in Up with People, and having lived in Bolivia, I have begun to realize that if we were all the same we would fail to see the beauty in others' lives and life wouldn't be a challenge. The story in Genesis, "The Tower of Babel," has more relevancy to me now, more than ever. For some, differences in race, religion and culture cause arguments and hatred, that have even led to war. Those are the unenlightened who fail to see why God made us different and life hard. If life were easy and we had everything we thought we needed, we wouldn't have any difficult times when we need to turn to God and trust in Him.

Every time I had to face something new and hard in Bolivia, I said to myself, "G.B.W.M." God be with me. My faith and trust grew a lot during those long, hard, fearful yet peaceful, months...simply because God didn't make us all the same. And for that I am thankful!

For the Sake of the Call

My "call" story about how I ended up in Bolivia:

There is a song by Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, called, "For the sake of the call."  The song talks about how Jesus had called his people to be his followers.  After Jesus had called them, they answered in the song, "we will abandon it all, for the sake of the call. Not for the sake of a creed or a cause, not for a dream or a promise.  Simply because it is Jesus who calls; if we believe, we'll obey.  We will abandon it all, for the sake of the call." 

And so my to ministry story began in a cell phone store! Seriously!  I was in a store one day asking about new cell phones.  The salesperson told me that I would have to sign a one year contract.  I remember hearing a voice in my heart that said, "you won't be here in a year." (Now keep in mind that I had just spent a year traveling over 40,000 miles with Up with People and I had no plans of going anywhere!) So I left the store telling them thank you for their time, but somehow knowing I was not going to be getting a new cell phone.

I got in my car and began to drive aimlessly; or so I thought.  I found myself driving to somewhere unknown.  It was as if my car was driving itself, had a mind of its own, and was taking me to a place I needed to be.  I began laughing to myself and really wondered where I was going.  I found myself taking my old route that I traveled to get to classes when I was in graduate school at Oklahoma City University.  I didn't go to the education building though.  At this time, I still hadn't realized where I was going.  Next thing I knew I was parked at the conference office of the United Methodist Church.  I sat there wondering what I was supposed to do next.  I then felt like my angel was sitting on my shoulder (like she has many times before) and whispering, "Go see Larry."  Now mind you, at the time, I did NOT know who Larry was.  So, I went inside and asked the receptionist where his office was.  The longer I sat there I realized, after reading brochures and signs on doors, that Larry was the Director of the Volunteers in Mission program.  While I waited I read some information about different mission trips coming up in the spring and summer.  Most were for ten days longs. I felt that wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. "No," I thought to myself, "that's not enough."

I sat in Larry's office and talked with him for over two hours that day.  Through our conversation we realized that he had been my church camp counselor ten years earlier.  After reminiscing, Larry asked me how he could help me.  I said that I honestly didn't know what I was doing there….but that I was just led by the Spirit to his office.  So Larry proceeded to tell me about several different mission projects that I might be interested in.  I remember the word "Sarajevo" and "Bolivia" coming out his mouth…..honestly….neither sounded like options at the time.  But he told me more about the mission and schools and I said, "I think I want to go to Bolivia to teach."   Larry immediately replied, "can you leave in a week?"  My head shook "yes" while my mouth said "no."  I laughed.  He didn't.  Seeing the concern on my face, he mentioned Bosnia again.  I immediately got back on the topic of Bolivia.  It at least hadn't been on national news recently!  I left his office that day in tears but yet full of excitement and hope.

I stopped by a travel store after leaving Larry's office to find a video about Bolivia.  Much to my surprise, the couple that owned the store had just returned from a trip….to Bolivia!! I could not believe it.  Then they asked me if I had seen the newspaper that day.  I don't take the paper but when I got to my apartment, there was a newspaper….on my front door step! The front cover was a picture and article about a lady missionary…in Bolivia! So I knew God was trying to get my attention.  

Two nights later I was lying in bed praying  to make a decision about what I should  with my life.  The Steven Curtis Chapman song kept going through my mind like a prayer.  I truly opened my mind and heart and was willing to listen to God. I remember the very words I prayed, "God…you are going to have to tell me what to do." It was as if God's voice  had called to me, "You have to go.  You have to serve the church."  It was my calling.  A big bell doesn't ring.  It doesn't come in a fax or an email.  It was simply God's voice calling to me.  I sold my car, packed everything I owned into my dad's barn on the farm I had grown up on, quit my job, and left for Bolivia ten days later.   

Random Thoughts

I've been reading a lot lately......considering that I have 2 small children and not much's "a lot" to me! :) I've finished Beth Moore's book, "So Long Insecurity" and I've now finished a book by Lysa TerKeurst called, "The Tub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained." I've found the blogs of wonderful Christian writers and speakers at Proverbs 31 Ministries. These Christian women writers are amazing...and it made them think...I used to write...I used to write quite a bit.  My mother has been telling me for 15 years to write a book someday!  Someday....?

And now...I think in the past 5 years...I've written little more than a thank you note or shopping list.  :)  And these women...they have jobs, they have families, they travel the nation as guest speakers, and write books and blogs!   I've been joking that I want to be Beth Moore when I grow up.  But I'd better just be who God created ME to be.  One of the books I've been reading is about Discovering God's Dream for Your Life by Julie Clinton, president of Extraordinary Women.  And its made me think again...   Hum.......who am I?  Who am I that God wants me to be?   

So I've not written a lot lately....but I thought I'd post some old writings and old sermons.  It might spark a new flame, I might inspire myself, and it might give me some fresh perspective on God's dream for me.....His will for my life.  That's always our prayer......some call it a dream; we pray for His will, but I just might understand it as "a calling."  So when I get a chance....HOPEFULLY today...I'll type out my "call story" and about how I ended up in Bolivia.  Stay just might laugh...or cry....  :)  

Friday, March 12, 2010

March Catchup

Here we go  What blog?

Okay...since I've been convicted by my husband, and the Holy Spirit, I'm back to blogging again...for today anyway.  I know....this time....just lazy.  argh! AND....then I think...hey....none of my MVP's even wrote to me wondering where I's just get back on track to holding one another accountable.  :)

In my devotional today, from a book by Julie Clinton (President of Extraordinary Women) and author of, "Discovering the Dream God Created for You," the devotion was about being faithful in the small things, and God will entrust more to you as you mature and grow in your faith!  So, if I'm EVER going to become the next Beth Moore I'd better at least keep up with my blog! ha!!!!!!!

And a side note here....I went to the Extraordinary Women (EWomen)  worship and conference last weekend with my best friend from college. We had a good time and we knew God showed up!!  We got to hear Chonda Pierce (hysterical), Karen Kingsbury (a tear-jerker), Mandisa from American Idol (she was NOT meant to win that...THIS praise and worship singing is her calling!) and  Lysa TerKeurst  After Beth Moore, Lysa just might be my new favorite!!! Just reading the book "The Bathtub is Overflowing, but I'm Drained--surviving mommy stress!"  Is anyone out there?  Can I get a witness????  :)  So having said all scripture for these next two weeks.... is from the parable of the talents:

Matthew 25:21 -- 
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"

Monday, February 1, 2010

MVP #3

Happy February!!!!!   

I barely have electricity... so this will be short!!!  It will go off during the day for them to work on it and they'll turn it back on at night to warm us up!!  That's what we are hearing for now...and that might NOT apply to our exact line...but its been I'm holding on!! At least laundry is caught up and sheets are almost dry.  Its a race against the lights!!! :)  

Our sermon yesterday was about prayer.  so that is where I'm taking my verse from this time.  Oh its a long one.....shoot!  Okay...I can do it!!!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."   Philippians 4:6-7

Okay...your turns! :)  

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Family Pic

Just a fun family pic to post for a bit!  

This was at JJ's 4th birthday party -- 
Lighting McQueen of course from the movie Cars!

Friday, January 15, 2010

MVP Verse 2

Here we are!!!!!!   I just know that verse 1 is memorized in your heart and you are ready to use it in the coming year for good!!   You'll be ready to roll those words off your tongue for yourself and your friends and family by the power of the Holy Spirit at the most needed moment!

How did you do with your first verse?  What was helpful to you to keep memorizing it?  Did you like Beth Moore's RENEW?  I just like HER! :)  As we were memorizing verse 1, I've also been working on putting together a Bible study called "How to Read the Bible."  I've created these daily homework sheets on how to work through reading a Scripture.  It's a 5 week class that I've put together and have even made each person a three ring binder with all the stuff in it.  I thought I needed to make a "sample" lesson already done for them to show them how to work through the daily reading charts.  And so I used my verse from this week to do a little exegesis on.  I just thought I had found a "neat little verse" about serving God.  But oh my!!!!! When I read the whole chapter that my verse is had a whole new meaning to me!  This was my verse (from memory)  :)  

"It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere.  Keep His commands and obey; serve Him and hold fast to Him!"  Deuteronomy 13:4

But the whole context of this verse is about not listening to false prophets and not worshiping other gods.  The end of the chapter even states that they (the believers) are to STONE TO DEATH those who do choose to follow false prophets and worship false gods.  Little did I know what I got myself into when I choose that verse.  But I'll remember it now....for fear of being stoned to death! ha!

So....chime did you do?  What did your first verse teach you? What did you learn about God's Word in memorizing your verse?  Post your Scripture (by memory?!!) in a comment below and then tell us what your new verse is!!!!!!!

This is mine:  "Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5.  I chose this in hopes that it will be a sense of helping me be centered in teaching the Bible study in the coming weeks.  (gulp!)

Your turn!! Come on you MVP's!!! You are great! Don't you just love toting around your spiral cards with Scripture on them and glancing at them at a stop light?  waiting in line to pick up kids?  before you get out of the car at Walmart?   I hope they are worn slick and well used by the end of the year!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Has nothing to do with MVP...just changed the background on the blog because I'm cold!!!!!!!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Color Codes

Now don't think I'm the one that dreamed up the color coding thing.  I didn't.  I wish...but I didn't.

This last fall I did an INDEPTH Kay Arthur Bible Study....she is the color coding queeeeeeen!  So, from my new Bible I bought for my husband to give me for Christmas, this is her "cheat sheet" on color coding. Noooooo, don't get bogged down in this part of it....just didn't want to take credit for the idea so I thought I'd share this as a resource.  DO NOT GET BOGGED DOWN IN COLOR CODING!! It is not required! :)  It just helps me..... AND...I'm just sharing.  I like it. Thought someone else might too!!This is from her (Kay Arthur) Inductive Bible Study method.....

Verse 1 part B I've been TRYING to memorize this.....let's see...without looking....

"It is the Lord your God who you must follow, and him you must revere.
Keep His commands and obey; (thinking........) serve him and hold fast to him!!!!!"  

Shew!  I've been working on it....its taken a lot of looking and reading it over and over...I've really meditated on it and thought about how it all connects.  I had to think about it alphabetically too...its the teacher in me....I had to remember that "IT" would come before the word "KEEP" alphabetically.  Then I color coded it all with colored pencils.  Here....look........

The words in yellow are all about God..."the Lord" and even the pronouns that refer to the Lord... even highlighted the word "him" and "his"because it refers to the Lord.  

The words in red are who its is written to... "YOU"   ......

Interesting to count how many times there are yellow markings and how many times there are only red markings.  To means that IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.....its about God!!! :)  

The words in blue are about "me" and what I am supposed "to do" ....according to this verse.  This just helps me think about it visually and in my head.  THEN...after I colored those words in blue I noticed a list....look here:

Nothing like a list to shorten all the words down.... to meditate on and hold to heart.

You MUST: follow, revere, keep, obey, serve and hold fast....TO HIM!

Now that I should be able to work with....its not about solely memorizing....its about meditating on it in your heart and REALLY looking at the Scripture.....not just what it says...but what it means and how it really applies to you.  For me...this is great! I'm learning.  I'm thinking.  I listening to the Word.   

Keep practicing...find a method or technique that helps you memorize too. I love Beth's idea to help me get it help me find one that works for help me even begin to work on the memory part.  I've written this on the inside cover:

Keep on!! You are doing great!!

Time to get ready for Spanish lessons at 4:00!