Sunday, November 23, 2014

Enter By the Proper Way

It is illegal for someone to enter your house without permission, right? And if someone enters your house without permission, it is usually called "breaking and entering" or, at the least, "trespassing", correct? Even if you know the person (family, close friends), he or she still has to have permission to enter your house. (Unless, of course, the police have a search warrant, or a firefighter is trying to save someone from your burning house, or an EMT is trying to get in to administer treatment...and even then, there is some form of legal permission that is granted). And usually those with permission to enter your house enter by the proper way, the door. So, why, then, can anyone come into the U.S. (house) by any means (not always a door, even without permission (passport, other documentation, etc.)? Even U.S. citizens (legal tenants in the house) who leave this country by the proper ways (airports, ground checkpoints, sea checkpoints...a.k.a. "doors") HAVE TO COME BACK INTO THE U.S. BY THE PROPER WAYS (checkpoints, airports, etc., "doors") AND WITH THE PROPER PERMISSION (passports, etc.). What? It doesn't make sense to me. I think it's neat that people from other countries want to visit, live, and work here in the U.S.; I enjoy visiting their countries, too, and wouldn't mind living in some of them. However, there is a proper, in order, legal way of doing these things. I would get arrested for entering someone's house without permission, illegally, right? And I wouldn't even want to do that, let alone enter another country without permission. I understand that some people want to live in the U.S. for an opportunity for a better life, but there are still proper, in order, legal ways to do things. And, a note to all those the previous sentence applies to: you will never find a better life if you do not know Christ. And, along those lines, if the U.S. doesn't turn to Christ/back to Christ, then the this "house" will crumble...and probably sooner than later. (No Christ, no order.)
[The "random" things the Holy Spirit causes me to think about in Sunday School. And thanks to Him for reminding me by using the video I share before this post.]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Overall Reflections from Mexico Missions Trip 2014

While finishing up putting things away from unpacking, gathering pictures to put in one place to be available to everyone, and doing some of the day-to-day things around the house, I’ve been reflecting on our time in Mexico. Before the trip, I wasn’t sure what all God was going to have me do, or what my “specific” purpose on the team was—I just knew God wanted me to go.

As we traveled to the guesthouse in Texas, and as I was talking with Jesus, I told Him I wanted to come back changed.  This being my third missions trip, I’ve learned not only to expect God to do amazing things on the trip, but to allow Him to do something in me, as well. That was my expectation for Mexico—and I was not disappointed.

Yes, we did various forms of ministry such as door-to-door visitation in the neighborhoods around the ministry compound; VBS using various skits,   songs, and crafts; feeding people and ministering to families at the hospital; praying for people; etc. Interestingly enough, though, none of these have been at the top of my list of highlights of the trip. Nor are they considered catalysts for the “changes” that are beginning/continuing to take place.

What stands out to me are some things that may get overlooked on a missions trip and one thing that caught me by surprise.

First of all, I was amazed and thankful the entire trip—who gets to do stuff like this?! Who gets to ride ten hours in a 15-passenger van through the countryside and mountains of Mexico? Who gets to ride a horse up and down one of the mountains in an old silver mining town in Mexico? Who gets to meet and work with brothers and sisters from New York, Seattle, Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, and Mexico all at the same time while in Mexico? Who gets to go scorpion hunting at night in Mexico and critter hunting in the middle of the night in Texas?  And all in the midst of a missions trip.  Seriously, who gets to do this stuff?!

The entire time I was blown away by the opportunities King Jesus gave me during the trip.  And it’s just like how I’m amazed every time I set foot on our mission...I mean, softball...field.

Secondly, I enjoyed all the joy and laughter that was part of this trip. I roomed with Sophia and three girls from New York (Victoria, Makayla, and Jen [Makayla’s mom, associate pastor’s wife]) while in Mexico, and one night, while trying to go to sleep, we all started laughing and could not stop for at least a half an hour. I had tears streaming down my face while trying to hold back the laughter that was preventing me from falling asleep. Then, another night our Mikalah, Sophie, and I had another laughing fit on the roof of the ministry compound in Mexico. 

The guys also had a few of these fits of laughter. Once back at the ministry guesthouse in Texas, many were swimming in the pool and Zech, Sam W., Sam K., and Jacob were laughing hysterically. I don’t know how it began, but I know it continued with those four trying to remember some goofy stuff Jacob had said during the day. I have seen those guys laugh a lot before, but I had never seen or heard them laugh that hard. It was great.

Thirdly, I loved how there were three different teams—New York, the Dayspring team, and ours—yet we all worked together as one team; we were one team.

It reminds me of how the Godhead has three personalities, so to speak: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet, they are One God. Each of our teams had different personalities and callings; yet we were one team with one calling. I’m not even sure if one could tell we were three different teams if they didn’t know it. And that’s what happens when all involved have been praying and seeking God’s will.

Now for what caught me off guard. During the week I watched everyone, and my attention was drawn to Pastor Jeff, Les, Zech, Roger (Dayspring), Tavo (Dayspring), Dennis (Dayspring), Travis (New York pastor), and Joe (New York youth leader)—the married guys. Some were able to experience the week with their wives, while a few were not able to do so. In any case, I was like, “Lord, I want to do this kind of stuff with my husband. When do I get to get married?”

I wasn’t (and still am not) whining or complaining; simply asking. The desire has always been there, but I didn’t expect the longing to surface during this trip. And yet, it makes total sense. What comes to mind are lyrics to the song, “Spirit and the Bride” by Tom Dickson, Mercy/Vineyard publishing.    

Deep within, there’s a fire that can’t be quenched
A love for You as strong as death 
Hear us Lord,
the longing of our hearts  
is to be where You are, not apart 
We feel You near, Your presence all around us 
Oh, Lord we want to see Your face 
So take us away 
The Spirit and the bride
cry out to You 
Lord, we cry out to You 
Come quickly 
We long for the day when we will see Your face 
We long to be with You 
Come quickly 
And breathe on us until You come 
Breathe on us until You come 

I long to always be with Christ, my One True Love, my Bridegroom; and He patterned earthly marriage after our relationship with Him. So, why wouldn’t I long to be with that man of God that is going to be my husband when the Holy Spirit has placed that desire in my heart? Why wouldn’t I want to experience all God has for me with my future husband? And what do I do in the mean time?

What do I do? I keep seeking Christ—His Word, His plan, Him. I keep talking with Him about everything, and praying for that guy who will one day be my husband.

Okay, so by now you may be wondering, “What about how God changed your life? You’ve mentioned everything but that.” I haven’t told you about everything, but as for what God is doing in me, well, let’s put it this way:
¨ I want to always be healthy, fit, strong, and ready to go wherever God wants me to go and do what He wants me to do—even if it’s just walking out my own front door.
¨ I want to be able to pack everything I need for travel in a carry-on bag—it’s easier to be ready that way, and easier to travel.
¨ I want to always be willing to go wherever, yet “content” to stay and serve, as well.
¨ I want to learn to serve better and more, and actually put it into action.
¨ I want to always be hungry for Christ and His Word—because, as we know, we can never get enough of Him; yet He is enough.
¨ I want to continue to always have my passport up-to-date, and always know where it is. My Spiritual one, as well—I am an ambassador of the King, after all.

(Oh, and one more thing. I did make a few animal friends, too. I found a katydid, Les found a huge moth for me, and Sophia found cave cricket for me—all of which I held. I also held Ralf, a puppy friend. He’s more of Joe’s buddy, though.)

[There will be more explanations, stories, and pictures in the near future. The above is an article I wrote for our church newspaper.]

Monday, May 5, 2014

Proud To Wear A Uniform

 I enjoy wearing my softball uniform--a lot. It's not just one of the many baseball/softball shirts I own that supports another team or the sports in general. It's a uniform I wear because I am actually on a sports team--the M.C.E. Ambassadors, my church's adult co-ed slow pitch softball team. I remember how I always loved watching my brother play baseball while we were growing up, and how I always thought it would be cool to wear a sports uniform. (I didn't realize this in 2nd grade while playing softball, or even in middle school when playing my one year of soccer.)

To me, uniforms mean something. They mean you are identified with an organization of some kind; you are part of a team. The teams are numerous and can vary greatly. Uniforms are part of the military, some schools, jobs, bands, choirs, sports teams, girl scouts, boy scouts, support teams, etc. Involvement levels of teams vary, as well: spectator, wanna-be, fan club, boss, employee, student, bench, participant, coach. Some teams have different uniforms signifying those different ranks. And sometimes people wear partial uniforms when they are not a part of that team and they have no idea what the uniform represents--they just "like the shirt" or "got it for free". (I'm not condemning anyone in any category, just explaining.) 

The first time this really meant something to me was when I was a senior in high school and was in our audition-based show choir, Counterpoints. I wore my uniform--red dress or red polo and khakis--with pride. Not the I'm-better-than-you pride, but the I'm-so-thankful-to-be-part-of-this-team pride. I was amazed and so thankful to be a part of a group that I'd dreamed about being involved with, and a group that was a source of pride for our whole school. I was amazed that God allowed me to live a dream--not surprised, but totally amazed.

Some uniforms that mean a lot to many people are military uniforms, medical uniforms, police uniforms, fire fighter uniforms, etc. Especially military uniforms.* Why? Because these uniforms represent the people and teams who fight to protect and defend our country, and other countries. The uniforms represent some of the people who save lives. These uniforms represent something important. 

I am proud to wear my softball uniform not only because I actually play softball, but because of what the uniform represents.

This softball  uniform represents a mission team of our church whose mission field is any softball field we practice or play on. 

This uniform represents a team of brothers and sisters in Christ who are honored, amazed, and thankful that God allows us to play softball (something we enjoy) as a ministry. 

And above all, this softball uniform represents Jesus Christ.

Another uniform comes to mind, and it's something we wear every day (whether we realize it or not). Oh, it's not physical clothing, yet everyone can see it. This uniform is not tangible, yet it's the most important one. This uniform is not something you put on, per se; it's how you live. 

So, what uniform are you wearing? What does it represent? Do you have more than one uniform? Do you switch them, or wear them all at once? Do you care if others see your uniform? Or would you rather not wear it in public? 

The Uniform I wear? Well, it's something like this: 

This uniform represents Jesus Christ--Creator God, Lord of lords, King of kings, Savior. It's explained in Ephesians 6:10-18. And I pray that I wear this uniform--the one God gave me--and not my own uniform. Because my own uniform looks like this:

*Thank you so much to all who serve in our armed forces. And thanks to all those who also help save lives and protect them everyday who may be on a different "team".

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Like A Mighty Storm

"Like a mighty storm,
stir within my soul
Lord, have Your way
Lord, have Your way
In me"

When you think of a mighty storm, it may look and/or sound rather neat. However, mighty storms cause havoc and often leave paths of destruction. During a mighty storm, it can be rather scary. Or, although  we may not be scared, we often don't like them and we want them to be over. We want these mighty storms to pass because the longer they last, the more they mess things up. They take down dead branches, dead trees, trees with weak root systems. Mighty storms sometimes damage or destroy homes and other buildings. They also disrupt travel and other day-to-day things. Sometimes mighty storms even cause injury or death to animals and people. Yet, after the mighty storm, the sun shines and sometimes rainbows can be seen.

When we surrender ourselves to Christ, and truly allow Him to have His way in us, sometimes He does come in like a mighty storm. Sometimes we don't understand what He's doing; we're messed up and we don't like it. It's not comfortable--it hurts and it really feels like there's a storm going on inside of us. We just want it to be over. 

When this Mighty Storm stirs within our souls, He's clearing away the dead branches, the dead trees, the trees with weak roots. He's destroying the homes and buildings that shouldn't be there.This Mighty Storm doesn't seek to injure or destroy us; although we may feel injured or destroyed if we don't allow Him to finish His work. Although this Mighty Storm disrupts our lives, it is only for a season. During this time, this Mighty Storm never blocks the Son--however small the glimpse of Light may be--and He gives us rainbows to remind us of His Promise and promises. This Mighty Storm will see us though it; His grace is enough. When this Mighty Storm is finished messing us up, He doesn't leave a path of destruction. He leaves peace, clarity, joy, etc. He leaves us cleaner than we were; more beautiful. We may not understand what this Mighty Storm did, but when He finishes, we know there's been a change for the better.

Do you allow the Mighty Storm to stir within your soul?

Monday, December 2, 2013

HGHF 2013: 5th experience and counting

HGHF 2013: 5th experience and counting

Disclaimer: Some of you reading this may have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s okay. I purposely wrote this blog post for 1) me, 2) the directors, cast, and crew, 3) our local church body, 4) Reality Outreach Ministries and all who have ever been involved with Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, and 5) everyone who has yet to experience this amazing ministry tool. If you have never heard of this drama presentation, I encourage you find out where and when Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames will be near you, and I encourage you to go see it. It’s free. Or, you could purchase the DVD to watch, but seeing the presentation live is way better. If you ever get the opportunity to be involved in the cast of this drama, please do so with lots of prayer.

A little over a week ago we hosted Reality Outreach Ministries’ drama Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames at our church. As the blog title hints, I have been involved with this presentation five times. I’ve been a druggie in the party scene, an angel, the old lady, a drunk, and most recently a secretary.

Each year I’ve been involved with HGHF, the Holy Spirit has shown me something, and this year was no different. The first year I was thankful to be on stage again and thankful God used me on the stage. The second year I discovered how difficult being an angel can be (when it seems so simple) and yet how important it is to keep praying all throughout the drama.

The third year I was thankful to have a monologue and be in the first scene; I usually don’t like waiting when it comes to stage productions. Many times my body says I’m nervous when my mind says I’m not, and I live on adrenaline for however many days. I don’t like it. But once I’m on stage fulfilling the role I’ve been given, it’s all good. So, I was glad to get on stage at the beginning of the presentation so I could concentrate on praying during the rest of the drama. In addition, the role I had was perfect for me. As I read the script and learned my lines (with the help of the Holy Spirit), I thought, “This is me!” One of my lines had something to do with longing to see Jesus face to face, and in that scene I didn’t wear my glasses. I found it funny that I could not see the head angel when I got to “Heaven”, nor could I see “Jesus” once my name was confirmed to be in the “Book of Life”. I just knew Sister Pastor was at the top of those stairs as the head angel, and if I would have been able to see her, I could have used her as a cue. And I knew Les would be up there as “Jesus” to greet me with a big hug upon fully entering “Heaven.” And all I saw was bright lights and shiny gold mylar until I was about halfway up those stairs. The Holy Spirit brought to mind the verse “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). I couldn’t see “Jesus” clearly while I was on that stage, yet the closer I got to “Him”, the better I could see “Him”. Then once I got up those steps past the “gates” and into “Jesus’” arms, I could see “Him” clearly. The Holy Spirit used that old lady role without my glasses to make 1 Corinthians 13:12 real to me. And now I get even more excited about seeing Jesus clearly, face to face.

The forth year the Holy Spirit gave me the role of a drunk woman. Cast members came up to me and asked if I’d ever been drunk (NOT by anything other than the Holy Spirit, thank God) and/or said that I made a “good” drunk. Only the Holy Spirit can help me act like something I’ve never experienced, and He did help. He even allowed me to almost totally lose my voice (from screaming when going to “Hell” at the end of the scene in each rehearsal and performance), and He used that to cause me to sound like a more convincing, desperate, drunken woman who had almost lost everything because of her lifestyle and rejection of Christ. And although I have never been a drunk, without Christ I could have easily become that character or even worse. I admit, playing the drunk was a fun role on the surface (hey, who cares if you couldn’t remember your lines—you’re “drunk”! And you can come up with funny through-lines like “You know what? I had a dream last night about grandma…remember when she would take us deer hunting…”), but the reality of it wasn’t fun; it shouldn’t ever be fun. And interestingly enough, I was known as “the drunk” by cast, crew, and other church family for the rest of the year (until another sister in Christ got that role this time). Each time someone mentioned it, I thought, “I’m done with that role! I’m not a drunk! (And Jesus, thank You I’m not, because without You…well, I don’t want to know who I’d be).”

As with any time, this year I began praying for my 5th experience with HGHF. I began praying at the end of August after our annual church Hog Roast, which signaled the end of our co-ed softball season. I didn’t want a speaking part this year; not so much because of the nerves stuff, but more so because I wanted to simply pray for the whole thing. I also know I can act. I know that God has given me a gift of acting and learning lines. This time I wanted the Holy Spirit to use someone who didn’t think they could do it; I wanted to give up my position so God could blow someone else away in that role. As I kept praying, I knew I’d be more surprised if I didn’t get a speaking role. And, yes, the Holy Spirit gave me a speaking role. This time I was a secretary who had tried, tried, and kept trying to explain to a co-worker that knowing Christ is different than “having religion”, and that one day everyone will stand before God alone—just each of us alone with Him. My character never gave up in encouraging her secretary friend to give her life to Christ, even to just consider it. That friend thought she had plenty of time until the sudden reality of being stuck in that office elevator during a fire caused them both to die of smoke inhalation.

Again, this role was more like me. And the Holy Spirit encouraged me to never give up telling people about Him. Christ never gave up on me, so I should never give up on others.

The interesting thing about being involved in HGHF this year, though, was that I was not nervous—at all. I don’t remember a time where I have NOT been nervous before a performance of any kind (except for church choir, because that’s not a performance). I even sometimes get a tad nervous before softball games, which I think is dumb. It was different not begin nervous. I don’t usually ever worry about my lines, so that was nothing new. But I saw how I could have easily become lazy and gone on autopilot for most of those 5 days. And I didn’t want that. So I kept praying with purpose—for me, for the cast, for the crew, for all the Holy Spirit would draw to the presentation each night, for Christ to flow through us and to use us to draw people to Him. The Holy Spirit also directed me to the fact of how easy it would be to grow numb or calloused to each of the scenes after seeing and hearing them so many times, and if it would be easy for that cast and crew after only 5 days, think of how many times the directors have seen each of the scenes. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the importance of praying even more for each team of directors—that they stir themselves up, allow the Holy Spirit to stir them up, see each scene each time with new eyes and a heart that’s even closer to Christ. I don’t want our directors to ever grow numb to how God is using and can use HGHF. Praying for them is so important.

Finally, during the last two nights of the drama, while looking at all the gold and silver mylar on our platform, these lyrics played through my mind: “When the music fades / and all is stripped away / and I simply come…” These are from the song, “The Heart of Worship”, and they encapsulated what would happen after strike on that final night. Once all that shiny mylar was taken down, our roles for that year’s HGHF had been fulfilled, we would still need to come. We still need to come and worship our King with everything we are although it may not be through a big production or on a “stage”. It’s not about us, anyway. All that gold, silver, lights, sound, video clips, drama, acting, etc. is all about Him—not us. If it ever becomes about us, then we shouldn’t be involved in it. Now that the set is all stripped away, all the glitter is gone, now we can simply come. Simply come before our King as ourselves—not as a character facing Heaven or Hell, but as ourselves facing our Savior, our Lord, our Love, our Best Friend, our Father, our King.

He doesn’t want us to forget (we still may find some glitter, and I don’t know where the tape ball went [it always seems to disappear, but usually sometime during the summer…so much for adding to it each year…ah, well], and I still have the scrap of gold mylar I wore as a headband during much of set-up, and the number 6 will continue to have special meaning for me, as well as chocolate chip banana bars), but He’d rather have us live with Him in reality than dwell in remembering what He did in and through past performances.

And I’m already praying about HGHF #6.