Saturday, June 6, 2015

Put Down the Headphones

     Running and I have such an on and off relationship.  Recently I have loved it, but I fully attributed that to me finally downloading good music and buying decent headphones.  The burning in my lungs and the fatigue of my legs somehow becomes fun while listening to "Hey Jude."

     I didn't run for most of training week because most of the days were exhausting on their own.  However on Thursday my team did not have to meet until 10 A.M.  We were stoked!  Adam and I decided to have an optional time of prayer at 9 for those overachievers who were looking for a challenge.  I was exhausted.  This was the break my body was looking for.  BUT this was training week which meant my spirit had a much louder voice.

     I decided to wake up early.  I put on my running shoes, grabbed my headphones, and headed towards the door.  That was when I remembered that when I finally downloaded good music it had deleted my Kari Jobe album and I was completely devoid of Christian tunes.  "It's not a big deal," I told myself.  But it was.  I was being intentional about not only avoiding social media, secular music, and anything that could be a distraction.  So I said "Hey God, I am trying to challenge myself by running, but I can't do it without headphones.  Is it cool if I listen to this music?"

     He didn't tell me that it "wasn't cool" if I listened to secular music.  Instead, He asked if I would let Him be enough.  Wow.  That was the moment I had to stop making excuses.  God wanted to be my enough.  Well, I'm not a big fan of telling the creator of the universe that He isn't enough, so I put the headphones down.  Instead of jamming to "Say Something", I prayed.  I prayed for each of the members of my team.  It was hard, definitely harder than running with music, but it felt glorious at the same time.

     During the 9 A.M. prayer time my team had, I took a moment to write down what God was telling me about each of my members.  Those simple sentences were later used to speak life and prophecy into the lives of my team.  Some of what was shown to me I was privileged to tell them that day, other parts were saved for commissioning night, and some were never told at all.  That's not the important part.  What was important was that I listened.

     I will always remember Thursday, May 7 as the day that I listened.  I woke up.  I put down the headphones.  I wrote down what God told me.  These were all three very small steps that set up my day to be remarkable.  In these tiny steps of obedience I learned that for each step you take, the Lord takes a mile.  God is omnipotent.  He has the power to do anything, but I believe that He often waits for us to make a move.  What better way is there for us to show faith?  And love?  And then there are those times where it feels like we keep taking more and more steps and yet we see nothing.  I believe that He is still moving.  That is where true faith comes in, the kind of faith that Jesus mentioned in John 20:29.  Faith in that which you cannot see.

     I learned something else that day.  Okay, I learned a lot of lessons that day, but one that I have to tell you.  Every hour spent with God is an hour spent in victory.  To me, God is not invisible.  I see Him in His creation, in little things like sunsets and tall trees.  These wonders are reflections of their Creator.  Man, if those are just reflections, I cannot begin to imagine the mind-blowing beauty of the Lord.  Every second spent serving this indescribable God is not deserved yet freely given.  And the enemy tries to distract and persuade us away from this!  He uses excuses like being too busy or having time later on me all the time, so I bet he uses it on others too.  He really isn't that creative.  Another way that my time of victory is robbed is when my mind and heart are not fully engaged.  It's like I'm having dinner with God but texting someone else the whole time.  Sure I still eat, but the quality and purpose is completely lost.

     Compared to the insane amount of love and sacrifice the Lord pours on us, He does not ask for much.  However, what He does ask for often seems like way too much in the moment.  Or like it's not a big deal so why even bother.  I am making it a personal goal to look for the little steps I can take, the minor moments where I can say "yes" to God so that when the bigger moments come I already know how.  On Thursday, May 7, I put down my headphones.  It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Treasures in Trash

     As a kid, I had many aspirations.  I thought maybe I'd be a teacher, psychologist, or maybe even president.  I thought I'd do incredible things like climb mountains and make great speeches.  Never, ever in my life did I see myself picking up trash.

     Trash is gross.  There is no way around that fact.  It stinks and has germs and is ugly.  Yet, on this trip one of my team's favorite things to do was pick up trash.  Why? When we humbled ourselves to perform this job, the Lord chose to reveal Himself to us in entirely new ways.  On my team of 12, I heard stories from around half of them of what God showed them while picking up trash.  I remember being amazed by this.  Sure, I had enjoyed my time praying while cleaning our assigned location, but I wasn't having any extreme revelations.  However, on our last day picking up trash, the Lord spoke.

     There were way too many of us at this location.  At least, that's what I thought until I really got cleaning.  I started just picking up a piece of trash here and there, but then I found my spot.  It was a gap in the ground that had a very nice layering of grossness on it's surface.  I hopped in and got to work, not realizing what I had just gotten myself into.  I was at one 3 by 5 foot spot for over an hour.  Whenever I thought I had made progress, I found another stash to be picked up!  It was actually humorous how much trash there was to be picked up on this one little spot compared to what I was expecting.

     Remember the lady I told you about yesterday?  When we spoke about Isis, she said she tries every day to forgive them, but then hatred boils up again.  She told me that she doesn't even think they are human, that they are actually devils.  For a second, I agreed with her.  How can humans commit such awful sins against humans?  But while picking up trash, God showed me His answer to me.

     Underneath layers and layers of trash, there is still ground.  No matter how much trash is piled upon the ground, that does not change that it is ground.  The ground doesn't get to choose what trash is piled upon it.  That is not to say that the ground doesn't allow weeds to grow too, but trash is literally thrown upon the ground, polluting it, without any say from the ground.  How much grossness has been forced upon many hearts?  Piled until the heart is barely recognizable and a "devil" is left in its place.  Yet God still sees the heart beyond the trash.

     When God showed this to me, I said "but God, I cannot ever fully clean this ground."  It was true.  Even if I picked up every large piece of trash, the ground would still have the shriveled remains of bags that had deteriorated.  Shards of glass would have still been left untouched.  Yet God said "but I can."

     It is not my job to fix the world.  I cannot heal broken hearts or tear down barricades around them.  That will never be my job, and for that I am thankful.  However, it is my job to say yes.  Every day I have to choose to say yes to the Lord and all that He desires from me.  It is a joy to say yes, because even if I cannot melt a frozen heart I can trust that when I follow the Holy Spirit's prompting I can be used to put a stitch on a wound or a chip in a wall.  Saying yes to God is all I am responsible to do.  The rest is in His very capable hands.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Unforgettable Individuals

     I'm an extrovert, so having a conversation is like breathing to me.  Yes, they are necessary to life for me, but not something that I really think about.  More of a natural thing.  I had countless conversations on this trip, but like most breaths, almost all of them will be forgotten.  However, two people I spoke to left such an impression on my heart that forgetting them is impossible.

     One woman I spoke to translated for a youth service we did in Bethlehem.  She was upbeat and positive, but upon truly getting to know her it was apparent that her life is full of pain.  She is a member of what we call the persecuted church.  She doesn't fit in with the Muslims for obvious reasons but also cannot get along with traditional Christians.  Her kids get in verbal fights at their catholic school until they finally silence themselves about their faith.  She can't let her kids play at the park because the other kids won't accept them.  Her kids aren't allowed to run two minutes away to the store for candy because the streets aren't safe for them.  I cannot imagine trying to explain to my children why they cannot live like the others around them.  She lives in fear of Isis mere hours and checkpoints away.  I had the honor of praying for her that day, and I continue to keep her and the rest of her church family in my thoughts and prayers.

     At a block party hosted by a church, I sat down to have what turned into the most insightful conversation of my life with a 90-year-old man.  He was charming and had kind eyes and became like a father to me.  What I thought would be five minutes of chatting turned into two hours of learning about his past joys and pains.  He was originally from Jerusalem but was made into a refugee and relocated to Bethlehem after Israel was reestablished as a nation.  He went by Abu Jonny because his oldest son's name was Jonny.  My dad's name in that regard is Abu Jonny too, so we connected on that fact.  His son Jonny passed away, which he told me while holding back tears.  He has lost so much, yet his love of life and love for God shine through it all.  He taught me the value of family.  Yes, he told me about his past job as a judge and bus driver instructor, but the only thing that really mattered to him was his loved ones.  It reminded me that when everything is said and done, family will be all that is left.

     I'm sorry that I could only scratch the surface on what these two showed me.  I can't fit into one blog post what was said and how it changed me.