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I Love These People! Photo Update

Here are just a few scattered pictures of a few of the people I love so much here in Peru!
 
Brandon and Lynda

CJ preaching

David eating

CJ and one of the daughters of one of our missionary families

Brandon preparing to eat

Me with Brenda

Jessica and Sammy

CJ with a puppy

CJ, Julissa, and David

CJ

CJ and David

Me

CJ and Julissa

Julissa

Julissa, David, and CJ

David, me, CJ, Julissa (one of my favorite pictures)

David, me, CJ, and Manolo

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I Can’t, You Can

The past few days I have really been struggling with Spanish.  I feel like there are very few people I can talk to about it because most people think that I can speak Spanish so well.  The truth is, I can survive and have meaningful conversations, but we have reached a point in our Spanish study where I have literally been preparing myself to throw in the towel.  We have started learning a tense called “subjunctive” which has basically taken a language I thought I could speak and made it completely foreign to me.  I sit in class day after day and I am so overwhelmed by the feeling that I have no idea what is going on.  I have started to forget words and tenses that I have known for years.  It is all a great big mess of…mess.

This morning I had to write a speech for class about wishes and desires for our future time in Ecuador.  Well, I was supposed to.  I got an hour and a half into the process and had a meltdown.  I didn’t know some tenses that I needed to write the speech.  I couldn’t even remember the tenses I knew.  I made a decision that I was done with Spanish.  I mentally “cursed” every person I have known that told me that Spanish was the easiest foreign language to learn.  I couldn’t even bring myself to pray.  I threw a few words together and walked to the roof.

One of the many things I love about God is that I don’t even have to be praying for Him to speak to me.  He never fails to wipe my tears away and give me new hope.  I sat down with my journal and I didn’t even get the words, “Lord, I can’t do this Spanish thing”, out of my pen before He flashed Philippians 4:13 across my mind, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Suddenly He reminded me that He has called me to this, and what He has called me to He will bring me through.  I heard Him say to my heart, “Take your pen and write what it is that I am saying to you.”  So I took my pen, and did as He asked, “I want you to learn Spanish with the passion you serve Me with.  I want you to practice piano with all the passion you serve me with.  Trust me with your weaknesses.  Would you believe that I can create streams in the desert?  I can make passion flow where there was none.  I am the light that shines in the darkness.  I can make this light inside of you grow.  Will you trust Me with your weakness?  Could you believe that I can be your strength?  Why have you been trying to do this on your own?  Of course you’re going to fail.  Why have you refused to come to Me?  Do you believe that I can do anything?  Do you trust me that much?”

I have been so overwhelmingly exhausted at the thought of giving everything to God.  How could I possibly give Him any more of me?  What I have given has left me weary and tired.  This morning He reminded me that He is the One who gives living water.  He is the One who restores my soul.  When I give to Him, I receive so much more.  He can make streams flow in the desert of my soul.  I was certain all the passion and desire inside that was once alive had died.  Oh how small my faith is.  Oh how I have forgotten that this is not my life that I am living and not my strength on which I am being sustained.  My God has called me to this, and He will carry me through.  He alone is my rock.  He alone is my strength.  I will not be overwhelmed.  I can’t do this, but God, You can.

The Danger of Love

I have been struggling to desire to spend time with God lately.  I finally sat down this afternoon and told Him that.  What more painful thing could anyone say to someone else?  “I honestly don’t want to spend time with you.”  However, the difference between God and another person is that He is big enough that He can take it.  He is the only One who can help me to know why I have hit this wall in our relationship.  He has shown me that my honesty in His presence is the key to a breakthrough.

What is love, really?  If I were to give the Sunday School answer, it would most certainly be God.  It would most certainly look like 1 Corinthians 13.  Sounds nice, and wonderful, right?  Yeah, it pretty much is.  So why do I want it but push it away at the same time?

Why is there a part of me that is so resistant to love?  I will allow someone into my heart and into my life only until a certain point until I turn and run away.  Yes, I literally run away.  Too close.  Too much.  No more.

Why do I desire a cold world over a warm heart?  Why would I prefer to run into the arms of a world that could care less about me rather than run into the arms of my God who has a love for me that is so much stronger than I could imagine?  I told God today that I am afraid of being wanted or desired.  In my mind there is a limit to love.  Even though I know that God’s love for me is so much greater than the broken love I have known and the broken love I know how to give, it has come too close.  It is too much.  I don’t want to tell God “no more”, but I literally struggle to know how to accept a limitless love.  Could I accept acceptance?

What does it mean that God pursues me?  There is a part of me that is afraid that He will stop.  As I have been sitting here praying and writing over this, I have been listening to Misty Edwards worship.  It has been playing quite a bit in my room lately.  It has been stunning how the theme of the songs that are playing are directly related to the things that God wants to say to me.  The songs put words to what I cannot say or understand.  Is it possible that God wants to give me something that I can never receive anywhere else?  Is it true that He would want to lavish His love on ME?  Why on earth?  Who am I?  I want to go hide in a corner that I know.  I want to bury my face in my legs and let the tears flow.  The darkness I know.  Cold hearts and limited love is what I know.  True love and true beauty is something I have only been able to take a little at a time from God.  We have come to the point in our relationship where I would typically run for the hills.  I am fighting the desire to do that.  I love God so much and I want to grow closer to Him.  However, He has come close to me.  I am scared.  I am uncomfortable.  I am not worthy.  What might He see deep inside of me?  Seems so silly.  Here is a God who knows everything about me and loves me anyway, and yet I cringe at the thought of Him coming too close.  What shame is left inside this heart of mine that I still need to let go of?

What is so dangerous about love?  I am not afraid of being hurt.  I have been there.  I have caused hurt.  What I am afraid of is that this love might be real.  This love might actually not give up on me.  This love might actually be worth it.  This love might actually be unconditional.  Could I face that?  I don’t know what it means to come face to face with true love.  I don’t know what it means to be truly desired for everything I am; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I don’t know what it means to have someone truly and sincerely see who I am and who I can become.  What limits human love has!  To have the creator of my heart and soul truly believing in me, encouraging me, calling me forward…calling me inward into His warm embrace.  What safer place could I ever find?  What more wonderful thing could there ever be?

I don’t want to fight it anymore.  I don’t want to hide anymore.  I need His help to come out of the shadows.  I need His help to look into His eyes and not let my eyes dart away from His loving gaze.  True love is dangerous.  True love really does exist.  I am praying that God would help me allow myself to be found.

Homesick

Yesterday we went to a church out on the outskirts of town and had to take a bus there and back. On the ride back, a fleeting thought crossed my mind that I didn’t really take the time to think about until today. However, the realization so impacted me that I want to take the time to really think it out.

I guess there has always been the assumption in my mind that someday when I find the occupation or the place in the center of God’s will that I am meant to be in, that I would be completely be fulfilled. I thought that this place would be home completely, like a place I knew but had never been in before. I thought that I would never want anything else. I am coming to find that is a myth.

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am where I need to be and that I am in the center of God’s will. And I LOVE it. I love what I am doing here. I would not rather be anywhere else. However, there are many aspects of the decision to come here that are very difficult. There is still the human part of me that longs for things that I can’t have. There is a big part of my heart that continues to think that if I just have this one more thing, then I will have finally reached the place where I am completely satisfied.

I have felt a lot lately like I have no place that I consider my “home” per se. I grew up with my parents in Nebraska, but I haven’t really lived there for several years. I have not lived any of my adult years there. I lived in Kansas for five years, but that is not home. I lived in Tennessee this past year and loved it, but if I were to move back to the States, I would not live in any of these places. If I were to ever move back to the States, I would just be living in another new place. And I find myself here, in Peru, but it is not home. In all actuality, I am just passing through. All this is temporary. My entire life is temporary.

Sometimes when I see a sunset or when I stand on the beach looking out over the sea, my heart aches so strongly for home. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” I wonder what it means that God has placed eternity in the human heart. Could it be that part of us just knows deep inside that our home is not of this world? Could it be that instinctively we are restless here because we are waiting for the day when we will finally go HOME?

So what do I do now? There is a battle inside of me because I want the easy road of a predictable life. However, that is not the life God has planned for me. God has not called me to live in the world I know; He has called me to value the things of eternity over the simple pleasures I can find today. He has called me to give up my desires of the way I would plan things out for the way He has seen things to be from the beginning of time. I may never feel comfortable and I may never completely feel at home. However, if eternity is my home, then knowing Jesus is the closest thing to home I can get here on this earth. He is my home. Wherever He leads, I will follow. Whatever he desires, I will do. Easier said than done, right?

There is so much of me that fights the desire to know Jesus more. To be completely honest, there are times when I really don’t want that. My mind and everything I know tells me that I would rather be somewhere else. Sometimes this desire for things other than Christ are so strong. Dying to myself so that I can live for Christ is incredibly painful. I know that I prolong the process and pain by holding onto some things, but I am only learning. I am learning like Misty Edwards says, to be an “unattached vagabond in a world of chains.” This song by her nearly wrecked me this morning. Here are the lyrics. They are simply AMAZING.

An unattached vagabond
Living in a world of chains
With a destiny beyond
I’ve been
Tempted by the glittering bonds
Lovers snares and so-called homes
Yet I will not hang on

All that tempts me are only cliches
Of where I am going
Every song sung is only a tease
Of where I belong

I am destined to be a queen
This unattached vagabond

I like this walk of life that I am walking
And the beauty that surrounds
But it is only a shadow of tomorrow
It’s gone before it’s even found

That’s why:
Nothing matters, nothing really matters but getting to my Jesus
Nothing matters, nothing really matters outside The Lord

Just passing by
I’m on my way home
This world is not my own
And I do not claim her as my own

I’m but a pilgrim, a missionary
An ambassador of another day

All the riches and the fame
Are a lie and deceitful in the end
There’s nothing in this life but what’s eternal-
The hearts of broken men

One thing matters in the end-
It’s the hearts of broken men

I’m here on a mission to cry out
To the highway and the byway
To the rich and the poor
To the good man and the bad man
To the high and to the low
To the lost and to the needy

Anybody, everybody come to the wedding
Follow me, follow me
Cuz is not life more than what we see?
Is not life more than this mundane reality?

Happy holiness
And righteous joyfulness
This is the freedom of transcendence

So take my money if you please
Take my position
Try and take all of me
But my soul, it keeps and wants
Only one mission:
To bring out as many broken hearts
To the wedding as I can

Cause beauty fades away
It’s like chasing the wind
Riches are deceitful
Even when attained
They leave you empty in the end

And one thing goes
On and on and on and on

I am an unattached vagabond living in a world of chains. I have been and at times am still tempted by so many glittering things around me. However, it is true that they are only cliches and a tease of what my home truly is. I am an ambassador of another day. There is nothing in this life that is eternal except for the hearts of broken men. My heart was once broken, but now has been made whole. God has healed it, and has called me forth to live for the eternal: to bring out as many broken hearts to the wedding as I can. Powerful stuff!

Though my flesh cries out ever so strongly for what I do not have and what I cannot have right now, I choose to live for eternity, my only true home. I choose to find all I need in Christ. If the world I am living in is not eternal, then it makes no sense for me to expect comfort and satisfaction here. I was created for another world and I am part of another Kingdom. I pray that God would give me the courage to press on, to pursue holiness, and to passionately in every opportunity continue to call people to follow me to the wedding. The only thing that matters in light of eternity is the broken hearts of men. May this truly be the only thing that matters to me as well.

Evangelism Event Photos!

Here are some pictures from our evangelism event this afternoon!
 
Julissa, Lynda, CJ, me, Brandon, and David

Reuben talking in front of the group

Sammy with his face painted

Sammy leading the kids in activities

Sammy running a competition with the moms

Brandon and David just chillin’

Kids lining up for face painting.  We also gave out clothes.

The kids did a skit on sin and forgiveness.

Ron sharing the Gospel.

David doing some face painting.

Erin doing some face painting.

CJ doing face painting.

Forgiveness

This is a Bible Study that I wrote this morning for my Spanish class. It is simple because I am getting ready to translate it. However, because this was such an important message, I wanted to share it in English too.

Today we are going to talk about forgiveness, but in a different way than you might expect. Have you ever done things that have caused lingering regret? Are there things in the back of your mind and heart that still cause you shame years after the fact? Are you struggling to let something go?

The past couple days I have really been dealing with that as well. I don’t know about you, but if I have been wrestling with something for a certain amount of time, in my case four years, I have a hard time believing that God can help me with it. Part of me believes that I missed the opportunity to be healed from it. I would never expressly say that is my theology, but practically speaking, I believed it was something that I was just going to wrestle with my entire life.

It is a different matter in forgiveness when I am letting something go that someone did to me. In some ways, it is much easier to let things go when it is someone else. However, when the matter is my fault, I have such a high standard of conduct that when it is broken, it is basically an unforgivable sin. In my eyes, it is unacceptable and therefore I must punish myself by carrying it with me for all eternity. Of course, it is all for the sake of the person that I hurt. I would never want him to think that what I did was ok. Therefore, I take on the consequence multiplied by every moment I carry the sin on my shoulders.

In this particular instance, I had placed the matter on the back burner in my life. Back burners are nice because they aren’t in the way…that is until God starts doing the dishes and…oh no…there it is. So in starts the punishment again. In starts the self-hatred that says, “I would like to say that I can’t believe you did that, but I know you did. You must be an awful person. This is who you are. This defines you.” Then you not only dislike yourself, but you start to frustrate everyone around you because your attitude is far less than attractive.

Over the past couple days, God has been gently urging me to bring the matter to Him. I consistently found something else to do. I did not want to talk to Him about this. I wanted to continue to punish myself, because surely that is what I deserved. I carried this heavy heart with me for so much longer than I needed to cart it around, until finally I melted down last night. God let me cry, and then He led me to a couple scriptures that I want to share with you today.

We are going to read from Matthew 9:1-8.

“Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to Him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.’

But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, ‘That’s blasphemy! Does He think that He’s God?’

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them, ‘Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk?’ So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’

And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.”

There are several things that stuck out to me in this passage. First, of all the first things that Jesus could have said to the paralyzed man, He chose to begin with, “Be encouraged.” If I were Jesus looking at a sinner, I feel like I should be reprimanding him in some way or making sure that he understood the seriousness of his crime against God, because sin is a serious thing. However, for some reason, Jesus said, “Be encouraged.”

The second thing that Jesus said was, “Your sins are forgiven.” Just like that. In a moment, Jesus undid the entire consequence of this man’s actions against God. We do not know what he did, but if we could imagine ourselves on that mat for a moment, we might see clearly how incredible this moment is. I will put myself on the mat for example. For four years, I have been unable to walk in a sense. My friends bring me to Jesus and He says, “Be encouraged. Your sins are forgiven.” Bam. Done. Four years wiped clean. Just as if I had never sinned. Could I comprehend that?

Immediately following this simple and profound statement, there is a little grumbling going on in the hearts of the onlookers, but Jesus always knows what everyone is thinking. Nothing is hidden from Him. He tells them that He in fact is God, that He does in fact have the authority to forgive sins, and he tells the man to get up and walk. The absolute most profound thing to me in this instance is that Jesus makes the two things equal: forgiving the sins and standing up and walking. Not only does Jesus ask us to bask in forgiveness, but He tells us to stand up and take our mat home. We walk a new road. We are different. We are healed.

We are going to read from Ephesians 4:21-24.

“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy.”

Bam. Did you know that there is truth? Jesus is the one who speaks the truth. Sometimes we believe things for many years that are not true. For example, I believed that what I did was unforgivable. I believed that I needed to punish myself for what I did. That is only fair. That is justice, right? However, I was paralyzed spiritually because of the unforgiveness I had in my heart…toward myself. I had believed a lie of deception. It became a part of who I was, when that was never meant to define me.

Jesus brings us the truth, however. This truth is that we are forgiven. Just like the paralyzed man, being forgiven means the same thing as standing up and walking. I must throw off the old me that was paralyzed by this deception and let the Spirit renew my thoughts and actions. I was not created to be paralyzed; I was created to be righteous and holy like God. That is the new me. I live by a new truth and standard. That is what it means to be forgiven.

Here is a question for you. Are you holding onto something that you did in the past that you believe deserves punishment? Here is the truth: your actions do deserve punishment, but Christ took that punishment for you when He died on the cross. The shame that is paralyzing you: God never desired that it should stay. Forgiveness is not just for other people; it is for you too. The Bible says that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. However, what Christ has set free is free indeed. He undid the chains of death. He ended the consequence that our actions deserve. He says, “I am making you new. Stand up and walk!”

What sin do you need to let go of today?

Great Family Pics of the Past Couple Days

Here are some of our favorite family pics!  Both host family and Extreme family.
 
CJ and our little sister Camila

Camila and me

CJ and our younger sister Maciel

Our host family:  Jesus, Miluska, Maciel, and Camila

Host Family

CJ is on the left and I am on the right

Just chillin’ on a tree root

Maciel and Miluska

Camila and Jesus

David and Me…lol

Brandon, Me, David

Julissa and Me

Me, Kelly, Brandon, Julissa, and David

Kelly and her friend Irina

David, Julissa, Me and Brandon

Our Amazing Life – Picture Update

Here are some pics for you to enjoy!
 
We had a party with our team and training team…and things got a little crazy.  That’s probably all I should say about that.

My friends Eli and Jessica

My teammate CJ and one of my professors Julissa at the mall

Part of a drawing I did…we love this verse from Jeremiah

CJ next to the rugged beauty of Chichani

This is me wearing my Chelsea jersey (the soccer team from Europe) in Chichani

Class is exhausting.  CJ and Brandon demonstrate the “normal”.

Our host sister Maciel

Our host sister Camila

My teammate CJ.  Isn’t she pretty?

We went to an all-night youth event this past week.  CJ is doing one of the games where you have to paint on a plastic window with her nose.

Our host sister Maciel painting with her nose

Sheena, Manolo (one of our professors), someone from one of the other churches that I do not know yet, CJ, and Maciel (our team-blue team)

Brandon…

Front row is my teammate David, and training teammates Sheena and Heyner

One of our training teammates Sammy with one of the participants of the find the bubble gum in the whipped cream with your face, chew it, and blow a bubble game

One of my favorite pictures of all time.  Front left of the four main people is one of my professors Julissa.  They had to put an Oreo on their forehead and move it into their mouth without using their hands.
 
And for your video viewing enjoyment, please see my video on youtube of CJ singing with helium voice:

Killing the Flesh to Have Life in the Spirit

God has been rocking my world lately. I say that a lot because He does that a lot. I am discovering every day how much I don’t stinking have a clue. This past week has been a week of fasting and prayer and I have to say that I have learned so much about my weakness. I have learned how far I have to go in certain areas of my life. I have discovered even more the power of prayer. I hunger so much for God’s strength and power in my life. I long for His wisdom. I desire deeply for spiritual maturity.

Because of some health issues, I am not able to fast food. God has used this to an advantage in our relationship, because we have been focusing on other areas of my life that stand in the way of intimacy with Him. Besides the occasional message that needed to be responded to right away, I have not been on Facebook this past week. I’m pretty sure that is the longest I have gone without it since I signed up for Facebook, and that includes living in the middle of rural Dominican Republic with only one computer with Internet that I had occasional access to and spotty electricity. It sounds ridiculous, but being able to share my thoughts with the world when I want to has been something that I valued. So what happens when I can’t share my thoughts with the world whenever I want to? I share them with God.

Truth be told, I had a major wake up call last Friday that drove me into prayer. I have dealt with a level of spiritual warfare my whole life, but last Friday I had an encounter that caught me off guard. I am usually very private about this area of my life, but God is beginning to change this in me too. He has proven to me this past week that what He has given me is not mine, it is His. What He leads me through is not my story, it is His. And He is teaching me that I absolutely cannot face the enemy alone. This entire past week that I have been in prayer and burdened with all that is going on, my prayer supporters back in the States have been woken up by God in the middle of the night and stopped in the midst of their day to pray for me. God has brought this community of support around me by His own initiation, and I have been so humbled by His movement. I have been humbled by how much my God cares about me that He would lead people to encourage and strengthen me. Oh what a small box I have put God in. I talked in a video I made this morning for a church about how God has been the genie in the lamp for me. I have chained him in a teeny tiny living space and have attached all kinds of rules to him about how He can answer my prayers. And who am I to wish anything? He has been teaching me how to let Him loose. My unbelief and limited faith has kept Him from going wild in my life. Am I really willing to do whatever it takes to be an effective warrior for the Kingdom? Am I willing to believe that my God can do anything? Is there anything that is impossible for Him?

I am afraid. I am afraid of what will happen if I allow God to take away the ground beneath me. I asked God today if He would speak to me because I desperately want to hear from Him. His response to me was this: “Are you really ready for what I’ve got? Do you really want to hear from me, or do you want to want to hear from me? Be honest with me. I am God of the Universe.”

The truth is, I want God’s heart for His people. I want His eyes to see the world. I want His wisdom so I might understand. But I’m not there yet. This week of fasting has only opened the window to me about how I need to be doing this ALL THE TIME. As much as I thought I have wanted God’s presence and Spirit in the past, I have not desired it nearly enough. I do not desire it nearly enough. I have seen in the past two weeks how the Holy Spirit has been present and unmistakable in my life, but I had nothing to do with it. I have been hungry, but I have not been starving. I have been desiring, but I have not been desperate. First things first, Lord make me desperate.

I have found in many areas of my life that when I cut something, I find something else to replace it. Take away Facebook, and I just spend more time on Skype. There are areas of my life that are definitely improving, but I am not sure that I realized my dependency on certain things until God revealed them to me. But it is the spirit behind it that concerns me the most. Could it be that I have far too much entitlement inside of me? I grow cranky when God starts showing me things. Time with Him sometimes brings out the worst in me because I’m not happy with with I have seen. I am defensive when someone points out my weaknesses. How do I bridge such a steep gap? I guess only by the grace of God. Could I believe that His grace is enough? Can I rest in His leadership in my life?

All of this is to say: I want to say “Yes” to God. I need His help killing my flesh, because it is the only way to truly have life in the Spirit. I am so grateful and thankful for all the work He has already done in my life, but I don’t want to stop there. I am asking God’s forgiveness for limiting Him with my faith. I am asking Him to help me with my unbelief. I need His strength to walk through these doors. I need the prayers of His people and their support. I need to not be so private with the areas of my life that God is transforming. I want people to see me well, but what if God has a bigger plan with my weakness? I will boast in my weaknesses because God will gain glory, but I continue to pray that He won’t leave me there. I am begging God for the desire for His presence to fill every area and every empty space. He is all I need. He is all I want. May my life and the attitude of my spirit reflect that.

Wherever Is Trevor

{ he asks himself the same }

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