Monday, July 30, 2012

Synchronized diving with Jesus

As of July 24th, 2012 I am an appointee for SIM! They received my signed placement agreement with Kenya!

More details to come in the next few weeks as I solidify with Kenya exactly what I will be doing, a goal date set, and finances figured out.

I have been waiting a long time to finally receive the congratulations email and I was surprised at myself for my reactions. My first reaction was to cry, I was walking through the hallway from the Sanctuary to the Kids building. My phone buzzed with an email, I checked it and the subject line said, "Celebrate!"...I sat down, and read, it was true, it was finally coming together. Tears rolled down as the busyness around me continued and I was in my own little world. A co-worker walked up, I wiped the few tears, and just smiled at her. I gave her the quick update and then we had to move on to tasks that had to be accomplished.

When I got home that evening, I wasn't really sure what to think. Happiness for sure, so thankful that God was continuing to show me what He has planned. At the same time, I felt confused. Confused because I am absolutely loving what I am getting to do right now. I want nothing more than to be where God wants me and know that wherever that is, is where I will find joy. With the community of believers that surround me here, it is overwhelming to think that there will be a time in the next year when many goodbyes will be said. There is so much to do between this moment and getting on a plane to Kenya and now begins the slow dive into the unknown of unknowns that await me in the months ahead.

"It's never as bad as you think, it's always for the best." 
"No accidents, just appointments" 
"There is no panic in heaven, just plans"

Such a great sermon by Pastor Philip De Courcy last night as part of Shadow Mountain's Summer Bible Conference. He spoke on Genesis 50:15-20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." -Genesis 50:20

There were 2 points that really stood out in his message.
Flexibility and faith go hand and hand: As I think about missions, even these last couple months of waiting for my signed agreement with Kenya, it has been nothing but flexibility and faith. Flexibility in thinking what would take a week ended up taking 10 weeks to accomplish. Faith in believing that God was still at work, regardless if I knew about it or not. As I move into the next phase, flexibility and faith will continue to have to be my way of living. From basic answers to the more specific and difficult, I must rely on the Holy Spirit to continue to help me be patient and have peace while His plans are being lived out.
Look back, live forward: I have heard quite a few inspirational quotes and sermons trying to help one live for the future as God would intend it. What role might our past play as we strive to live for eternity? I like how De Courcy summarized it. Look back, see how you acted, remember how God carried you, and then live forward, working with the Spirit to be more like Jesus. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it and we can strive to be more like Jesus. He has plans for each of us, by using the past to learn from, we can make better choices in remaining on the path that He has for us.

So where does that leave me at this moment?

This last week, the Olympics began. I love summer sports, especially swimming, gymnastics, field hockey, water polo, diving, and who couldn't love canoeing...haha jk on the last one :) But as I try to figure out where I am at the moment, I can't help but come up with an Olympic illustration.

Last night, I watched synchronized diving. The judges, commentators, and myself picked apart the divers and their approach, their angles as they rotated their bodies quickly in air, as well as their entry into the water. When one diver would make one small difference from the other, when one would flip faster, or enter before the other diver, we as spectators and judges would be quick to point out their flaws and the respond with a score. This life, this journey, this day, I'm standing on the platform, looking to Jesus as my partner on the diving board next to me and waiting for his "go". I then must do everything I can to remain in sync with the motions he will take with each step, lead, flip, twist, and entry. Each day is a dive; and at the same time, this life is a dive as well.

How do I stay in sync with Jesus knowing that there are spectators watching our every move, waiting to pick apart when we are off by just a slight 1 or 2 degree angle?
Kelci Bryant - Olympics Day 2 - Diving
How will I react in order to get back in sync with Him when we do get off.

As I look to Him on the next diving board over, are we preparing for the same dive?

Are our thoughts in sync enough that we will enter the water at the same time in the same position in order to score the highest amount of points?

What will be the level of difficulty of our dive?

So much goes into each dive; concentration, focus, trust, patience, calmness, and so much more. As I get ready to begin the motion, I want nothing more than to be in sync with Jesus. Whether it be in this day, in this moment, or in this life, I know that He has a plan, that there is no panic going on in heaven even though I want nothing more than to freak out right now. As hard as it will get, as scary as it may be, God is and will be working in each moment for the best. Knowing that Jesus makes no accidents, I can move forward knowing each conversation, meeting and email is planned by God. I can think back to these last 10 weeks of waiting and know that no matter how long it takes, Jesus does hear my prayers, and He will answer, just in His timing.

I'm thinking He has a pretty high level of difficulty dive prepared for us to accomplish together and I will be looking to Him for wisdom, patience, and direction as we strive together for the gold streets of heaven.

Prayer requests:
- a detailed outline of my placement from the field. (because the position that I have is being created, they do not have details completed yet)
- finances figured out so that support raising can begin. (monthly and start-up costs)
- not feeling overwhelmed by the to-do list.
- balance between Kenya and the Ministries (work, friends, family, etc) that God has me in currently.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


The name of the Lord is a Strong Tower; the righteous run to it and are Saved. -Proverbs 18:10

This last week, 1500+ kids learned that God is our deliverer, provider, healer, protector and worthy of our praise. In so many ways this last week, I too was reaffirmed of how God is my own deliverer, provider, healer, protector and is always and forever worthy of my praise, no matter what is happening around me. As I look back on this last week, there are a few moments of pure joy that I want to write down and share.

Tuesday: The story begins on Monday with a grandparent upset over circumstances pertaining to the way her grandson was being disciplined. I was the closest staff to the classroom and called in to "handle" this now heated argument. I remember walking in and thinking, "There is no way I know how to handle this situation". Praying in my head for Jesus to help me, I calmly laid my hand on the grandma's arm and asked her to gather her grandson and lets go talk outside. She was worked up and somehow I was suppose to calm her down and try to solve this issue. I continued to pray and knew I needed assistance. I was able to calm her down and call a staff to come out and oversaw them talk her through the situation and solution. The highlight for me was the following day (Tuesday) I was walking through the building and caught her sitting in the lobby taking a break. I walked up with a smile and asked how she was doing. Randomly she says, "You look like a swim coach"...kinda taken a back, I asked, "why do you say that?"...she responded with..."you just look like you belong in a swim suit with a whistle around your neck"...honestly I still don't know how I was suppose to respond to that comment other than by telling her, "well you are correct in that I was a swim coach for 5 years, but this body is not appearing in a bathing suit in public for a long while!" We both laughed.

Friday: This 7th grader has a reputation for being difficult, and in a lot of ways he lived up to it this last week. By Tuesday, he's original placement coordinator was overly frustrated with him and by Wednesday morning asked that he not return to her station. I decided to try to give him some responsibility by placing him with one of our special needs preschoolers. About 3 hours into the task, the 7th grader was worn out and wanting to go back to his old job. We choose to place him with his grandfather who was serving so that eyes could be kept on him. By friday, most people on the campus knew him, and not for the right reasons. For some reason, I just couldn't give up on him and every time I saw him I praised him for something he had done well. About halfway through the morning on friday, I'm walking through the building and two coordinators pull me aside with the 7th grader looking quite frustrated. Jesus, give me wisdom please. I get the story explained to me with the coordinator's last words, "were just not sure what to do at this point"... oh great, and I'm suppose to? I ask the 7th grader, did the bad words that you said involve telling someone to be quiet in a not nice way...oh yes I did say that. Ok, we're making progress. I shared with him that if people are saying things to him, that he needs to tell an adult and have them take care of the issue. Secondly, there is a child physically hurt due to his choices. I tell him that we are all sinners, Christ died for my sins and his sins. I have forgiven him, and I need him(7th grader) to go and ask the kindergarten for forgiveness as well. I then asked if he could handle the responsibility of remaining with his grandpa or if he needed to remain at my side. He chose to remain with his grandpa. About an hour later, I find him at my side saying, "Can I stay with you the rest of the day?" I loved seeing how Jesus worked through me to pour into him. I know most the time  people are telling him what he has done wrong and I wanted to be Jesus to him, and I'm sure I messed up, but I can only pray that Jesus taught him something.

Sorry my stories get long.

It really is in times of need that I feel the strength of God flowing through me. He came to my rescue so many times this last week and I want nothing more than to praise Him for the opportunity I had to serve Him in that way. It was such a blessing to connect with as many people as I did and serve them in whatever way I could.

R.E.S.C.U.E Receive Everlasting Salvation in Christ's Ultimate Embrace. 
Jesus, I pray for the hearts of the 200+ plus children who came forward and received that gift this last week. Jesus I pray that you would bring them back to church and allow for many believers to come beside them throughout their life and encourage them to follow you always. I pray for the 500+ volunteers we had who gave of their time and energy to pour into your children. Jesus, give them the rest they need and fill them up with the strength only you provide. Thank you Jesus for delivering us from sin, providing us with your body as a sacrifice, for healing us through your resurrection, and for protecting us from the evil one for you deserve all the praise and glory for all that was accomplished this last week and all that will be done in and through each person who was impacted by these moments. Thank you Jesus for the rescue that you made and the beautiful way you provided that bridge. This last week, I felt your embrace many times and in many people and I pray that you would continue to encourage and direct me in ways so that I can continue to share your love with others. 

In Your name Jesus I pray,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stillness...a weapon.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

To be still. I've noticed that in the quiet times, in the times I've tried to be still before God, I have noticed my brain begins to want to move so much faster because I have allowed it freedom. It begins to want to process the future, or the to-do's or even the what-ifs as far out as they possible can be sometimes. But what exactly does it mean to be still before God?

Psalms 46:10 tells us Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 37:7 says, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Calm, quiet, peaceful, stable, untroubled.

*Deep breath*...eyes closed...I begin to shut out the world, the lists, the problems, the desires and I think about Jesus. I think about the miracle when after hours of teaching, Jesus and his disciples board a boat to sail to the other side of the lake to get away from the crowd. Jesus crawls under the main deck and goes to sleep and a terrible storm begins and the disciples get so scared they wake Jesus in fear to save them from the storm and what better words does Jesus use than "Be still"...and the waves obeyed. I think about the immediacies of the winds and the waves stopping at the sound of His voice and what that might have been like for the disciples to witness. But then I realize it is with that same command that He asks all the "stuff" going on in our lives to "Be still" so that we can commune with Him. 

Jesus has the power to fight the winds and waves that control our lives. He has the power to stop them if that is His will, He also has the ability to see us through them, no matter how scary they may seem. He asks us to turn off this world, turn off all the technologies and distractions and be still before Him. As for the heavy workload that is to continue tomorrow and through these next two weeks, if I can be still before the Lord when I begin to get overwhelmed, His Word says that He will fight for me. In the waiting to hear back from the field, He commands me to be still and wait patiently for Him to work out all the details. 

I love how in each command He gives us to Be still, that there is a response on His part. And maybe the response is an action, him fighting for us as Exodus 14:14 says, or Him working behind the scenes while we wait as Psalm 37:7 tells us. But maybe the response isn't an action, but rather a revelation. In the stillness, in the calm, in the quiet, we can begin to imagine Jesus, we see His creation, we notice small details, we begin to just realize who He is. Sometimes, while we are still before Him, all He needs to do is remind us of Himself and that is all we need. This afternoon, there were moments of stillness. And I really began to see that Jesus really has been showing me what He is up to. If I'm not careful, I can totally miss them. But as I read His Word in the quiet, I realized that He is my deliverer, my provider, my protector, my healer, and is worthy of praise. These are the points that we will be making with the kids at Summer Blast next week and I'm realizing just how amazing they are. It's in the stillness that I realize how much He has delivered me from, all the amazing things He does to provide way more than I could ever need; I really have no idea how often He protects me from harm, the amazing way He healed me from my sins, and because of all that, out of the stillness, comes praises of thanksgiving. 

As I try to wrap my mind around all of these things, I can't help but begin thanking Him for all He has done for me. Jesus, thank you for bearing my sins on the cross. Thank you for shedding your blood so that I will get to see the streets of gold one day. Thank you for the example of perfection that I can only strive for as you work in and through me to make me the person you want me to be. Thank you for the ultimate healing that you give me through your rising from death so that I no longer have to carry the weight of my sins, but when I become still before you, sense forgiveness and redemption and not shame and judgement. Thank you Jesus for the perfect plan that you have written from day 1 of creation and the amazing way you have of using your people to further your kingdom. Thank you Jesus for allowing me to see glimpses of your kingdom work being done and many times getting to see firsthand the way you bring people to Yourself. Thank you for the gift of serving you. Thank you for the opportunities you give me to serve others and in turn serve you. Thank you for the future plans you have for me. Thank you for working out the details so that you are the one glorified. I praise you Jesus for who you are. 

Eternal. Infinite. Immutable. Omniscient. Wise. Omnipotent. Transcendent. Omnipresent. Faithful. Good. Just. Merciful. Graceful. Loving. Holy. Sovereign. (Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

I can't help but want these moments of stillness to last forever. But because I believe in who Jesus is and attempt to wrap my mind around just how much He loves me, I can't think of a better attitude that one of praise and service to Him. And these next few weeks,(and full life ahead) could be stressful, and will at times be overwhelming. But today. I feel as though God has given me a weapon. Stillness. When the to-do's get too long, the future full of more unknowns than knowns, and the what-ifs almost unbearable, I can receive the command that Jesus gave to be still before Him. I can remember that He is God. He is fighting for me. And He is working out all the details in His timing.  


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I really don't know how to live this life, in this world, without God. I can't imagine trying to come up with the strength, plans, and use of my own wisdom to even make it through one day. The few moments I do try to do it "alone", I fail miserable. Is Jesus your number one person in your life, if not, how are you making it?

Last week I got the amazing privilege to spend the week up at Indian Hills Camp with 10 amazing girls. I'm pretty sure I had the best, most mature, respectful group that made every moment so fun. As I have been reflecting on it, over these last few days, most spent in bed recovering from the nasty flu bug, I was realizing just how alive God was that week in everything I did. Besides the devotion time with the girls, my favorite part of the week was my devotions in the morning. I want to share a couple things I noted and pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to you through these truths as well. (Thanks Festus for sharing your heart and all God is teaching you!)

Categories of life...
1. Bearing fruit.
* The fruit is not the works or the good deeds, but rather Galatians 5:22. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 
2. Find fulfillment
3. Glorify the Father
4. Proving your His disciples
5. Sharing the heart of the Father
6. Friendship with Jesus
7. Cost of discipleship
8. Power of the Holy Spirit

*After mountaintop experiences, we go back down to the valley, but in the valley is where the water is. water=life=Jesus (Rev 22:1-6)
*The Holy Spirit grows the fruit, not us.
*Power of the Holy Spirit flows thru the vine and into the branch. (John 15:4)
*Asking for the fruits of the spirit. if you remain in me and my words(Scripture) remain in you, ask whatever you wish(fruits), and it(fruits) will be given to you. (John 15:7)

Big idea: You are not going to smile naturally unless the flow of the Holy Spirit is coming thru the vine into the branch and the fruit that's coming out is kindness. -Festus, 7.5.12, IHC

I am a branch. And I do bear fruit when I abide in the vine. Jesus is the vine. A branch cannot bear fruit unless it is attached to a vine. Anything and everything the branch needs flows from the vine and into the branch. There is nothing the branch can do alone. If the branch does not abide in the vine, it will not bear fruit, therefore it will wither and die. I am a branch and I abide in the vine, what kind of fruit am I going to produce? It's not the salvation of souls (Jesus does that), it's not feeding the starving around the world (Jesus does that too), and it's not whatever work I will do in the future(aka missions field), it's the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus alone accomplishes the works, yes He uses me, but that is not what fruit I produce. The Holy Spirit gives me the nutrients I need so that the outflow is love towards others, joy no matter what I'm facing, peace at all times, patience even when I should not be patient, kindness even when someone is rude to me, goodness in doing the right thing, faithfulness unto Jesus even if I don't understand what He's doing, gentleness in my actions and words, and self-control against the unknown.

I cannot produce these fruits on my own, they are not natural, especially in this hard, sinful world we live in. Only when I abide in the vine, will these fruits flow out, and therefore the light of Jesus is being glorified. As Festus was talking about this, the Holy Spirit began to come up with another analogy that I really liked. Take a pitcher that holds water, or juice, or tea. The container is me. I can't pour out the contents of myself unless I am "picked up and tilted" so that the contents spill out by someone. But I can't spill anything out unless, first, something has been poured in. I am the container. The hand on the handle is God. The contents filling me up are Jesus, the Holy Spirit. As I, the container, am filled up with Jesus, God can choose to pick me up and pour out the contents of His Spirit when He chooses, to who He chooses to pour into. See water, juice or tea doesn't get poured out into nothing, it's usually poured into a cup for someone to drink (and therefore receive the contents of myself, the container). I am a container, and I don't decide when and where God is going to use me. By abiding in Jesus, the only thing that can fill me up is Himself, and therefore the only thing that is going to flow out, is the fruits of the spirit.

Two questions I want to constantly ask myself:
1. Is my pitcher full?
2. Who is God pouring into through me?

God moment at camp: God gave me an opportunity to share with my 10 campers what He had been teaching me in the mornings. (set the scene: I wake them up, get them ready, and then go to my own devotions while they remain back to clean up and decorate the cabin for points, great system I must the rest happens during afternoon devotion time for them) I was telling them about how in the mornings, I read my bible, I worship through music and hear a short message that fills me up so that I can pour into them. I shared John 15, and abiding in the vine means getting the nutrients into the branch (myself) to bear fruit to them through out the day. I was trying to get them to see this pitcher idea, but I wasn't saying it, instead trying to use the words of John 15. As I'm saying this, one little girl raises her hand, I call on her and she says, "Cinnamon, it is kinda like a pitcher where you have to be filled before you can pour out into us"...goosebumps and tears overwhelmed me. I had received that picture that morning at devotions, and here this little girl who had received the Holy Spirit only days before, was getting the same picture. Only Jesus can do that. :) This was one of many throughout the week, I serve an amazing God!

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