Wednesday, February 27, 2013

And the countdown begins!

This past Sunday was approximately 150 days until I leave. Thanks to a friend, I will be counting down not using a countdown clock but the book of Psalms! There are 150 chapters (yes when I get to 119 I will have to get up a bit earlier) but I am excited to have begun!

Today is Psalm 147

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. 

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes the grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Extol the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion, for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.
He has done this for no other nation, they do not know his laws.

Praise the Lord.

Our God is amazing and I love that the Psalmist wrote down what God delights in, not in strength or in appearance but rather in fear of Him. The Psalmist goes on to explain what God's strength looks like, how powerful He is, and therefore why we should fear Him. That fear leads to one thing, Praise. I love that so many of the Psalms begin and end with Praise the Lord. As I read 1 Peter 1:1-12 this morning, I was reminded that we are going to face trials, there is going to be grief and suffering, but it is our faith proved genuine during those times that brings Him praise, glory and honor. Faith alone in our Savior, praising Him during the storms of life, is what He delights in.

In every circumstance we face, we shall enter it with Praise to the Lord and as He brings us through it we should Praise the Lord and when He has brought us out of it, we should Praise the Lord.

How do you begin your morning? Is your day surrounded by Praise to the Lord? When you rise and when you lay down do you Praise the Lord?

Psalm 147 says he delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. The word hope in the Greek can be translated here to wait or expect. What do we wait for and expect? His unfailing love. He loves us so much, He delights in us when we fear Him, and therefore we Praise Him.

Everything that has a breath, everything that takes a step, everything from up above, here on this earth sing of his love.
Anyone who's on a mountain. anyone in the driest place.
praise him praise him.
Praise Him in the morning when the feelings gone, praise Him in the evening when your all alone.
Praise him in the noonday when you're moving along, praise Him while you have another moment to sing this song.
Let the praise roll on...
Let the countdown begin!

Monday, February 25, 2013

God's tv show: my kids say...

the darndest things!

Have you ever watched the show hosted by Bill Cosby? I did as a kid and since I decided to blog about it, I went to youtube and watched an episode.

Bill: I have a cut, see it. What do you do for that?
child: put some Neosporin on it and wrap a bandaid over it and then it will go away.
Bill: and then where does it go?
child: into your blood. 
Bill: and then where does it go?
child: it goes to another country.
Bill: what country?
child: China.

I was talking with one of my best friends about life, about plans, about Kenya and how I want my future to plan out which of course led to the point that God has it all under control and why do I even try. And then I thought, God must just laugh at us all the time.

What kind of conversations have you had with God lately?

We call him Father, and we are children of His. Fathers on earth have children who do some pretty funny things. I know my dad could probably go on for quite awhile about all the random things I did and said when I was young (and he may even try to share stories about recently but I refuse to let those out of our house!). Recently, facebook has been filled with parents telling stories about their kids. Kids do and say funny things and parents laugh (or at least they should!). I think God laughs with us. I admit, I say and do some pretty funny stuff and I'm so glad my Father laughs with me.

my dad and I
Here's another transcript from an episode of Kids say the darndest things with Bill Cosby. (and it totally goes with my Father theme! Love when that happens!)

Bill: so what are you studying in school now?
child: I'm studying early mammals.
Bill: how early are they?
child: about when my dad was born.
Bill: and what year woud that be?
child: probably about 1,000 B.C.... no offense, no offense (looking at dad in the audience)

Ok fine... one more!

Bill: Jake, how old are ya?
child: four and a half.
Bill: how long have you been 4 1/2?
child: uhh 65 days. and I have a baby brother, he's one year old. I love him a lot.
Bill: you do?
child: uh huh. 
Bill: and what do you to him?
child: I hug him and kiss him.
Bill: did they tell you not to play with him too rough?
child: no, they only let me play with him, not too rough. a little bit rough. 
Bill: now what is a little bit rough?
child: its when you don't play too hard, you know like throw him on the ground hard so that he doesn't cry. And when he cries that's a really bad thing. cause if somebody hurt him I will be really upset. 

I'm addicted! This is one by the previous host, Art Linkletter. And I promise, last one!

Art: by the way, who's the boss in your house, your mom or your dad?
child: both of them. 
Art: heyy... your a diplomate are ya?
child: no, I'm a catholic baptist.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Break my plans #2...2 yrs later

I heard this song in church a few months after I returned from Romania back in January of 2011. The singer & song writer of this song was imprisoned for writing and singing Christian songs in Romania. At the time I thought God was calling me to go back to Romania, 2 years later how different His plans were!

This song tonight is my prayer as I lay my head down on my pillow to sleep tonight.

Lord break my plans, shape my heart, take my will to where you are. Move my mind, through your Word, til all that I am, lives to love you Lord. Amen

Friday, February 8, 2013

a [possible] redirection.

Below you will find 16 journal entries that took place over a span of 2 months as I sought God on a possible redirection as far as where I will be serving location wise in Kenya. It brings me to tears as I read it, remembering the emotion when I received the first email, to the scripture readings and prayers that focused my heart, to the peace I felt when I heard back that it had been finalized. It’s long, but amazing to see how God moved in my heart to show me where He wants me to go.

Tuesday 12.4.12
I got an email about a new ministry opportunity in Kenya along the coast in a village. The ministry would include, “a school and youth outreach in a village setting with the African Inland Church. It would be a completely different environment that the urban school and you… would live and work in that community. The church is also starting a dispensary, an HIV-AIDS clinic, and some community outreaches…”
In the email from my coordinator in Kenya included these words: “I normally try to avoid ministry switches, but when I saw the ministry you immediately came to mind, and I want to offer you this chance to at least pray about a village, elementary school, youth sports outreach ministry.

Village. When I think missions, I think living amongst the people I would be serving and sharing the love of Christ with. When I read the words live and work in the same community it immediately caught my attention. There is something about the quality time and relationships that can be built when you live amongst the people. And in a book I am reading right now titled, “African Friends and Money Matters” by David Maranz, I’m learning that building relationships with Africans means being apart of their daily and cultural lives.

Elementary School. Can you speak any clearer to my heart? I have a passion for seeing young kids come to know Christ in a real and age-appropriate way. Not that I don’t think I can communicate well with older kids, but my heart, my passion, is for the young. Elementary, young elementary, I love.

Sports outreach. After Jesus, and young kids, my next greatest passion is sports. I really will try anything, and I can be perfectly honest with myself when I’m not very good, but there is something about sports, being outside, exerting energy that makes me love it. What better way to build relationships than through something so fun as sports!
As you can probably see, I’m definitely open to this new opportunity but I want to make sure it is of God.
Wednesday 12.5.12
During my quiet time in the morning, I am going through a bible study called, “Experiencing God: knowing and doing the will of God” by Blackaby… yes can it be any more appropriate for this season of time, nothing is out of God’s timing. My quiet time this morning was titled, “Love God”. And the question arose, How can you demonstrate your love for God? The answer, Obedience (see John 14:15). I’m praying for a clear sign; am I to remain with the ministry in Kibera, or possibly seek out this new opportunity in the village.
Thursday 12.6.12
The titled of my quiet time in Blackaby’s study is, “God invites you to join Him”.

Reality 3: God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.

Is this my answer? Where is God already working? Where can I join Him?

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” –John 5:17, 19-20

“God’s revelation to me of His activity is my invitation to join Him.” –Blackaby

In this days study, the writer is sharing a story about following God’s leading, finding out where He is already at work, and joining him, particular relating to starting new churches in towns nearby his church. His church sensed God wanted them to start new churches all across central and western Canada. Then Blackaby asks this question, “If you were in that situation, how would you decide which towns to choose?”
If I am to have to decide which town (Kibera or the village?), how would I choose? Based on what I have been learning, I would

1. pray
2. see what God is already doing and
3. I would go where He is at work and join Him.
Monday 12.10.12
Once again, my morning devotions have not left me without confidence that God is trying to get my attention.
The study this morning talked about the different ways God speaks, specifically looking at the Old Testament. I discovered that it is not How God spoke but rather, That He spoke that is important. When God speaks/or has spoken, I will know it is God, I will understand what He is saying, and when He does speak, that is my encounter with God. –Blackaby

“He may not tell you all you want to know at the beginning, but He will tell you what you need to know to make necessary adjustments and take the first step of obediencewaiting reflects our absolute dependence on God.” –Blackaby, pg. 92

As I go through this process, I realize it is very similar to when God laid Kenya on my heart and then made me wait 10 weeks to discover the plan He had. During those 10 weeks I fought God, I sent emails, I complained to friends, I blogged about the waiting process, and obviously I didn’t get it because I’m right back in it! I need to stop, I need to wait, I need to pray, and I need to focus on my relationship with God. He will confirm in His timing, and He will speak and tell me exactly where to go, what to do, how to respond and what to say.
Thursday 12.13.12
Tonight I got the opportunity to skype with my coordinator in Kenya. I got to ask my questions (almost) face to face and closed my computer with a continued sense of indecisiveness. But I did get some answers and here are a few.

Kibera: the focus would be more just with kids, I would have little to no contact with their parents. I would not be able to teach at the school long term, but there is long term possibilities doing vbs programs, holiday camps, etc. More of a “job” setting, by living in Nairobi and commuting to the slum each day. Nairobi would provide a similar environment to that of home.

the village: I would be living with a pastor and his wife (Kenyans), they have a house in the village with multiple rooms and bathrooms, with running water! The school, football pitch, and community hangout is on their property. I would have much more connection with the kids and families here. The actually position is the same as Kibera (teachers assistant), just the location is different. It’s not in a main city, but only about 40 minutes away(where internet would be) and 8 hours, by bus, to Nairobi. There is another single girl going to this location who is planning to get there around the same time as me and leave around the same time…crazy! Her focus is more with women, but we would work together with families. The school roof is made of banana leaves... definitely would be more culture shock.
Friday 12.14.12
Once again, from my experiencing God study, was this example of the purpose the Holy Spirit plays in our intercession between our prayers and God’s answers. Blackaby says this about the Holy Spirit, “[He] has an advantage over us: He already knows God’s will – He is God. WHen He prays for us, He is interceding in agreement with God’s will. He then helps us know God’s will as we pray.” I love this analogy, especially as I am right in the middle of trying to figure out His will!!
“For his sixth birthday my oldest son, Richard, was old enough to have a bicycle. I bought a blue Schwinn and hid it in the garage. Then I had a task – to convince Richard that he needed a blue Schwinn bike. At first Richard was interested only in small toys that would have quickly broken. I sought to elevate his desires until he wanted something of quality and durability. We worked with him for a while, and he eventually decided that he really wanted a blue Schwinn bike for his birthday. Do you know what Richard got? The bike was already in the garage. I just had to convince him to ask for it. He asked for it, and he got it!”
Blackaby goes on to say, “The Holy Spirit knows what God has ‘in the garage’ for you! It is already there. The Holy Spirit’s task to to convince you to want it – to get you to ask for it.”
I love this example, and I am praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what is hidden in the garage! We are getting close to Christmas and I remember stories from my friends growing up who would find out where their parents hid their toys and peak before Christmas day. I was one who didn’t want to know, but what helped was I knew the day I was going to get to find out. With the Holy Spirit, I don’t know what day He is going to finally reveal what’s hidden in the garage. But I’m going to try to remember back to those days when patience seemed so much easier and keep waiting.
Saturday 12.15.12
Send me out. I have been listening to this song by Steve Fee over and over today. Some of the lyrics have really caught my attention as I continue to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s plans.

I want to be your hands and feet, I want to be the voice every time I speak, I want to run to the one’s in need, in the name of Jesus.

I want to give my life a way, all for your kingdom’s sake, shine your light in the darkest place, in the name of Jesus.

Carry to the broken-hearted mercy You have shown.

And to the one’s in need of rescue, lead me, I will go.

Here I am, I will go, send me out..

There is hope, for every soul, send me out…

Jesus, send me out, lead me, Holy Spirit show me where I am to go. I want to be your hands and feet wherever you have purposed me to go. I want to give my life away, and so wherever that means for your kingdom’s sake, send me. In the powerful and mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
Monday 12.17.12
Two quotes from my Bible Study in Blackaby’s book caught my attention this morning as we focused on “What Happens When You Pray?”

“You must decide whether you will do what you want and ask God to bless it or go to work where He is already working.”

“God will let you know what He is doing in your life when and if you need to know.”

As I read the first quote, a few thing went through my thought processes. One, what if what I want and where God is working is in the same place? Two, even if God blesses my choice, would the other have a greater impact on His Kingdom? Three, Is the choice I want based on what I want in my life versus what God has for me?

As I thought through this questions I realized in order to “switch” locations, I need confirmation it is of God. And so I pray, expecting Him to answer, asking what He is doing in my life, and then allowing Him to reveal that to me when I need to know. I’m also realizing that God is asking me to put aside all my own desires and wants and be at peace no matter the decision He has. He is in the process of breaking my own dreams, I can feel it, so that His greater one’s can happen. Knowing this is happening is really hard! Even last night, as I shared about the village, I sensed my excitement. I see how God is asking me to have that excitement over both options again, so that when He reveals to me what He wants, I will obey. Holy Spirit… keep convincing!
Tuesday 12.18.12
This morning I received some very encouraging emails from a couple different people who I had asked to be praying with me to help seek God’s will. I shared both the pro’s and con’s for both and how I had sensed God leading. As I read through their emails, I noticed answers to prayers. Here are a few:
myprayer (date I prayed those words) “…” = a line from one of the emails.

*These “answers” come from 3 separate people.
1. Jesus, I pray that you would clearly show me, Kibera or the village.(12.11.12) His answer, “…even if you said, ‘yes’ to this ministry(the village), if something was to happen where it wasn’t a good fit(aka not God’s will), they(God working through SIM personnel) will not leave you there.

2. Father, do I need to be okay with either response? Do I first need to be at peace with either choice…?(12.17.12) His answer, “…at SIMGo you seemed to have a passion and excitement for the work you were going to be doing in Kibera. The other is that when you first told me about this opportunity(the village), even through email I sensed your excitement and passion for this new opportunity. I point these out because from my perspective, you have displayed passion and excitement about both of these.”

3. He will confirm in His timing, and He will speak and tell me exactly where to go, what to do, how to respond and what to say.(12.10.12) His answer, “I think God guides our steps in phases. For instance, if you hadn’t said yes to the school in Kibera, you may have never known about the school in [the village]…God may have wanted you in [the village] all along and used Kibera to get you there.”

4. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what is hidden in the garage!(12.14.12) His answer, “Unless you feel this sudden wild urge that just makes you want to jump up and down and do cartwheels for Kibera, then I think you have your answer.”

And lastly, I received this question and I’m going to ponder it today and most likely expand on it later tonight or tomorrow:
Hypothetical: When you got [confirmation that Kenya was your answer from God as to where to go], both of these positions were available. How, which and why would you choose?
Friday 12.21.12
When you got [confirmation that Kenya was your answer from God as to where to go], both of these positions were available. How, which and why would you choose?

Let’s go back, back to May 20th, it was an afternoon, and a few of us sat in a circle on the floor, discussing the possibilities of where our lives might lead. At the time, I was excited about that day, the possibilities it held, and the friendships I was getting to make. As we sat in that circle, waiting to be called back by our coordinators to get a yes or no as to whether we were moving forward with SIM as our sending organization, I received a text. The text read "bahati nzuri" good luck in Swahili. My emotions quickly overtook me as I realized God was directing me to Kenya. I was called back shortly later, received my acceptance letter, and told my coordinator I wanted to move forward with going to Kenya, but this is where we will pause.

Let’s say, while I now knew Kenya was where God had purposed for me to go, I still had another decision, teaching in the slums or teaching in a village. I’m going to ponder some previous ways God has confirmed placement and see if something through that or in His Word may provide an answer.

Each job, position, or adventure that God has asked me to follow Him on has been through His complete guidance and only His provision. Therefore if I was to go back to May, and have the option to chose between the slum or the village, I believe I would wait for His guidance. As I have shared with a few people about this decision, most, after hearing about the possibilities, have said it seems like an “easy”, “no-brainer”, or “I think you have your answer” type responses. . Most of the time I look at them in utter disbelief. Why can’t I feel that same way? Why am I afraid to commit to one versus the other.

“In a decision-making time your greatest difficulty may not be choosing between good and bad but choosing between good and best.” –Blackaby, p. 123

The slum or the village. The decision isn’t between good and bad, the choice is good or best. Many have told me that God will bless whatever decision I choose, but God has been so direct in the past, why am I suppose to believe this time will be different? I believe, as with every other direction He has led me to  to this point, that He has a perfect plan. If knowing that plan means waiting a few more days, weeks, or even a month to get confirmation from Him, I’m willing to wait.

Knowing that sometimes getting an answer means taking that step of faith and seeing if that is where God is leading me, I am going to send an email saying I would like to move forward with the village opportunity and see if God keeps this door open wide or chooses to close it. He has put this opportunity in front of me for a reason, whether it is to make me more sure that Kibera is His choice, or for Him to allow me this opportunity to not just teach but get to live surrounded by the people I will be sharing His love with, I am letting Him lead today.
Monday 12.24.12
This morning I went back to what I call my “turning point” passage in scripture, Exodus 3-4. It’s the calling of Moses and I ever since one of my best friends read this passage to me, one day while I complained that I was not the person to go into missions, I go back to this passage when I need encouragement. This time, verse 12 of chapter 3 popped out!

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

I felt as though God was whispering to just take a step, take the step out onto the water, it’s going to seem scary, you won’t know where exactly that step will lead you, but take it, come towards me, and I will keep you safe. Step by step he will lead me, and I will follow Him all of my ways. From Moses’ story, I will take this step, and I will receive the sign I’m asking God for, I know I will, it just may not come until after I have gone. There is peace in my heart as I make this decision.
Friday 12.28.12
Wednesday, one of my best friends sent me a song that when she heard it, sent me a text to listen to it and said, “I thought of you right away”. I believe God truly hears the cry of my heart and putting my prayer to a song is so powerful. Here is the chorus… it’s stuck in my head, such a beautiful place to be!

If there’s a road I should walk, help me find it.
If I need to be still, give me peace for the moment.
Whatever your will, whatever your will, can you help me find it, can you help me find it?

Monday 12.31.12
Have I made a decisions? yes. Am I confident in it? yes. Do I have peace? yes. Do I believe it is where God wants me to go? yes…why? Because when everything in me and of this world screams no, I hear God responding with a resounding, yes.

Here’s the question God asked me today? Have you come to a place in your life where you are willing to yield everything to God in order to follow Him? yes or no. 

My immediate answer was yes. I checked the box and then I froze. Wait, everything? EVERY-THING? I knew yes was the right answer, and I knew it was the answer I wanted to say, but what exactly does that mean? The next thought that came into my mind after I put an X through the box was, “what exactly am I giving up?”

- communication (internet)
- community
- ease of the city versus being out in a village
-normalcy (the village will be much more culture shock than the city, or even slum)

The question is not leaving my “things” or my “friends” or my “family” behind, I gave those to God a long  time ago, but now, as He helps me through the adjustments to the village, I see that there is still more I must leave behind in order to be His disciple.

Any of you who does not give up everything He has cannot be my disciple. –Luke 14:33
Wednesday 1.2.12
“Jesus is Lord and can interrupt our plans whenever He wants to.” –Blackaby

Yesterday, after a long conversation about what it means to trust God and have faith in Jesus through my finances, I’m realizing just how much faith it is taking to follow Jesus to Kenya, let alone the village. Many people have said, “it is such a great thing you are doing”, but I honestly don’t see it as me doing anything. It’s God moving me there, it’s God providing the finances, it’s God orchestrating the ministry, all I have to do is obey. My faith is in Jesus, not in money, not in time, or a ministry or a place.

In that conversation, I reminded myself of how God has proven Himself in so many ways in my life! And I’m holding onto those memories as I look forward to moving to Kenya, serving in a village, and growing in my knowledge of Christ each day!
1.8.13 Tuesday
Back on Dec 24th,I talked about Exodus 3-4 and the sign that God said He would give Moses after Moses obeyed and brought the Israelites out of Egypt. (full blog post here) At the time, I knew that was the answer I needed in order to move forward emailing Kenya and letting them know I wanted to change my ministry location to the village. This morning, God affirmed my decision through Blackaby’s study. The paragraph at the end of the today’s study is titled, “Affirmation”.
When we hear God invite us to join Him, we often want Him to give us a sign: “Lord, prove to me this is You, and then I will obey.” When Moses stood before the burning bush and received his invitation to join God, God told him he would receive a sign that God sent him. God told Moses, “This will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Ex. 3:12) In other words, “Moses, obey Me, I will deliver Israel thorugh you. You will come to know Me as your Deliverer, and you will stand on this mountain and worship Me.” God’s affirmation that He had sent Moses would come after Moses obeyed, not before. This is most frequently the case in Scripture. Affirmation comes after obedience.
God is love. Trust Him and believe Him. Because you love Him, obey Him. Then you will fellowship with Him so much that you will come to know Him intimately. That affirmation will be a joyous time for you! (Blackaby, p. 187)
My God is so amazing in all of this! Is this not what God has been telling me on my own? As I read it from my study, it hit me, take the step and trust me to be your Deliverer.
As official as missions work can be, I will be serving in this village opportunity. I’m really excited to see where God takes this, what it will be like when I get there, and how His name will be proclaimed through this journey. As I have begun to share about this location, I have noticed that I get more and more excited each time. But every once in awhile someone asks about housing or food or bugs and a flood of unknowns hit me. For now, I will try not to let the daddy long legs in the corner of my shower bother me too much.
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