Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honduras Trip

You know, I really feel alone most of the time. Ironically I have more friends and close relationships now then I have ever had in my life. I know that many of you were praying for me and thinking about me on this trip and despite the fact that I started out feeling alone I soon realized that I wasn’t. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for being the friends and family that you are to me, loving me, encouraging me, correcting me and simply living life with me, I am so grateful to have such an amazing church family.
A couple months before this trip I started to feel a little off, kind of disconnected, and I was never able to figure out exactly what the roots of those feelings were. I’m not sure I know all the reasons for the feeling, and I probably never will, but I think God showed me a part of it on this trip.
In one of our team meetings before we left we were asked to pray about what God would want us to let go of on this trip. My word was judgment. At the time I was struggling to not judge in several different areas of my life but I really wasn’t sure if that was what God wanted or just the first thing that came to my mind. It wasn’t until the end of the trip that the real meaning of “judgment” would become a little clearer.
Right before we left I started to struggle with fears and insecurity and deep doubt as to whether I was ready for the trip. I felt like I hadn’t prepared properly, I didn’t learn as much Spanish I had wanted to and I wasn’t feeling very emotionally connected. This trip I was supposed to work with the kids and I was afraid that since I have very little experience with kids that I wouldn’t do a good job. I had a feeling of uneasiness as we departed and it lasted several days into the trip.
It was Saturday night at our first team meeting that I finally found peace. Dale Hodgeson shared his devotional and opened it up for people to share what was on their hearts about the coming week (as a side note Dale is amazing and so are his devotionals). I had nothing to say and I was feeling as disconnected as ever, but I listened to what others had to share and I started to be moved. I wasn’t trying to be disconnected, I was trying to be open. As other people got emotional expressing their doubts and insecurities I was able to empathize with them. I started to realize that I wasn’t as shut down as I thought I was. God had been preparing me for this trip and I was a different person then I was the year before. I had grown. I had changed. I was ready to do whatever God put before me. Peace flooded my heart as I let go of my own judgment of myself.  I began to realize that this was what the word judgment represented for me on this trip. It was my judgment of myself that God wanted.
As the trip progressed I was able to let go of my self-judgment and enjoy what God had for me there. As it happens I spent almost the entire time playing and entertaining the younger kids, probably where I should have felt the least comfortable, but I let go of my expectations and had a blast with those kids.
God was so kind to me. I know He always is, but I don’t always experience it like I did on this trip. I feel blessed beyond measure to have been able to go and be a part of what TBLM is doing in Honduras. I am already planning on going on the trip next year and I’m still moving toward a longer term trip in the future. I don’t know what God has in store for me but I do know He has given me a heart for Honduras and a heart for missions.
Thanks you for your prayers and support. I hope you will be willing to join with me again in the future. I can’t wait to see what God does next.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Are my cries for gratitude as loud as my cries for mercy?

This was the title of Pastor Rich's message Wednesday night and it hit me hard. I'm writing because this message impacted me and I don’t want to forget. I don’t want it to be like so many messages that I have gotten excited about in the moment but hardly remember the main points the very next day. I want to be intentional about remembering these truths. They must be remembered. 

This message reminded me of the refrain from one of my favorite Psalms, Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! What I hear when I read this psalm is a man pleading with God's people to acknowledge the Lord's grace and mercy in their lives, knowing that this will keep them focused on Him and away from sin.

Pastor Rich taught from Luke 17:10-17. This is a passage where Jesus heals ten lepers and only one comes back to thank Him. As Pastor Rich launched into his message I kept thinking, this is pretty simple, right? Just make sure you say thank you whenever God blesses you and you’re pretty much covered. Not hard to do. As always, Pastor Rich unpacked this passage for me in a way that made it come to life in a powerful and practical way.

First, these were LEPERS who were healed. This is huge. Unclean, unclean, don't come any closer. This could be described as the extent of a lepers public discourse in Biblical time. Lepers were out cast from society and were essential considered dead. There was no moral obligation to care for lepers. The day that someone was declared leprous was the last day of their life. 

Wow! What a hopeless situation. To be cut off from family, friends and society in general. Utterly isolated and alone and having only a slow and painful death to look forward to. 

Pastor Rich compared this to our situation as unbelievers in need of a savior. Before we were redeemed we were in just this state. There was no hope for us. Life had no true meaning or purpose and we were slowly dying alone. This is what we were rescued out of and this is what we have to be thankful for. 

My Saviors continues to give me mercy; but how often do I respond in heart felt gratitude? How often does my response match the intensity of what I have been saved from? The thankful leper understood what Christ had done for him. He knew his impossible state and understood the miracle of his redemption. He responded out of that understanding.

Maybe this is my problem. I don’t understand what Christ has saved me from. I know I minimize my sin all the time. I know I’m not always willing to look at the damage my sin has caused. I often twist reality to make my depravity look “not so bad”. But I want to see more clearly. I want to understand the truth of my situation and respond correctly in light of what He has done for me.

Thank you Pastor Rich for such a great reminder of God mercy in my life. Thank you for continuing to challenge me in my walk through your faithful teaching.