01 May 2013 7 Comments
01 Jan 2013 3 Comments
Those of you who know me probably know that I do this challenge every year. It started with Port City Community Church (PC3) in Wilmington, North Carolina. Several years back, around this time, the pastor challenged his congregation to put aside “resolutions” and instead choose one word to focus each of their efforts on through the year. Simplifying, focusing, and filtering everything through My One Word has helped me grow spiritually and has given me a new lens of reflection at the year’s end.
My One Word for the year 2012 was “Fight.” I chose it because 2011 had been one very big spiritual battle that had worn me out. I was anticipating another year of spiritual battles in 2012 and wanted to remind myself how to stay protected from attack.
As soon as this December began, I started mulling over what My One Word should be for 2013. Though fighting spiritual battles is still going to be a part of my life, I feel much more confident in dealing with them. When asking God what I need to work on, one thing kept coming up. Ironically, it was my very first word from 6 years ago, but it is something that I still struggle with–prayer.
It’s the most basic exercise of any Christian. I shouldn’t have a problem with it, right? But I do. What do you say to God–the all knowing, all powerful being of the universe who made you, gave you life, will take your life, and has a job for you to do? What do you say to the being who sits on a throne surrounded by thrones (Rev. 4:4); who has strange creatures calling out praises to Him (Rev. 4:8); Who has eyes like fire and a tongue like a sword (Rev. 1:14,16); who brings everyone to their knees as soon as they see him. What do you say to Him? “God, thank you for these petty little things and can I have some other petty little things?” Because when you’re standing in front of the God of the universe, everything seems petty.
While speaking on coming before God in humility, Francis Chan writes in his book, Crazy Love, “Remember the visions of John, in Revelation, and Isaiah; remember the many accounts of people coming into God’s presence and how it always caused the people to fall on their faces in terror. And then start to pray.” It’s a powerful image to have in mind. My stumbling block with this is that there’s nothing I can say to that. My idea of prayer is so narrow that it’s either petty or nothing. I don’t know how to have a conversation with the God of the universe.
But He wants us to! He commands us to! God gives us permission to come to him boldly and talk (Hebrews 4:16). He calls us His friends (John 15:15).
It’s a strange kind of oxymoron to figure out–He’s the God that calls us friends and causes us all to fall trembling to the ground. I can’t wrap my head around that sort of relationship. But I want 2013 to be the year that I discover that and learn how to talk to the God that made me.
My One Word for 2013 is Pray. I want to obey God’s command to pray continually–without ceasing (this will take some effort). And I want to learn to pray in a way that is appropriate and pleasing to Him.
I invite you all to join me in this. If you have a word for 2013, I’d love to hear about it. I’d also like to ask that you hold me accountable for My One Word throughout the year. Don’t let me grow apathetic, or forgetful about something so important. Remind me; ask me; urge me; teach me.
If you would like to learn more about the My One Word challenge, you can visit the website: http://myoneword.org/
31 Dec 2012 Leave a Comment
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” -James 4:13-15
This year, God kept me living very mist-like–hazy and annoying to drive in… no, wait… temporary in any place and uncertain of the future.
About once a month, someone (or I, myself) would ask me: “So what are you doing? Are you staying in Brazil? Are you going back to America? Are you teaching or going back to college?”
I’ve been learning that plans are for people who haven’t talked to God yet. As soon as I had mine established, he’d show me I had it wrong. In the end, the only answer I could give anyone was, “I don’t know. God knows.” Each day was a step of faith-some more obvious than others.
I went to Brazil in July with plans to teach missionary kids for a year, but a series of complications has brought me back to the U.S. for Christmas. It’s a blessing, really. God has given me the privilege of holding my new baby nephew in Florida and visiting with friends that I rarely get to see.
I got to buy solid deodorant for the first time in 6 months
And drive a car for the first time in 6 months.
I’ve only ever asked that God will put me where I’m needed. That’s my true desire–to fill a need. And that is what He has done. From teaching with One7 Academy, volunteering at The Gathering, and going to Brazil, God has answered my prayer to fill a need.
He’s been faithful to answer other requests as well. Before leaving the U.S. in July, I made it a goal to make at least one Brazilian friend in Anápolis. He gave me many.
I prayed that God would take care of me financially, since I had no guarantee that I’d have enough money to live on each month. He always made sure I had what I needed–a beautiful place to live, free lunches at the school I worked at, access to cheap bus transportation, and bodacious friends that filled in whatever else I might need (like car transportation to places a little difficult to get to, or trips to the grocery store, or scrumptious dinners…).
God never forgot me. And I don’t ever want to forget Him. This post (this whole blog, really) is my Ebenezer–my reminder that God has taken care of me and will always take care of me–even if I have no idea what He’s doing.
I’m holding my breath for what comes next. I thought I was going back to Brazil to finish the school year, but in order for that to happen, I have to have some very important paper work come through within the next month. At this point in time, I haven’t heard anything about it. But I know that God’s in charge. He’s got a plan, and His plan doesn’t fail. I do believe that God wants me back in Brazil–either immediately, or within a few months–but His timing is all his own. I just have to trust Him for it.
30 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
It’s been awesome to see God’s personality shine through his creation in Brazil. From the mouse-sized bugs…
to the milky way galaxy lighting up the night sky.
Just as art displays the character of the artist, all of creation reveals a little more about God. It’s been an absolute honor to see more of God’s character on display in Brazil.
One of the first things that my mom wanted to show us as soon as we stepped out on Brazilian soil was this special bird called the Massa Barro
that builds a house out of mud. Let me tell you, if you gave me a mud pit and a shovel, I wouldn’t be able to build a house as functional as this. And this bird doesn’t even get a shovel. But God gave it the ingenuity to build a house with a conch shell doorway to protect the family inside.
But creative engineering isn’t all that the birds of Brazil reveal about God. They also show his sense of humor and love for socializing. Every morning in Taunay, I’d wake up to a crowd of cackling birds that sounded like all the most annoying laughs having a party. They’d scatter a bit in the day, but as soon as the sun started setting, they’d flock together again to laugh themselves to sleep right above my head. At some point, I’d just start laughing with them because of the sound they were making.
It seems that all birds in Brazil love parties and are rarely alone. If they’re not crowding a tree to chatter to each other in comical sounds, they’re pairing off with their mates. I’ve seen several blue Macaw parrots fly around–both in the city and in the country–but never alone. Where ever they go, they go with their mate. They’re absolutely stunning to look at and sound like rusty, metal wheels when they talk. Because God likes to pair beauty with strangeness.
Probably the most off-putting example of God’s personality were the howler monkeys that I was able to see in the Pantanal swamp. I’ve seen these guys on TV before and thought they sounded cool. But the TV doesn’t quite capture the atmosphere of their chorus. When I first spotted one in the treetops, he looked small and silent. I only knew he was a howler by the color of his coat. I looked for a short while and then walked on, unimpressed. It was about 10 minutes later that the howling started. I don’t know where it started. Within seconds, I was surrounded by a sound that made my hair stand on end. It took me a moment to associate the sound with a small fuzzy creature in the trees. Howls came from near and far. They overlapped each other and answered each other and when one got louder, they all got louder. My fight or flight reflex kicked in (for some reason). I wanted to run and seriously thought that they might eat me (as ludicrous as that would be). They SOUNDED like they wanted to eat me!
And then, just as the chorus of howling started to fade, a deeper guttural voice started in louder than the rest. Imagine an a cappella of grind-core singers with a lead solo part that shook your bones. That was it. My jaw dropped open and I looked at the people around me. I wanted to be sure that if we were supposed to run for the cars, I wouldn’t be left behind. And then it stopped. All at once, they went silent. Their forms disappeared from the trees and I never saw a trace of them again.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of it except that God loves all forms of music–even grind-core choirs that scare the hell out of me. I bet He applauded at the end of that.
But even this doesn’t compare to the raw power of God that I witnessed at Iguassu falls. The majesty and beauty that I saw there is far beyond my vocabulary. Everywhere I looked there was more of His splendor slipping off the rocks. And every part of it cried, “Power!” The rocks, the rapids, the concussion of air that ruptures out from the impact, the energy that moves it all! But suspended above all of that, in the most delicate fashion, were the rainbows.
Speaking of rainbows, have you ever seen the end of a rainbow?
I’m blown away by the nature of God displayed in his creation. His art holds as wide a range as giant cockroaches and rainbows. He balances forms; gives meaning and symbolism to each; composes structures that inspire the world; incorporates the mastery of science; is the originator of all creativity–anyone’s art is a rip off of Him.
I just don’t know why he made mosquitoes.
12 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
God is good. He always answers prayers! I love it when He does it in such a way that says, “I know what’s best and I can do things you never even thought of.” This time, He has answered our prayers with plans that He laid down half a century ago—reminding us all that He is God and not finite. Let me explain:
In 1949, my mom was born in Rio Verde, Brazil to two American missionary parents. She was raised in the village where her parents ran a school and taught the native children. She was home schooled until the end of her 8th grade year. Then she left Brazil for an American boarding school in 1965 and never went back.
My mom never had a Brazilian passport. She never even had a Brazilian birth certificate. All she had was a letter from the U.S. Embassy stating her birth abroad.
Skip ahead a generation and here we are trying to go to Brazil. It’s her village’s centennial celebration—commemorating 100 years since the first missionaries reached them. It is the first time my mother has tried going back and the first time ever in the country for the rest of our nuclear family (My dad, my brother, and myself. My sister cannot make it—she has her own nuclear family now).
When applying for visas, we thought that mine would be the trouble maker since I was planning on staying longer than everyone else. But we received a phone call from the Brazilian Embassy in Atlanta, GA that said otherwise.
The man on the phone told us that they would not accept my mom into the country as an American. Since she was born in Brazil, she was a Brazilian and she needed a Brazilian passport. “No no no,” He said, “You are Brazilian and you’re children are too!”
It was both an wonderful surprise and a great disappointment. My mom would need special permission from the Brazilian consulate to enter the country and get her Brazilian passport. Then the rest of us could apply for our citizenship as well. A couple phone calls and anxiety ridden waiting periods later (if they turned us down, my mom would be barred from the country forever), we had that permission.
Now the four of us have all we need to go to Brazil on July 4th (arriving July 5th). Not only did God work out the kinks, but took it one step further. Forty-seven years after leaving, my mom gets to return to her home as a native. Even more, I have the opportunity of having dual citizenship which can be a very useful thing for whatever future God has in store for me.
20 Mar 2012 Leave a Comment
I’ve seen a few jaw drops when I tell people how much money I will need for my stay in Brazil. If you put it all together, I’ll need about $21,000 for the year (conservatively speaking). Asking people to give me $21,000 isn’t pleasant. Who has that kind of money to give away? And why would they? But I’m not asking people to give me money. I’m asking God.
Today, while praying, I remembered something that one of my One7 students said. Those girls taught me as much as I taught them. I started writing down a lot of the things that they said. This is what Khon told some volunteers one day in class: “It doesn’t matter if you got no money because God has all the money in the world and he takes care of you. God is awesome like that.” Or as Tri put it, “Our God is a rich god. He can have whatever he wants.”
Man, I’m gonna miss those girls. I sincerely hope and pray that God will bring me back to them one day. But for now, He has told me to go.
I’ve asked for Him to provide, but money doesn’t rain down from Heaven. God has already given us the things that we need on this earth. What’s so cool is that when we ask, He points it out. And through my asking and other people’s giving, God not only provides for everyone AND sends us where we need to go, but also grows us into the Christ-bearers that we are called to be. God is awesome like that!
The One7 Girls:
Me, Gretchen, Khon, Chinh, MC
Maryan, Tri, Kiet (who eventually learned to smile), Gina