Saturday, June 30, 2007

San Pedro and Mantañita

I´ve been in Ecuador almost a week now and spent a total of only $20 here. It´s crazy cheap and God has provided us with several free meals. After a 4 hour bus ride, we arrived in San Pablo (Saint Paul) on Tuesday. As we headed from the bus stop to the beach to pitch a tent, we saw a church that was open, so we ventured in. After an 1 1/2 hours of singing, praying and teaching, the whole church of 20 people surrounded us and tag-teamed us with questions, handshakes and smiles. They were so warm and loving, so we talked to them for about an hour and they gave us some really good coffee. The next morning, we hooked up with a Rotary group from the east coast, consisting of half 40-70 year olds and half college freshmen, which Ross had encountered on his way to Ecuador. We spent 4 days working building a garden and in a clinic. Ross got to work with some doctors, nurses and a dentist while I was a pharmacist and laborer. We got to play with lots of kids and tell a lot of people, mostly the Americans, about God´s purpose for us in Ecuador. Some seeds were definitely planted and we got to tell people about the life God has shown us. The Rotarians fed us every meal and let us sleep behind their huge beach house under a cabana: God´s provision. This morning after breakfast, we jumped on a bus and went an hour north to a little town famous for its surfing, Montañita. After waffling back and forth a bit, we decided to stay the day. Ross tried to surf a bit while I did a little Spanish studying, then we tossed a frisbee. Everyone stared at us while we played on the beach. I´m starting to get used to being stared at. Apparently being over 6 foot and having blonde hair isn´t normal at all here. I think we´re about to grab some dinner and wonder around town a bit. Keep the prayers coming.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Estoy aqui

That´s right. I´m in Ecuador. I´m not feeling too talkative at the moment, so this is going to be a short one. I arrived last night at about 11 pm and Roberto and some of his friends were there to pick me up. We took a quick look around town, climbed the tallest hill in Guayaquil, Cerro Santo (meaning Holy Hill) which was a staggering 400 or so steps to the top. They call Guayaquil the flattest city in Ecuador. After that, we went back to the airport to pick up Ross and headed over to Roberto´s Aunt and Uncle´s house where we stayed the night. This morning Ross, Roberto and I prayed together and it was awesome. Roberto prayed in Spanish and I understood most of it which is good. That´s a cool connection and I look forward to hearing about Roberto´s time in Alaska. I definitely have the peace of God, but my flesh is trying to get me to start worrying about the weeks and months to come instead of just living now. God is my provider. I have nothing to fear. I don´t know the plans for the day, but already there are a couple different options emerging for this week. I´ll let you know what God says when I find out what I´m doing. That´s all for now. I´ll try to keep everyone updated as much as I can.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

And I'm Off...

Tomorrow morning, at 7:15, I'm leaving. It's starting to set in. As I look at all the things I'm taking on the trip, I wonder if they're all going to fit in my backpack. As I peak around the corner at the next 3 months of my life, I'm starting to realize the enormity of the unknowns. I knew it would be like this, but knowing it and living it aren't the same. I feel as though I'm at the top of the first big drop of a roller coaster juuuust starting to cross the apex and am catching a glimpse of the steepness of the slope. There's no stoppin now.

Here's what I want you to pray for me:
1. That above all things, my motivation and drive will be love for God and people. (Luke 10:27)
2. That I will be perfected in love and fear will be driven out. (1 John 4:18)
3. That I will offer my body as a living sacrifice, my mind will be transformed and I will be able to perceive and follow God's will daily. (Romans 12:1,2)
4. That I will trust God and not myself, acknowledging Him in all things. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
5. That I will set an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
6. That I will choose life and not death. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I'm sure there's many more things I need prayer for. Please be careful in what you pray for me and exercise wisdom through the Holy Spirit. Thank you all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No Promise of Safety

"But how will I know limits from lies if I never try?
There's no promise of safety with these secondhand wings
But I'm willing to find out what impossible means."
Thrice, The Melting Point of Wax

"Be safe."
"Be careful."

As I've been saying my goodbyes, these are the frequent parting words of friends, family, acquaintances, and people I don't even know. Are safety and being careful really the prime objectives on my trip or even my life? Our culture tells us that comfort, safety and longevity of life are of utmost importance, but Matthew 16:25 says, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

This verse comes right after Jesus tells His disciples he's about to be taken to be tortured and executed. Peter responds, "Never Lord! This shall never happen to You!" In other words, "You can't die! It's too important that you stay alive! We're all going to live long, happy, safe lives together in our new air-tight kingdom!" (maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, maybe not). Jesus powerfully rebukes Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Jesus knew he would do everything he possibly needed to do in 33 years of life and that there were things he could accomplish only in death.

In Acts 20:22-24, Paul tells the Ephesian elders, "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." On the way, other Christ-followers, through the Holy Spirit, see Paul's fate if he continues to Jerusalem and plead with him not to go. He tells them he is full aware of his impending pain and death and must continue.

Over and over, followers of the Way die prematurely in the worst ways, many as they are in the midst of sharing the gospel. Are death and pain as bad as they're made out to be? Matthew 10:28 says, "Do not be afraid of those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in Hell." Phillipians 1:20,21 reads, "I eagerly expect and hope that in no way will I be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Following Jesus isn't a cuddly, snuggly, gooey existence. He promises us persecution, hatred and trials. When I'm brutally honest with myself, I have barely begun to experience those promises and there's reason why. I have been safe. I have been careful.

I'm not trying to go all emo on everyone and blow a few words out of proportion, but words really are important aren't they? Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue has the power of life and death..." I understand you are well-meaning when you say this to me and care about me. I really do appreciate that. I don't want love to be lost in this posting. If you're going to tell me to be safe, only remind me of my safety in the hand of the Father. If you're going to tell me to be careful, only remind me to be careful to listen to and obey God.

I know this post has been a bit dark, so I want to let everyone know that God hasn't been telling me that I'm going to die or be imprisoned in Ecuador. I know God has good things prepared for me there and the road to receiving some of those blessings might be rough. I'm ready and waiting. Thank you everyone for your continued prayers, support and love.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm Really Going to Ecuador

Here's my itinerary:

Mon 25JUN DELTA 948         OK     T   LV DALLAS/FTWOR  715A           40F


And Back...



That's definitely when I'm leaving, but there's no guarantee my return
date won't change. Only God knows.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Brief Jaunt to Italy

I woke up Friday morning and spent a little time reading Matthew. I forget what I read specifically, but afterwards I felt like I really needed to get out and serve someone and soon. Right after I logged that thought away, I told my dad I was about to head over to the job (I'm working for him doing construction, if you didn't know) and he informed me he wasn't going. Apparently, it was the set up day for the Tour 'd Italia, the yearly bicycle ride my parent's bike club puts on in Italy, Texas that raises money for some non-profs. *Ding*. So I went ahead and obeyed the Holy Spirit on that one and told my dad I wanted to go and help. Man did I get what I wanted the next 2 days. I won't go into all the details, but I'll just leave it at, I was dang tired after Saturday afternoon rolled around and there were 20 tables and 600 gallons of water to blame. There were a couple things God showed me this weekend. The first came at about 6 am Saturday morning.

It had been pouring down raining since 4:30 am (I know because that's when I got up) and it was flooding. We were distributing the supplies for the rest stops at the bank across the street from the main rest stop, because it was way too muddy for us to unload across the street and we didn't want to mess up the town sheriff's yard. The ice machine was still plugged in over in the sheriff's yard so the rest stop teams had to walk there to grab bags of ice. One of the guys, driving his truck and trailer, decided he'd make this quick and easy and drive through the muddy yard. (I think it's important to give light to the fact that this same guy had already decided to not park his travel trailer in the same yard as he was afraid it would get stuck in the mud.) Sure enough. He got stuck. None of us across the street realized he was doing this until it was too late. As my dad began to walk across the street to start unloading the trailer so we could put it in another, I was a bit frustrated. My thought process went from "I should just stay here and let him fix his own mess" to "okay, fine, I'll go help" to God saying "this is the grace that I offer." Everyone pitched in and rushed around and pulled everything together to get stuff where it needed to go and the ride started on time. My dad even offered, as a representative of the bike club, to pay for the cost of the wrecker and fixing the yard showing that not only did they still accept him, but that they were in it with him. What a powerful image of what God's grace is. When we were at our lowest and worst, having looked and still leaped, God steps in and pulls us out of the mud. As Romans 5:6-8 says:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We, as His body, are agents of that grace-administration (1 Peter 4:10) saying we still love you and we're beside you in your stupidest, most embarrassing moment. Of course, you still have to accept that grace.

The other thing was my surprise at people's behavior. At the bike race, I was taken aback at how many adults in their 40's, 50's and 60's were still desperately grabbing for life both from having control over others (no matter how false their facade of control actually was) and from being accepted by their peers. I expect this kind of behavior from kids, adolescents and 20 somethings, but from grandparents??? I guess I had always assumed people get past their insecurity and neediness by the time they have grand kids, but you can never be filled that way. This behavior was sharply contrasted with that of my dad (formerly the bike club prez) who everyone kept asking what to do (even the ones acting like they were in control of everything) and he has no title or position in the bike club now. He was only there to serve and be least among them. How true is it that there's only one source of water that never leaves you thirsty? Our identity and security has to be in the completeness only found through God's adoption.

All and all, I am again amazed and incredibly thankful for God's love, mercy, hope and life that He freely offers all who call upon the name of his Son. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Ten Mile "Run" and Some Conviction

WARNING! If you read this, you might realize I'm not perfect (like I'm sure you all think) and it's a bit on the long side of things, but worth reading (if you really care about me) in my humble opinion.

I got off work early today and decided I would go for a 10 mile run. Now you have to realize, I've just started running again in the last few months and usually run 3 miles 2 or 3 times a week. The last time I had run 10 miles was 4 years ago when, for a year or 2, I had been consistently running 4 times a week, playing ultimate frisbee 3 or 4 times a week and lifting weights 2 or 3 times a week. To say I was being a little overambitious wouldn't be a stretch. A cold front and some showers had just come through and had brought it down into the 70's (ya, that's cool for 2 pm in Texas in June). So I threw on my running gear and took off down the service road of 287. At about the three mile mark, I was starting to think maybe I should go ahead and head back under the next overpass. But, I asked God what he thought and asked for the light to turn green if I should keep going. Sure enough, as soon as I was within 5 feet of the intersection, it turned green and I continued on my way. As I was running, I noticed there were a butt-load of churches. There were seriously 4 within 1 1/2 miles. As I approached the 5 mile mark, there was a huge hill and a head wind, so I decided I would walk a bit and then continue on with my run as I turned the corner and went back up the other side of the highway. I walked under the overpass and ran about another 1/2 mile and then the reality of the situation hit me as I stopped to walk again. I looked up and realized that not only had the clouds disappeared, but it was approaching the 90's and my much-anticipated tailwind had vanished (along with my desire to run another step). So there I was, mad at the weather man for lying to me and stuck with 4 plus miles to walk back home. Lame.

I decided I would make the best of it and talk a bit with God (since He was the one who got me into this back at the stoplight!). As I thought and prayed (and hoped a car would come to take me out of my misery, give me a ride or at least give me a little breeze) I began to notice that not only was this road traveled much more quickly by car and I was developing a sweet farmer's tan/burn, but there was a lot of trash on the side of the road. That's when God nudged me and this whole long run-walk-thing became a huge parable for my recent life.

My first 18 months in Alaska were amazing and spiritually tranforming with continual growth. I learned so much about God, had awesome brothers and sisters to partner with and was blessed to be apart of what He was doing in the world. [Parallel: when I was in awesome shape in college]. During that time many supernatural things happened including receiving the call to go to Ecuador this summer. But... after Christmas, I started slipping into disobedience. It was an easy, smooth, slipperly and slow slide. I barely noticed. I won't go into all the details, but my biggest form of rebellion was not working-- physically, not having a job--mentally, not being serious about learning spanish--spiritually, walking in obedience to where I knew God was leading (very related to the physical and mental). [Parallel: the 2 years after college when I wasn't super physically active]. So what happens when you stop exercising? Your energy level drops, you sleep more and you're just less there. On top of that, you quickly forget how much better it was when you were taking care of yourself. The same priniciple is so true in other areas of life.

As I finished my time in Alaska, I was drained and cynical. I wasn't walking in darkness, but I was sure walking in lethargy. Not only that but God was clearly telling me how important it was that I prepare to meet His work in Ecuador [Parallel: all the churches on the side of the road]. I have to admit to you that my flesh is crying out for me to justify myself, to tell you about all the good things I did and how I was still better than a lot of people, but that's deceptive and unimportant. All I can really say to you is "sorry", because I robbed God and you. God had so much more for me and, by association, the whole Body fo Christ, but I basically said "No, I'll be fine living off the blessings of the past and my own effort." [Parallel: the 5 miles I actually did accomplish running while it was still cool outside]. So, I'm asking for your forgiveness, no matter if you think I actually wronged you or not, because I did.

So does that mean my life's ruined and I'm stuck with the consequences of a 5 months of disobedience? NO!!! As I was about to finish the 10 miles, the lyrics from the song I was listening to (the 3rd time through the same CD, yep it takes me a while to get things sometimes) really hit home. They're from the song "The Tease" by Evans Blue (not a Christian band). The chorus goes:

Hold your hands into the sky
Pray for mercy, instead of time

So true! My first instinct is to want to have more time, words, rest or whatever, so that I can fix all my wrongs instead of falling on the grace of Jesus as He redeems all things. That's the beauty of God! As I walked down the service road of the highway, I did just that: raised my hands to God and prayed for mercy, because I really can't make up for my sins. It was an awesome moment, and I'm sure onlookers just thought I was trying to catch my breath. Hehe. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 says:

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

What that says to me, is that God's uses everything and everyone for his purpose, but he lets us choose whether or not we're going to enjoy it. In other words, we can be the fancy silverwear or the toilet. We can be feeding the body or serving it in other ways... Not only that, but we can be can be promoted from one end of the spectrum to the other (take a second to let that one sink in) if we so choose. So what do we do about it? The next verse says, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Not easy, but so simple and so good.

So where does that leave me? Yes, God wants me to take this journey [the green light], but it's going to take a bit longer and be a bit more painful getting there than I was anticipating [the five miles of walking and looking at trash as the Texas sun beat down on me]. I was planning on leaving for Ecuador this week, but it looks like it might be another week or 2 before I can go. The last few weeks in Texas have healed and rejuvenated me as I remember what it's like to walk to God's rhythm. Praise be to God for His continual patience, His enduring love and yes, His disipline! Amen.