Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Glimpses of Life as One of a Dozen

People often give me the doubtful, questioning, even speechless eyes when I tell them I live with a family of eleven—with me that makes a dozen of us under a roof, doing life together that all the glory might belong to the Lord.

Now, I just expect the hesitant, you are crazy eyes. But it really doesn't bother me much anymore—I just smile and joyfully explain to them how crazy life is and that I wouldn't change it for a thing. The truth of that statement has become much more true (if that even makes sense!) as the days, weeks, and months continue to pass. I cannot imagine life being any different. The flip of the calendar has in fact, taught me to love and cherish this family of eleven more then I ever could have imagined.

Over the past several weeks, there have been little GLIMPSES, little moments where I see God's perfect plan continue to be affirmed right where I am at, in the little house on the dirt road.

Like when I get home from work and a little guy runs up to me and leans in real close as he begins to tell me He accepted Christ today and I erupt with joy and praise. Or when we go around the table to affirm seven year old little one on his birthday, and he begins weeping as I tell him what a tender heart he has and how he loves people wholeheartedly. Or when the girls talk openly about the doubts and realities of life in a fallen world. Or when they get excited about something coming up and tell me I have to be there—I have to experience it with them. Or when baby boy runs into my arms when I get home from work (which has happened ONCE, making it one of these glimpses!). Or when Kevin cooks breakfast for me before I have to leave for work. Or when the boys asked specifically that I would come into their room to tell them goodnight. Or when Michelle takes me to run errands with her, even though it takes twice as long since I never stop talking. Or when I can unload the dishwasher without asking where anything goes (a rare occurrence, since things continue to move around). Or when I get to read a book to the babies as we cuddle before bed—when they will sit in my lap for JUST A minute. Or when I am trusted to drive nine precious lives in the big white van solo. Or when my friend's husband begins referring to me as "Courtney McCollum" because I was running a little bit late to meet them somewhere...I am STILL trying to figure what he's talking about??

In a large family, it is easy to get caught up in just trying to make it from one moment to the next...get everyone busy on an activity so you can get dinner going so you can get everyone to stop the activity to wash up so everyone can gather around the big wood table so we can actually hold hands without passing along dirt and snot so we can beg Jesus to sustain us, to help us speak kindly, to help us obey without anyone complaining of germs passing along through the grips shared among us all so that we can serve up a meal so everyone gets enough so we can be excused to get boys to bed and clean the kitchen so we can breathe for a few minutes so we can have more breathe to laugh at the craziness of the day so we can have even more breathe to process the trials of life so we can fall asleep with peace of mind to the quietness of nine little ones sleeping all so we have the energy to wake and do it all over again tomorrow.

Yes, this is reality. But somewhere in-between the washing up and the prayers, comes the GLIMPSE. Somewhere after the food before the last dish is put up, comes another GLIMPSE. To what exactly does this glimpse allow you to see into? The GLIMPSE allows me to see Jesus at work in these little hearts and minds. The GLIMPSE reminds me of my need for His grace, His love, His selflessness amidst it all. Through the GLIMPSE, the Spirit speaks to my weary soul and I joyfully press on.

The GLIMPSE is why I wouldn't change my life for anything, even if you look at me with those eyes.

The GLIMPSE challenges me to see Christ in all of His glory, to just get a glimpse of what He is doing here on earth reminds me of the eternity that awaits—that the challenges and suffering here on this fallen earth are worth enduring, for the glory that is to be revealed simply does not compare.

What GLIMPSE has He given you today?


Birthday Affirmation times—testify to Jesus' work in each heart

Dutch Puff—simply because it is my favorite "large family" food

Exploring nature—I see the Lord in a different way in the country 

Little brother good night hugs & goodbye waves in the morning—ahhhh love.

Late night kitchen talks with K and M—I would honestly pay for these moments and the Truth and life that is breathed into my inner place during these times. 

Reading in the chair that rocks—a comfort, I think, my favorite spot.

Ramblenising and deep conversation with sisters {after} bedtime of course—made even better when K stomps his foot on floor above, making me break into giggles. 

Mowing the grass on Saturdays—being able to serve and improve at making perfectly straight lines across the yard, no OCD though. 

Family Dinners—you just have to be there.

Washing dishes—it is my job and I enjoy it.

Kevin teaching—I always learn too.
Experiencing peace as I watch chaos unfold—sounds crazy, but it happens daily.

Cuddles from the babies—a rare and precious occurrence these days!

Rides in the van—made even better when everyone breaks into a song and I start looking for cameras because I fell as though I am on a reality TV show

Learning to shoot a gun—one of my frirst glimpses, actually, sweet moment.

Helping Michelle cook—learning from her in the kitchen, learning to be a wife and mom.

When eleven (perfect) voices break into song during family worship time—add in the piano and guitar for kicks—I see Jesus. 

Driving on the country roads with windows down—and music blasting.

Michelle chopping my hair off—a tangible shedding of a whole lot of my insides. 

Little boys getting into my makeup—something I always wished I could experience growing up, as odd as that sounds. 

Being able to share my clothes and jewelry—or simply have it stolen :)

Watching old movies with the girls—who find joy in all of my firsts...including the movie we are watching.

My first time on the 4-Wheeler—when Kevin took off with me on it & got the death stare from mom

When Kevin (completely jokingly) refers to Michelle as "Woman"—with a capital W!

The way this family welcomes and loves on my international friends—incredible testimony to Christ's love for each of us. 

Coming home to squirrels hanging in my closet in place of the lightbulb—and the payback that came as a result.

Sharing a room with sisters for a season—another dream come true, learned lots too.

Birthday Pancakes—the best. 

The fact that using a dozen eggs a day has become somewhat normal—wrong I think!

Going anywhere with the whole family—I find joy in being with them all.

Taking communion as a family—one of my sweetest memories.

Finding pets in the wild and attempting to domesticate them—until they die, anyways.

Building a chicken house—and the fact that it hasn't been touched in months.

Driving the big white van—and not crashing.

Little brother goodnights—nothing better. 

The heart of this family to love me as one of their own—in so many tangible and unspoken ways

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, for you KNOW that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. ---James 1:2-3

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Grace & Coming Home

Oh Jesus, your grace astounds me.

Last night I got to preach my testimony at a revival. Usually I take hours to prepare, still doubting my words even as I approach the podium. Last night, I truly encountered the power of the holy spirit working in my heart and mind. I had an idea of what to say, what God had laid upon my heart. The greatest gift was seeing the fruit of a semester of discipline to hide God's Word in my heart.

I shared of growing up in an unbelieving home with alcoholic parents. I spoke of an emptiness and hopelessness which drove me to an attempt to end my life. I shared of God's protection over my body that night. I spoke of life and death, blessing and curse as described in Duet 30:20. I testified to the sweetness of choosing life. And then scripture just began pouring off of my lips, as though it were a new language I had been learning. It was sweet. A precious reminder of the truth that it is not by my words but only His which draw men to Himself.

I pray these people's faith may rest in Christ alone, not in me. The revival was broadcast via speaker systems over a 4 mile radius surrounding the compound, into countless villages. We were told over 1,000 sets of ears were listening.

This year God has blessed me beyond measure to be discipled by my sweet friend Heather. After being roommates for a year, marriage stole her away from life in our little apartment at the start of last summer. This past winter, God began to burden her heart to truly disciple me—just at the same time He was teaching me a hatred for the sin I continuously have battled, one which birthed in me a desire to know Him more. When Heather presented this idea of "discipleship" to me, I was a bit taken aback. I thought this was what she had been doing for the past year and a half in a sense. She explained me to that with her time in Fayetteville coming to an end as she and her husband make a move to Springfield in July, she didn't want to leave and not see my life look different—radically so—by her move date. 

Starting in February, she took me back to the basics—this hurt my pride a bit, but radically impacted my quiet time and my knowledge of the Word. We studied how to actually study the word. A few different methods. As I began applying these to my life and using them during my quiet times, I realized I could actually understand scripture in a way I thought I could only do through listening to podcasts prior. She also encouraged me to hide His word in my heart. I began memorizing a verse a week—often missing a week or two even. 

When in India, I saw the first fruits of this labor of scripture memorization in a tangible way. God's word continually poured from my tongue—in prayer, in teaching, in sharing testimony to His faithfulness. These were not my words, but His. Words I didn't even know I knew until I said them. He spoke so boldly through my lips—what grace. At that point I realized I had to grow in this discipline—I had to continue hiding away His Word because it was so much more powerful then any words I could think up during these times. 

Without knowing any of this, my first week back when Heather and I met for lunch she said she wanted to challenge me to something. At this point I just don't much care for those words coming off of her lips because it always requires some sort of sacrifice and pain. Seriously. 

"I think you should memorize a book of the Bible," she said completely nonchalantly. 

Say WHAT?!? 

A book of the Bible—memorize. Heck no. There's no way I could do that—its enough to try to get a verse or two a week. Chapters are meant to be read—not recited. I thought to myself. She is crazier then I gave her credit. Of course by the end of our little lunch, I was {hesitantly} all in. She does that to me—every time. Makes the crazy sound completely attainable—even normal. Why not? 

So part of writing this post is actually work at this memorization process. Part of it is to challenge you as I have been challenged. Have you seen fruit of hiding the Word in your heart as well? 
A bit behind the "whys" of scripture memory:

These verses sanctify us by causing us to hate sin and to determine to fight it vigorously. Through memorization, we are able to stand in the moment of temptation through the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) Therefore did the Psalmist say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9,11)

In addition, the word sanctifies us by transforming our entire worldview from secular to heavenly: “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) The “renewing of your minds” happens by the flow of Scripture through them like a pure river. As this river flows through your mind constantly, you will see things more and more the way God does, if you are a child of God... for “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) This gives us more and more wisdom to deal with this world.

The Scripture memorizer will be used mightily by God to teach and encourage other Christians, with an apt word from the perfect Word of God: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...” (Colossians 3:16) How better can you obey Colossians 3:16 than by Scripture memorization? The “word of Christ” will indeed “dwell in you richly” as you memorize it, and then work it over in your mind through meditation. Then you will most certainly be useful to God to “teach and admonish” another brother or sister. Scripture builds the Church to its final doctrinal and practical maturity (Ephesians 4:13-16), and God uses those who memorize it to do this building in a powerful and eternally fruitful way.

Finally, the memorization of Scripture enables us to bless lost people with a powerful and vivid presentation of the gospel of salvation. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Those who memorize Scripture obey Peter’s command in this regard: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) The “preparation” Peter had in mind is best done by memorizing Scripture. Remember that it is Scripture which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) The evangelist who stores up Scripture on the life of Christ, for example, can vividly retell the miracle stories to a generation which is biblically illiterate, which knows very little about the life of Christ. That person can also give the theology of salvation from Paul’s epistles, if they have memorized those books. In short, Scripture memorization makes one a much more powerful and effective evangelist.

Memorizing Books Is Better Than Memorizing Individual Verses
Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Paul said “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness...” (2 Timothy 3:16) Memorizing individual verses tends to miss intervening verses that the individual does not feel are as significant. Furthermore, most of Scripture is written to make a case... there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorized. Furthermore, there is also a greater likelihood of taking verses out of context by focusing on individual verses.
I cannot believe this is my last night in India. I feel like I just got here. I am so scared of going back—going back to the same old selfish, comfortable, busy, distracted, American I am. I'm fearful of many decisions that need to be made. I'm scared of forgetting the truth you've etched into my heart during these weeks. I'm scared no one will understand. I'm scared I'll shut down and return to my old ways of coping. I fear for my sisters in Christ who are coming home with me as well. But GRACE, this I know. Whether on Indian or American soil, I will soak in your Grace through the unknowns and heartaches of this life. This I know. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Being Called to Obey

As I lay awake well into the wee hours of the night, my brain will not shut down, not even for a moment of releif. My mind races from one thought to the next, some purposeful others random. Either way, Lord I am begging you to let sleep come soon!

This place is getting to me. The mere thought that I could in fact commit more then 2 weeks of my life to this completely foreign land brings great joy—and great fear. Some of it legitamate, most of it my selfishness and insecurity (pride) roaring its ugly head once again. How will I communicate sufficiently? How will I get through this alone? Can man truly live on rice and rice alone—for months? Will the people trust the girl beneath the blonde curls, the one who knows nothing about their culture, not more then two words of their language? I am by no means qualified, not for this. Does He really equip those He calls? What if I get back and cant handle it? What if I get really sick? What if someone at home dies? Fear enslaves those who allow it to rule over them. Jesus, you rule over me.

Perfect love casts out all fear. So I must hope greater in this guarantees and lesser in the possibilities I fear.

Fearlessness in me says GO—it says dont even bother going back. What do you know of suffering for me? Nothing. What does my Word require of you? To go and preach the gospel to the nations. As the Spirit rises up within me, I fall to peices all over again.

Sometimes, I think we overcomplicate the spiritual things in life. There is a need. Could it be this simple? There is a need and I can meet it so why not? Is this not my calling as one of the redeemed? I think I am a victim of over-spiritualizing things, over-complicating them. The Truth, in all reality, is far less complicated then we often view it. His Word commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. To care for the widow and the orphan, to defend the fatherless. To proclaim freedom for the captives. To forsake all else for His name. To serve Him. To suffer joyfully. To preach His Word and testify to His grace. To be a lavisher of that grace. To glorify Him. To know Him more. To make Him known.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. --James 1:27

“The price is certainly high for people who don’t know Christ and who live in a world where Christians shrink back from self-denying faith and settle into self-indulging faith. While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the Gospel remain in the dark” -David Platt

These people—they have messed me up. The thought of returning to my comfortable life in America, returning to my selfish lifestyle causes a battle to well up inside—one I don't know how to fight well. I long to know Him like I do here—to place my DEPENDENCY in Him in such a way which is hindered in the US. I just want to see His kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven.

The modern-day gospel says, 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.' Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, 'You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, & in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.” -Platt

The idea that this Truth flowing from my white lips could possibly be richer, more spiritual, wiser then that which flows from brown ones is absolutely insane. Yet part of meeting a need, I suppose, is coming to a point where GRACE alone anchors my soul. While the only seperation between the white and the brown are a whole lot of miles and suffering beyond my comprehension, in His grace unknown to me, He gave me life over there covered with white skin and these people, life over here in covered in brown. Grace. Thus, this idea of white (me) leaving there (America) to come here (South Asia) is not by any merit or wisdom or works or earning, but His grace alone. I pray if it is His will, all brown on this mountain will see my white skin and see only the access faith in Christ alone has given me into this grace in which we all must have to stand, that we might rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:2)

What is my life but a vapor? My time on this earth but the blink of an eye? In His grace, He STILL chose to redeem me from darkness and deliver me into His glorious light. He STILL chose to call me, to set me apart, to be a revealer of Christ. (Galatians 1) But why?

In order that I might preach Him among the gentiles, that I might be a proclaimer of GRACE to the nations!!

I often wonder what it sounds like, what it feels like to be "called to serve Christ,"particularly in an overseas context. But from what I can see in scripture, ALL of us are called simply because we profess faith in Christ.

Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. —Isaiah 1: 17

I don't think it's being called that we doubt. At the end of it all, I think it's accepting the weight of what we have been called to. It's obedience we wrestle with—our calling and election are sure. 

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.   −2 Peter 1:10

“My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus' words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him. ” -David Platt

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
             -Luke 14

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Father's Day Post: I Am His, Not Yours

Yesterday was Father's Day. It was a hard day for me, seeing as my dad continues to choose to live in sin and abdicate his role in my life, and in my siblings' lives. I am blessed beyond measure to see God's provision in providing my adopted dad Kevin and several other spiritual fathers in my life through my brothers and Anthony. Even in the brokenness, I am blessed. 

This was written earlier last week, after my dad made some poor choices which hurt our family deeply. 

I don't even know who you are anymore, aside from the man that conceived me?

Truth be told, it is God's grace in both of our lives, yours and mine, that I do not live in the same city as you. Without miles to calm the raging storm inside, I would right now be knocking your door down. I keep going to my phone to call you, not even sure what I will say. But then I pause and remember—my  passionate and wrath-filled words will not help you. Neither would my grace and mercy if the Spirit suddenly birthed it inside of me to give. The only help for you I do not have to offer. None of us kids do. There is truly only one Helper for you, dad. I weep at the thought of life apart from Him—I weep for you, I weep for the hopelessness that I know all too well.

My flesh is exploding with more anger then I have ever experienced towards you. Part of it might be righteous, but most of it is just hurt, deep brokenness that I would never know apart from your decisions. Decisions that continue to destroy any joy I ever experienced with you. I want to  hate you for that. To swear to myself and anyone willing to listen that you will never so much as hear my voice as long as you live. But then I remember that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purpose. And today, it is for my good that I get to experience this brokenness, this brokenness that is a result of your sin. Praise God that not even your sin can thwart His perfect and sovereign plan for my life—whether wounded or bound up, I am His not yours. 

You have done some stupid things over the years, dad. But honestly I never thought you were capable of this. I don't know why I would limit your ability to fall short apart from Christ, but somehow I think I still believed there is just a little good in each of us, a morality perhaps, even apart from Him who called us out. But today I realize that is a lie—the enemy hates that it just came out too. For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one is righteous, no, not one. Not me, not you.

Sin always takes you further then you want to go, keeps you longer then you want to stay, and costs you more then you are willing to pay. 

Dad, sin has taken you further, kept you longer, and cost you more. You may not realize it yet, or you may just continue on because of it—either way, the consequence of sin is unchanging. It is death. 

Do you know how deeply your sin is wounding your kids? And now even down another generation, your sin is seeping through unto your grandchildren, cursing their names. I can tell you one thing, us kids have thrown a whole lot of grace your way over the years, but when it comes to my nieces and nephews you will find no grace from me. It stops with me—with my brothers and sister. You will not rob from our children all you have taken from us. In God's grace I beg that they will never experience the pain, that they will not bear the scars of your choices as we do. And I will fight for them—all of us will. Dad, out of love we will choose them—every time. That is not a choice I would choose to have to make, but it seems you have indeed chosen it for me—for yourself I suppose.

So though your heart is not mine to judge, you can rest assured until there is true repentance in your life, until you run the opposite direction of the sin that continues to enslave you. The result of sin is death. In making the choice to continue to live in sin, to continue living as a slave to your flesh over the Spirit, you have abdicated your role in my life, in my future children's lives as a result. Death. There is little hope in death. Little hope in being removed completely from the generations which you birthed. Little hope under the curse.

For the wage of sin is death...

There is good news, dad. I know it is all sounding pretty hopeless right now, but yes even for you there is hope, dad. There is one, one who died on a cross so that even though you deserve nothing but death, you have a choice to make. Because of the one who died on that cross, you have been offered a gift. The thing about a gift is, that no one can force you to accept it. I can mail you a gift, my intention is giving it you to keep, but you have to walk to the mailbox and chose to take it, you have to chose to open it, and even then you have to chose to accept it. Its a choice though. You can choose to mail it back to me. The choice is yours completely—I won't force you to keep the gift.

Jesus is like that too. He is not going to force you to accept the gift He has provided for you in His death on that cross.

Did you know that when you accept Him as Lord and Savior, He casts your sin as far as the east is from the west? Did you know that He remembers your transgressions no more? Did you know that there is nothing you have ever done or could ever do that His grace cannot cover? Did you know that He restores the years the locusts have stolen? Did you know that He no longer sees your sin, but He simply sees the blood of Jesus when He looks at you? Did you know that He forgives you? Yes dad, even YOU! Not just some of the things you have done, but EVERY SINGLE SIN, He forgives you. Did you know that He makes all things new—yes, dad, even you. He will make you new! Did you know that He chose you for a purpose? Did you know that He is slow to anger, abounding in love for you? Did you know that He shows compassion to those who fear Him? Did you know that He will not despise a broken and contrite heart? Did you know that He will fight for you, dad, that you only have to be still? Did you know that He already reigns in victory? Did you know that He has numbered every hair on your head? Did you know that He actually cares about you, that He loves you deeply? Dad, did you know?

It is a choice to take the gift, a choice to place your faith in it. A choice I wish I could make for you, but cannot.

...But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. {Rom. 6:23}

Do you have any idea of this gift you have been offered?? Oh, I wish you could just get a taste, just a glimpse of His grace and mercy, of His love for you. It will mess you up, dad. Yes, I think I will start praying for you to be so messed up—for your life to continue to crumble beneath you. That way, when your feeble knees give out and you have no one standing beside you, that in that moment as you finally lift your drooping head, you will see His glory alone. It'll wreck ya, dad.

All I know to do is to grieve this loss until I can no longer. To let those close to me into the inner place, that they might speak the Spirit to life within me, when I don't have to words to utter. To not sleep  on my anger and hurt. To wake up and praise Jesus' name for allowing me to be broken. To testify to His goodness in spite of it all, in spite of how deep my wounds. To protect the next generation from the pain—however the Spirit would lead. To know Him right where I am at—to be okay in this place. To praise Him for the wounding and praise Him when He binds me up. To trust Him because nothing else makes sense. And eventually, to pray for you dad.

Thats all I know to do. Thankful that in the pain, yes even here, He is still enough. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When God Uses Tigers and Elephants

Jesus, it is hard to believe we have been here almost a week—the days have sped past yet the moments continue to linger, breaking my heart for the things that break yours.

Today I am tired and weary. Sleep is nearly impossible to come by at night, though mid-afternoon naps continue to sustain me. Add the digestive issues and ceaseless sweating, sometimes I just wonder when the build up will prove too much—waiting for the explosion? Oh Jesus, please teach me to suffer well for your namesake. Whatever that means? Suffering—I don't know the first thing about it. Yet in these moments I am so convinced I have tasted and seen it. But I do not know suffering as these people do.

Tonight our host began telling us stories. Stories which testify to the almighty power of a sovereign, loving God--in the very midst of suffering. Aside from the beautiful beleivers on this mountain also reside those who persecute. Even during our time, our plans were thwarted a bit as a result of those who persecute.

A few years ago, the Christians in the state of Orissa endured horrific persecution. The Christians were blamed for the death of a Hindi leader, Swami Lakshmanananda. More than 18,000 were injured and 50,000 displaced. Around 11,000 people were still in relief camps months later. Many tribals fled to neighboring states during this time. 310 villages were affected, 4,640 homes destroyed, 252 churches fell to ruble, and 13 educational institutions demolished. 

Please check out this link for more information of the persecution of the Christians in Orissa in 2008.

Many Christians lost their homes, their livelihoods, their lives—lives they had the power to save if only they denied the Lordship of Christ Jesus. In His grace, they knew that only God has the power to save, even as the truth of death with Christ exceeding life apart from Him became a reality.

After this persecution, about 80% of the Christians on the mountain fled to the city. The compound where our hosts live became a refuge for hundreds in need. Even the government officials and police force used it as a base point. The gospel was preached to all, even in the very midst of the persecution.

Following the attack, the Christians fled into the jungle, trekking a path which is a five hour drive to the nearest city. Because of those out to destroy them, it was only safe to travel at night. So during the day while they hid and rested. We were told this story of how God protected them through this time. During the day, a herd of tigers surrounded them, never attacking but literally encircling them on all sides, forming a shield of protection while they waited for the sun to fall, leaving it safe to travel. Are you kidding me?? Why are we so shocked by such accounts of His faithfulness--why don't pray with such boldness?

He is our refuge and strength in time of need takes on a whole new meaning here.

Several months after the persecution had quieted, in early spring, a heard of elephants stampeded into a town on this mountain. The elephants trampled through the town, destroying every home, hut, structure, and business they crossed. At the conclusion of this stampede, there were several houses still standing. As the entire village soon came to realize, the only homes which remained standing were those belonging to Christians. Many unbelievers came to faith in Christ this day.

So tonight as I wrestle to fall asleep, wet by my own sweat, I will pray for these people who know what it means to endure suffering for your namesake. I will remember these accounts of your faithfulness, Jesus, yes right in the midst of it all. I will not settle for watered down, complacent faith. I will fight to know you like this. To trust you--with my life. To trust that even in the middle of a jungle as I run for my life, you could in your GRACE send a herd of tigers to protect me. To trust that in a broken and fallen world where bad things happen that I cannot comprehend--that you alone bring JUSTICE, even if that means destroying the livelihood of the enemy through a herd of elephants while your faithful few remain safe.

His Promises to us, even in the midst of persecution:
Do not say, “I will recompense evil;” Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” (Proverbs 20:22)

And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant .Ps. 143:12

I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. Exodus 23:27

For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12)

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14)

“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” (Psalm 35:1)

“When my enemies turn back, they shall fall and perish at your presence. For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.” (Psalm 9:3)

“Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Meeting Jesus in South Aisa

I will never forget the first time I met you. Probably because you scared me to death. We were meeting Heather to sign our leases—I saw you coming, perfect blonde hair blowing in the breeze, stylish and all put together, those big white sunglasses covering your face, leaving me plenty curious about the girl behind them. Yes, you frightened me a bit.

I really don't recall our first week or so as roommates, the conversations we might have had, the thoughts I had as I got to know you. I do remember, however, the countless times you let me blab and blab about my crazy life, just listening because you knew I needed to blab. I remember when I made you go to the hospital because you couldn't admit your black leg needed help. I remember the pounds I gained as a result of your love for baking. I remember laughing at your—lack—of a filter...constantly? I remember when you and K stayed up all night stringing soda tabs together for me. I remember the many silent house meetings in which I could only laugh at your stubbornness. I remember 6am classes we just struggled to stay awake through. I also remember the Spirit that I believe has been at work within you these past two years—I remember seeing glimpses along the way. I remember the battle being so evident.

We have walked through a whole lot of life these past two years, you and me. A lot of hurt, confusion, and doubt. We have both wondered around with shackles dragging the ground, enslaved. We have cried together—yes even YOU. We have prayed and begged God to move in one another's lives. We have opened His Word together and let it fill us. We have learned Truth and forgotten. We have learned to work through conflict and forgive. We have tasted dying to ourselves. We have messed up, failed miserably at loving gracefuly. But still, two years later, by His grace He plopped us both on a plane and took us across the world. And the whole time I wondered why??

Each week leading up to departure, I was dumbfounded again and again when I asked and you said that you were still committed—and excited. I'll be honest, it shocked me that you got onto that plane. It confused me. It frustrated me even—not because I didn't want you to come, but because it made no sense that you would. But I was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with you, to find closure of sorts to our two years of doing life together. At least, that's what I thought.

Day 11

Well, I can't say I ever expected this day to come—though I have spent hours praying for it for several years now, I still doubted I'd ever see it. Tonight was part two of our revival in the mountains. Last night A and I shared our testimonies. Tonight it was the other two girls' time to share. All morning R was on edge, zoned out and very stoic. I had sort of been just waiting for this day to come, knowing that it would—the day it was her turn to testify to His goodness. Mainly because I wanted to hear what exactly she would share, quite curious of what God was doing in her heart recently. 

The morning came and went quickly, as we were busy with a medical clinic and meeting nationals. After lunch the girls took refuge in our room to rest. That was the first time I asked her how she was doing. I just remember she wouldn't even look up at me but simply replied, "Not good. I have nothing to say." I was quiet for a minute, slightly taken aback. Our conversation drew in the others' attention as well. I suggested a few places in scripture that she could use that I thought related pretty well to where she was at. She was silent. 

After talking well into the afternoon, at a loss for words we prayed for her. I begged God to make Himself known to her in a way that she could articulate, relate, to these people. I carefully asked Him to reveal if the frustration was coming from a lack of words or perhaps a lack of a testimony to begin with. Even as I spoke the words in front of her, I feared her reaction. Surprisingly, at the conclusion of our prayers, she said nothing but looked so defeated. We had to leave to go to the next thing. I walked downstairs and turned to J and told her that I give up—I don't know what else I can say, how much more bold I can be, how I could possibly break through her walls. I felt defeated and sad. After two years, I had hoped for a different ending. Being in South Asia period, I had been praying for months for a different ending. So had a whole army back home.

We got home from visiting some nationals, with just minutes until the revival began. I was in the kitchen attempting to make spagehtti—yes in the middle of no where India. It failed miserably, but that's besides the point. Someone came and told me that R was pretty upset. I knew this already—I mean I would be too if I knew I had to deliver a message in minutes and had nothing to say. Eventually, I made it upstairs to check on her. I found her in our room, face to face with my adopted dad and J, deep in conversation and tears flowing. 

I quickly plopped down beside her, knowing immediately what was going down, but unable to actually comprehend it. It was as though I was in a really, really sweet dream. Kevin had just finished laying out the gospel and salvation, explaining some truth to her, leaving the decision out there. She swept up the gift immediately, confessing her sin to the Lord before us and telling Him of her need for a Savior because she just couldn't bear the weight of life in a fallen world apart from Him any longer. She told Him that she no longer wanted to be in control of her life, that she needed Him. She told Him that she was all in—committed to the weight of following Him for the remainder of her time on this earth. Arms around her, I wailed like a baby the whole time, out of control. 

Today R accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. I must say that while I have prayed and prayed and waiting for this day, I really did not beleive or trust He was able. Yet who am I? Jesus, you are so faithful. You alone redeem. You alone draw men to yourself. Lord, please forgive me for ever thinking I could do anything apart from you, for ever doubting that you could—that you would! 

R, after two years of doing life together, lots of rejoicing, lots of hurts, lots of tough conversations, I praise God that covered in the dirt and stickiness of India, He would choose in His grace alone to draw you to Himself. What a privalage it was to witness it. Thank you for being willing to allow Him to rule over your life. Thank you for being humbled, broken enough to finally surrender. It will be hard but He is faithful and ever patient. He is worth it, R. I am so proud of you. Your faith humbled me today, reminded me of my need for His grace just as much as yours...I don't have it all together like I convince myself I do so often. I am here always, sister. This is just day one of the rest of your life! You need not go at it alone. Rejoicing in His faithfulness on display through you today.

Two days after coming to Christ, Rach stood up with me to preach the word to teenagers at a church in Dehli. Two weeks after coming home, it is not easy to transition back to the "real world"for any of us, but I am completely confident that her decision to follow Christ is evident in her life back home already. I am looking forward to weekly lunches and digging into the book of James together this summer. More then anything I am so incredibly excited at what God is doing in her heart, the freedom she is only tasting, the weight lifted, the trails and suffering that are coming which will produce a harvest of righteousness, the purpose to which He has called her being revealed by the Spirit who lives in her. Oh, mylanta I am so excited to do life with this sister—and STILL so in awe and humbled by the faithfulness of our God. His grace is enough to save. His power is perfected in our weaknesses.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Needing the Word of God in South Asia

As we pull off the cement road, several minutes from the compound, the car fumbles onto the rock as the engine quiets. The driver jumps out to open the white gate enclosing this place, like safe arms around a child. As my feet come down to meet the dirt, my eyes meet this place for the first time.

Perhaps because the poverty is becoming more normal then I would like to admit, this place radiates God's goodness and testifies to His provision immediately. It's dusted white stucco covering voices a welcome to all who approach its gate. Though inside the building you will find no comforts of the typical Western school, the presence of the holy spirit sustains.

Up to this point on the trip, I have undoubtedly fallen in love with this mountain and the people who call it home. The compound is an incredible refuge for hundreds in need. God is undoubtedly at work here—and it is all for His glory. Yet, I have not heard Him speak, not experienced the movement of His Spirit uttering beneath the breeze—not until stepping foot into this schoolhouse.

Though nothing about it seems natural or reminiscent of anything I would call comfortable, God is present and there is a need. As I toured the empty classrooms, plastered with barren walls aside from a simple chalkboard in the front, I began to ask and pray. Lord, do you really think you have prepared me sufficiently for this role in the are you sure? What does that even mean really—how could I ever feel prepared for this? Yet your Spirit testifies—not me, not my strength.

The two or three rows of wooden benches suffice as seating for the sixty children enrolled upon conclusion of the this summer break. The five native teachers, all somewhat proficient in English, work to teach science, math, social studies, and English to these students. With vision for expansion, the introduction of a few new teachers is a must, particularly an English-speaking one.

As I wonder through the second floor of the school building accompanied by one the teachers, the question continue to flow from my tongue. All of these windows (open to the ground below)—how does it stay warm in winter? "It is very, very cold," she replies simply. The more I look around, the quicker the list in my head continues to grow, as I imagine all of the needs I see here. Some windows, real ones that protect from the great outdoors. Books, markers, DESKS, notebooks, color on the walls, a playground perhaps, even some rugs on the cement.

List fresh in my mind, I ask this teacher to share several practical needs she places at tip priority for me to make note of as well. Before I could even glance her direction she replies, "We need the Word of God."


How does my selfish, materialistic, comfort-dirven, distracted, prideful American heart respond to such revelation? I quiet and get lost in myself as I attempt to acknowledge God's grace in my life, that I would find myself here, standing in the dirt of India, little children bowing to kiss my feet, men bowing in reverence, women who stare and smile.

In a place where I am made to be a celebrity, simply a result of my skin color and place of birth, that right here in this place of pride and fame, God would enable me to cry out for Him, "Abba Father...I do not know you. Not like these people do. Lord Jesus, I believe help my unbelief."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Humbling Welcome

Today we finally arrived in H. V. After a five hour drive into the mountainous villages, we winded down that final curve & suddenly I saw the cement wall surrounding the compound. As we maneuvered carefully through the gates, my eyes met nearly a hundred pairs of hope-filled little eyes, white teeth all showing and glimmering in the sunlight.

"Please get out," he offered "the children would like to welcome you, sisters."

We exit the car as my feet meet this mountain dirt for the first time, I know this is a special place immediately. A handful of young girls pull forward from the rest, walking towards us with speechless joy and a bit of trepidation in their unsure eyes. In their hands they each carry a beautiful necklace made of real flowers stung together. As I bend down that this little one might place it over my neck, I have no words—no way of even beginning to replay this moment. As I rose up to my full stature, this little one, she bowed down and kissed my feet, all covered in black dirt. I don't know how else to hold back the tears but to girn. So I look into her innocent eyes and shine my white teeth, locking my eyes upon hers until she finally rises, mutters something quickly and then scurries back to the group.

My heart is humbled. Who am I? Just this selfish, prideful, rich, spoiled, materialistic, needy, comfortable American. Yet here is this little girl kissing my nasty, soiled feet. Oh Jesus, I am so unworthy. Yet still in your great mercy you love me enough to show me through this precious little one.

We continue to walk forward, deeper into the compound in this parade of over-joyed spirits and songs of praise. My eyes glimmering as I struggle to contain myself. Are we really here?? Jesus, is this home for more then a week or two?

The women standing outside the house in the back of the compound greet us with hard handshakes (something culturally unexpected from the women) and desperate joy engrained upon each and every wrinkle on etched upon their faces. As we near the doorway of the house, I see the wife of the home waiting. We greet her warmly and she receives us into her home immediately. She is beautiful and her gentleness indicative of her servant-hearted spirit from the moment we first meet. I long to know her deeply.

These people are radiant. Regardless of the amount of time the Lord allows me to spend here in this happy valley, my life is already messed up because of my time in this place, among these people so in love with you Lord. Thank you Jesus for brining me here.

"Those who look to the Lord are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." ---Psalm 34:5.