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Friday, August 22, 2008

God was showing off when he made Africa!

Dirt. Primitive conditions. Desperate circumstances. Late nights. Early mornings. Elephants, rhinos, and giraffes. Hundreds of people choosing to follow Christ. Africa.

Tonight my good friend came over to the house and shared the story of his summer in Africa as a missionary. He and several other teens rode dirt bikes around Zambia this summer, ministering to children, primarily orphans. His pictures are stunning. I had heard that Africa is stunningly beautiful but never fully realized it until tonight. When God created Africa, maybe he was showing off. :) The circumstances of the children in the photos was such a stark contrast to the beauty of the continent. AIDS has robbed so many of these children of their family, their home, and their income. Because we do not see it every day, I think we are ignorant of their great need. I am so busy with my own stuff that I forget about the big picture. The world.

God has a heart for the nations. For children. For people. How can God use me to reach the world? In advance, whatever he wants, wherever he says to go, the answer is yes!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just a Quickie!

I wanted to give a shout out to all of you who emailed, called, and texted me today with encouragement about "meet the teacher" night. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than you will ever know. For the first time ever, I wasn't even very nervous at all. My room came together smoothly and I had 10 minutes to spare! (That's really incredible) I enjoyed meeting the parents and students and am excited about a new year. I have a lot left to do to be ready for Monday morning - I left work about 9:30 and will go back in the morning just as early as I can drag myself out of bed. So ya'll pray for rest and energy!

Also - God did some really cool stuff today that I won't share online because other people were involved. On the way home, I was overwhelmed with how I have seen God at work lately. Wow! I am so humbled that the God of the universe lets me be a part of some his stuff. That's pretty cool to the kid that always got picked last in P.E.!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some final thoughts from Zechariah

I finished reading Zechariah this morning. Only one more book to go and I will have finished the entire Bible! Wow! I am even now doing a cheer - you should see my awesome self. (Just Kidding) I thought I might share a few scattered thoughts about the last few chapters in Zechariah. Like a blog within a blog?

God's Resume
Being a recent new hire makes me way too familiar with my resume. I spent hours trying to figure out how to make myself sound professional and like I know what I'm doing. My qualifications just don't measure up when compared to God's Resume. Zechariah 12:1-2, "...This message is from the Lord, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the spirit within humans." I am humbled at the reality of God's might and holiness.

Some major fireworks
I enjoy fireworks on the fourth of July. This last year was the first year that I remember not shooting off any fireworks and not going to see any shows. I was actually sick in bed on the fourth. What a bummer. I also love a fire in the fireplace during the winter. There's nothing as charming and comforting as sitting in front of the crackling fire.

However, I would not want to be in a fire. I am even now looking at a scar on my wrist from a recent battle in the kitchen. (the stove won.) But check out Zechariah 13: 9, "I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure, just as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'These are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.' " Truly it is because of some really hard (fiery) times in my life that I have an intimate relationship with God. It seems that the hard times are necessary to focus me on what's important and force me to depend on God who never fails. I wish that I was one of those people who could learn things the easy way, but unfortunately I am rather stubborn. I don't enjoy hard times, but I would not trade my intimate knowledge of some of the aspects of God's character that I have learned during the darkest spots of my life.

Last Thoughts
Zechariah was an interesting mix of hope and doom and stuff I really didn't understand at all. Hope you all enjoyed this book, too.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is my "meet the teacher night" at school. Ya'll pray that I will be able to finish my preparations and that I will make a good first impression on my parents and students. I am pretty nervous. I know that you are all totally shocked by that revelation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It was raining again!

Here's a brief update on my week so far for those of you who have texted me asking how it's going. Work, work, and more work. My room is close to ready. Tomorrow we will spend time examining our curriculum and making lesson plans. I have honestly enjoyed hanging out with my new team of teachers. I think we are going to really work well together. I am finally starting to feel some excitement about changing jobs. It has also been fun to have corporate lunch hours this week. We have actually gone to restaurants, ordered, and completely chewed our food. How fun! (For those of you who don't know much about teachers, we typically get about 15 minutes to eat by the time we drop off our students in the cafeteria and get back to our eating spot. I usually have no idea what my food tasted like, and usually I can't even remember later what I ate.)

Now on to deeper, more insightful ponderings. Both days this week, it has rained on me on the way to work. Every time that I feel rain now, I am reminded about God's presence. (see "worship in the dark" if you are a new reader) Today it poured. The closer I got to Anna, the harder it rained. I do tend to be a bit sarcastic in my spiritual walk and mentioned to God that when I asked Him for rain, I did not really mean liquid water falling from the sky.

But seriously, as the rain poured down, my visibility became very limited. I thought about how it is when God is raining down his presence on his people. You have to really focus your vision on God and not allow yourself to become distracted by the "stuff" around you. You become less scattered and more alert to God and what He is doing around you.

Then next thing I knew, my car was sliding around so I had to slow down. Is that not also true when you are experiencing a "wow" God moment? You have to slow down and sometimes even stop in order to fully experience God and His amazing presence. If you keep moving full steam ahead, sometimes you just miss it.

By the time I finally entered the building this morning, I was dripping wet, completely soaked up to my knees from the rain blowing in under my umbrella. Then I thought about that for a while. Sometimes in my walk with Christ I only get soaked up to my knees. I withhold large portions of my life from him and miss out on tons of awesome moments with God. In this church planting stuff, I don't want to just be halfway committed. I want to be all the way in. When God is pouring out his Spirit. I want to get soaked. With His Spirit - not so much with the rain!

Monday, August 18, 2008

An Uplifting Quiet Time

In my quest to read the entire Bible, I have certainly found some very unique passages of scripture. I have learned a great deal about following Christ, a lot about the history of God's people, have had several great laughs, and occasionally run across passages that I find boring. (Can you say Leviticus?)

Today I was reading Zechariah 11. Zechariah's ministry was very interesting. In this passage, God has called him to be a worthless shepherd in order to show God's people the difference between a bad shepherd and the Good Shepherd. This is a very serious passage, meant to convict us of our temptation to follow after other loves instead of God. I tried hard to be convicted and repentant, but I just couldn't get over laughing about the harsh wording of Zechariah's sermon. It reminded me of some pastors I remember from revivals as a child. The ones who yelled their way through their sermons until they were hoarse and then sang 500 verses of "Just As I Am" until somebody walked the aisle. See what you think.

"I will give this nation a shepherd who will not care for the sheep that are threatened by death, nor look after the young, nor heal the injured, nor feed the healthy. Instead, this shepherd will eat the meat of the fattest sheep and tear off their hooves. DOOM is certain for this worthless shepherd who abandons the flock! The sword will CUT HIS ARM and PIERCE HIS RIGHT EYE! His arm will become useless, and his right eye completely blind!"

"I won't be your shepherd any longer. If you die, you die. If you are killed, you are killed. And those who remain will devour each other!"
(here's my odd sense of humor - normally when you die, don't you die, and normally when you are killed, don't you get killed?)

Seriously, there are some great truths in this passage about how much God values faithfulness. Please don't let my twisted sense of humor cause you to miss God's point about the seriousness of sin. I just got tickled about the wording and thought, "Wow, God, what an uplifting start to my day!" (sarcasm)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The last preview service, an awesome insight, and an embarrassing confession

Today was our final preview service at The Crossroads. We had 68 people show up to worship with us. How exciting! It is impossible for me to believe that we will be launching full-time in 3 weeks. This is the adventure of a lifetime! I am blessed to share it with an incredible team of people.

On another note, I had a couple of deep thoughts today that I thought I'd share. The first one is sort-of a one-liner that God spoke to me during Shawn's awesome sermon today. Now understand that I have heard this sermon on multiple occasions, I am simply a slow learner. He used Genesis 12:1, "Then the Lord told Abram, "Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you." I have meditated on this passage many times - about Abram's faith in stepping out into the unknown, etc. but today I had a new insight that I thought was pretty awesome. "You don't have to know the destination to begin the journey." I like to know all the details before I jump off into anything and God just spoke to me about walking the journey with Him, not worrying so much about the destination and the details. Just enjoy being surprised by where God takes me.