Monday, March 27, 2017

ligh in dark places

I'm sitting on the rooftop balcony in Alajuelita, Costa Rica as the last light of the day fades away and the city lights start to appear over the city.

Human voices call out to one another, babies crying, dogs barking, and the puttering of motorcycles blend in to make a symphony in he background. It tells the story of real life being lived, not the quiet life of being shit behind closed doors and thick insulation. Out in this open air, everyday life is out there for all to hear.

We got in to Costa Rica this afternoon and after dropping off bags at the ministry house, our whole group went out on a prayer walk around Alajuelita. The town square looks so different in just the span of a year.  The changes are good and point towards revival in the city.  A light entering a dark place.

Last year I remember sitting in the square as I watched the trees getting pruned. I was disappointed that the long branches where getting butcher to nubby stumps. AI didn't understand why they were doing it until now, an entire year later.

The park used to be very dark even in the middle of the day. There were so many trees that the sun never seemed to be able to shine through. The darkness seemed to create a covering for shady business, trash to be dumped and overall squalor.

As the trees were cut the light drove away the darkness and the dark acts below.

New park benches were brought in, tire swings were added and a brand new playground stands in a place that was once covered in filth.

The light of Christ comes to drive away darkness, opening the doors wide to change and new life.

The cacophony of sounds below because a beautiful melody, sounds of hope, bringing forth light in a dark place.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

in the wilderness

Here's a prime example of life getting in the way of being able to reflect on the goodness God's placed in your life. This was supposed to be posted in February, but here it is mid-March!

I've been in a place recently where God is teaching me to wait with expectancy, but he hasn't shown me what or when that will be. Because I know him to be a good father, I know that all of his plans will be better than my own, but sometimes the waiting can be hard. My heart's longing want to be fulfilled now. I want immediate action, but the only answer I get from God is, "Wait. Trust me. Allow me to take over the plans of your life."

My own plans never turn out that great, so for now, I stand before the Lord, knowing that he will give me what I can handle in HIS timing.

Devil's Garden, Arches National Park
Several weeks ago, our group had the privilege of going out west. While in Moab, Utah, we studied the Israelites, from their exodus from Egypt, to waiting in the wilderness, and then the time of the judges. Each time God provided for his people, they quickly forgot and turned from him to "do what was right in their own eyes."

First off, it baffles me that after all the plagues they witnessed, water coming out of a rock in the middle of a dry DESERT, manna coming from heaving every. single. day without fail, and yet, they still forgot to trust him.

Instead of seeing his provisions and the goodness of the promised land, all they could see were the hardships and hurdles they'd have to climb over. They quake at the very thought of what they face. Fear crept in and invaded their very beings. How would they be able to overcome these terrible giants? The answer is that they alone couldn't. They so quickly forgot God's strength. The Israelites imagined their own pathetic, journey worn, weary bodies against a vast army and thought, there's no way. Their own strength was no match against these people, they needed a strength outside of their own. Which is exactly the spot were God wants to take us, so that in our own weakness, his own strength is displayed.

The second thing this that makes me pause is the thought, "If it was that easy for the Israelites, who saw the cloud by day and pillar of fire, to forget God's faithfulness, how often do I forget? When am I trying to turn to my own strength and not God's? My own plans rather than resting on his?" The answer is probably a whole lot more often that I would like to admit. How easily I trust him one instant, then forget his goodness the next.

The Israelites waited for 40 years in the desert lands. Forty years of seeing the same sights, trusting God because their own faithlessness kept them from the promised that God had prepared before them. Their children would receive the blessings instead of them.

Can you imagine how Joshua and Caleb must have felt, to have stepped foot into this land that they knew would some day be theirs, only for God to tell them, that they were going to have to wait. not a week, month or year, but for 40 LONG years. Waiting for answers from God can seems like an eternity, but when viewed in light of the Israelites my own waiting looks like nothing.

In this wilderness time, God is shaping me, teaching me to trust him, and gently (and sometimes not so gently) prying away the plans I've so carefully crafted.

God's blessings on you, and enjoy some of the snapshots from my time in Moab!

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Gold Bar
Dead Horse Point State Park
Jeep Arch, Moab Utah
Utah Juniper

Sand Dune Arch, Arches National Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

from the ashes

Sometimes all I can see is devastation. Black charred branches that once held life. Soot underfoot. Ashes and brittle remains of a once vibrant mountain.

And yet, all hope is not lost. 

“I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” - Psalm 121

Metaphorically, I’ve been looking at the mountains, and all I can see are the charred remains of something that used to be wonderful. I can’t see past the ashes to see the hope that lies beneath, because lately, I’ve been placing my hope in the things that will burn away. 

Over and over throughout the Bible, we see evidence of Christ taking us through the refining fires. Just as the impurities are burned away from the silver at high temperatures, he also tempers our lives with fire. 

Although the fires may hurt us, what he burns away are the thorns and thistles that have grown up in our lives. “For our God is a consuming fire.“ (Hebrews 12:29) The fires will be painful, but they destroy the things that keep us from coming fully to him. He takes away to the bad.

“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; …we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” -Psalm 66:10-12

After hiking through the charred ruins for several miles, I found out that what I was seeing wasn’t a result of the devastating forest fires in our area, but they were the result of a control fire, meant to keep the larger fire at bay. Yet even control fires cannot always be contained.

The Lord is the control fire, keeps us from being consumed by much greater fires.

Eventually, new life will spring from the charred remains. With the underbrush gone, new plants will have a chance to grow. Old dead branches are gone and new life will burst forth. Redemption may not be evident in the ground today, but one day, before we even realize what’s happening, LIFE will push past the ashes. Hope never fails.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” - Romans 5:5

“Safe? said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
-C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

walking through the woods on a snowy afternoon

On Sunday I had been cooped up indoors all day, so I decided to go for a walk around camp. Curiosity got the best of me when I saw a pair of footsteps heading down a path into the woods. Not knowing where it would lead me, I continued along the path already set by another person.

I could tell that they weren't brand new, because the bottoms of the prints had already iced over, but they couldn't be too old either, since it had just snowed the day before.

I followed, not knowing what I would find, but ready for the adventure.

The quest lead me on a several mile walk over multiple ridges and valleys though camp property few ever get to see. It was beautiful. There was a quite and stillness about the woods, other than the crunch of my boots stepping into the powdery snow. 

If it hadn't been for those footsteps, I would have been completely lost. I take that back, I was completely and utterly lost in the woods, but thanks to the footprints in the snow, I had a lifeline back to reality if I needed to turn around.

Not all of it was easy. Certain sections went through briars and through bushes, but the footsteps kept on going.

At times, I almost did turn around and go back to the comfort of familiar sights. There were moments when I was utterly terrified. What would I do if I ran into a bear that's not hibernating (do all bears hibernate?) 

As I walked I saw a great many new and strong things, old animal shelters in an overgrown part of the woods. 

I came across a cabin deep in the woods with a swirl of smoke coming from the chimney and my heart may have started racing, just a tiny bit. What if I ran into someone not so friendly? 

What did I learn from the walk? 

God calls us along a path. It's the path that is often less followed and takes us into the deepest woods, completely out of our comfort zone. 

But he's paved the path before us. 

He directs every step.

"Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me." -Ps, 23:4

When I put my own agenda aside in following his footsteps, he takes me to places I would never have dreamed of going on my own. 

There is joy in letting go and following him!

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
         And do not lean on your own understanding. 

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
         And He will make your paths straight." -Prov 3:5-6

(As it turns out that several of the camp guys followed the trail trying to spot a male buck they'd seen on their hunting camera.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

fresh snow

There is something so wonderful about firsts. When we see things on a daily basis, we forget about the wonder and awe of seeing it for the first time or with new eyes. For some of my students, seeing snow this weekend was a brand new experience. For one of my students, this is only the second time she's ever seen snow, and the last time she was it, there was nothing more than a light dusting covering the ground. So waking up yesterday morning, to see the transformation from the dead, brown grass and dirt patches, to see the world magically covered with a blanket of millions of tiny ice crystals, was truly breathtaking.

We appreciate that first snow. It transforms what we know so well into something completely new. We might enjoy it at first, but like my friends who live in places, it becomes old when that is all you see, day in and day out. The commute to work becomes so much more difficult and it loses its magic.

One my my reoccurring prayers is that God would give me eyes to see the world as something new every day. When I lived in Nigeria, the pollution and smog were so bad, that I never saw the blue sky.  The city of nearly two million where I lived, had its fair share of dirt and trash everywhere. I never really noticed how much it bothered me, until I got home and couldn't stop gulping in big breaths of air as I stood in awe of the beauty around me. The very things I'd grown up seeing on a daily basis, suddenly looked brand new.

For the first several months in the US, I founds spots where I could watch the sunset, because it was all so new and beautiful. (click here  and here for the blog posts)

Lamentations 3:22-23 says:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."

One writer for Desiring God, Jon Bloom, says this:

"The real illusion is not that old things appear new to us (like God's mercies or a sunrise), but that new things never appear old."

May the newly fallen, fresh snow never get old.

Praise God that every single moment I live in is a new experience and I pray that he would always give me the eyes to see it that way!

All Things New
Your love's making all things new
You're working in all for good
For the things of this world
There is hope renewed
In the life that is found in You

You make all things new
You make all things new
Yesterday and forever
Your love never changing
This hope never fading

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

30 before 30

Its a new year and guess what? Today's my birthday!

I've been working on a list of 30 things I want to accomplish before turning 30. Technically, I started 30 months before my birthday, but now that I have exactly 365 days until my 30th, I want to write out the list so that it's actually in writing.

  • Visit 30 countries by 30
  • Read 30 books
  • Bake/Cook 30 new recipes
  • Learn to drive a manual
  • Finish "THE PAINTING"
  • Become conversational in Spanish
  • Catch up with 15 old friends that I've lost touch with
  • Visit 10 new beaches
  • Get back into running and run a race
  • Hike 5 new trails
  • Go on a cruise
  • Skydive
  • Zip line canopy tour
  • Visit 5 UNESCO sites
  • Blog at least once a month
  • Go on a spontaneous trip
  • Complete 5 paintings
  • Go on a blind date
  • Workout Consistently (at least 3x a week)
  • Complete Whole 30
  • Lose 10 lbs
  • Visit 3 new states 
  • Learn the names of all the presidents
  • Drive a motorcycle (or dirt bike)
  • Reach and maintain goal weight
  • Roadtrip through another country
  • Watch 5 classic movies
  • Go to a live performance or play
  • Do a pull-up
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Ski a black diamond slope
These may change as the year goes on, but it's a fun way to start out the last year of my 20's. If any of these sounds like fun, than please join me!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

a year in review

What better way to celebrate the past year than a photo collage. I've been incredibly blessed and I thank each person who had a part in making it wonderful!

To all who made this past year wonderful, thank you!