Christmas Mission Trip

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Oct 202013
 

I’m still here. I apologize that I have neglected blogging lately. I wanted to update you on one of the reasons I have been too busy to blog.

I am leading a mission team to Nicaragua in early December as a Christmas mission trip. We will be visiting a Center of Protection for girls that have been subject to abuse. The team will be doing activities with these girls throughout the week, and we will also be throwing a Christmas party for them! We are very excited to be sharing part of the Christmas season with these girls.

First, and foremost, you can pray for the team in the following ways: 1. That God will prepare each team member and also each child and adult to whom we will be spiritually ministering to during our visit.  2. That God will provide financially for our trip. Each team member needs to raise $1,500. That is quite a challenge! 3. That God will bless our journey, keep us safe, and move powerfully through our team as we minister His love, compassion, and grace in Nicaragua.

Secondly, you can be involved by seeking God’s direction in helping us financially. Would you consider supporting me with a financial donation of $10, $20, $50, or more? I have a donate link on my missions page, or you can mail any gift to Lakeside Community Church, c/o Tina Williams, PO Box 386, North Waterboro, ME 04061. Please make checks payable to Lakeside Community Church.

 

Thank you so much and I look forward to sharing all that God accomplished during this time!

Patience with Joy

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Dec 052012
 

I am still learning patience, as I am not a patient person and I hate waiting. I believe I am patient with people for the most part, but when it comes to waiting on God I have a hard time. I don’t think my impatience is caused by not believing that He will act, but that in knowing He could do so with such ease and just hasn’t. 

I so relate to Sarah sinfully taking matters into her own hands after waiting for God to allow her to become pregnant (Genesis 17-21). Waiting is hard. Control tends to be an idol for me and I have to consciously relinquish my attempt to be in control to Christ in even everyday circumstances, even more so in waiting circumstances.

Upon receiving news on a couple matters I had been praying over for quite a length of time, the answer being that of keep waiting, I said aloud “Lord, I am so tired of learning patience” to which I felt “so learn it already” whispered to my heart. As I repented, following the conviction, I realized a key word in the exchange. Learn. Once I realize it is something that I am being taught, and have been for a while, then it is no longer a matter of my learning but a matter of doing. It becomes about repenting and changing direction, turning around. In these instances it is no longer about learning, it is about making the decision to live as I am called to live, instead of that of a rebellious child. Prayer will be necessary to ask for Christ’s help, as I cannot live according to my calling in my own strength.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

If God’s goodness is truth in my life, and in my heart, then it is also true that although He could have acted already, He hasn’t because that is what is truly best for me. And it is “patience with joy”, not just barely getting through this patience or with a poor attitude, but patience derived from gratitude and trust.

Rainbow of Promises

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Sep 052012
 

First blog post from the mission field. Yesterday was my travel day, which went better than I expected.  Goodbyes were emotional., along with the first leg of the trip. It was pretty symbolic that as we took off from my home airport, I could see a family member’s workplace and as we banked right it became directly behind us. I was at peace, but leaving family and familiar surroundings for six weeks is a lot to take in once it is officially time to go. Somehow once hitting the halfway mark most of that disappeared. Once reaching our altitude on the second leg of the trip, there was a beautiful rainbow. I wished I could have gotten a picture, but as I reached for my camera we banked right and it could no longer be seen. It was a personal reminder of God’s promises as I was stepping out of familiar territory into the unknown. A promise to be with me always. Promises of His goodness and His plan for both my earthly life and eternal one.

I wanted to ask every American around me why they were going to Nicaragua, but didn’t. I did, however, talk to one. It was a lady sitting next to me, who was not assigned to sitting next to me but I had a row to myself so she asked if she could sit with me. She is moving to Nicaragua for the third time, her son is interested in adopting and between those topics and why I was traveling to Nicaragua we had covered a lot of ground in our twenty minute decent.

We arrived and Karen and Fruto were waiting for me. Fruto waved at me through the window quite animatedly and I later found out that he was not pleased with my less than stellar, timid wave. We had a laugh over that.

The kids were still awake when we got home, which made me happy. But shortly thereafter it was time for bed. Robin and Karen had my room all set up, complete with a light pink mosquito net canopy. I remember always wanting a pink canopy bed as a little girl, which was a reminder that God is a personal God and takes care of me. If you had told me even five years ago, nevermind fifteen years ago, that I would have a canopy bed in Nicaragua I never would have believed it. But God knows better than I do, and knows what will make me happy better than I do.

Sleep was not easy, probably from the excitement of the day, but this morning it was sweet to get up and talk with Karen, cuddle with the kids a little, and make a couple phone calls.

The first couple days will be low key until I get the chance to talk to a couple ministry leaders that had opportunities for me to serve. One opportunity in particular I have not been able to get out of my head since hearing about it so I am really praying over and seeking God’s will in that.

 

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Freedom versus Captivity

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Jun 052012
 

It’s amazing that a tangible, inanimate item can sometimes carry such a negative connotation, how it can become a symbol of a difficult or unhappy time in your life. In my case it is a building. A building that, to look at it, now brings about a sense of relief and freedom because it is like looking at a prison that I escaped from. For a long time I had difficulty even looking at it, due to the memories that the sight would bring forth, but as time passed and healing came it became easier and easier until it became this symbol of freedom instead of captivity.

What astounds me, even more so, is the fact that we sometimes do not even know we are in captivity. Like we never saw or felt the proverbial shackles slipped onto our ankles and from there it just felt normal to be chained. The fact that we can become so delusional about our unhappiness that we convince ourselves that we are in fact happy or that life is as good as it can be. How we don’t see how truly miserable we were until we have experienced real happiness.

While this building now carries a reminder of God rescuing and setting me free, in order to do so He really had to shake me out of my delusional fog. This reminds me of how I didn’t realize, before giving my life to Christ, how miserable and in a delusional fog I was without Him. The hopelessness and misery just felt normal. There was no purpose to life and instead was just living day to day going through the motions. Any happiness at all was fleeting and depended solely on the circumstances in the present moment. I couldn’t see while in this state how brokenhearted I was or how sad and hopeless I felt. This is normal and all there is, right? Wow, was I wrong. Somewhere along the way I had been beaten down enough that I stopped believing there was more out there. Ironically, I always had a head knowledge and intellectual belief of Christ. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in that scenario and to never have been told of Him. And yet, even having an intellectual belief wasn’t the same as making Him LORD of my life, of trusting Him and relying on Him. Therefore, I am so grateful that He broke through my delusional fog to call me to Himself. Twice actually, once to prompt me to begin a relationship with Him and then once more to completely break down my walls between us that still remained.

Isaiah 61:1-4 reads “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”

Jesus is the only one who can bind up a broken heart. I mean really bind it, not just temporarily patch it. Jesus is the only one who can proclaim liberty to the captives. We become a slave to our sin and our strongholds but that is precisely why Jesus came, as an ambassador of love, to carry the sin of the world to the cross and be sacrificed in our place to pay our debt. A debt too big and excessive for us to have the ability to make restitution. Jesus is the only one who can bring comfort to those who mourn, whether that looks like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a dream or the mourning brought on by a horrible event. He wants to wipe away the ashes on our foreheads, so to speak, as they used to smear ashes on their foreheads in biblical times as an outward sign that they were in a period of mourning, and exchange those ashes for a beautiful headdress or crown. A crown and anointing of the oil of gladness to show we are the King’s children and how He esteems us even despite our flaws. He wants to rid us of our faint spirit in order that we may be an oak of righteousness, a planting from Him in order to praise Him and give Him glory. The roots of an oak tree go down as far as the tree is tall. He wants us to be so grounded in Him that even the worst storm cannot uproot our faith. And only Jesus can build up ancient ruins and repair former devastations. He doesn’t want us to just walk away and try to forget them, leaving them as an open wound for the enemy to attack at a later time. No, He wants us to give them to Him, to allow Him to heal us so they no longer have any power or dominion over us. He doesn’t just want us to survive the devastation, He wants us to thrive through Him despite it and give Him the glory.

Sometimes I wish that I had always had a personal relationship with Jesus and other times I am happy that He ordained my life as He did. I don’t know that I would appreciate the freedom without having experienced the captivity, the hope without experiencing the devastation, the happiness without the misery or His love without my malice.

Jun 052012
 

I have encountered many times in the last several years the attitude of “Life is short…why be good”. Generally speaking when this is directed at me it is because the person is aware of my faith. One of the reasons I have such a hard time with this is that I know there is nothing I can say to allow them to feel what I feel or convey the awe of experiencing God’s presence. That can only come by their seeking Him in an effort to personally experience Him and a relationship with Him.

One of the obstacles of this debate is the way nonbelievers view Christians and the way they live their lives. The preconception that they just follow rules and keep up the appearance of being good. I will be the first to admit that this view is true in some cases, as when I was a child I remember being dropped off at church every Sunday because it was the right thing to do, and beyond that there was no mention of Christ in my childhood. So I definitely understand the view that Christians go to church on Sunday mornings to appear good. It does happen. But on the flip side, are you then prejudging all Christians? Are you subconsciously saying that it is not possible to have a personal relationship with Christ because you have seen others just go through the motions? I know I did.

As soon as I was old enough to recognize the charade I wanted out and managed it. After all, if it was just a matter of believing then I could do that without keeping up appearances and playing the game. It was my incorrect, sinful response to an unfortunate situation. I have the advantage now of seeing both sides of the argument and understanding why others, who have not experienced Christ, deny it’s possible. I did.

After exiting the game of charades with distaste, I lived most of my life how I wanted. After all life is short, right? I believed I was a “good” person. A moral person.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine…When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”

That’s exactly where I was. Nothing that I thought would make me happy actually did. And I know what my response used to be, in my head, when someone would talk about God speaking to them or showing them something. It was never of belief. I get it.

But if doing things my way wasn’t making me happy then doesn’t that shoot down the theory of “Life is short, too short to be good.” So wouldn’t it also suffice to say “Life is too short to be unhappy”? When you are alone, just sitting and thinking, are you happy? Content? At peace? If not, how is that lifestyle working for you?

“Do not be conformed to this but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

I honestly never knew those emotions before truly allowing Christ in my life. And really they fall short, as it is not just happiness but joy, not just content but fulfilled and peace that surpasses all understanding.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Life is too short to not feel this way. I wouldn’t be able to walk away from this, nor would I want to. I have also since learned that my sense of church was completely wrong, as there are vital and thriving churches out there that truly worship Him and teach and equip the body of believers. Christianity isn’t a legalist form of earning heaven by following rules- it is a personal relationship with Christ which involves trusting Him and welcoming Him to transform you. You see, the Christians that you may be prejudging as just keeping up appearances and “being good” may actually be Christians that have been completely transformed and are doing things that are considered as “good” because it makes them happy. That they have experienced God-given joy from doing His work and want to just keep doing it. I assure you He knows what will make you happy better than you do. I dare you to hand over control to Him and accept the joy He will give you in return.

True Joy

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Jun 052012
 

I’ve done a lot of reflecting since returning home from a mission trip to a third world country. Reentering my reality was nothing like I expected. I expected relief to be home, happiness to be back to the lifestyle to which I am accustomed and a feeling of comfort and security in returning to my familiar environment. I’m not really sure why I expected to feel these emotions upon returning as months before I left God had shaken me out of my comfortable reality. Being catapulted to a place of no longer feeling secure in my own environment, which also led to being depressed and desperate. In fact, there was very little peace in my life when I left on mission.

The emotions I witnessed while being on mission were also very different from what I expected. In my identity of a middle class American I expected to see these people, who have so little in comparison, in a state of desperation and unhappiness. Instead they taught me the meaning of joy. We tend to connect joy with favorable circumstances and being comfortable, but the only true joy is joy in Christ. God given joy.

Psalm 68:3 says “But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!”

I saw people in what we would describe as desolate circumstances joyfully praising and worshiping God more passionately than I think I have ever seen here in my home country. The emotion in their voices, their closed eyes, their outstretched arms and up turned hands transcended the language barrier. You could feel their joy, praise and gratitude to Jesus in every song, every message and every prayer. And their joy was transferrable. It completely resonated with me and I was joyful, humbled and felt the very presence of God during the entire trip.

So upon returning home I felt void and miserable, nothing like my preconceived notion of how I would feel. It took time to process why I felt this way and didn’t want to be here, all while I longed to be there. In conversations with others it became very apparent that returning home to routine daily life just felt mundane in comparison. To feel God’s presence so strongly for that length of time and be amongst such joy now felt like a huge piece of me was missing. I was also shown that when we are too comfortable and in need for nothing then it is easy to nonchalantly thank God for our abundant blessings and praise Him, but when you have so little then you desperately seek God and His presence in every aspect of your life while truly thanking Him for everything He has given you.

Jesus told us in Matthew 19:24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus illustrates to us how when we are in need for or want nothing physically that it is difficult to truly humble ourselves before Jesus and know that it is all worthless. To recognize that He is all we need. We become attached to material things and a certain lifestyle and don’t see our spiritual need for Him.

I haven’t sold all my possessions since getting back, but I do now see that all my life I had put too much emphasis on having things in an effort to be fulfilled. And that it is all worthless in comparison to Jesus and having a close, personal, intimate and dependant relationship with Him, as that is the only way to feel fulfilled. I also had to be shown that my being miserable while home was selfish as God had given me this incredible gift to have this experience and if I don’t come home and use everything He showed me while I was there then it is like not being appreciative of or redeeming His gift. That I need to live out the lessons that He taught me while I was there, wherever He has me at the present moment.