Tuesday, October 30, 2007

risky business.

The caterpillar took one look up the tree.. and decided to re-think this whole transformation process. "That's a long way up," he thought... "and honestly, I don't even know what awaits me up there." Constantly, we weigh are options. Day in and day out we make decisions based on the worth of something. Is it worth it? Is it worth what we are giving up? Is it worth what we have to go through to get there? Is it worth.... the sacrifice? You see, what the caterpillar doesn't see... is that this climb that may take him a day or so is going to change the rest of his life. No longer will dirt satisfy him. He'll see that there is more... oh so much more to life. And instead of looking up to see an impossibility, he sees something that could only be accomplished with help. A higher help. God wants us to see Him as a risk worth taking. Not to belittle your thinking, but God did not build this tree... this long journey, to observe at a safe distance. And he definately did not intend for you to do it alone. So why on earth are you still blaiming the one who wants to give you more... why are you still on a dirt diet if you can have sweet nectar?

Here's the thing... what doesn't cost us very much, is not worth much at all. If you take a look at the cross, you begin to see that there was a very high cost to be paid. But regardless of the pain... He paid it. That was the highest cost of all. Therefore, the gift that lies before us is the most worthy. A relationship with Him. Now take a second look up that tree. Do you see a long day's journey filled with obstacles and splinters... or do you see something else. Something most don't see at first glance... that is, a journey with the worthy one. I'm not even talking about all that other stuff you'll see on the other side of it... and the blessings that will occur along the way. I'm simply talking about following the One who loves you and counted you as worthy enough to die for. Listening... and obeying. Taking a magnificent journey...not necessarily for the destination, but for who you will be traveling with.

What's funny about the caterpillar is that it crawls around all day just a few feet below that sweet nectar the butterflies are so blessed with. And as long as that caterpillar is satisfied with his crawl, he'll never taste the difference of a better life. Unfortunately, the caterpillar does not have the means to access such a blessing because of the life it's chosen and the ground it's settled for. I sometimes wonder if the caterpillar can smell the sweet nectar and occasionally wonder if there is more to life. I wonder if they look at the graceful butterfly with envy, curious why their destination wasn't the same. Not realizing the same future awaits them only a days climb away.

I wonder if you sometimes catch a whiff of the sweet nectar of life... and desire more. And then i'm curious as to what it is you won't let go of to make the climb. You see, something has to happen before you can access this new life, something most people aren't willing to do.... die. To become a new creature, your old self must die.

Go ahead, ask the butterfly if it has any regrets for the risks it took... i know i don't.

Some things in life are worth the risks, a relationship with Christ is one of them... and by far the most important.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

wreck of the day

This afternoon, I had a lovely time in the park soaking up the sun, watching the ducks go by, visiting with passer-by's... and reflecting over the debatable question john piper so eloquently posed in this week's lesson of "Don't Waste Your Life". This question was frustrating the hell out of me because I was at a loss for the answer! "What a leader.." i thought, i mean, bible study is in a few hours and i don't have a clue on how to answer this question. Before i left the park i simply prayed..." God make this study real to me today, i don't want sunday school answers.. i want it to be real".

I had left my house a few minutes earlier with the intention of being at my sisters house before study started so we could visit. What i didn't realize, was that there was an accident up ahead that was definitely no accident.

Seeing that the light up ahead was turning yellow, I sped to get through in time.
My life quickly flashed before my eyes as i swerved in the middle of a busy intersection to avoid an on-coming car who had run the light. Ready for impact, I felt the abrasive shove and heard the corresponding sound of my bumper being ripped off. I immediately pulled over thanking God i was alive and in one piece. Now it was time to check on the driver...

So Ashley was her name, and brakes were the game. Or lack there of. Unfortunately, they failed her in the moment of her greatest need. Ashley was a timid little thing at first, obviously very shaken up by the accident. When I found her she was in the middle of the highway looking around as if she was a lost puppy searching for her master. Thankfully she was fine. She had sped down the street aways until a fence finally terminated her car's wreckless ambition. Ironically, she was a wreck. Ashley could not put together a full sentence except to somehow communicate that the police would probably take her to jail if i called them. Plan B, have my mother call them. I told her it was the right thing to do... and I would pray things would turn out ok. Afterall, I said, everything happens for a reason...

Soon enough, her older sister, step-dad, and both of my parents would show up. Why we had ourselves a good ole family reunion right ther on the side of the highway! Ha. After talking briefly with Ashley's sister, I find out that they have been praying for her for years. You see, what we didn't know about Ashley was that she was a homeless meth user who had a warrant out for her arrest because of unpaid fines, and whose children lived with her parents. Her sister said, they had been praying something would happen that would re-direct her path and land her in a seat at the local church. What her sister didn't know... was that i pray for these opportunities everyday, and i wasn't as concerned with getting her in church as i was to see a change of heart. And that it did.

Her face slowly began to light up as i spoke of God's love for us and my passion for him. I went on to tell her of his grace, mercy and love... and how i've messed up a number of times, but no wreck is too damaged to repair. He can take you, wherever you are in life... and place you where you are supposed to be. I told her that He wants to use her in other people's lives... to inspire and encourage and help them. That He wants to use her gifts and talents for Him, that she could be truly happy... that He has an abudant life waiting for her! All she has to do is let go. Let go, and let Him take control. She explained that this was in fact her problem.. that she had chosen to do everything herself, while making very poor choices that have led her to the life she now sadly leads. A life of no passion, no motivation, no real friends, no peace, no happiness...a life with a dead beat boyfriend and some drugs... a wasted life.

Ironically, Ashley is slamming on the brakes over and over in her own life in a beat-up car she put together with her own hands that keeps finding itself right in the middle of another wreck. I'm sorry Carrie Underwood, but Jesus not only wants to take the wheel... He wants to make her a brand new car with proper headlights to stay on the road, a horn for warnings, and effective brakes to keep her out of the way of danger.

As I gently, but very passionately, continued to speak of God's real and amazing love with her... her whole demeanor altered. This girl was in desparate need of a someone to save her from this life... from the wreck she'd created. Who better to save her than the Savior himself. Before I left, I asked to pray with her. She gladly accepted. On the side of the highway... Ashley, her step-dad, her sister and myself watched as God picked up the pieces of debris in her life. I couldn't hardly contain my joy! As we ended our prayer and said our goodbye's, her sister gratefully whispered through her tears... thank you.

As I drove towards bible study significantly late, and with a broken car but high spirits... God reminded me of what I had prayed just a few short hours before. "God" i said, "make this study real to me today." What I didn't tell you before was what the perplexing question was. At that moment the revelation hit me! In so many words, Piper had asked if we thought affliction could be brought upon by God so His glory could be revealed in and through it?? This stumped me. I hate to think God would cause affliction upon anyone.. would God really cause something bad to happen to someone, especially his own child?? Well, my "accident" allowed me to see things from a slightly different perspective. I firmly believe that I was in the right place at the right time... and so was Ashley. This wreck, my friends, was a divine intervention at a not-so divine intersection. And you know what? I was thankful. I was more than thankful... I was extactic at the very least! God had used me.. in this wreckless driver's life who was headed down a destructive highway leading nowhere.

I tell you what, it sure does make the affliction a lot less painful when you realize God's perfect arrangement of it all. Honestly, I don't care if i'm in a wreck a day... if in return i get to witness a soul being saved. A(n) (eternal) life is much more important to me than a silly (temporary) car. That's a wreck worth happening, and people like Ashley are a wreck worth saving.

Thank God for accidents, I give Him the glory for it all!

P.s. Praise God! Ashley didn't get carried off to jail... instead she went home to be with her family and make up for some very lost time. Thankfully, we serve a God who is in the business of restoration!

Dedicated to: Ashley.. and all those other souls out there searching for something to satisfy the emptiness, the need. To those who have known the truth, then consciously walked away from it. This is to those people who may have run away from God because of something some imperfect human said or did to you. Well, you won't find the answer you are looking for in friends, lovers, drugs, philosophers, music, money or even (dare-i-say) religious leaders. You can only find the truth, the real truth... and the love you need in God- the one you've been running from. It's time to let go... and let Him take over. Just remember how short our time is here on earth, He desires for you to start living this abundant life with Him now!! In the meantime.. I'll be praying.

"Awake, O sleeper,
and rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."
Eph. 5:14

Saturday, October 06, 2007

crawling from comfort.

i recently posed the question, "can God speak through fortune cookies?" now i'm wondering if he likes to use insects as well... bare with me.

i'm guessing that most of you reading this would say they have a lot going on right now. And that when people ask how you are, you say "good... busy". I know because that is my reply about 90% of the time... and i'm starting to loathe that answer. As of late, i've been trying to make sense of everything in my life. For some reason i keep hearing God say, "shhhh, be quiet for a moment". You see, I can analyze options all day long, but what is truly going to make the difference in my decision is the whisper of the Lord that can only be heard in silence.

As i sit here in the park soaking in all of this beauty and peace, i'm reminded again of what butterflies symbolize... and the deep allure of their significance. I'd forgotten the lesson God showed me through these gracefull insects almost one year ago- about the time God was preparing me for YWAM. You see, i had been told that butterflies mean "new life". makes sense right? Well, over the course of several days i had seen these winged beauties all over the place... butterflies in my face, on t-shirts, songs about butterflies, butterfly projects at story time, butterfly stickers... ok, you get the picture. I finally realized that, through God's beautiful creation, He was trying to tell me something. Each time I saw a butterfly he was confirming the change of course my life was about to take. He was preparing me for something new, something different- like nothing i'd every experienced before...

If you take just a second and look at the life of a butterfly, you see that it was once a very plain ugly creature with not much purpose in the world but to crawl around (at a very slow pace) and feed off the ground. Doesn't seem like those things have much ambition in life eh? Sad story, but it's not over... because something miraculous takes place. And i'm guessing it takes quite a bit of effort for a creature of this lowly stature to make a step of this grandeur... or should i say, crawl? What's interesting is this caterpillar doesn't really even know what is to come, yet chooses to take this extreme measure regardless. What a unique metaphor of life this becomes as they spin this web-like cacoon and enclose themselves inside, only to emerge as a ravishing new creation. The time spent in this cacoon is very crucial, and if anything outside tries to force itself upon it the butterfly may not have a chance to live a moment. However, if the catipillar has the faith to pursue it's uncertain but very real destiny... then it surfaces with a new sweet strenght. One that came from the inside- out.

This week, as i've been noticing a magnitude of butterflies happen my way, i'm reminded of the new life that's about to come again. A life resulting in beauty and strength... a life with a new perspective. Now this life is not neccessariy effortless, it comes with it's own set of challenges... there is a process involved, and risks that need to be taken. Be that as it may, all we have to do is listen. We become silent and listen to that soft whisper gently guiding us to let go of our comforts and rely on Him. And in some cases, like mine, we must lean heavily into Him.

You'd think crawling around on the ground eating dirt all day is not that exhilarating, but then i'm guessing we'd be surprised to know how many people settle for that life daily in the real world. Why? Because it's what they know and they do it quite well. I know i've been there, have you? I believe that it is for this very reason we become so angry at God, bored with life, complacent.... exhausted. You see, it is not His fault... although God's the first we blame. He's the one that desires for us an exciting life full of joy and passion... but the kicker is we settle. We refuse to let go and look up... because we are "just fine, thank you". Is that dirt starting to taste like dirt yet? Well, it won't until we realize there is more to life than this. Until you see that He's created more of a purpose for you than the everyday crawl. Until you are ready to get uncomfortable. But the trade-off, wow, the trade-off is incomparable.

He could be calling you to something as simple sounding as a new refreshed walk with Him... but this may be the most pivotal decision of your life. Dictionary meaning... of crucial importance to the development or success of something else. It's not about us guys, never is... never was. And ultimately that is what will give you the strength to let go. ... and the strength to fly.

And when we do... those risks we took look smaller, and that dirt begins to taste like dirt, those comforts become less comfortable... and the air becomes sweeter, our passion becomes clearer, and our joy is found in the flight. It is here we find true life, and a new perspective...

no man's land.

I'm writing this blog as somewhat of a liaison linking "letting go" and "crawling from comfort" (soon to come). In the last blog I referred to several places like "bangladesh" and "no man's land" as an analogy for spiritual/emotional places we might find ourselves in from time to time. I feel compelled to take you deeper in my thoughts, to re-visit these places in my mind... only this time take you with me. Where I'm gonna take you is not going to be the easiest place for you to visit, but in the end will prove significant and possibly life-changing. Last June my team of 7 visited our third country and perhaps the hardest... Bangladesh. It was hard for several reasons... Spiritually, I felt the most oppression i've ever felt in my life. I'd never been quite effected by the enemy in this way, but the weight of evil in that place was so thick to me that i could almost see it. As I dealt physically with this place as well, fear began to set in. I've spoken on fear before and in the future i will reinterate... but i believe fear is deadly. It controls, paralyzes and will make you believe many lies about yourself as well as others. I found myself fearing the very air that kept me alive. Sitting in our dorm one day... alone and scared, I could hear the voices chanting over and over to empty gods. I was at the end of myself. I realized that, at this very moment all of my past had caught up with me and was looking me dead in the face. The past 27 years of my life was at a draw... a standstill... with everything that was to come, my future. I can't quite explain this feeling, other than.. it may have been the most frightening day of my whole life. And at this very second mustered up all the courage that was within to lift my head.. and through my tears i saw a picture of Jesus, my Savior. He was looking down at me with compassion and truth. He was saying... "I hold the answer". The answer was Him. I was to let it all go, everything... and look to Him. I knew right then, I had felt the Fear of God. I also knew, that i never ever wanted to spend a moment in life without Him.

About a week and a half later, my team pulled out of the "driveway" fully geared up for the next country- india! What we didn't know, was the series of unfortunate events that were to take place during this journey on the washed out roads that lie before us.
Nothing could have prepared us for that day... the longest day of my life. All seven of us, plus a non-english speaking driver, and all of our baggage squeezed into a mini-van designed for a small family with little to no baggage. Seemingly complicated, this problem seemed small in light of what we'd dealt with the past few weeks. Our 4 hour adventure begins.... 4 hours later: 8 hot, sweaty, hungry people are ready to arrive at our destination... and not a minute too soon. 8 hours later: 8 irritated, really hot & sweaty, stinky, hungry people are seriously tired of bumping up and down. Around every corner was the hope of something new.. some evidence of the India border. Our hope soon turned into dissillusionment and dissappointment. Without words, only looks... we all agreed this might have been the worst day of our lives. We also agreed silently that this could be the last day of our lives as well. And at this point, that destiny may have been welcomed by most of us. For those of you who might be wondering... I now know where BFE is, and i never want to go back. I don't think i couldve even find it if i tried. Approx. 11 hours later we have some sort of reason to believe that we've made it to the border.

Yes, this did bring relief... but not for long. This destination only proved to be full of set-backs and unpredicted delays that would keep us vulnerable position for the next several hours. The border police was, financially speaking, making it so hard for us to leave... we actually thought we may be kept in this hellish place much longer than expected. Once we realized the severity of our predicament, we all did what we had to keep our cool and keep our minds off of a potential disaster. Several hours later, after jumping many firey hoops... we were finally given the affirmation to continue on.
We were just about ready to cross the border... when one of our team members, Rae, discovered her camera and phone were missing. We all searched very dilligently for the next 15 minutes or so with no answer other than the possibility it had fallen out somewhere along the bumpy way. Insisting on finding them, our leader kept looking. To our dismay... he discovered these items in the glove compartment covered in an old rag... stolen by our dear deceptive non-english speaking driver. Imagine the betrayel we felt after all we'd been through with this man... and this country. Fortunately for him, God gave us the ability to see this situation from a different perspcetive with our main goal being to get OUT OF THE FREAKIN COUNTRY!

As we walked through no man's land (the land between bangladesh and india, owned by no one), we felt somewhat defeated... yet slightly hopeful. At this point, I just wanted to lie down and die... rather than continue on with 100 pounds of luggage and the man that just stole from us screaming in our faces for more money. Together we kept moving. India looked just as inviting as Bangladesh (not very). Part of me desired to just stand where i was... to stay with what i knew. I was ready to leave, but Bangladesh was awkwardly comfortable to us now. You see, we were leaving a place we knew.. no matter how difficult and miserable for a place we did not know or understand. This is the place I feel so many of us come to in life. We fear change, simply because we do not know what awaits us on the other side. My encouragement for all of us is that we continue on... That no matter how comfortable we are... we must welcome change, and embrace what we do not know. This is when God moves. Why? Because we are giving up. We are finally saying that we can not do it on our own, and we need His strenght, His wisdom and His power to not only get us through this "no man's land" but to get us successfully to the other side. It's, again, the processing of letting go, with the faith that what he puts in our hands is way better than what we were holding on to.

Once we were safely in India riding to our next place, we broke. A flood of emotions consumed me... we were free, we were safe... and all along His hand was in this. We looked forward with anticipation, courage, hope and love. And we did not look back. For what we had eternally gained was much more powerful and divine, than anything we ever held on to

letting go.

can GOD speak through fortune cookies?
most christians would say- no... they are the devil. haha. but i believe if you are willing to find God in anything... he can and will use anything in his creation to encourage us, confirm something... why not?? everything under the sun is his and will be ruled by Him again one day. so... instead of me seeing a "fortune" the other day, i saw something else. Let me explain.

Over the past few weeks I've found myself becoming more and more comfortable in this place that i am, satisfied with who i'm becoming... but something has been bothering me. I wasn't quite sure what it was until my good friend revealed more about me than i was initially willing to see. This is always hard isn't it?? When we are faced with yet another thing about ourselves that we find an unhealthy grip on. Over and over his words are to me let go Lindsey, let go. What exactly was he talking about? As i began to open my hands i began to see what was inside of that death grip. You see, sometimes we don't think we are holding on to anything because we can't see it, and the reason we can't see it is because our hands are so tightly closed around it. And sometimes it's just the simple fact of letting go of whatever it is that pleases the Lord. If we can't give it up, it takes priority over Him and ownership in our lives. This can be very bad... it can hold us back, keep us from living an abundant and free life.
So, again... i find it time to let go of what i want for myself. A big part of this was my heart desiring to be pursued and loved by a man. I felt that after I'd done this mission trip I'd be somewhat ready for love. I'd be mature enough to commit to a marriage, make financial decisions, start a business, raise a family... Isn't this what we are all called to do? Isn't this the next step in life?? Won't this make me happy? Those are all wonderful questions to ask... and the more i ask them, the more i get answers i don't particularly like. But, the more i continue to seek and ask, the less it hurts and the more i discover my destiny in all of this. You see... Most of us grow up believing there is a certain order to things in life. And accomplishment of these things is of great success, preferrably if they come in that order. As a 28 year old, and by america's standards, i should be married... have a good job... and at least thinking about having kids. Don't get me wrong, i strongly desire to be married and have children... and i deeply desire true love. Probably more so than others, bc i've found myself at this place of having everything i need but that. Meaning, I've lived a full life already... i've grown, i've matured... i've taken care of all or most of my issues. So naturally, the thing that's left, the thing that's missing is ... well, love. Since i've been home i've gladly welcomed any prospects. Hmmm, ok, well, where are they? Haha. Along the way... toward the next phase of my life, i've had one eye on the Lord... and one eye searching for that love. I discovered something about myself during this time. That being married... having children... etc, is not Gods destiny for my life. His destiny is found in the pursuit of Him... the complete abandonment of our own plan in exchange for his- an abundant life. And then, he may or may not bring that love along. But i see that my focus should be on Him first. Sure it will be harder this way... and a lot more risky, but i'd rather know for a fact that things are in his hands... and are happening according to his time table, not mine. I used to be frightened that i'd be the last to be married... but now i'm excited bc all of Gods greatest gifts are around the next corner. I believe that me letting go is not saying that it will be 10 years before i get married and have children... no, i believe that in letting go.. i'm taking my eyes off the world again, putting them on him, and when he so desires (maybe tomorrow, 6 months... who knows?) then, i'll be completely madly in love with the person he puts in my life and i'll know without a shadow of a doubt that He is the one i'll love forever.
No man's land between two countries is probably the most difficult place in one's life. You know what you are leaving behind... and your trying to have faith that what's ahead is better than what you've left. He's constantly asking us to let go with the faith that whatever He has for us is better than we couldve ever imagined. A lot of people stay in "Bangladesh", afraid to let go of what they know... even though it is sometimes the hardest place they could possibly be in. They take stock in what they are familiar with... because they are comfortable. What they can not see from here, is a whole land waiting for them on the other side of the border if they would just take the steps of faith needed to cross. Fear can hold us back...fear of the unknown. If you only knew what God had for you on the other side, you'd give everything up in a heartbeat. But instead we hold on to what we know... and in turn our deepest hearts desires are crushed. Part of us dies. We live our lives settling for what we understand and never grow... It's time for me now. The pressure's been building once again, the sign's are all pointing... and today a little slip of paper inside my cookie so wisely stated:

FRONT:Today is the day you let it go. Your chance will come.
BACK:learn chinese- boyfriend

This is what i've realized... if we keep letting go, and giving up our will our chance will come. Simple as that. It's not our place to make our chance reality, we continue seeking His face and let Him bring to us what He wants at the proper time without an expectation other than Him providing for our needs. Who knew that God could speak through little chinese cookies?