Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Train Ride

Sitting on the train back to Delhi from Agra (Taj Mahal), there was an empty seat beside me. Men walked past me down the aisles, selling snacks. The dry heat of northern Delhi had dehydrated me and with no water left, I gave in to my thirst and bought some tea. I paid too much, but it tasted great.

The chip guy walked by with his bucket of salted, fatty potato chips on his head. Several others took their turns, sauntering down the aisles, attempting to persuade everyone in broken Indian English which product they should buy to satisfy their hunger.

One of the vendors suddenly plopped himself down in the seat next to me and his metal bucket on the floor between his feet. As he lifted the newspaper from the opening of his bucket, the smell of his concoction quickly filled my sensory system. "Ooof..." escaped my lips as my eyebrows raised and lips puckered.

The Dutch couple across the aisle immediately glanced my way to read my thoughts of what was beside me. It's interesting how, even though they're from a different continent, we can have that common understanding without speaking. Maybe it's because of our common English language bond. Maybe it's because were from developed countries and our scientific world views are similar...maybe it's just because they're white...

Michelle just turned from the seat ahead of me to ask what I was doing. Brandon answered, "It's like when the kids are quiet and you think, "Uh oh, what's wrong?"

The man beside me began his dealing with another vendor. "What is that?" I questioned. I don't even remember what he said, but it looked like some kind of Indian soup. He also informed me that the other man was selling noodles.

"What? Those don't look like noodles to me..." I speculated. As his friend returned, he scooped up a glob to show me and offered me a taste.

A bit timidly, I extended my hand. He dumped a scoop in my palm and I tried it. Not so bad...kind of like spicy grits. I tilted my head back and tossed the rest in. My hand was all sticky. Yuck.

It's all good, I thought...I live in India. I'm a trooper. I tore some newspaper from my package in front of me and wiped my hand.

I tried something new.
I talked to someone new.
I did something new...a few new somethings.
I just entertained myself for 10 minutes and avoided boredom on the train.
I live in India.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Holding me up

Yesterday was an eventful day! I was playing football with a bunch of other friends after class and right at the end, while running for a deep pass, collided with another guy trying to catch the same pass. To make a long story short, within the afternoon I lost some vision in one eye for a while, had a terrible headache, neckache, was vomiting, dizzy, and even confused about words. I forgot several basic words while talking, like "rock," and the name of the guy driving me to the hospital. was quite funny.

We went to a walk in clinic and were then sent to the ER so they could give me a cat scan. The first 3 hours or so I was completely miserable and could hardly think. But, I was so blessed with so many of my friends here that were taking care of me and speaking for me. After waiting over 3 hours in the ER, I was finally seen by a doctor. They gave me x-rays because they were afraid I may have injured some of the vertebrae in my neck as well as a cat scan. Everything turned out fine and I was diagnosed with a simple concussion. I need to be really careful for the next 6 weeks so I don't get reinjured in the head...this could cause serious damage. I am doing fine today, just a really sore neck, bad headache, and a little spaciness now and then. They say I may have some memory problems for the next 6 weeks as well.

I am honestly so thankful for yesterday, though. I rejoice in what my Father did! My biggest fear is being alone, and I had actually been feeling quite lonely the last several days. However, with so many people taking care of me yesterday, driving me to the hospital, getting me medicine, speaking for me, and just being there to comfort me, my Father reminded me how He provides for my needs--including my needs of friends, family, and deep relationships. At one point in time there were 14 people hanging out with me in the ER waiting room! And the point where I finally started feeling better came soon after they all grouped around me to put their hands on me and speak for me together. I was so blessed.

It reminded me of the story of Moses, Joshua, Hur, and the battle against the Amalakites in Exodus 17:8-16. "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that this hands remained steady till sunset."

In my worst 3 hours, I was in too much pain to even think, but my friends held my arms up for me. They spoke to the Father for me when I could not think straight. I remember thinking, "I need to speak to Him, but I can't think." I managed out a little, "help me, Father." But, I was so thankful for those around me who were lifting me up when I was too weak to do it myself.
Those hours spent at the ER were also great bonding times. It turned out to be great fun and I feel even closer to them now. I love my family here.

Oh, and by the way...I'm not pregnant! The first thing they made me do in the ER was take a pregnancy test! Ha! I assured them I wasn't pregnant, unless I could get so by just looking at boys, but they say it's mandatory before x-rays. So, just thought you'd enjoy the rest of my diagnosis from the doctor.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Should I go?

My grandmother is my hero. There are so many things I admire about her...she was a devout pastor's wife and mother of four...but even more so, she has been a foundational rock of support and encouragement to me in my journey into serving the Lord through her dedication to missions (leading old lady prayer groups, making quilts to raise money for missions, completely supporting a national missionary overseas...). This dedication in her actions as well as her constant prayers for me have made such a difference in my life.

On the day of my graduation, December 15, 2006, we were alone in my room. She shocked me with the question, "Are you sure this is where God wants you to go?" I had spent a summer living with her while I was a summer missionary and she saw me working with the kids and youth. She told me, "I have seen how you can relate to people and how much God is using you here. I can't see why He would take you to another country where you don't know the language or the culture, when He's using you so much here, where you do know how to relate to people best."

I was flabbergasted. I hadn't expected this from someone I respected so much, especially someone so concerned about people coming to know Christ.

I assured her this was where God was calling me and kind of put the thought out of my mind. That is, until a few weeks ago.

The past few months I have been involved in several ministries in my hometown...teaching a discipleship class for new believers at my church, leading a discipleship group with four high school girls in the evenings, and helping with a Bible study for women at our local jail. God had been blessing me so much and using me in incredible ways! Those in my class, in my girl's group, and in the jail all had significant spiritual growth and were amazed at the things the Lord showed them through me. Shelly, a lady in the jail, even accepted Christ last Sunday.

That night I lay in bed thinking, "Wow! God has been using me so much here! I understand people, how they think, and I feel I can really communicate the Word of the Lord really well!" And then those questions of my grandmother's came to my mind again. If God is using me so much here, why should I go overseas where I don't know the language and the culture and how to connect with people and communicate like I do here?

I started worrying that maybe I shouldn't be going overseas. However, the moment I began to question God with this, He gave me my answer.

God assured me, I used you when I took you to Indonesia, I used you when I took you to Ecuador...look at all the people's lives I revealed my glory to through you, even though it wasn't your culture and language. I had's not me sharing Christ with people and revealing God's glory, it's God! He's the one doing it! All I am is the vessell He chooses to use. And He can use me anyway He wants, anywhere and in any language. How silly of me to think that it had anything to do with my own abilities!

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9

He also reminded me that if I don't go, how will they ever know? There are so many people who have never even heard the name of Jesus, and yet so many unwilling to go tell them.

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that this is where You're taking me...not because of my own abilities, but because You yearn for them to know You. You're going to use me...not because I have learned so many things and am good at this, but because You are the one drawing them to You and speaking to them.

Monday, February 5, 2007

I was hit by a car yesterday

While in Carthage yesterday, a huge Avalanche pulled out from a gas pump and plowed right into the side of my little Ford Ranger. Crazy as it is, this is the third time I've been hit by another car!

The first two times I flipped out, started crying...worrying about what my dad would say or how we would pay for the damage (the insurance of the other guy never fully covers this stuff). I can honestly say I was reacting in my flesh: I was not depending on the Holy Spirit to lead me in truth, but reacted on my own.

Yesterday was different.

I began my morning with the Lord and He really spoke to me through a Psalm. By the time I was hit, I was just rejoicing in the Lord! Though I was hit by a car, I found myself being thankful in my situation! I was thanking God first and foremost that it wasn't my fault! Also, that I was okay. He gave me an amazing peace and calm assurance. I can definitely say I took claim to His promise:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

After the cop filed the police report and I was driving away (knowing full well this guy was completely at fault), God began laying something else on my heart.

I've been learning a lot about what forgiveness really means...not just from God, but also to others. As I was driving, God really layed that on my heart. I felt the strong desire to forgive this guy. Not that I was upset at him, but to REALLY forgive him.

I decided that I wanted to write him a letter with the estimate of getting my car fixed, to not turn it into the insurance company, and to pay it myself. Yeah, it was his fault. True, the law says his insurance must pay to have my car fixed. Yes, I don't have to pay for it.

However, Christ died for my sins. It was my fault. I should have paid that debt. And yet, I don't have to pay for it. I want this man to know that. I want him to know that even though he deserves to pay for my car to be fixed, he has been completely forgiven for more than what he deserves. I want him to know and experience in a physical manner the forgiveness Christ offers him.

My father is thinking about whether he's going to let me pay for it or turn it into the insurance company. We'll see what happens...ultimately, I will submit to my father and do as he desires, but I also want this man to know that kind of forgiveness, and if paying to fix my truck would help him understand God's forgiveness of what he owes...than it's worth it, by golly.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Love as an Economic metaphor

On my drive home last night I was praying about a friend. This friend, like many other men, feels he has failed God. He didn't straight up say that, but I can tell in how he treats his wife, his relationship with God, how he prays, and just how he treats others in general.

I was praying that God would reveal to him that it doesn't matter how much he's messed up, God still loves him just the same; God still wants to use him just the same. I prayed that he would understand God's unconditional love--that God doesn't take away love because this guy messed up, but God continually gives him the ability to defeat Satan, to fight on His team, and to love others with God's love despite his imperfections.

As I prayed, God revealed something to me about my relationship with this person. As this person thought he was failing God, it affected his relationship with me. I realized that I had been looking at this person like he was failing me as well because he wasn't letting God work through him to love me the way I should be receiving God's love from him. I realized that when he failed me, I myself was withdrawing my love and respect from him because....basically because I felt he was failing me.

No wonder this guy doesn't understand God's unconditional love! All of the physical examples in his life tell him one thing: he fails someone, they withdraw love! No wonder he feels that when he fails God, he looses God's love!

God really convicted me that I need to stop withdrawing love and respect from him. Even if he's not loving me the way God wants him to, I am to still love and respect him as God does, no matter how he benefits me.

As author Donald Miller says, "The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money...If somebody is doing something for us, offering us something, be it gifts, time, popularity, or what have you, we feel they have value, we feel they are worth something to us, and, perhaps, we feel they are priceless....I used love like money...With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did...I used love like money, but love doesn't work like money. It is not a commodity. When we barter with it, we all lose. When the church does not love its enemies, it fuels their rage..."

Miller than goes on to tell a story of a friend who bothered him. To show this friend he didn't like what he was doing, he began displaying his dislike of the friend in his facial expressions and reactions. But he realized that "by withholding love from [his] friend, he became defensive, he didn't like [him], he thought [he] was judgmental, snobbish, proud, and mean. Rather than being drawn to [him], wanting to change, he was repulsed. [Miller] was guilty of using love like money, withholding it to get somebody to be who [he] wanted them to be."

Miller said that when he realized this and began pouring on the love, despite his dislikes of the guy, that he slowly began to change to adjust to what Miller thought was acceptable.

Really, all God wants us to do is love them-no matter their failures. I knew that, of course, don't we all? But it just hit me in a different way last night. If I can love him unconditionally, despite how he's failing me...and maybe, just maybe, as he physically sees my love for him, no matter his failures, maybe then he can come to understand God's love for him.

Lord, forgive me for my selfishness. Guide me to love others unconditionally, no matter what sin they're involved in or problem they're dealing with, that I would be your hands and feet and that they would understand your love better because of how they received it from me.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Pray for Dottie

This past weekend was a blast! I went to the FCA college retreat in Kansas to see some old friends, make some new ones, and dwell on the Word of God. My favorite part of the weekend was Saturday afternoon...

Nine of the girls and I went to some great restaurant on the Plaza and bought this chocolate bag desert [umm, hmm...good stuff!]. We then stopped by the cheesecake factory for a moment and headed to a big fountain that was shut down for the winter.

There were these cute little black girls trying to raise money to go march in the MLK Day parade in San Antonio. I gave them a few bucks and asked if they could teach me a move...they did half of their routine for me and I didn't learn a thing! I then wandered back over to the fountain.

The girls decided to get in and make a movie with someone's video camera while I decided to stay back and watch the purses that were laying on the ground. As I was standing there and watching all the people walk by, I felt the Lord telling me, "You're just standing around relaxing and you've got plenty of time, why don't you share my love with someone?" So, I immediately began to scheme who I would talk to. The older couple walking by? The man sitting on a bench near by smoking a cigarette? I figured he'd be easy since he wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere either. However, as I was thinking about it, I began praying as well...

"Lord, if you want me to share my faith, also show me to whom and how. I don't want to go and try to do good things in my flesh and on my own might. I want to do it because You're leading me to do it. Show me who and when and how YOU are leading me to do so."

So, I stood and waited a bit. I knew if I went to talk to the guy it would be just me doing it because I wanted to do a good work, not because the Lord was leading me to.

Then I saw her. This girl, in her late 20's or early 30's had been walking around close by and right then she walked back over by the fountain. I asked God, "Is this her? If so, give me a lead into a conversation with her."

Sure enough, she bent down to the ground and began patting the ground as if she was looking for something, and she began crying. I walked over to her and asked her if she had lost something or if there was anything I could do to help her. She stood and said no in a very quiet, timid voice. She wiped her tears and tried to pretend like nothing was wrong. So, I made some small chat with her, just trying to be friendly. Found out her name was Dottie and she was from NM, in KC looking for a job. She ended our conversation and walked away. I went back to the fountain. I decided to just trust God that He just wanted to show her that someone cared and thanked Him for using me to do so. Little did I know it wasn't over.

A few moments later, the girls asked what we should do next. I suggested that we just walk around the Plaza and take it all in, since I'd never really seen much of it before. We walked to the corner where Dottie was. As we waited for the light to change to cross the street, I introduced her to the girls and invited her to take a stroll with us. She complied.

As we walked, she and Marissa and I shared some jokes (of course) and we all got to know each other a little more. It made Dottie more comfortable that we had all just met the day before as well. When I asked where she was staying, she timidly said a shelter near by. I wondered how long she'd been there...

We finally took a seat at a table to wait for our ride. As we sat and talked, we came to a silence. I suggested that someone share their testimony so we could get to know each other better. No one wanted to, so I volunteered. :) I just shared a little, mainly about how I knew when I was six that I needed Jesus, I loved him, didn't want to go to hell for my sins, and asked him into my heart. I briefly (honestly, only like a minute or two max) shared a little of how God had changed my heart and how I'd fallen in love with him the more I got to know him.

Somehow we then got into talking about my upcoming journey overseas. I gave everyone one of my picture cards to pray for me and share about what I'd be doing and why I was going to do it. I gave Dottie one, too. She had fought back tears several times during our conversation, and began crying again. She set it on the table and then shortly after, got up to leave. I grabbed the card and caught up with her, accompanying her down the street.

I thanked her for hanging out with us and told her how much I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people. It had been a delight! I then asked her if it was alright with her if I prayed for her every day this week...that God would lead her to find the job that she was looking for. She said she'd like that. I gave her my card back and said she could keep it. I then gave her a good hug, told her, "take care! God Bless!" and went back to join my friends.

It was great. I was so much at peace about the whole thing. Never once did I feel uncomfortable or like I was trying to shove something in her face. I was just trusting God to lead me to do and say what He wanted--and He did! He showed Dottie that He cared about her; that she wasn't beyond being lovely to Him; and that she was accepted and loved by Him, no matter her condition. God gave me this incredible...I don't even know the words to describe it, but it was like a relaxing peace and calm joy...all at once. And He reminded me that this was what He was calling me to do downtown Kansas City, in Marshall, and overseas.

This is what the Lord has called me to: to trust Him and to obey. I like it.

Please pray for Dottie this week--pray that she would find a job.