My little sister is my best friend. I love her more than I could describe. She is the coolest person and daily I get to see her turn into an awesome woman of God. I love getting to watch her grow. This is why I was so excited when I heard that she was going to get to go on a mission trip to Prague during her Spring Break. This was to be her first long distance mission trip and I knew when she first told me about it that God was going to use her in powerful ways. On Friday she left for the Czech Republic and, while I miss her like crazy, I cannot wait to hear the stories that she will bring back.

My little sister going on her first big mission trip reminded me of my first big mission trip to Africa. I thought of my prayer during that trip and I prayed a similar one for my little sister. When I was in Africa, John Hull talked to us about being the “Aroma of Christ” while we were there. 2 Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” That verse was a reminder for us throughout the trip. And that is what I am praying for Stephanie to be.

The words that Paul chose are key. Aroma. An aroma can not be avoided. You can try and cover up and aroma but it still remains. It fills every crack and every crevice. It is all-encompassing. And that is what I was in Africa. That is what Stephanie is in Prague. And that is what we both should try to be daily no matter where we are.

Lord, Allow me to be Your aroma that I may fill every place around me with You.

Lent Blog #29 (Identity)

March 17, 2010

As much as I sometimes hate working in the food service industry, it has it’s pros. For instance, I love that I get to interact with so many people in such a short amount of time. People that I might have otherwise never talked to, I have to talk to because of my job. In my four years of working at a restaurant, I have had some of the best conversations with customers.

Last night, when I was working, we were just about to close when a group of three teenagers walked in and sat down at the counter. None of us really wanted them there at first. I mean, the sooner the restaurant was empty, the sooner we could close and go home. But, they were there none the less and so I struck up a conversation with them.

I didn’t know much about my mother’s dad before he died but my mom once told me that my grandfather would strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone and by the end of the conversation, he would know their entire life story. I guess I inherited that trait from him because I love to strike up conversations with just about anyone. After talking to these teenagers for a short while that night, I soon knew so much about them. Where they were from, what they liked, what they wanted to do in life. It was then that one of the boys looked at me and said, “I love meeting people at work because they are in their work uniforms so they are stripped of all identity. It makes it so that you actually have to talk to a person in order to know what they are like.”

I loved that he said that. I started to think about how many times I do learn about people based on what they look like or what they wear. But there is so much merit in talking to people. In asking them questions. As I went home that night, I wondered what was the identity that he saw in me by talking to me. I wondered if those teenagers could, by my words and, more importantly, by my actions, tell that I was a follower of Christ.

When I was in high school, my youth pastor asked us to think about what word people would use to describe us if they had to. I knew that I wanted to be known for my faith but I wanted to see if that’s what people actually knew me for. So I found several people throughout school and I asked them what word they thought of when they thought of me. And, for the most part, I was pleased with the results. So many people knew me for my faith. And I was happy about that. But those people knew me. I want to know the word that people give me within the first 15 minutes of knowing me. I hope that it is the same.

God, Let I be known solely for me faith in You. Nothing else matters.

Last night was an adventurous one. I was visiting a friend in Houston and, as I was on the way home, my car broke down. Doesn’t sound that eventful. But, as I am driving home at almost 2 a.m. on I-45, the side of the highway is the last place I want to be stuck. As the car broke down, I was able to pull over to the median on the side of I-45 and I immediately went into panic mode. First, it was late and I was ready to be home. And second, I had no idea who to call. It was late and I knew that my mom and sister had work the next morning so I wasn’t going to call them. I also thought that it was a lack of gas issue at first so my immediate thought was who I was going to call to come and bail me out.

After thinking through every person that I know that may have already been up at that time, I finally called my older sister who, by the way, is the best. I don’t give her enough credit. Erin, at 2 in the morning, drives out to I-45, I hop in her car, and we go grab some gas. We get back to my car, still stranded on the side of a major interstate highway, and, after filling it with gas, we discover that it is not a gas problem. This is when we decide to call my mother and wake her up.

At this point in the night, I feel awful. I have woken up both my older sister and my mother, who both have work early the next morning. My mom drives out to meet us, we call a tow truck driver, and then the three of us sit and wait on the side of a freeway until 4 in the morning. At one point, I turned to my mom and sister and asked them why they had driven out to help me. I mean, they just as easily could have left me to wait for the tow truck driver by myself. Her response was this, “You are my daughter. Of course I am going to come help you.”

I thought about what she said later that night as I was falling asleep. “You are my daughter.” I thought of how many times I get stuck in life. How many times I need help on a day to day basis. And how many times, without me asking, my God comes to my side to bail me out. I imagine that if I were to ask Him why he comes to help me out every time, His response would be, “You are my daughter. Of course I am going to come help you.”

Daddy, Thanks for Your constant help. Without me even having to ask.

Lent Blog #27 (Brazil)

March 15, 2010

Well, as of today I am officially going to Brazil this summer. After praying for weeks about it and then spending about the same amount of weeks trying to convince my parents that the whole thing was a good idea, I am finally going. The ticket has been bought and I will be spending 3 and a half weeks of my summer in Itu, Brazil. I could not be more excited.

Basically, what I am going to be doing there is helping to do camps for kids in the youth group at a church down there. I will be living in the home of one of the Brazilian families and forming relationships daily. And I already feel so blessed and so unworthy to be there.

I love how, when you are sure that something is God’s plan, I mean, absolutely positive, the element of worry kind of disappears. When I went to Kenya last summer, I was a bit worried before I left. I am not the least bit worried about Brazil. The whole thing worked out so perfectly that I know God had a hand in the whole thing. There are a lot of things that I could be worried about. Going to South America for the first time, living in a house with a family that I don’t know, not having the slightest clue how to speak the native language. But none of those things scare me. I know that my God works despite language barriers. I know that He provides. And I know that He is already working in Brazil. He is already laying out the groundwork of the things that will happen in my time there. He is preparing hearts, both in Brazil and here. I cannot wait to see what huge things are going to happen. I cannot wait for God to give me a heart for Itu and the people there. What an adventure.

Dad, Let me love Itu like You do. Guide me every step of the way.

I was upset with my mother for the greater part of the day today. She, my sister, and I drove down to spend the day in Houston and on the way we got into a little fight and I spent the entire rest of the day wishing I was anywhere but where I was. I suppose my thought process was to remain as quiet as possible for the rest of the day and cause her to feel bad for the whole argument. Apparently I am six. I was throwing a tantrum. It may not have seemed to have been that on the surface, but, underneath, it was a tantrum.

My family are some of the hardest people for me to love. I do love them and I always will but, it is so hard to handle every situation with them in a loving, Christ-like way. I mean, they see me at all times. It’s not that I become a different person at home but, the slip ups that other people may not see, my family sees. And that is rough. But, halfway through my pity-party of a day, I reminded myself of what Jesus would do. He had a family too. And I am sure that He and His mother disagreed on a thing or two. But, He did not falter in His love for her. He did not desire to serve her any less than He did anyone else.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” And I did all of those things today. I am called to love but I was so easily upset by an argument that I held a stupid grudge all day.

As crazy as it may sound, God shows me what unconditional love looks like daily through my dog. Yeah, a dog. Due to us being out later than we thought tonight, we didn’t feed Boomer until a good 5 hours after he is used to being fed. And after he was finally able to eat, he wasn’t mad at us for taking so long. He didn’t hold a grudge because we didn’t feed him on time. He went right on loving us. It might seem like a unlikely teacher but that lesson was one that I needed today.

God, give me strength to love like you love. Especially when it is hardest to.

The Bible is so very many things. It is, first and foremost, The Word of God. But it is also a beautiful love story and a terrific literary work. Seriously, I dare Nicholas Sparks to try and write something better. Can’t be done. The Bible is filled with the most incredible imagery and elaborate metaphors. There are twists and foreshadowing. It truly is the best collaboration of books ever written.

One of my favorite metaphors is the comparison of the literal resurrection of Lazarus to the metaphorical one of me. This was no fluke that Jesus performed this miracle. He knew that people would look to this story and relate to it for years to come. There are so many beautiful parallels.

When Christ calls Lazarus to come out of the grave, the first thing he commands is, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44) That is huge. And directly corresponds to our lives. God calls us out of death. He takes us from the grave and we desire to keep those grave clothes on. He tells us to take off the binding of the grave but we don’t. I think I can safely assume that Lazarus, after he was raised from the dead, did not but back on his old grave clothes from time to time just because they felt right. He took them off and he left them where they belonged. By the grave.

I am called to take off my grave clothes. To leave what I was when I was dead, in the grave. But all to often, I sneak back into those grave clothes. I find excuses to wear them. But my Savior has commanded me other wise. Sin is binding and, in a lot of cases, more comfortable, but it is restricting us from living. A living man does not walk around in grave clothes. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are restricting. They are binding and they will hinder.

Lord, allow me to fully remove my grave clothes and leave them where they belong. As far as the east is from the west, Father. As far as the east is from the west.

Lent Blog #24 (Home)

March 12, 2010

Spring Break started today. My only Friday class was canceled so, after getting the chance to sleep in, I packed my things, did some last minute stuff in Abilene, and then embarked on the 6 hour drive back to Houston.

I love driving. I think that road trips are the best times to get to know people. I drove with a friend of mine and I am sure that after 6 hours on the road together, we are better friends than when we left. And I am always a fan of building upon the relationships that I have with people.

But, as with most drives, so much of the joy that I felt came from actually reaching the destination. When I pulled into my driveway and saw my house, I was filled with happiness, but more than that, relief. Relief at finally being home. Finally being back to some place that I knew inside and out. Some place that I was completely and totally comfortable with. The feel of my own bed was wonderful and I loved getting to be with my family again.

And then it all hit me. If this is how I feel when I come home to my house in The Woodlands, how much greater will that feeling be when I am in Heaven? That is going to be the biggest reunion ever. I can’t even begin to fathom it and while God is still using me on this earth, I cannot wait for the biggest Homecoming I will ever know. I forget that I am not home yet. I am just visiting.

Daddy, stay with me until my life is through and, on that day, please take me home with you.

There are so many things that I love about the story of the cross. So many beautiful things wound into it that I could read a million times and it would still break me down every time. One of the things that I take note of every time is the amount of times that Jesus could have turned around. The amount of times that He could have just as easily said, “I’m out.” And He didn’t.

I can’t imagine when the magnitude of Christ’s destiny hit Him. The moment that He truly understood the cost. But I do know that from that moment on He was in complete control to turn around at any time. It especially blows my mind in that last week. When Christ is standing on top of the hill, about to ride into Jerusalem. He knew that these people were going to betray Him. He knew that they would be the ones shouting, “Crucify Him” in a week. And yet he rode right on in.

And then there was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ was getting cold feet. He could have easily prayed right then and there for this to all end and yet, He didn’t. Instead He prayed, “not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

The book of John accentuates the fact that, while it was His crucifixion, Christ was in control the whole time. To me, this is the biggest proof that Christ did this out of love. He CHOSE this. When the guards came to arrest Jesus, He asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am He,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:4-5) The power of the “I AM” brought the guards to their knees in submission. Jesus had already won right there. He could have walked out of that garden without a scratch. But, as you know, He didn’t. He had a job to finish.

So many chances to back out. So many times He could have given up on me. And He didn’t. I serve a loving God.

Jesus, You never cease to amaze me. You could have saved yourself. You chose to save me. Wow. Thank You.

Lent Blog #22 (Love)

March 10, 2010

The magnitude of God’s love blows my mind. I forget how far it chases me. I forget how vast it is.

It has been a while since I have “felt” God. I have worshiped and I have prayed but I haven’t had one of those bring me to my knees in front of the Lord experiences in a while. I have felt distant and, to be honest, it has sucked. I don’t think any kid who is in desperate need of their parent is happy when they can’t seem to find that parent. And that is how I  have felt lately. I have felt like a kid who has lost her Dad and is wandering around a giant city by herself. That, however, is not the case.

There is a song that I heard last night by Tenth Avenue North. One of my friends posted it on Facebook and so I gave is a listen. The lyrics at the end of it hit me hard last night.

“I hear You say, “My love is over. It’s underneath. It’s inside. It’s in between. The times you doubt Me, when you can’t feel. The times that you question, ‘Is this for real?’ The times you’re broken. The times that you mend. The times that you hate Me, and the times that you bend. Well, My love is over, it’s underneath. It’s inside, it’s in between. These times you’re healing, and when your heart breaks. The times that you feel like you’re falling from grace. The times you’re hurting. The times that you heal. The times you go hungry, and are tempted to steal. The times of confusion, in chaos and pain. I’m there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame. I’m there through your heartache. I’m there in the storm. My love I will keep you, by My pow’r alone. I don’t care where you fall, where you have been. I’ll never forsake you, My love never ends. It never ends.”

Those lyrics served as a great reminder last night. In this season I am in where I kind of feel like I am on more of a plateau than a mountain, I need to be reminded that my God is with me constantly. When I hate Him, when I can’t feel Him, when I am confused. He is always there. Never faltering. That is powerful. That is love. It NEVER ends. Wow. My God is amazing.

Daddy, I can’t fathom Your love. But thank You for it.

Lent Blog #21 (Failure)

March 9, 2010

I am destined to fail. I think otherwise far too often. I give myself this illusion that I am perfectly capable. That I can do anything and everything all by myself, thank you very much. But, I am a human. And I am a failure along with the rest of humanity.

We are told so often to stand alone. That every man is an island. You are born alone and you will die alone. It never ceases to amaze me. Some people think that seeking help outside of oneself is unacceptable. I think we are all like that sometimes. Maybe not to that extreme, no. But I think that the world has given us this mentality that we are in this thing alone. Which could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is one of Satan’s greatest lies; that we are going through life all by ourselves with no one to help us.

And I buy this lie. Time and time again. But I am a failure by myself. Without God, I can do nothing. Apart from him, I am destined to fail. We all are. And God provided the church, a community, a fellowship, as a body of believers that were all destined to fail together. Without Him. I forget that too much. I will be struggling with something, seeking my own strength. And it is not there. It does not exist. It is only found in God. Through The Word or through accountability. Satan loves it when we keep things to ourselves and he loves it when we think we are the only ones dealing with struggles. But we are weak. And we need to shed light on things in order to cast out our darkness. We need to rely on the God of light.

Jesus, I am nothing without You. Remind me of that, time and time again, please.