Friday, June 27, 2014

ecuador: inching closer & closer

   Hypothetically, if Ecuador were a ship & the Covie youth group was on shore, the boat would not simply be on the horizon. It would be inching near the shore, faster by the minute. By this time our adrenaline is pumping. The people start to wave & shout their Spanish greetings as they come into hearing distance. We walk up to the edge, dipping our toes into the froth of the ocean. We reply as loud as we can. The sound echoes.

   God's love echoes.

   The barriers remain, but His love echoes through us. 

   We get to experience this on a daily basis, but I'm looking forward to see how He is going to use my peers & I as we go about this country. 

   A lot of details are still unknown, but we're trusting God in them - whether it be about what we pack or what we're going to say to someone that is searching for truth. 

   You can pray for safety. I love to read, watch movies, & write on airplanes, but overall I hate flying. It's a painful, terrifying experience that can only be cured by lots of flying. Which I will be doing this summer. 

   Pray that God would prepare the hearts of our leaders, the hearts of my peers, & the hearts of the people will will be ministering to and/or alongside.

   We'll be ministering alongside a host church - we'll have opportunities to help lead Bible studies, play sports, & most importantly to just build relationships. 
   We have 17 teenages, 5 chaperones, & 1 baby! It will be a memorable week to say the least. A week that we're praying God will do more than we can ask or imagine! Please join us in prayer as we pack & The Lord goes before us in Ecuador. 

A week from tomorrow we'll be flying into this bright city. 

Oh, the precious & fun, glory-to-God-filled stories we'll have to tell when we return to our home sweet home... 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

the fault in our stars: my unpopular opinion & why

   "Newsflash: Emilee Clemons has become a nerd in more than enough ways & has just pushed herself over the edge. She just announced to the world that she hated The New York Times Bestseller, The Fault In Our Stars."

   It's true. It's the book millions are raving about. There IS a reason they're raving about it: John Green is a wonderful writer. As if you didn't already know this, he doesn't need me to tell him that. He has been very successful and TFIOS just became a movie (in theaters now). I love the way Augustus treats Hazel, besides not protecting her purity. I love how their friendship began, carefree and honest. There were many parts that I thoroughly loved, but it simply wasn't worth sifting through all the junk. 

   There are many reasons I highly disliked the book, but on a lighter note:

   The Kleenex company really needs to give John Green a discount or something, because he's boosting their business considerably. The man knows how to write clearly about pain in a way that is powerful. 
   To summarize, Christians are mocked, God's name is used in vain over 30 times, the two teenagers living with cancer don't believe in heaven, there are too many cuss words than I'd like to admit, sexual immorality, etc. etc. 

   By the way: I don't believe you're a bad Christian if you read this book. However, I am slightly ashamed at myself for not putting the book down at the first light mention of a 'good church girl' waiting for her wedding night. I should have put the book down right away instead of making myself reading it so that I knew what everyone was talking about. Cringe. I do believe that we need a heart check, though, if we aren't grieved when the characters state their unbelief and when God is mocked. 

   Also, before I wrap up with an article that will be much to your benefit, I believe the book/movie will be destructive for most and simply a good cry & love story for others. Because I know where I stand, watching the movie will not be a stumbling block for me, if I ever choose to go. However, if I was 
a normal high school girl, just desparate to fit in - I would grab onto the overall hopelessness and lust throughout thinking that this is now the picture of who I should become, like all media influences can destructfully lead. Also, it's no coincidence that the main reason I finished this book was because it's the cool thing to do. It's one of those things that you're just supposed to love and you go into it with these preconceived notions about how great it is - and because of that, we can be blinded to all of the red flags that we would have noticed if we hadn't been striving to fit in. 

Because the rest of my thoughts I have swirling in my mind would truly be just adding to the noise, I would ask you to take the time to click/copy & paste the link below into your browser. It may be the movie review, but it is pretty spot on with the book. It gives a more detailed description of the many avenues that time does not allow for you and I this evening:

I hope your summer has already contained bundles of joy for all of you and I look forward to seeing you soon, treasures, loved & chosen by God. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

death shall be no more

I don't have all the answers. 

I also don't want to pretend like I do. 

We're all far from perfect. If you think someone has a perfect life, a perfect family? You're skimming the surface. 

We live in a world where harmful accidents happen & harmful words are intentionally spoken. 

You can take precautions, but in this world your life can still change in an instant. 

You can go to work, just like normal, and never come back. 

You can go to a ball game and your life changes forever. 

Cancer creeps in & steals your loved one in a matter of months. 

Babies don't wake up from naps. 

Momma's miscarry and wonder why. 

The same insecurities haunt us year after year, season after season, & satan wants us to believe it's because we're doing everything wrong. 

Bad things do happen to good people all the time. 

Life is just one hurricane after the next. When we get used to the roller coaster of this life going steady, suddenly it's turned upside down again & we can't see (or don't want to see) the finish line. 

Right there, when everything is upside down: that's how Jesus entered the world & this is why He came. Because we chose to eat the fruit that would allow us to see things that we sometimes wish we had never seen, chose free will, & set out a long journey home for ourselves. Because He longs for us to be right with Him, for now, He meets us upside-down right where we are before we can go to the place that He has prepared for us. 

Graves are dug. Tears are cried. Yet, we still claim God is good. So good. 

This, from the woman (at the age of four) who watched her sister die in her mother's arms because of a delivery truck in the wrong place at the wrong time:

"Really, when you  bury a child - or when you just simply get up every day and live life raw - you murmur the question soundlessly. No one hears. Can there be a good God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins? Where is God, really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly dies, break off without reason, erode away. Where hides the joy of The Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all the empties me out?" - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts 

Life isn't fair, but that doesn't mean that God isn't good. That doesn't even mean that God isn't fair. He is, whether it looks like it or not. 

"Every time we hear of another rape, suicide, shooting, death, or kidnapping, we know that the king of lies has deceived again. It's on days like these that we need to know how great our God is. It's times like these that God will remain good in our eyes when we remember who to blame for evil. We often look around our perverted world and want to shake our fists at God. We hear of another hurting nation and ask, 'God, where are You?' He sits where He has always sat, in heaven weeping for the people He created to live with. Separated by a barrier of sin, He has to watch as the course of time takes its toll on our world. Satan will be strong until God's plan for earth is complete. Until then, satan wants our world to suffer as he has to suffer. So he convinces people to act as he would see fit. Satan is the ultimate example of misery loving company." -Tindell Baldwin, Popular

Every time of year brings it's challenges, but it's no coincidence that year after year, VBS week has a crisis. Last year we had two suicides and this year a precious boy's life was taken away. 

The evil one wants a foothold on revival. 

While life seems unbearable, this is our hope:

"If news seems to grow worse, it's because satan gets a little closer to his death." -Tindell Baldwin, Popular. 

Revival angers satan & his demons. The devil doesn't flee when he knows you're being doers of the Word, walking the walk, absolutely not - he seeks to kill & destoy & he knows when to catch us to tempt us - right here, upside down, at the end of our rope. 

Still, with all this tragedy we still count gifts. Blessings are poured. Prayers are answered. 

Joy is not the easy choice, but He never promised easy. He doesn't sugar coat His requirements. 

I was there when the accident happened. When a little boy died, when dreams died. I couldn't eat, my heart broke, my nerves have been on edge. I heard the screams from family, from the little ones that had all just been playing together, from friends...

I've heard the screams every hour since then. 

"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled." -John 11:33

His compassion was aroused. He was deeply moved in His spirit. 

"We are all gentler now because we are beaten." -Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms 

Parents can keep us out of trouble. Friends can warn us. Pastors can caution. But way back there in the garden of Eden, mankind chose free will. When Adam & Eve chose to take apart of something forbidden because of the serpent's temptations, they chose for us. Because of their choice on all of our behalf...

You can take a vacation with your husband scuba-diving & he just never comes back to the surface with you. 

You can be a girl in the midwest or sub-saharan Africa & be personally, tragically affected by sex-trafficking. 

There are fires in California, house fires in Kansas, and broken hearted people walking all of these streets. 

Good people starve for food, love, & security. 

The safest, good, & best friends can walk away, slowly breaking your heart. 

The people you love the most can stab you in the back. 

Plans never go exactly like we want them to. 

Poverty is not just the lack of material things. It's the consequences of not having a perfect relationship with God on this earth. 

Sometimes we act like a fool over all of the little things that don't go our way & don't even bat an eyelash or cry to the heavens when there are people that actually need our prayers - instead of pouting about a selfish want, disguising itself as a need. Jesus was troubled when Lazarus died, but yet, this:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -John 14:27 

This Jesus, who sees all of the world's hurt better than anyone, who has hung on a cross because of His creation's evil choice says this? To not be afraid? 

When our lives can change in an instant? 
When our lives go from a beautiful mansion to ruins in one bad choice?
When our lives never seem good enough?
When our lives seem to be better lived when we're numb & cynical?
When our lives seem hopeless?

Yes. In all of that. He's already paid for all of these consequences, for every single mess we didn't even mean to make in the first place. Sin is in our nature. We can only fight it through our Helper and Comforter, the Holy Spirit. 

"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth." -Revelations 11:17-18

We're here to share about the hope we have amongst the world's grief until Jesus comes back. Then, all of those who denied Him will face His wrath & eternal judgement - what every single one of us deserve. 
Then, His children will live in perfect peace, harmony, & we will finally grasp how we've always been loved. 

How His joy can change a life, how His trials can form character, how His love can comfort us, how His laws can convict us, how the Father is able to forgive us, all His blessings bestowed:

"...and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things news.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' " -Revelations 21:3-5 

No more graves. 

No more tears over a life lived hard, over a broken heart.

No more miscarriages. 

No more sex-trafficking. 

No more cancer. 

No more trouble. 

Then - but not until then. 

In the meantime: 

"When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows." -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts. 


A dusty, messy life brought under grace instead of law because of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Life can grow here in the ruins that, somehow, He brings His glory through. 

All of this is beyond me, but if His trustworthy ways weren't beyond me, He wouldn't be our good God. 

I got treasure up in heaven; I got dirt all over me,