Be still + know

Cars rush by on the rainy street below, my cup of coffee and bowl of homemade applesauce are both steaming on the nightstand beside me, and my mind is racing – it is no where and in a thousand places all at once. There’s a sense of anxiety deep in my gut, a bittersweet feeling gripping my heart and I’m fragile, like my emotions are so close to the surface that any little thing might cause me to lose my cool or start crying. I’ve felt these things before. Why is it that times of transition are always so difficult? I know that I can so easily lose sight of truth and reality and love when I am overwhelmed with what is to come, so this morning I am trying to be still.   Be still.    Be.      Still.

With Be Still by The Fray on repeat (literally) I am trying to allow the truth that God is with me sink down deep into my bones, deep into my heart. Even though I have no idea what is next, even though I might end up back home with no job and little sense of direction, I can be still and know that He is God. He is love, power, and peace. He is here, He is with me, He knows me.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

Be Still – The Fray 

Be still and know that I’m with you
Be still and know that I am here
Be still and know that I’m with you
Be still, be still, and know

When darkness comes for you
and covers you with fear and shame
Be still and know that I’m with you
and I will say your name

If terror falls upon your bed
and sleep no longer comes
Remember all the words I said
Be still, be still and know

When you go through the valley
and shadow comes down from a hill
If morning never comes to be
Be still, be still, be still

If you forget the way to go,
and lose where you came from

If no one is standing beside you
Be still and know I AM
Be still and know that I’m with you
Be still and know I AM

Here’s to 2016

Another new year. Twelve fresh months untouched by human hand, by change, by my plans, shortcomings, or successes. As we begin this new year I find it harder than ever to look ahead, without first reflecting on the past twelve months. This January in particular, as I look back, it is so easy to say “wow, it was a really hard year”. I carry wounds from the past twelve months and as I was thinking of the year to come, that made it so hard for me to look ahead with an eager and hopeful heart.

While 2015 was the end of a huge chapter of my life (STINT, working for Cru, etc.), it didn’t feel like an end because so many things were staying the same. Well, maybe just because I was just so focused on all that was staying the same. I was so focused on the fact that I was going to still be far away from my family and friends, that I was going to have to continue to miss everyone and live big moments via Facetime, that I was going to have to live life in Spanish, maybe feel inconvenienced, maybe be lonely or afraid, deal with unending paperwork, VISA/residency requirements, and more.

Now, don’t get me wrong, by definition 2015 was a hard year. I had to organize real life in Uruguay, find a job, figure out a VISA, a drivers license, a bank account, and so much more in another country. Top that off with health problems, countless doctors appointments (all in another language) and many unanswered questions there. All of this while being 6000 miles from my mom, best friends, and entire support system. So yes, it was a hard year, but in reflection I have to realize that while I was so busy being blinded by the old, hard stuff, I was failing to see that God is always making things new.  

As I talked with dear friends, and finally rested after a long year, I was struck by my negativity and refreshed by God’s truth. I realized that I was so focused on the old, the stuff that wasn’t changing, the things that weren’t going to go away, that I had failed to remember who my God is. In all of my doubt, He provided a job (where I can speak English and get paid enough to survive Uruguay’s high cost of living!) so quickly and easily. In health problems and fear, He provided a new support system in Fede and his parents. In being far away from home, He provided me with a new family to take care of me, feed me, and comfort me. He provided way beyond what I, with my little tiny faith, ever expected. He took the bad and He used it for good. He is faithful, He provides, He is a giver of good gifts, He never turns His back on His children.

He is in the business of restoration and He makes all things new.

I don’t know why, but anytime I think of the future I am reminded of how my best friend has always loved how the Old Testament talks about “seers”. A seer in the Bible is a prophet, but more specifically, a prophet who saw visions -images, scenes, or dreams- and was given insight into what God wanted them to understand by these visions. They had a unique gift as God vividly communicated with them and through them.

The term “seer” isn’t used in the New Testament and yeah, we may not be seers of this nature today, but I can’t stop thinking about how I want to be a seer in my own way. I want to communicate with Him vividly and seek Him to gain insight into what He wants and who He is. As I look ahead to a new year, I want to see Him! I want to be more aware of His hand in all things. I don’t want to focus on earthly trouble, overwhelmed by anxiety and blinded to His promises. I want to understand more of His character, His goodness, His mercy. I want to be a seer, doer, and feeler of His grace.

So here’s to 2016.

In these next twelve months may we experience His love, live out His mercy, and see His hand in all things.

The light shines in the darkness

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”            – John 1:5

God’s word is truth yesterday, today and forever. Although we do not feel the weight of this truth in light of yesterday’s tragedy, the Light does shine on in the darkness, and the darkness does not understand it or overpower it [and it never will].

As we pray for Paris and for Beirut, for our world and for peace, Lord Jesus, we look to you. As we try to comprehend this unimaginable evil, help us to walk in the Light boldly and without fear. Help us to know and cling to the truth that you are the King, that you are Protector, Healer, Comforter, Justice, and Peace. We wait on you. We trust in you. We hope in you.

Lord Jesus Christ,
who are called the Prince of Peace,
who are yourself our peace and reconciliation,
who so often said,
‘Peace to you’,
grant us peace.
Make all men and women witnesses of truth,
justice, and brotherly love.
Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace.
Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee
and defend the great gift of peace.
May all peoples of the earth becomes as brothers and sisters.
May longed-for peace blossom forth
and reign always over us all.
– By Saint John XXIII –

Final Cru Update

I arrived in Uruguay in August of 2013 with a lot of faith and with little expectations, hoping to share the gospel with Uruguayan students. I was excited to be working with Cru, hoping to build spiritual movements everywhere so that every student would have the opportunity to know someone who truly follows Jesus Christ. I knew that I would be talking with students every day, asking them about God, and hopefully sharing with them the Good News of Jesus and His saving grace. I knew that it would be hard to be away from home, to speak Spanish all the time, and to adjust to a new culture, but I did not anticipate the joy that would come with the trials. I hoped to see lives transformed by the Gospel, but I didn’t really expect to be such good friends with those people and I didn’t expect my own life would be transformed so dramatically. I did not know that I would one day be able to pray, worship, laugh, cry, make friends, and do life all in Spanish. I did not know that I would finish these two years incredibly happy, having made truly unforgettable friends and some incredible memories.

Matthew 13:44-46 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”  This is the reason that I went to Uruguay! Jesus is like the treasure found in the field or a pearl of great price, He is worth everything. I came to Uruguay because Jesus is worth our praise, our time, our talents, and our lives. I wanted to share that with others and I am so glad that I  had the opportunity to do so in this way; I am so thankful for these past two years! I pray that you would each experience His love in your lives and understand in a deep, profound way that He is worthy.

To all who have supported me financially or prayed for me during these two years, THANK YOU. I wish I could meet with each of you individually and tell about so many of the conversations I have had with students in my time here. So many students that we meet have never heard the Gospel and don’t know anyone who is a Christian. Some tell us they haven’t thought about God in 5 or 10 years. Many tell us they are atheists, but after talking with them for 20, 30 or sometimes 90  minutes, they have completely changed their posture and their position, and are much closer to believing in God. I wish I could tell you about the countless times we have shared the Gospel and tell you the names of all of the precious, fun, smart students I have met at the different campuses: Medicine, Chemistry, Law, Veterinary, Social Sciences, and others. I wish you could see the faces of these people and pray specific prayers over each of them as God draws them to himself in all sorts of different ways.

And I really wish I could tell you many more detailed stories, sharing in depth how God is at work in the lives of my friends  here! I would love to tell you more about the joy   that Mathias experienced when he shared his faith for the first time last month. I would tell you about our friend Santi who Zach randomly met on the bus one morning. He quickly became a dear friend and has a great desire to draw near to God. I would tell you about Florencia who continues to open up to me and who is seeking and asking questions about God. I would tell you about my good friend Lorena who has become my dearest friend. I would tell you about Viviana who always had a vision to combine her profession (teaching) and her faith. She found the perfect outlet to influence people and students with Cruzada! I would tell you about Vicky and how much she has grown this year, how she shares her faith and how she is now ready to teach others. I would tell you about Luis and his desire to join staff full-time here with Cruzada in Uruguay. I would tell you about Evelyn, who has become a dear friend, who now knows the Lord in a new, personal way. To you, these are just names, but to me, these are just some of the people who fill my heart and life and prayers. Because of these lives and the lives of many others, I can assure you that God is at work in Uruguay. I am so privileged to be able to share with Uruguayans my knowledge of God’s grace, and I am sure that they have influenced and taught me much more than I have taught them. Thank you for being such an important part of each of these stories.

Rambla thoughts

I go for a prayer walk on the rambla, worship music blasting in my ears, and I start to wonder how many miles I have ran on this stretch of land. Probably more than any other as I think about how running has given me life these past two years here. But then I realize that really, this rambla holds so much more than solitary morning runs.

It might not look like much, it might be the ugliest part of the rambla that Montevideo has to offer, but this simple path along the sea holds so many footsteps, so many memories, thoughts, conversations, and prayers.

God, the waves have shown me Your greatness, the wind has reminded me that You are with me, and the silence has created space to meditate on Your promises.

I sit down for a minute looking out to the sea and pray big prayers over this city, things I hope for even as I step into my last month here in Uruguay with Cru. Saying goodbye is sad because I know that I am leaving behind a city and a family that I have grown to love and cherish. It is scary because I have no idea what the future holds. But above all things, it is bringing me to a place of thanksgiving over and over and over again. As my team leaves I have to praise God for bringing us all together. As I start saying goodbye to sweet friends, I have to thank the Lord of the Universe for their salvation, and for the ways that they have impacted my life and my faith. And as I leave behind this city and the places that are dear to me, I praise Him who created the heavens and earth because I know that He is pursuing this city and the people that live in it.

Please pray for me and my teammate Holly as our time in Uruguay with Cru is coming to an end. We are finishing up two years here and will be back home in the States on July 1st. Pray for our responsibilities to be handed off well to equipped students, for wisdom about how to use our time wisely, and for boldness as we encourage and love our friends here both Christians and non-Christians.

Betty gets baptized

On that hot Saturday afternoon the river was full of families camping out, children swimming in the water, people grilling, and spanish music playing; it was buzzing with the sounds of summer. I stood on there on that river bank watching as my sweet friend Bettina, dressed all in white, walked across the little bridge to the other side. With her walked Rachael, Pastor Eduardo, and the other woman who was also going to be baptized, each dressed in a long fresh white tunic. I looked around and realized a crowd had formed around me at the river’s edge; each person had come from their campsite and the church congregation now surrounded me. As they reached the other side of the river, a man near me started playing the accordion, accompanied by the loud passionate voice of the woman next to him, Pastor Eduardo’s wife. The others joined in clapping their hands, singing songs of praise and joy, praising Jesus for the cross, for their Salvation! One by one those in white on the other side of the river entered the water. As my leader Andres took his place in front of the people, the singing stopped and he began to preach. He spoke about the meaning of baptism and about this new life that we can live in Jesus Christ. He prayed for these women, blessing them as they were both about to take a great step of faith. When we lifted our eyes after the prayer, we fixed them on Pastor Eduardo in the water. First, the other woman was dipped into the river. When she came up from the water the riverbank erupted in a song of praise! Next was Bettina. When she walked up to Pastor Eduardo he laid his hands on her and began to pray. I will never forget the look on her face as she bowed her head and folded her hands together in prayer.

IMG_7833So at peace, so calm, yet so full of life and joy. Even though I couldn’t hear anything the Pastor was saying from where I stood, my heart was full and my vision blurred with tears. Pastor finished his prayer and gently laid her back into the water. In an instant, she rose from the water with the biggest smile on her face, hugged Pastor and then raised her arms in praise. At once the congregation began to clap and sing “Jesucristo me salvó!” loud and proud to declare their faith to all within earshot. Some of these moments I captured with a camera, but I’m not even sure I needed to. The emotions and the faces and the songs of this day are memories that I am sure I will carry with me forever. Thanks Betty for letting us be a part of your special day!

IMG_7843

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  – Romans 6:4

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Restore to me the joy of Your salvation

I felt uncared for, unheard, insignificant. I felt selfish, critical, stubborn, weak. I felt hopeless, like change would never happen in Uruguay. I felt like others elsewhere had it easier. I felt jealous and entitled to easy ministry, like for some reason I deserved a fruitful year. I felt like a child, unhappy because I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

At the end of our first semester of ministry, I felt all of these things. I recognized my weakness and I knew that I needed to choose faith, choose to think good thoughts, choose to believe the best. I knew I needed to extend grace, rest in God’s bigness and cling to His promises, but that’s as far as I was able to get on my own. I asked others close to me for prayer and even asked the Lord to restore my heart, but I don’t think I was really believing that He could or would meet me in all of that.

Our first day at Midyear we heard from a woman much wiser than I. She spoke about magnifying the Lord with thanksgiving. She reminded us that the attributes of God can replace the weaknesses of our hearts and His promises can battle the lies that we believe about our ministry. After she spoke, I went to the beach seeking solitude and finally began to process through these feelings.

So right now I feel this… but what is true?

I feel uncared for, unheard, insignificant. But what is true? My God is the Holy Creator of the Universe and He LOVES me. He is able to do far more than I can think or imagine (Eph 3:20) and He CHOSE me. He promises that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7) and He promises to never leave me (Heb 13:5). I am cared for and I am significant to Him.

I feel selfish, critical, stubborn, weak. But what is true? Yes, I am a sinner. God knows that I am sinful, yet HE DIED FOR ME anyway. And He will not leave me here. Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

I feel hopeless, like change will never happen in Uruguay. But what is true? Isaiah 11:9 promises that one day “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Every tongue will one day confess, every knee will one day bow at the Name of Jesus Christ, the only name by which we can be saved.

I feel jealous and entitled to easy ministry, like for some reason I deserve a fruitful year. But what is true? Maybe it is difficult here but Christ is worthy of my suffering. Jesus promises us suffering in this lifetime, but he has overcome. John 16:33 “ I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

I feel unhappy because I am not getting what I want. But does it really matter what I want? God tell us in Isaiah 55 that His ways are not our ways. Sometimes this means they are far away and hard to understand but they are always HIGHER GREATER BETTER.Gal 2:20 it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. Isaiah 14 His purpose will always prevail. Christ has the victory. NO ONE can thwart His plans. HE IS SOVEREIGN LORD OF ALL.

Sometimes it starts out as an act of will to believe these promises, to read Scripture, to pray through it and to believe that is is restoring to my soul. But little by little God softens my heart. He shines his light deep into my soul, meeting my needs, teaching me and restoring me to the joy of my salvation, cleansing me and purifying me so that I am able to magnify Christ for the sake of His glory. As I wrote these things down, lies combatted by truth, I was brought to tears by the goodness of God, by His power, by His grace. He loves me. He is for me. Thank you, Jesus. I believe you are good.