Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Growing up

Do you remember being a kid and almost every day begging your mom to measure you to see how much you've grown...sometimes doing that a couple of times a day? As children, we were so excited to grow up... to watch what our parent's watched, to get later bed times, to not have to order from the kid's meal, to be able to go on certain rides, etc... The funny thing is that we many times fail to have that excitement about spiritual growth. We are content with the "simple" things, and fail to desire to grow up.

In Hebrews 5, the writer rebukes those he's writing to for how they haven't matured in the ways that they should. That instead of being adults in their spiritual walks, they are still babies. They can't handle meat, but instead can only handle milk. Well... as I was reading that this morning it really did strike me thinking about just how true that is in my own life. I don't yearn to grow like I should, I'm content with such a shallow walk with Christ. He wants me to "know Him more", yet my pursuit of that growth and knowledge has been found wanting. As it says in Hebrews, it's a constant use of God's Word to distinguish what's good and evil and then to become well acquainted with what it means to live a righteous life. I'll be the first to admit that my life is far from righteous a lot of times. It's not just about knowing things, it's about life... and no matter how much I teach that truth, very seldom do I seek to follow it. I guess all this is to say that we/I need to realize that there's so much more God has for us in our walks with Him if we only grew up a little bit.

Tapping Out

In the world of wrestling, there’s a term called “tapping out” when you either tag someone to come and help you out or you basically say you’re finished (you can blame it on my brothers and “brothers” for how well I know that term). Well, that was the point I was at yesterday where I reached the point where I wished I could in some way “tap out”, where I was empty and had nothing left. The thing is that God, in His sovereignty brought me to that point of submission and exhaustion when there's no one to tag to come and relieve me, there's no way I can throw in the towel and just take a couple of days off. Jess and Bev are gone, and even though they're coming back tomorrow...HALLELUJAH! I had a d day yesterday that was one for the books, one where seriously every little thing could go wrong did and if I could, I seriously would have just ran away. I wish there had been someone to tag and have them come and stand in the gap, to relieve some of the pressure, to fulfill some of the responsibilities, to hear some of the bad news of what was broken or who wasn't there that needed to be, but there wasn't. And the thing I have to keep telling myself is that God knew that I was by myself, He knew there was no one who would come to my "rescue", and that's the way He wanted it. The staff here at CCJ has done a stellar job of stepping up to the plate and working as a real family during this time of the bosses being away, but there are just some things that only I could make the call on or deal with, and all of those things just so happened to have issues or need addressing yesterday morning. The thing is that God does like us to get to the point where we're at the end of ourselves, like Jacob when God wrestled with him, He knows just what to "wrench" in order to bring us to our knees, and He does that when we're alone, when we're isolated, and don't have someone else to hide behind.

All yesterday, I was in the middle of a wrestling match... both with the circumstances and with my flesh. In the midst of struggling with disappointment, putting out fires, etc... I constantly had the verse "Do all things without grumbling or complaining" running through my head, and that I was in sin with that verse alone. Not to mention the verses such as "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger...", "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry", and of course my newest stumbling block, "Be kind and compassionate toward one another, forgiving one another just as in Christ God forgave you". So yeah... needless to say I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent and my flesh was warring against my spirit and I could echo Paul's words of "the things I do not want to do, I do".

This morning I'm still nursing my wounds, icing my sore spiritual muscles and trying to pick myself up from yesterday. Recognizing that I did fall into sin with my attitude and that I can blame it on nobody except for myself. Again just remembering that Jesus was tempted in all things, yet still remained sinless... it puts everything into rather harsh perspective. So what if the power and water went off. So what if all of our vehicles had something go wrong with them. So what if people weren't where they were supposed to be or that what we needed wasn't there. So what if people were sick and needed attention. Jesus faced much more strenuous situations, and still showed grace... Oh how I still have so far to go.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Right now, I'm reading about the different things that friends and family did for Easter. You know traditions are a funny thing... I for one grew up with tons of traditions for every major (and not so major) holiday. Things like helping my mom be "santa" or the easter bunny, going on treasure hunts for our "big" presents/easter baskets, having a special breakfast the day of, decorations, etc... Right now I'm reading of people going for sunrise services, dying Easter eggs, and the like and it's just so funny how different things are outside of America when it comes to holidays. I'm learning to adjust and basically make my own traditions here in Africa, it's just not something that I enjoy embracing because I honestly am a traditionalist to the core, but life is more than just what we're accustomed to, things change, and honestly those changes a lot of times help you to remember what things are all about.

For us here at Calvary Chapel Jinja, we begin the weekend with our Good Friday service. It's typically in the early evening and we have worship, a special teaching, and then we carry out a plain wooden cross and put it up on the side of the road for everyone to see. While doing that, everyone's following singing a traditional worship song. It's actually really cool because it's quite an intimate and tangible way to set our minds on the "things above" when many during the weekend are thinking of anything but that.

For Easter, we have one service instead of our usual two, which means that it's packed. This year we had (between kids and adults) well over 200 people come as we remembered what Jesus did in conquering the grave. All of us on staff were up bright and early getting everything set up, and at 9ish the service started :) Oh, one thing fun about this year was that power was off until about 15 minutes before service, we have a generator, but still that was nice little hiccup. We had an awesome extended time of worship, and then Steven taught. We then all left the church and picked up flowers and brought them to the cross we brought out on Friday and put them on the cross to show our new life that we have in Christ and the beauty that the cross brings. It's really quite a powerful visual.

Those are our church traditions. As for me personally, this year I tried to do my best at having the breakfast (although it was only blueberry pancakes). But things are so crazy when you work behind the scenes so the morning was chaotic and even during the service you have to work. But it was cool because before all the madness started, I was able to have a sweet quiet time in the end of Hebrews 4 and being reminded that Jesus came and was tempted in every way yet was still sinless and b/c of that we can boldly come before Him and seek him for his mercy and grace. Needless to say that was one way God helped me to kind of "be still". After the service, it was then time for the rounds of social engagements. It was actually a lot like Christmas was this year as friends allowed us to take part in their festivities. We went and had Chinese food, went to a party to celebrate Easter and this couple's baby being dedicated, then we made an appearance at an orphanage that a lot of the youth group kids stay at. From there we took a little breather, then went to the home of one of our staff members and then headed to have calzones at the home of some more friends. Having Chinese, Ugandan, and "Italian" for Easter is not what I would call your "traditional" easter fare, but it wasn't bad.

Now that this weekend is over, I guess in the midst of the lessons that God is teaching me is that as cliche as it may be, it's all about Him and recognizing and remembering and trying to grasp what He did for us. And as for the traditions, I would have to say that it's not necessarily about what you eat or what you do, but who you're with and rejoicing in sweet fellowship...even if it's over sweet and sour chicken instead of ham

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Conflict Resolution

Oh pre-teens and teenagers. You remember that time? So many emotions, hormones, etc... I've come to realize that 12 and 14 are the same no matter where you're at in the world and I won't lie, sometimes I wonder why on earth God ever called me to youth ministry. Seriously over the past month, I've had to counsel more students than I really care to think about. I'm glad I've had the opportunity, but it definitely puts things in perspective. One thing I can't believe is that until Jethro gave his counsel to Moses, Moses had the entire Israelite community coming to him with their inter-personal problems. I have enough trouble dealing with about 20 students, let alone millions of people...anyways... Dealing with these students got me thinking that what they're dealing with isn't confined to the youth population.

Throughout Scripture we're given guidance about how to deal with people, especially those we don't necessarily "mesh" with. Verses like, "love your enemies", "don't let the sun go down on your anger", "in your anger do not sin", "do unto others what you want them to do to you", etc... You don't even want to know how many times I've referenced those verses, and the thing is that we all still struggle with these things. It may not be in the confines of a school or petty disagreements over a bucket (that's been one of the issues I've had to deal with), but we do get into rifts over "he said/she said", not getting invited to something, or someone talking to us in ways that we don't approve of. The bottom line is that no matter where it is be it the office, our home, school, or even at church, we are all called to live blameless lives, and no matter what is said to us, done to us, or said about us, we still are called to live a holy life. Jesus had terrible things done and said to him, as well as people spreading all sorts of gossip about him, yet, "he opened not his mouth". How? I mean, Jesus had his beard plucked out, was spit upon, lied about and yet He died a sinless man. Yet, we have someone who takes our parking spot or steals our amazing idea, and we can't seem to bring ourselves to avoid falling into sin over such an issue.

I'm not preaching about this, but merely reflecting on what I've had to learn personally in hopes that it may help me to grasp the lesson, and if possible help some of you deal with whatever situations you're dealing with. I'll finish this post with the verse that I think holds some of the best counsel in bite-size form. Some of us have grown up singing the song, and it's definitely something we shouldn't forget, so if the song helps you to remember it, then go for it.

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"First Thing's First"

As many of you know, every school holiday we put on what we refer to as a youth conference. It's a 3 day event full of teachings, worship, small groups, and games. Last holiday our conference was based off of the book of Nehemiah and we saw a lot of kids really learn a lot and grow. Well... for the past year we've been doing a series in the youth group called Race to Revelation where we do a survey of each book of the Bible (or at least try to) every time we meet. It's been awesome as the students have been getting a taste of what all Scripture really says and in a couple of weeks, we're finishing up the Old Testament just in time for this next conference. So in order to take advantage of the timing and to tie everything together, this conference is going to have the theme of "First Thing's First" and we're going to cover all four of the Gospels. The sessions will be entitled: When Jesus Came, When Jesus Taught, When Jesus Prayed, When Jesus Died, and When Jesus Rose. It won't be exhaustive by any means but again it's about the kids really learning who Jesus is, what He said, and what He did for them. When I was up in the North, it really struck me on how they said they had gone to church their whole lives but didn't really know who Jesus was. I don't want that for my students. And sometimes we can get so caught up in the "other things" that we loose sight of Christ, when He's supposed to be the main thing. The conference is going to be taking place May 5-7 so if you could please just lift it up in prayer and that God would bring the right students and change lives, that would be absolutely fantastic.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


So here the word "plan" is a four letter word (if you can catch my drift). And there was a certain company who made a "plan" of digging a trench that was about 3 feet deep and a foot wide all down the street that we live on in order to lay a cable for them to have internet. So currently you drive down our beautiful Bell Ave. and you see these mounds of dirt that line this said trench. Well, I didn't really know that the trench was quite as pronounced as it was, and as I was taking the back way to our compound I turned the corner, and there were the mounds of dirt, but until that point that's all that I thought it was... and being that I was in a very sturdy 4 wheel drive SUV, I thought, "this is cake, it's just going over a couple of hills". Well... about mid way of going up the first mound I see that on the other side of the mound was this nice big trench and at that point I and my vehicle went "WHAM!" as the front tires slammed into the trench. I was where a lot of guys were who thought they would offer their services of getting me out of there, but of course I knew their "act of kindness" was not going to be free of charge, and since I was about 100 yards away from the church, I called in for rescue. It just so happens that we've been having a pastor's conference and so in about 5 minutes out of the gate came about 20 pastors and guys in leadership, and no joke it was like they were in slow motion (think Monster's Inc when they're all going to their post). So yes... yet again I was a "damsel in distress", and the guys picked up the front of the car and lifted me out of my little "situation". The good thing is that the car is fine, even the tires don't have anything wrong with them, and I got a couple of bumps but nothing serious (a friend of mine dared me to stay injury free until the end of April so I'm not going to forfeit that now). So praise God it happened where it did and nothing too serious got damaged (both on me and the car). So yes... that's my little anecdote for y'all for the day in my accident prone life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rough Edges

Do you ever meet people and think "there is no way I can be like them"? You see your flaws, you know the areas where you struggle, you see your rough edges and know that you just can't be that meek, mild, gentle, quiet person that you perceive others to be. And for those of you who have ever been on a mission trip before, I can almost guarantee that all of you have experienced the blow after the victory, the time when someone comes along and sticks a pin in your spiritual balloon so to speak. Well, that happened this morning. It was kind of a double whammy because not only was I reminded of my "rough edges"... those areas where I still need work, those areas that make me very far from obtaining that perfection that I so desire, but it also was a big blow after the past week as I'm still reeling from all that God did on our trip to the north. What was even more fun was that it happened early this morning, while I was still finishing my first cup of coffee for the day. Yeah, it was tough... it was kind of like a surprise attack, one where you get hit when you least expect it, but I guess that's why we're always called to dawn our spiritual armor, because it's not like Satan goes, "oh, wait a minute... she's not quite ready for me to bring this her way, let's wait a little bit". No, he likes to slam us when we're least expecting us, when our guard's down. The thing is when things come our way, we have two choices, to allow it to give an opportunity for our flesh, or to learn what lessons it has to teach us about our own sinful nature that's still very near the surface and seek to be refined from the experience. Well... I'm still battling with myself about doing what glorifies God in the situation, and at 7:30 in the morning, my flesh is definitely more at the surface than I would like, but even on tough days when Jesus was tired, He still remained sinless even when faced with "unfair attacks", so I guess I just need to pick myself up, dust myself off and pray that I don't allow my flesh to win this one and allows God's sandpaper to still slowly smooth those rough edges.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A mission trip on the mission field

Last Tuesday, in the wee small hours of the morning, a team of six of us set out for Pajule in northern Uganda to do evangelism where our old teaching pastor, JB, has just moved to start a church. (Oh and of course part of an added bonus was to see some people who had become like family to me)This trip was definitely one striking out on new frontiers for all of us both personally and for the ministry as a whole. We've never sent out a team to do evangelism that came solely from our church. Our team consisted of Jess, Apollo (one of our village pastors and a really awesome guy), Mukisa (one of our church elders), Opio (the youngin' of the team who's really involved in ministry here), Anne Rose (a young lady who's desiring to be used by God in new ways), and myself. None of us had ever been up that far north (except I think Jess), and none of us had really ever done the type of ministry we were about to embark upon in the capacity we were going to do it. I've been on several mission's trips before, but this one was just different. I didn't lead it, and I was getting stretched just as much as everyone else.

We did two forms of ministry: two outreaches at schools and then just going to different homes and sharing the Gospel with whoever would give us the time to do so. Now, I know this sounds ironic, but I would be the first to admit that I lack the "gift of evangelism" like none other. Give me 1,000 people to teach to, give me a youth group, small group, anything, but put me one-on-one with someone to try and witness to them... well, that's another story. This trip definitely pushed me to be more bold in my sharing of the full on Gospel in personal situations. God is so good because He knows our weaknesses and what it takes to encourage us, and the morning we left, I read this verse in my quiet time, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." (Philemon 6) It was exactly what I needed to hear to give me that right push to do this thing that God was calling us to over the next 5 days.

The ministry was sweet! We all broke up into groups and every time we met back together, we had reports of people coming to faith in Christ. Our group alone was able to pray with several people, and they even came to church on Sunday which I hope indicates some sincerity with those prayers. Some of the people's stories really do break your heart to hear them as the North has really seen so much suffering in the past with the war that had been up there until about 5 years ago. We even stayed in what used to be an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp. Everyone there had religion, but no one really knew Jesus. It just goes to show that following rules isn't enough, Jesus wants you...period. The "rules" and the obedience to them is an expression of our love to him, but His love for us isn't dependent on how many times we go to church or whatever ideas of men we try to weigh people down with.

We had our share of adventure in the heat of Northern Uganda, with nights where you couldn't sleep with any covers and it was so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The toilets were "squatty potties", the showers were basins, no electricity, and getting water was definitely not as easy as turning a knob. We got to see places that not too many people get to see and we were able to get a little peek into the potential work that can be done for Christ as I don't know if I've ever seen such a strong example of "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few". Oh, and one other little adventure was we were able to visit JB's mom and while we were there we met his relative who just had a baby girl three days before and she didn't have a name, and so they asked if I could name her my name... so yeah, that was kind of cool too.

God definitely did teach me a lot on this trip, again both in ministry and how I need to be more bold in sharing with the lost, and then also personally how I need to submit and not always take control and also how I need to show grace to people even when they rub me the wrong way. The bottom line is that God did some awesome work while we were up there, and I'm just humbled that we were able to be a part of it and get a glimpse of what He has in store for the town of Pajule. I just now ask that you would please life up JB in prayer as he leads this new church filled with very blank canvases of people who are hungry and know nothing about who their God really is as well as pray for all of those who prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior.

If I have one thing to leave you all with, it would be this... the Gospel isn't culture nor is it religion, it's Truth. Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life, it doesn't matter if you live in New York City, Phoenix, Albuquerque, or even a little village in the middle of Africa... we all need Jesus and the life that we have through Him and Him alone.


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