spirit

God. Jesus. Holy Spirit.

The Trinity.

I love God. Jesus is my friend. But honestly, Spirit is the one I feel closest to most of the time.

How could you not? Jesus repeatedly said, hey ya’ll I’m leaving…but I’m leaving something behind for you. And it will be something that is so fluid, yet transparent and so powerful.

Comforter. Counselor. Sender. Translator. Truth. Guide.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. [John 16:13]

I will never forget the first time I read Acts. The spirit flowed so freely for them…how could that piece be missing now? In Acts 13, not only do they hear the spirit say to send out Barnabas and Paul…the end of the chapter finds them shaking the dust from their feet while they left in protest, ‘And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.’

The Spirit still flows just as freely, we just choose to ignore it most of the time. We take those memories of the ‘time that I felt the closest’ to God and convince ourselves that is the way it has to happen to feel that close again. But when that moment happens once a year, or once every 2 years…why on earth would we bind the Spirit from moving in us that way? Stop putting limits on God. God is limitless yet in our humanness we decide how he interacts with us. How completely backwards is that?!?!

How are your instincts…do you truly think they are all yours? Have you ever wondered that there was something else at play? Start an experiment and go with your instinct and see if God has an adventure for you. Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide you. Allow conversations to flow with the breath of a prayer in your head ‘God be in this…give me words…give me wisdom, let them feel you.’

Sure, there are times I’ve felt no presence…but it is wrong to blame God for that feeling. He doesn’t ever leave us, he is always there and always at work. Sometimes our choices and steps move us away from him. So then I correct and find myself where I am supposed to be and we are back on track.

Utah, 2011. Erin and I climbed the mountain in the background  September 2011.

Utah, 2011. Erin and I climbed the mountain in the background September 2011.

Most of those corrections find me at a lake…or mountains…or ironically in the middle of a mission trip that I should have corrected myself before leaving. Sometimes it seems the higher up I get…the closer I feel. This photo is from a hike a few years ago in Utah that kicked my butt. We had hiked the mountain in the background, yet still thought it was a great idea to go some more lower down. But those few days with my friends ‘reset’ me, and I was back where I needed to be.

I cannot truly live without Holy Spirit. I rely on it way too much. I cannot be my calling to God’s mission without Holy Spirit. Living in God’s mission field, the Holy Spirit is the only language I know to truly navigate God’s Kingdom. It is my comforter. It is my counselor. It is my translator. It is my truth. It is my guide. And it is my sender…always, always my sender.

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evil

Evil.

Easy to despise. Easy to be put yourself on the opposing side. Easy to speak out against. Easy to hate the villain.

Also…easy to find yourself slipping into…

How many times have I said something hateful?

How many times have I done something mean?

So often I find myself amidst the struggle of more God verses more…not God.

It is easy to try and explain away…we are human and that struggle is real. It is sin, ask for forgiveness.

And the alternative gives credence to there being powers that work against us. That darkness exists in very real forms. And worse of all…that there is real evil in our world.

We want to believe everything is sunshine, rainbows and white puffy clouds.

And just to be clear, I’m not referring to the pessimists and optimists. I am talking about the guy who tempted Jesus in the desert. The one who possessed people and the disciples had to drive out. The one who convinced a disciple to betray Jesus. I hate even saying the name, but most have sensed the reality in some way.

Discernment…knowing the difference between good and evil. It is one of those gifts that is hard to explain, because if you have that gift it registers different for each person. But you sense there is something dark and ominous. Or maybe in your brightest most Holy Spirit moment…you know there is something that is working against you. To break you, and break your hold on God’s truth.

Because evil is not truth. Evil is lies.

Because evil is not good. Evil is bad.

Because evil does not want happiness for you.

It wants to destroy you simply because you love Jesus.

Paul even writes in several of his letters instructing and encouraging the believers to arm themselves. To be ready and not to give in to temptation that would tear them away from the light of God.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. [Ephesians 6:11-13]

TS2I have never felt so profoundly that I was walking with God, and there was an extreme power working against me than when I was in China for a summer. In a place than can have so much hospitality, beauty and beautiful people, we were most definitely making waves with good vs. evil. And when you think about it, God has been doing something incredible in China for many years. Missionaries have risked their lives to bring the message of truth to the Chinese who want to believe. When you look at it that way, of course the scale tips for good and evil wants to fight it.

So, how do you fight? How do you stand? Well, first you have to get seriously pissed off. Get mad that something is working so hard against the God we serve and loves us unconditionally, even when we slip and give evil a helping hand.

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Then…get on your knees. I know for a fact that prayer warriors get the job done. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen change through prayer.

Then…get in God’s word. I know the power of God’s word when you are grounded in it. I just wish I was all-around good at staying in scripture without some pissed-off motivation to send me back to it.

Then…get accountability. I know for a fact that I am stronger with others fighting beside me, and holding me accountable to the Christian life I have chosen to live. God’s word says that the devil prowls around like a lion waiting to devour us. Jesus said he was sending them out like sheep amongst the wolves. When we are separated from each other, we are weak. It is a really bad choice to be alone.

Then…have faith and hope, because God wins in the end. We just have to help him fight along the way.

Here’s to you winning a battle today.

wonder

Wonder. Such a fabulous word. Curiosity…so similar.

I am completely guilty of being enamored with snowflakes. I am absolutely giddy when I see perfect snowflakes. I love snow…and seeing absolute perfection in frozen form mesmerizes me as I inspect each of the pointed ends.

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Truly, I experience the same wonder with sunsets. So beautiful, and none the same. When the clouds like up in perfect succession to reflect the receding sun…my fingers itch for my camera to capture the one of a kind views. Even when the result shades in comparison to the real view.

How wonderful that each are unique in their creation…much like our uniqueness as God’s creation.

As much as we experience wonder at the beauty of God’s creation…I think he experiences the same wonder of how beautifully he created us. Each unique. Each filled with purpose. Each individually called. Each a child of God.

So I leave you with the thought of how God gently, proudly wonders at your perfection…in his eyes. Despite our imperfections…God sees you in your beauty and perfection. Rest in that, my friends.

world

There once was a little girl who had not a care in the world. Her bed was warm. Her belly was full. Her bike had tires. Her family took fantastic vacations. She went to school. She had water out of not only a kitchen faucet, but a bathroom faucet, too, plus a toilet. Unfortunately…she lived in a bubble called suburbia. And in the grand scheme of the world, suburbia is miniscule.

Suburbia. The place where you have to drive a car, most likely getting one at age 16 when you are able to drive legally. It is also the place where you eat out at restaurants…a lot of them. In general, we have everything we need plus everything we don’t. Oh, and where coffee is a necessity instead of a luxury.

There is a big, bold, thick bubble that shields most Americans from what I honestly think is reality. When foreigners look in…we appear to live on a movie set, because our lives are so far away from any form of life that they know.

There are two sides of this coin. One, our worldview needs to bust open. Two, we need to stop imposing the way we live on other cultures, and expecting them to fall into line because we are ‘saving’ them from their shacks and poverty.

Don’t get me wrong. I know poverty exists. I’ve seen it, and it is blatantly wrong…please see post on injustice.

But sometimes our perverted American worldview gets stuck thinking that anything below us is poverty. And that theory is dreadfully wrong. It is not reasonable to assume that our way of building homes will work in all climates and environments that are unlike anything in America.

And yes, a thousand times yes, everyone in this world should have clean drinking water, and good sanitation. But that doesn’t mean it has to be inside every home. The communities that get water together have beautiful relationships with each other that put any friendship you have to the test.

Mel's photo on our 2nd visit.

Many would argue with me…but I don’t think you’ve truly lived until you’ve walked in raw sewage, held an orphan craving touch, eaten something unidentifiable, lived for a week somewhere that has no relief for heat, walked with a stranger through a rough time or looked a homeless person in the eye and called them by name.

I also don’t think you’ve truly lived until you study the places in the Bible that tell you to go. Live sent. Be more. Love radically. Love a complete stranger without understanding why.

See the world as God sees the world, because I guarantee you…he looks at the suburban bubble and sighs. He knows there are people mobilizing others within that bubble, but he also knows what lies beyond that bubble for us. He knows the life we can grab onto by allowing him to bust open our worldview. The simple fact is most people don’t want to live that far outside their comfort zone.

Denver. China. Appalachia. Russia. Liberia. Guatemala. Haiti.

God has used each one of those places to widen my view on the world. He’s actually busted it open so many times I’ve lost track. The hard part was allowing it. And now…the ironic part is I am more comfortable in any of those places than I am living the Suburban bubble. But the beautiful part is that when he makes the world smaller for you…you see him so much more.

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ [Neale Donald Walsch]

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settle

Jesus Culture has this song called, ‘I Won’t Settle’ by Nate Ward. Recently it’s been playing on repeat through my head…ironically, even before I started my Lent journey of blogging a word from Rethink Church’s 40 days of photos.

This word kept sticking with me, because I think we settle for things in this life that are comfortable and easy. Hard stuff is hard, and who wants to actually deal with the hard stuff?

We ignore our gifts. We ignore our calling. We ignore the mission impulse that God has planted in each of us since creation. We ignore our God in exchange for temporary satisfaction. Sure it may last a lifetime here, but imagine life with no pain, no tears, no anger…imagine life with our Savior…I ache for that life.

Honestly, many of us settle for this harsh world when our eyes should constantly be focused on eternal life with God. But it is so hard to see and understand what eternal life is compared to what we know here…

So where do you find your heaven on earth? In a cup of hot chocolate? In a child’s smile? Mountains or beach? Perhaps in a summer retreat spot?

Or if you are most fulfilled when you are reaching out to others…maybe your heaven on earth is in a little slice of downtown homeless shelters, abused mothers or hurting kids? Has God called and built you to minister across cultures and languages, so your heaven on earth is found in Haiti or Africa or China or Guatemala or Russia?

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My mind goes back to a screened in porch enclosed in a compound right on the beach as the sound of waves caressed my ears while wind blew through bullet holes littering the concrete barrier…giving proof to a country’s deep suffering. Such a strange place to experience heaven on earth…but it was for me.

Where ever you see God in this world…hold onto it. Cherish it. Remember it. Because it is there to guide you. God gifts us with just enough glimpses to know that we should not settle for this world, because he knows we should be placing our hope in the plethora of things to come…

“I Won’t Settle”
What do I look like
What do You see
What are the things that

You are dreaming about me
Visions of glory
I’m starting to see
Lord let the things

You’ve dreamed become reality
I won’t settle
I won’t settle for anything less
And I will hold on
I will hold on for greater things
What do I look like
What do You see
What are the things that

You are calling out in me
The light of Your Kingdom
Is burning in me
Lord let the things

You’ve seen become reality
Mark me as Yours
Set me apart
I want everything
All that You are

I won’t settle
I won’t settle for anything less
And I will hold on
I will hold on for greater things