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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Brave Little Soldier

I went to see the new Avengers movie the other day. It was incredible, the cinematography, the soundtrack, acting, the explosions; all of it amazing! However, there were many points in the movie where it felt like the good guys were being defeated and it reminded me of a picture that God recently put into my head.

There once was a little soldier with a shield and a sword going up
against a huge, ugly, powerful monster. God told the soldier to attack the monster. And so with all his might, the tiny soldier swings at the monster, but the monster is too big and the soldier can't even get close without having to put up his shield to ward off the monster's blows. This poor little soldier is swinging whenever he can, but not seeming to make any contact with the monster, and the monster keeps pummelling the poor little soldier's shield. The soldier is beaten down over and over again, but slowly, painfully, keeps getting back up. Sometimes it takes days to get back on his feet, some days he doesn't even manage a swing before the monster beats him down again, but the soldier stands his ground because God commanded him to fight.

All this time, the soldier is feeling more and more discouraged: the monster is no more defeated now that when the soldier first started, but what the soldier didn't realize was that every time he took a blow by the monster, he was getting stronger. His muscles were growing in the same way that they do when you go to the gym; this was just accelerated much more due to the continual strain. And all the while, God is proudly looking on as His little soldier is becoming exactly who God intended him to become. Beating the monster was never the intended outcome; God could easily swipe that monster away with a little flick of his finger. The intended outcome was the strengthening of the soldier, but it had to be done by attacking the monster. Otherwise, the soldier would not have been forced to grow so quickly, and would not have taken the time required to make that growth.

There have been so many days where I have felt like the little soldier, getting beaten down over and over again. I have felt like I am being tested constantly and failing every single day. And yet, as I look back, I see that God is taking my failures and transforming them into beautiful strength in relying upon Him especially when things look bleak and impossible.
Maybe you're going through something today that seems overwhelming and defeating, please, take heart; God is doing some incredible things. He often seems slow, but the Bible reminds us that He is not slow in keeping His promises (2 Pet. 3:9); His timing is perfect and He is at work even today!  Friends, I pray that God would bring you a glimpse of what He is doing behind the curtain; that glimmer of hope to keep going and keep fighting this hard, but good fight.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Brotherly Interview

My brother Jonah and his friend Ethan have a YouTube Show, and I had the privilege of being a guest on it this week. 

Check it out and see what things I thought I knew about Ireland and how much I still need to learn 😉

And if you'd like to be further entertained, 
check out more episodes of The Rando Commando Show

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Relational Refreshment

Isn’t it crazy how sometimes you don’t realize how sick you are until you start getting better?  Like, when I have a cold, I don’t realize how much I can’t breathe clearly, or how foggy my head has been until I start to get better and those things clear up.  And I think that most health is like that (mental, spiritual, emotional, relational, etc.), we do not realize that there is dysfunction in our lives until we begin to see function again and recognize how far away from that we truly are.

Over the last 3 days I took a quick trip to Omaha.  I didn’t know what all to expect since it wasn’t very planned out, but I knew that I was going to get to stay with my friends Jacki and Cassie.  We have had a wonderful time together and it got me to thinking and reflecting on my life as of late.

You see, without realizing it, my spirit has been growing so weary over the last few months.  I felt myself striving and failing, and trying and seeing no progress, and failing over and over again.  As much as I would try, I wouldn’t see any forward motion and I couldn’t figure out why or what was wrong.  But over these past few days, I had an epiphany: I have been struggling with finding community that fills me up ever since leaving my job at Grace in May.  

I was so incredibly spoiled there both with deep relationships that poured into me and deep relationships that I could pour into.  These relationships were at that sweet spot where I was reaping the rewards of 3 years of investment as the RD; I had finally reached the point where I was past the initial investment of the small talk and get-to-know-you stuff.  My relationships were deep and meaningful without requiring tons of effort.

And then I left Grace.

At that point, I had to build relationships again from the ground up.  I met new people at church, I met new people at work (nannying, with TEAM, and at Sozo Coffeehouse), I met new people at Bible study, I met new people at missionary training, I met new people as supporters, and all of these new relationships required TONS of relational energy.  This wouldn’t have been so bad except that they never really grew to the point where they no longer took so much work.  And this proceeded to happen over and over again. 

I finally was starting to make some traction with some of these new relationships and then I moved to Beatrice and had to start all over again.  I had some incredible relationships in Beatrice, but I had been away for so long that in many ways I had to start over in building them up again, and again they took a lot of relational energy.  Did I mention that during all of this I have been in a season of support raising where my ENTIRE job requires large amounts of relational expenditure?  Needless to say, I have been running on less than fumes for so long and then wondering, “Why I am always exhausted?  Why do I never feel full?  Why do I never feel totally myself?”  And then these last few days happened.  I spent 3 days with 2 dear friends who expected NOTHING from me.  We have so much history that there was no need for small talk, no social requirements.  They allowed me to be myself and expend absolutely no relational energy and now I feel like I can take on the world!

Cassie and Jacki probably don’t realize how much they have done for me over the past few days because they were just being themselves and allowing me to be me in their natural environment, but God has used that simple being to transform my perspective and give me a freedom that I cannot even begin to express.  So, friends, THANK YOU!  

And for those of you out there today feeling down-trodden, overwhelmed, or not-quite-yourself, there is hope!  God is probably teaching you something through this experience, and just like every trial, it has an end. God has not left you alone in the process; He is right there with you.  And when you get to the other side, you’ll appreciate breathing clearly like you haven’t appreciated it before!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Faith in Motion

“I can’t do it, God.  I just can’t.  If I am going to reach 100% of my funding this month, it is going to have to be You reaching down and making it happen because I can’t make it happen.”
This has been typical of my conversations with God as of late.  I am at 78% of my funding for Ireland and I have been stuck here for a while.  I only need about $800 a month to finish off my support, but I have exhausted most of my contacts and I am exhausted emotionally and motivationally.  I need a miracle!

This entire journey of support raising has been one of trial and character formation.  God has been showing me that I cannot do this ministry on my own, and in fact, none of my efforts produce anything apart from God working in the hearts of those that I talk to.  But He has also been showing me that I am still responsible to talk with people and share about this incredible ministry to which He has called me.  The song Trust and Obey has been my theme song in this journey. 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!  While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who would trust and obey. 
Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Now in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, or we’ll walk by His side in the way.  What He says we will do, where He sends we will go.  Never fear only trust and obey.

As I have meditated on these lyrics, the verbs have really stood out to me: walk, do, abide, sit, and of course trust and obey.  In my mind, these lyrics perfectly outline how I need to be going through this journey of support-raising.  I must trust that God is the one who provides for me and for the call that He has placed on my life, but I must also obey that call and take steps of faith in pursuing Him through action.  This has been a great challenge for me because my life has typically followed this pattern: I try really hard, and then as a result, I succeed at whatever I have set out to accomplish.  Or, on the flip side, I get overwhelmed with the work that there is to do, and I give up completely while hoping that God miraculously steps in and provides without any action on my part.  But what God is calling me to do here lately is this unique combination: to try really hard, but not to expect my efforts to produce any results.  I am expecting God to provide, in His perfect timing and in His perfect way, but I am still responsible for taking action and walking in obedience all the while abiding in His presence.  It goes against American thinking so harshly, and yet it is such a great reminder that none of even my best efforts can accomplish anything apart from God making them effective.  So I’ll keep moving forward trusting that God will provide as He sees fit.

As I prepare to again go into full-time ministry, I am so thankful that God is giving me a season of watching Him provide through my failures and short-comings.  I am looking forward to looking back on this time and saying with confidence, “God provided then, and He can provide now too.  I can’t do it, but God can!”

Monday, July 31, 2017

Blessed Beyond Measure

Just when I think I’ve got God figured out, He goes and surprises me again!  There are so many times in my life where I have been given directions from God, and I go off to do as He has told me, and then I forget to rely on Him in the process.  And just as I am beginning to fail miserably-because I am doing things in my own power and not by God’s strength-God graciously steps in and reminds me of His goodness, strength and provision.  What an amazing God we serve!

I have recently been reminded of God’s goodness and provision in a couple of different situations.  As many of you know, I have been appointed as a missionary with TEAM to go work as a Youth Director in Ireland.  So currently, I am in a season of support raising.  I expected this season to be quite a challenge, and perhaps somewhat of a chore, however, I have seen God show up in some incredible ways through this time!

He has allowed me to reconnect with many friends that I had lost touch with, and not only catch up, but also invite them into something way bigger than either of us.  It has been a great time to pray with friends, family and other loved ones.

God has even brought a few people onto my support team whom I have never even met!  Isn’t that just like God to remind me that He doesn’t need me in order to accomplish His purposes?  Every time that I have been overwhelmed by the numbers, God has reminded me to rest in Him, His plans for my life, and His power to provide for my needs.

One of the ways that God has provided for my needs is by bringing along another missionary to go to Ireland with me, her name is Caitlin!

A little backstory on Caitlin: When I first applied to be a missionary, one of my greatest fears was in leaving my incredible community that I have been blessed with here in Omaha, and going to a place where I had never been before and I knew nobody.  But then I had heard that this girl named Cassie was going to be going also, and my fears were relieved.  Then, the night before I left for Missionary Orientation, Cassie told me that she was no longer going to Ireland, and all those fears rushed back in.  One of the main things that I worked through at Missionary Orientation was trusting God to provide community for me even if it wasn’t in one specific person.  And through that process God gently reminded me that He is my Provider and that He was not taken by surprise by this turn of events.

Fast forward to July when I was informed that another girl, named Caitlin had been hoping to go to Ireland too, but she had been told that the position had been filled, by this other girl, Cassie.  But when Cassie decided not to go, this opened the spot for her to come onto the team.  To read Caitlin's blog and learn more about her, you can click here.  
God used this whole situation to remind me of His provision in my life and to reassure Caitlin of her call too.  God takes joy in blessing His children, and I am ever so thankful that I am His!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Two Agnostics, a Christian, and the Catholic Church

The title of this blog may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but in actuality, this has been a description of my last few weeks of life.  Before I get into this, let me give you a little context as to why these weeks have been important.  For those of you that don’t know, at the beginning of this year I was appointed as a missionary to Ireland with TEAM and I will be going there at the end of October.  Even though most of the people in Ireland identify as Catholic, Ireland has the lowest percentage of Evangelical Christians of any English-speaking country.  This history with the Church, but lack of meaningful relationship with God has been heavy on my heart and is one of the main reasons that I have wanted to do missions in Europe. 

This call upon my life was recently reaffirmed in two different conversations in the past few weeks that I have had with two different agnostic individuals, Doug and Sam.  Both of them grew up with some background with the Catholic church, but despite their “religious heritage,” both of them have decided that following Jesus was not something that they were interested in.  Doug had some negative experiences with people who claimed to be Christians that gave him a distaste for Christianity as a whole.  Sam, on the other hand, simply could not believe different parts of Scripture and accept all of Scripture as truth.  As I listened to these stories, my heart hurt for the pain that had been brought into their lives at different points in time.  

Both of these guys are currently on a search for truth, but as hard as they search, truth seems to be evading them.  I had really good conversations with each of them, but in the end, we had to just agree to disagree.  I told them that the Bible says that the only way to heaven and a right relationship with God is through Jesus Christ, not simply believing He existed, but placing your faith in Him and turning your life over to Him.  However, at the time of our conversations, neither of these guys were able to accept that as truth.  As I reflected on these two conversations, I was struck by the fact that these are the same sorts of people as many that I will be ministering to in Ireland: those that have a history with Catholicism, but no meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.  God is burdening my heart for those who need the gospel!

I continue to pray that God will reveal truth to these two guys and that eventually they will find an amazing, life-giving relationship with Jesus.  Not only do I wish this for these two individuals, but this is my prayer for the people of Ireland as well.  God has brought incredible meaning, purpose, truth, and LIFE to my life, and I hope that someday, He will bring those things to them too.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

God's Preparations... using the past and paving the way ahead

Tonight was the last regular night of Citylight High (the youth group I've helped lead this year) and last night was our last Leaders' meeting.
My fellow leaders prayed over me at our meeting last night commissioning me on to my next youth group in Ireland; what a precious memory! 

God has used Citylight High in great ways in my life this year, and I know that He is paving the way ahead of me for Ireland too. 

It is terribly hard to say goodbye, but it is so good to know that God will continue to provide for my beloved people here in Omaha even after I leave and He will also continue to provide for me wherever He leads.  What a great God we serve!