Monday, June 30, 2008

"It's what the Lord has done in me."

Okay, well, this is my third attempt at blogging our youth group mission trip to Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, and it's not working! So I've decided that instead of trying to tell you about everything that we did on the trip, I'll tell you everything that God did on the trip.

First: He got our church van (that is trying desperately to fall apart) all the way to Austin, TX and back. That might seem unremarkable to you, but if you ride in it for about 10 seconds on the highway, you'll see why only God could make that happen. ;-)

Second: His Spirit was so alive and working in the 16 of us that were on that trip that we were able to spend 17 hours in an airport together without one conflict between us! If you've spent 17 straight hours with any one of us, you know how incredible that is when you put us all together in one place that we can't get out of! ;-)

Third: While all of the other passengers on our cancelled flight were angrily waiting in line at the main desk, a very kind airline worker and her supervisor took the adults of our group over to a side computer and booked us 16 tickets on the newly-rescheduled 7:00 a.m. flight the next day. They asked why we were going to Mexico, and seemed truly touched when we told them we were on a mission trip. After they got us our tickets, every one of us told them both thank you and gave them hugs. Tears streamed down their faces as we did so, and the supervisor told my mom, "You have no idea how much I needed those hugs today." Only our God could have coordinated those circumstances to bless us through them while blessing them through us.

Fourth: God gave our group the superpower of speed painting! After we arrived in Leon and rested up a bit, we went up to the Iglesia de Cristo (Church of Christ) and painted for two and a half hours on Saturday. When those two and a half hours were up, we were already halfway through with everything they had planned for us to do...and we still had two more full days of painting scheduled! By the end of the week, we had finished not only everything we had planned to do, but also most of what they had been planning to do after we left. Only God could do that through us!

Fifth: (Though in significance, this should definitely be listed first.) God enabled us to connect with the church there, regardless of the fact that we didn't speak the same language. The children were drawing pictures for us and playing games with us, the adults were hugging us and laughing with us. Connecting with them was the most challenging part of the week because it required us, as Bobby put it, "Not to be afraid to make fools of ourselves." We had to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone and step into their lives and their world. And when we did, God did amazing things! I would love to be able to put words to what He did, but I can't. It wasn't anything tangible. It transcends my understanding, but I know it was happening. It was what Bobby reminded us of all week long. 1 Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails." It was love in action in our lives. Or to put it another way, since God is love (1 John 4:8): It was God in action in our lives. And what is more powerful than that?

Sixth: God was using us and the work we were doing in Leon to be a light to the people of the city that were still in darkness. One of the Leon AIMers told us that one day after we finished painting, two guys that he had never seen before came up to him and were asking him about us. He told us a bunch of different things that they asked about the work we were doing at the church and stuff, but the one question that stuck out to everyone was, "You guys are Christians, right?" Wow! All we were doing was painting a building, but God used that to shine His light to those two guys and perhaps to others that we don't even know about.

Seventh: God used us to show His unconditional love to children that had never experienced that before. We went to a children's home one day and spent 3 hours playing with 70 kids whose parents didn't care about them. Again, we didn't speak their language, but we loved them. We played with them, we hugged them, we made them lunch; and as we did, we prayed for them. Why did we do that? Because Christ's love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14), and His love never fails. You could see it on their faces as they smiled and laughed at these crazy Americans that, for no reason that they could understand, had come into their world and shown them love that they had never known before.

Eighth: God used the compassionate hearts of our group to provide for some of those in need in Leon. There were people everywhere on the streets begging for money, but one of the guys in our group felt particularly drawn to a mother and her two children that we passed on our way back to our hotel one night. We all had lots of snacks that some of the parents had given us for the trip, and we hadn't eaten all of them yet. So, we took a big bag full of those snacks down to the woman and her children. I wasn't there, but they said that the woman just kept smiling and saying thank you and the oldest little boy looked inside the bag and started smiling and jumping up and down. Only our God could use something as simple as a bag of snacks and use it to touch hearts.

Ninth: Through our presence in Leon, God encouraged and uplifted the missionary family there; and He encouraged and uplifted us through them. Shawn, Barbara, Mason (9), Madison (7) and Kayson (3) Gary have each found a special place in every one of our hearts. We connected, especially with the kids, from day one. By the time the week was over, we were greeting them the same way we would greet the children at our church here at home. They spent all the time they could with us, and they were one of the brightest spots of our week. When it was time to say goodbye to them, Kayson climbed up into each of our laps and smiled her shy little smile as she hugged us bye. Madison bounced her way around the room, grinning from ear to ear, and told us all how much fun she'd had with us. Mason gave each of us note that he had written for us, and then he cried as he hugged us goodbye and made the rest of us cry, too. Only God could create that kind of a love between friends in less than a week's time.

Tenth: God gave me, and I think everyone else as well, a new appreciation for just how big His body is. When we were stuck in the Houston airport, we had friends in Perrin, TX (which is in the middle of nowhere) who were at a rodeo and trying to reach people in Houston that we could stay with if we couldn't make it to Leon. We also had an email being sent through our church prayer chain back in Tulsa for God to work everything out according to His plan. My brothers and sisters were in Arkansas with my grandmother, and they were all praying for our trip. Then we got to Leon and we witnessed the body of Christ at work there in powerful ways. And if all that wasn't enough, one of the guys on the Leon AIM team was from Alaska! Through all of those things, God showed us that His body is not limited by borders or languages or countries. We all have one common thing that unites us, and that is Jesus Christ.

As long as this post has been and as many things as I have listed, I have not even come close to sharing all of the things that I saw God doing while we were there...and that doesn't even count the things that He did that I couldn't see! He is truly amazing, and He confirmed again and again our theme for the week: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; and, with Him at work within us, nothing can stop us from sharing that love with others. God has really been convicting me since we got back that my mission work doesn't stop now that I'm back from our "mission trip." My whole life is a mission trip to the world. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I should be sharing His message and showing His love to all those around me.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Last Thursday, our church prayer list sent out an email entitled "A Soldier You Should Know." I don't know if any of you had a chance to read it, but the soldier who sent it said something about their situation in Iraq that I think also really applies to us as Christians. Here's what he said:

"The enemy is always looking for an opportunity to exploit complacency."

I think that is something that our enemy is looking for, too. If we become complacent, then we pose no threat to him. When we become content with where we are in life and in our relationship with Christ and we stop trying to learn and grow, we cease to be effective. I think that's why Jesus has such a distaste for lukewarm Christians, as He says in Revelation 3:15-16, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." I think complacency is the most dangerous trap that the church can fall into. Even when churches split, most of the time it's because someone feels that there's something wrong with the way things are and they're doing something about it. It's when we stop caring one way or the other that we are in serious trouble.

With that said, I think the comments that this soldier made surrounding the one above are of extreme importance for us as we fight complacency. Here is that comment, along with its context:

"We remain cautiously vigilant to be on watch. We recognize that the enemy is always looking for an opportunity to exploit complacency. We keep each other in check. We encourage one another."

There are a lot of things that jump out at me in that as far as it relates to us:

1) Remaining cautiously vigilant to be on watch--Jesus commands His disciples to do that very thing in Matthew 24:36-25:13, Mark 13:32-36 and Luke 12:35-48. Those passages can basically be summarized by Matthew 24:42, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."

2) Recognize--They know what their enemy is trying to do. In the same way, we must know what our enemy is trying to do. 2 Corinthians 2:11, " order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes."

3) Keep each other in check--We have to look out for one another! God gave us the church for a reason, and it's not so that we could have one more social event on our schedule for the week. Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." We're not supposed to sit around and let each other become dull, we are to sharpen one another! Ephesians 4:25, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak plainly to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." We're all in this together, so tell it like it is! I like the way the Message translation puts Hebrews 3:13, "For as long as it's still God's Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn't slow down your reflexes." We can't let each other fall into the trap of complacency; we have to help each other stay alert and on our toes.

4) Encourage one another--That kind of goes with #3. In the NIV, Hebrews 3:13 says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." 1 Thessalonians 4:18 (after speaking about the coming of the Lord), "Therefore encourage one another with these words." Hebrews 10:23-25, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we my spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

So just as the soldiers of the U.S. Army are doing, let us (as soldiers in the army of Christ) not become complacent, but continue to encourage one another as we strive for a closer walk with our God!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Smiley Faces

I find it funny how many different ways there are to type a smiley face. I mean, really, think about it.

There's the colon, dash, close parentheses.
Or there's the colon, close parentheses with no dash.
There's what I think of as the "winking" smiley face: the semicolon, dash, close parentheses.
Or there's the semicolon, close parentheses with no dash.
There's the equals sign, capital D.
Or there's the equals sign, close parentheses.
There's the semicolon, lowercase O, close parentheses.
Or, if you want to put a shocked/surprised type spin on it, there's always the colon, dash, lowercase O.
And for an even more surprised, bigger mouth, there's the colon, dash, uppercase O.

And if you want to make it a frowny face, you can change any of those close parentheses to open parentheses and, viola!, your happy face is sad.

And anyway, who decided that smiley faces should be left to right, eyes-nose-mouth? Why couldn't they be mouth-nose-eyes? Like so (-: And how in the world is it possible for that smiley face (which happens to be just as sideways as its counterpart that is typed the other direction) to look upside down?!?

Okay, enough of my random ramblings. What's your favorite way to type a smiley face?