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Only 4 Hours and 45 Minutes…

August 31, 2012 Leave a comment
Singles_Brazil_GlobalX_team_photo

(L-R): Elisabeth, Scott (me), Courtney, Valerie, Krista, and Adam

I can’t believe we have to be at the airport in 4 hours and 45 minutes. This will be short and sweet because I need to make an attempt at getting some sleep. I am packed and ready to go; my AWESOME friend Jennifer and her dad are coming to pick me up at 3:00 AM (now THAT’S a true a friend!) and we’re heading to the airport. Keep our team in your prayers as we travel over the next day to reach our destination of Londrina, Brazil.

I wanted you to be able to put names and faces together with the people on our team for whom you will be praying, so I have attached a copy of our team photo to this post. For those of you who have contributed to our trip (both financially and through prayers), we greatly appreciate it! Please continue to pray for us while we are on the trip. I will be updating my blog while we are gone, so make sure to check back here to see what we have been doing.

It’s time for me to get some rest!

When The Enemy Attacks

August 25, 2012 2 comments
armor

When the enemy attacks, put on the armor of God!

When you are in the will of God and doing what He has called you to do, the enemy will attack. This is a promise – just look at James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice this verse doesn’t say “IF you face trials…” it says “WHENEVER you face trials…” so they are a guarantee in the Christian life. When we do what we are supposed to do, it irritates Satan and he will do everything in his power to make us fall.

In preparing for my Brazil mission trip, something happened the other day that can only be explained as a spiritual attack from the enemy. This situation came completely out of no where and the details are not important as to what exactly happened, but I could definitely tell I was getting push back for doing what God was wanting me to do. More often than not, our initial reaction is to just give up and given in by attacking anyone else involved, but that is exactly what the enemy wants. In my situation, I didn’t want to fire off words that I would later regret or do something that would hurt the other people involved so I stopped and immediately prayed about it – that God would give me patience and understanding with those involved in the situation.

The Lord woke me up early one morning after everything had transpired and put Ephesians 6:11-20 on my heart to pray for myself, my fellow Brazil mission trip team members, and the people of Capela in Londrina as we prepare for the trip next week:

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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

What do you do when you feel like the enemy is attacking you spiritually?

Photo Credit: By Neeraj Raj

Why Am I Here?

August 24, 2012 2 comments
You Are Here

How are you embracing your “here?”

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those philosophical “Why are we all here on this planet? Where did we come from?” posts. I went to a meeting at church last night for small group leaders and there were a lot of individuals who would be leading a group for the first time. Mark Shull, the Director of Men’s Groups, shared something with all of the leaders (both new and old) that has resonated with me today. “You are here for a reason!” He was talking specifically about why all the leaders who were in attendance last night were at the meeting, but it could be applied to life in general.

God has put you in the place where you currently are for a reason. We may not understand any of the details as to why or what is going on, but HE does. Don’t get so caught up with thoughts like “Why am I still living in this city?” or “Why am I still at this job?” or even “Why am I still without a job right now?” Focus on what you can do while you are in your current “here.” Who are the people around you? How can you have an impact on their life by serving them?

Personally, I get so frustrated with my current situation – I’ve been unemployed for almost 14 months, I’m not living in the area of town where I want to live, I am not married, and I do not have a family of my own. I am approaching a certain age where I thought all of these issues would be resolved, but apparently God has another plan in mind. I truly don’t understand one bit of this and I’m trying my best to do what I can, but more often than not, I let the current circumstances of my life get the best of me. I am trying to be like Paul in Philippians 4:11-13:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

In what ways are you trying to embrace where God has you in your life now?

Photo Credit: By Jorge

Blessed Are Those Who Come With No Agenda…

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment
personal agenda

Don’t serve with a personal agenda!

It’s hard to believe that we will be leaving for our Brazil mission trip in only 9 days! We have only about $600 left to raise in order to meet our team goal on fundraising. We’ve also had a change in plans as to what we are going to be doing when we get there. The original plan was to show them how to lead the Singles environment (Singles Gatherings) we do at our church and then help them modify it to make it relevant to their culture. We have since found out that they already have a Singles environment (Lounge Capela) and they want us to come and experience it and give them feedback. One of their biggest concerns is that only 30 or so people come each time they have it (once a month) and it’s never the same 30 people. They want us to help with suggestions on how they can help grow the environment.

The format of Lounge Capela is simple – people come in and grab some food, the band plays some fun music (typically associated with the monthly theme), they have a guest speaker or two talk about the theme/subject for the month, the audience gets to ask the speaker(s) questions, and then at the end they encourage the audience to continue talking about the theme/subject with others who are there. We will be there for the September 1 Lounge Capela and the topic is bullying. In April of 2011, a young man (about 23 years old) went on a shooting rampage in an elementary school in Rio and killed several students. It was later discovered that he was bullied when he was a student and he was out for revenge. The exciting (and also stressful) thing is that I was asked to be one of the guest speakers (I was bullied in middle school) and they would like for me to share my experience as one who has been bullied and also share what bullying is like in North America (including why do people bully others). They are also supposed to have a Psychologist as the other guest speaker and have him/her share about bullying from a medical professional’s point of view.

What I am learning through this experience is not to go into it with my own agenda. I don’t know if what I will share with the Singles in Londrina will have an impact on them or not, and I can’t go in with the agenda of changing their lives. All I can do is prepare what I am going to say and ask God to use it for His glory. Not having my own personal agenda is something I am learning through both preparing for my Brazil mission trip and in taking a class at church called Dignity Serves. Most people are familiar with The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). I feel like God is revealing a new Beatitude to me – “Blessed are those who come with no personal agenda, for they will not be discouraged when their unrealistic expectations are not met.” It’s like the magnet I have on the refrigerator in my kitchen – “We plan and God laughs.”

My friend Stephen Redden reminded me of a verse several years ago, and that same verse is definitely pertinent in my life even more so right now.

Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Photo Credit: By Rooey202

Helping A Friend

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Baby laughing

Be a part of 1 Million Laughs for Charity!

This isn’t one of my normal blog posts. It’s going to be short and sweet. My friend Dave Pileggi at Pretty Funny Stuff has a video he has created that benefits charity. We are trying to help the video go viral, so if you could post it to your social media sites: Facebook, Twitter (mark with the hashtag #1MillionLaughsForCharity), Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. The video is hysterical and the song is available for download via Dave’s website, iTunes, and Amazon.com (search for “1 Million Laughs For Charity” on iTunes and Amazon.com to find the song). It’s only $.99 per download and 1/2 of that goes to Lazarus Ministries in Atlanta – helping meet the basic needs of the homeless.

Dave’s video is below. You should be able to click on it to open it up in YouTube.

Photo Credit: By Jim Champion

Really Church?!

July 31, 2012 2 comments
church pews

Real life is lived in circles not rows!

A friend of mine recently posted a video to Facebook that really bothered me. Apparently Sunday, September 18 has been deemed “Back to Church” day by a group of local churches. In theory, I think what they are trying do is good but the delivery just isn’t right. I know I may receive some backlash over this, but here goes. What bothers me about some churches is they try to be something that they are not – Why advertise using a hip, cool, and contemporary style when you are a more traditional church? Why try to appeal to a younger crowd when your congregation is predominantly older? This is one of the biggest problems I had in the church where I grew up – it felt like they were trying so hard to be something that they were not, to the point where they were alienating people.

The church I currently attend has a very contemporary style of worship – they aren’t going to break out the pipe organ and cover all the windows in stain glass just to reach people that are into that. That’s not who they are as a church. The church I grew up in was a very traditional church and they attempted to do a contemporary style worship service and it went over like a lead balloon (to the point that several of the younger members left the church because it was so bad). My point is, find what it is that your church does best and embrace that! One church is not going to be the right fit for everyone. If your church is more traditional in style, become informed about a church in your area that is more contemporary – it’s okay to tell people “Hey, we’re more traditional but if you want more of a contemporary style the church down the street may be what you need.” The Church (notice the “Big C”) get so competitive when we’re all trying to achieve the same goal…reaching people for Christ.

My second problem is the video looks incredibly cheesy. I honestly would be embarrassed if my non-Christian friends saw that video. Their first response would be “Really?! You want me to come to your church based on that video?!?! No thanks – I’ll pass!” As a church we need to quit trying to do things WE THINK will reach people…we need to meet them where they live. When was the last time you asked a non-Christian friend or family member why they don’t like church or why they don’t attend? Ask, then listen to them – help them find a church that meets THEIR needs, not what YOU think they need. Again, it’s not “one size fits all” when it comes to church.

My final problem with this is why is Sunday, September 18 such a big deal? Why are we not making an effort to live daily as an example of Christ showing those around us why we are different? The way to get someone to come to church with you is to develop a relationship with them. I was talking with a friend at church on Sunday and he said that every Sunday at our church that 10% of those attending that day are guests who have never been to the church. At first, to me that didn’t sound like much, but when you figure each of our three services holds about 3000 people a week – that comes to about 900 people a week who are visiting for the first time. WOW! That is 900 people who have built a relationship with these people and genuinely care about them enough to bring them to church. When we have these “Back to Sunday” type events, people think we are treating them like a number or a “check mark” we get for doing our good Christian deed for the day. I don’t know about you, but if I was a non-Christian that be the quickest turn off from church for me. So why do we do it?!

My challenge is two-fold: 1) To the Church (again notice the “Big C”), don’t be fake and try to be something that you’re not – people can tell when you’re not being real or genuine. 2) To the church (notice the “little c”) live a daily life for Christ that would help you develop genuine relationships with non-Christians around you. Relationships where they know you care about them and don’t just see them as a “soul to save.”

Below is the video my friend posted on their Facebook. Feel free to share your thoughts in comments below.

Photo Credit: By s marcu

The Concept of Mercy

beeper

God is on call waiting for you.

I was reading Day 9 of 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight this morning and the overlying theme on today’s entry was mercy. It’s hard as a society to grasp the concept of mercy, because it’s not something we typically experience in our world on a daily basis. My first instinct was to go to the dictionary to see what mercy actually means.

Mercy – /mur-see/:

  1. Compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence.
  2. The disposition to be compassionate or forbearing.
  3. The discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
  4. An act of kindness, compassion, or favor.
  5. Something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.

Though all five definitions are appropriate regarding God to some degree, the last definition is what really felt applicable for me when it came to this excerpt from the book. McKnight talks about the fact that it is God who provides mercy and that is only provided when someone needs it. He uses the analogy of God being “on call” when it comes to giving mercy to those who need it. The example made me think of my friend who is a nurse – she is often on call for her job. The only way she provides care when she is on call is if someone actively calls her and says “We need your assistance today.”

Not to sound trite with a “Sunday School response,” but God is available at our calling…we just have to actually take the initiative and call Him! Matthew 7:7-12 encourages us to just ask and God will follow through, but you have to start by asking…don’t just expect it to happen. One of the biggest challenges we as the human race face is to show mercy to those around us, especially when they don’t ask for it or we don’t think they deserve it. God has shown us mercy, so it goes without saying that we should do the same for others.

Photo Credit: By Hades2k

God Isn’t A Part-Time Lover

Lego hearts

Godly love isn’t part-time.

In preparing for my day, I read today’s entry from 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. Day 4 talks about seeking the face of God. We build relationships with others when we spend face-to-face time with them. God doesn’t have a physical face like ours, but this is how we as people with a finite mind can get a better grasp on developing our relationship with our Creator.

One quote from today’s reading just really hit home with me:

“Love isn’t God’s part-time vocation, as if God is sometimes holy and other times loving. God is love, always and forever. And, the face of God’s love is His unconditional regard for who we are and sacred concern for everything we do.”

We think of love in earthly terms, but to quote dc Talk (yes, I’m kickin’ it old school this morning) – “Not love like we know it, like ya love your girl. It’s a love from above not of this world.” God can show us love through many ways (not in a “new age…God is in everything” kind of way). He reveals Himself to us through people, circumstances, and His Word. For me, I feel like He reminds me of His love through music.

In 2001, Michelle Branch released the song “Everywhere” and it filled the Top 40 radio stations. Several in my circle of friends were convinced that she was a Christian and that the song was about her relationship with God. The lyrics had that kind of cryptic “I am singing about another person but I could be singing about God” vibe to them so who really knows her intent when she wrote the song. (The video shows her obsessing over a guy, but the visual of a video doesn’t always correspond with what the singer intended with the lyrics.) Here is the chorus, so you can judge for yourself –

“Cause you’re everywhere to me. And when I close my eyes it’s you I see. You’re everything I know that makes me believe. I’m not alone. I’m not alone.”

I was listening to the song the other night on my iPod and it just made me reflect on how, regardless of our circumstances, we’re not alone…for God is with us and His love surrounds us. Enjoy Michelle Branch’s video for “Everywhere” below.

Photo Credit: By Bill Ward

T Minus 39 Days Until Brazil!

Brazil friends

Friends from one of my previous Brazil trips.

The “official” countdown has begun! The past few days have made me all the more ready to leave for Brazil – my e-mail account was hacked and I’ve been sick all weekend (had a fever of 101.4 on Saturday) but I’m finally starting to feel better. My SUV has also decided that now is the time to start acting up again. Happy happy joy joy!

As of July 21, I am only $610 away from having all of my funds raised for my portion of the trip. If you are interested in contributing, it’s not too late (and it’s tax deductible). We have also added another person to our team – Elisabeth! If you want to pray for our team members specifically they are: Scott (me), Adam, Krista, Courtney, Valerie, and Elisabeth. We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we prepare for this exciting trip. Our next team meeting is this Sunday.

We as a team have decided to read 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight as a way to prepare for the trip. The book focuses on the scripture passage Mark 12:29-31:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

When your primary focus is to love God and love others, then everything else falls into its proper place. The book is broken down into 40 chapters (a chapter a day) and one of the things it encourages you to do is to quote Mark 12:29-31 in the morning when you wake up, before you go to bed, and throughout your day. I’m really excited about going on this 40 day journey with my Brazil team to help us prepare for what God has in store for us in Londrina.

52 Days And Counting…

frustration

This is how I feel right about now!

It’s hard to believe all that has happened in the past few weeks. As of today, it is only 52 days and counting until I leave for my Brazil mission trip. Currently I have raised $1540 of my $3000 in support for the trip (thanks to some AMAZING contributors). I have to raise the remaining $1460 by August 17. If you are interested in contributing, there is still time.

I ran (more like walked) the Peachtree Road Race on Wednesday, July 4. This was my fourth time participating in the race. I was not really pleased with my time this year (1:52:52), but I finished it and got my t-shirt (and the t-shirts keep getting uglier and uglier every year – geez who creates these things?!). I keep telling myself that I’m going to start training earlier and earlier each year, but I always end up waiting until the absolute last minute. Hopefully I will change this in 2013.

My job search continues to be a daily source of frustration and stress right now. I recently found out that a job I interviewed for (that would have been my “dream job”) ended up going to someone else with absolutely no explanation of why. At the end of this month it will be 13 months since I lost my job and looking doesn’t get any easier. They keep saying that the economy is getting better and the unemployment rate is getting lower – I will believe all of this when I finally get a job! I started this blog as a means to help me keep up with my writing skills and to have something to show potential employers as an example of my work, but lately it has become a place to vent my frustration.

Something has GOT to happen on the job front soon! I honestly don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Have you been through a “longer than expected” job hunt? If so, what kept you encouraged during the difficult time?

Photo Credit: By Shelby H.

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