Tag Archives: obedience

My Favorite Small Moment in Guatemala

“Am I not enough?”

I carried that message – that question – close to my heart for those 5 days in Guatemala as the Lord and I continued an ongoing conversation.

And on the last day of ministry, as we arrived at the abuelo’s (grandpa’s) home for those of an older generation that needed care, but had mostly been abandoned by their families, while I still didn’t necessarily “feel” much different, I had a deep appreciation for the peace that came with simply knowing … that He was God, that I was there because He invited me to join Him there, and that He was enough.

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After painting the nails of some of the women at the home, I sat down with one of my teammates, Sara, who had struck up a conversation with two adorable ladies … one of whom was 96 and blind. She made sure to tell us that several times. Her name was Nina. And she was precious.

Even with the language barrier, we managed to have a decent conversation that was filled with our limited Spanish vocabulary, the help of Google translate, many smiles and so. much. laughter. I think those ladies were quite amused by the way we pronounced our limited Spanish with southern accents!

After more-or-less exhausting our conversation abilities, Sara moved across the outdoor hallway that surrounded a beautiful courtyard to visit with another gentleman and I moved from my spot on the floor to the empty chair right beside Nina.

I hadn’t been there longer than about a minute when she reached for my hands and pulled them both closer to her, so she could rub my hands and arms.

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It was such a simple gesture on her part, but in a way I can’t quite explain was such a huge blessing for me.

And that seemed so backwards.

Because wasn’t I supposed to be there to bless and to serve her? Not the other way around?

I couldn’t help but think this must of have been a small taste of how the disciples felt that night at the last supper when Jesus washed their feet.

As if it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

But it was supposed to be that way, and it was right.

And so was this small moment with Nina.

She expressed to one of our leaders how grateful she was that we were there … that we were taking the time to just sit with her, to just be with her.

And in that moment, I knew with even more certainty that this trip back to Guatemala, one that was full of questions on my heart and full of moments that were tempting to view as small and insignificant (but somehow weren’t at all), wasn’t about me.

It was about the Lord moving in and through me to do the work and have the encounters that He had prepared in advance.

All He needed from me was obedience and trust.

And this obedience, this walking out the Gospel in the small interactions that I have with those who cross my everyday path … some who I’ll almost definitely see again and others who I almost certainly will not?

This is what this life is all about.

Seeking Christ, following Him where He leads, and being fully present in each moment with each individual He places before us.

And yes, sitting with Nina as she rubbed my hands was an incredibly small moment, but it was entering into her world, being present with her there, and loving her well.

And that really wasn’t small at all.

This is how we’re called to live. To enter into the mess and uncertainty of relationship. To do life with others. To sit with them where they are.

So I held hands with a 96-year-old Abuela in Guatemala. And I know that we were both sitting in the presence of Jesus the whole time.

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Guatemala :: Because He Was and Is Enough

I have so much to share with you about my time in Guatemala … and the more I process, the more I want to share!

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I wanted so badly to express some of what the Lord did in and through this trip last week, but I ended up sick promptly upon my return home and just didn’t have it in me to do much more than work and then plant myself on the couch before crashing for the night and pushing through the next day. Forming coherent thoughts that captured the trip or the Lord’s hand at work with any sort of justice seemed near impossible.

My energy level has been slow to return, and I’m still processing, but I couldn’t let another day pass without entering into this space to say thank you. For praying, for encouraging, for supporting … both me and the team I was privileged to serve alongside.

But really, how do you begin to express or explain something that you can’t quite even label or name yet? I know the Lord did something, and is still DOING something, in and through this trip and this heart He’s given me for Guatemala. But putting that something into words?

Well, it’s challenging … almost as if it’s still partially veiled. As if I’m not even supposed to be able to put it into words just yet. As if there’s something still being formed.

And while my eyes have been opened to it and I’ve been given a front row seat to it, I’m still watching the first act. There’s still some ground to cover before the characters fully develop or the plot begins to make some sense.

But oh, I saw the Lord move on this trip. I never expected not to, but I also want to intentionally stop and take the time to say it, to praise Him for it, to acknowledge that those prayers I prayed, those requests that had been on my heart for weeks, if not months – that I asked you to pray along with me – He answered! Not necessarily how I would have expected. But He answered.

God is so faithful.

And He so graciously honored the step I took in obedience and faith to go.

Because that’s this God we serve!

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Before I left, I knew I needed to let go of the expectations I was bringing along, which in and of itself was hard since the last trip in February had been so powerful.

And this trip was certain to be different.

But I also knew that the door had been so obviously and creatively opened for me to go back that this trip needed to be all His.

For whatever reason, He wanted me there. And even though that reason was unknown to me, there was freedom in knowing that I could follow Him back to Guatemala, be fully present in each moment, and trust Him to do the rest.

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But honestly? That is still not my default. And that was not easy.

I didn’t want this trip to be about me, but at so many points, I found myself desperately seeking and searching for a reason, for an emotional connection, for an obvious and out-loud purpose for being back in this country that I have come to love so dearly.

As a result, the Lord and I had an ongoing conversation – a sort of internal wrestling and crying out on my part and truth-filled, yet gentle and loving replies on His – for the majority of this trip. I wanted a reason. I wanted to understand my place and my purpose. And I wanted to not react so negatively to the uncertainty around and within me.

I felt emotionally disconnected. The culture shock was gone this time, and as I walked around Antigua on the first day, everything seemed so familiar. Even the smell at the Guatemala City dump the next day didn’t overwhelm all of my senses in the same way as before.

guate4While part of that was okay, I didn’t expect to feel quite so detached. I watched as my team reacted to all of it as I had before, as I would have expected to react again. I watched the tears and the brokenness and the feelings of helplessness come over them, and I couldn’t help but think something was terribly wrong with me. How could I not react with the same level of emotion? How could I not feel more?

I didn’t want to come across as uncaring or lacking in compassion … because that’s not what was going on, either … but nothing was coming out in the way of obvious emotion or reaction and it could not be forced.

So I found myself getting quiet and still before the Lord. I found myself hanging around the edges of the group at times to process the lack of emotion and to continue this conversation with the only One who knew my heart and thoughts even better than I did. The only One who could really see and speak truth into what was going on inside of me.

And as we continued this conversation that literally lasted for days, as I talked and as I listened, I sensed the Lord saying,

“Am I not enough?”

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Even in the way I heard it, in the negative form, had to be Him. Because only He would know that’s what would best get my attention in that moment.

Because I wasn’t acting like He was enough. I was so focused on figuring out why I was there that I was missing the part about just being obedient in following and being with Him, in His presence, in Guatemala.

That’s all He ever asked. He never promised an obvious reason or that I would know another specific purpose … or that there would even BE another specific purpose.

And no matter what story (or straight up lies!) my emotions tried to tell, I could rest in that. Knowing that following Him to the place where He leads is always the right place.

Jesus was already in Guatemala.

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He didn’t need me this time any more than He needed me the first time, but He invited me to join Him there again. To join Him in doing the work, to be His hands and feet, to partner with ministries who had established and long-term relationships in their respective communities, to humbly enter into the lives of others – if only for a brief moment – to love and serve them well and to be fully present in each opportunity.

And in that place, I saw Jesus move in blue paint, in blowing bubbles, in big brown eyes that held your gaze, in smiles and much laughter, and in holding hands. I saw Jesus in small moments that somehow weren’t small at all.

Because He was and is enough.

And those are the stories I will be sharing with you here over the next few weeks.

Because those stories matter. Entering into the lives of others, even for the briefest of moments, makes a difference … to you AND to them. And the small moments that make up our everyday realities are never wasted when they are fully surrendered to Jesus.

Actually Be…

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves … the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
James 1:22 & 25

actually be a doer

It’s easy to say from the safety of my church pew on a Sunday morning that I’m ready and willing for encounters with people that provide opportunities to love and serve like Jesus.

It’s much more difficult to have that same mindset when I’m walking through the door at Starbucks (or better yet, going through the drive-thru), mentally reviewing my to-do list, just wanting to get my coffee and go.

But I think James makes it pretty clear that we’re not supposed to just agree with Scripture in theory.

We’re supposed to agree in action. We’re supposed to actually be doing.

Yes, Christ took time to pull away from activities… to spend quiet time alone in prayer, to listen to the Father, to be refreshed and restored in His presence … so the hearing part is important.

But then He poured all of Himself back out on others. He invested in the least of these.

Not by just doing for the sake of doing. But rather, by doing out of obedience to the Father and genuine love.

As I was sitting in the choir loft listening to the sermon during the second service on Easter morning, I caught my mind beginning to wander. Realizing that I was having trouble focusing, I thought, “How do I make it look like I’m engaged?”

No sooner had the question entered my conscious thoughts than I knew the answer: “Actually BE engaged.”

And I think that’s what James is getting at…

Want to look like you’re serving? Actually be serving.
Want to look like you’re invested in the lives of others? Actually be invested.
Want to look like you’re excited for others’ good news? Actually be excited.
Want to look like you’re grateful? Actually be grateful.
Want to look like you’re more loving? Actually be more loving.
Want to look like Jesus? Actually be like Jesus.

It’s not enough to just know the right answer, to hear the Word and agree in principle, or to give the appearance of a life lived in obedience to Christ. It’s not enough to just know the Word intellectually or intend to do something about what it says later.

Don’t just be a hearer of the Word. Actually be a doer.

{Day 31} “He Who Calls You is Faithful…”

As we arrive at the end of this 31 Days to Better Understand our {God Given} Callings, I leave you with this truth:

We’re called to be faithful … to be obedient and to trust.

We’re called to glorify God … to know Him and to make Him known.

But not by our own strength or ability or understanding of our calling.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV – emphasis added)

(for individual links to each post in this 31 Day series, please click here)

{Day 24} To Know the End

When it comes to our {God given} callings, we tend to want to know the end. the goal. the final destination. the exactly-how-this-is-going-to-play-out end.

But where did we ever get the impression that we should expect such knowledge?

Abraham didn’t know the end when he was told to go.

Joseph didn’t know the end when he was sold into slavery.

Peter didn’t know the end when he was asked to drop his nets and follow.

Paul didn’t know the end when he was blinded on the road to Damascus.

So perhaps by not knowing the end – by simply taking the next step by faith and by simply trusting the One who calls – we are better able to experience the preparation for the end that is sure to be found on the journey.

After all, what would happen if we did know the end? We would likely think of every possible shortcut to just get there already … yet again believing the lie that we determine the best direction and that we know the best path.

And so we continue on the journey by faith. obediently following. one step at a time. trusting in the One who calls.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

For by it the people of old received their commendation.”

– Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV)

  

Conviction: 2-yr-old Style

I serve with one of the 2-yr-old classes once a month (or more as needed) during the second hour at church.  Basically, this means the kids have already heard the Bible story, done a craft, and had “scheduled” time.  As the 2’s get older, we eventually take them to a larger group during this hour to sing songs and hear stories with the other preschoolers, but for now, we just watch a video, give plenty of hugs, play, and love on the kids.  

And I adore every minute of it!

A few weeks ago we had five kids, and one of the little guys was a new visitor (let’s call him “A”).  He didn’t appear to speak much English, and he seemed to prefer playing by himself, so we let him do his own thing for the majority of the time.

Towards the end of the hour, one of the other little boys (we’ll call him “T”) really wanted A to come play, so he called to him.  But A didn’t answer. At the encouragement of the other teacher and myself, T went across the room and said in the sweetest not-yet-quite-clear voice of a young preschooler, “A, come play with us!”

A just smiled and looked away, but T was persistent. He then said, “I WANT you to play posy with us; it’s fun!”

[Side note: yes, on this given Sunday, we were definitely keeping them occupied with ring-around-the-rosie, red light/green light, and other highly theologically correct games…ha!]

Because T was giving it such a valiant effort, the other teacher called for A and encouraged him to come over and play as T had requested.  T vigorously nodded his head in response and had such an inviting persona about him, but A just kept smiling and never did come to the circle with the others.

That didn’t deter T, though.  He just came back to the circle and continued playing.  It was as if he had done his part, and he was okay with the outcome.

As I was watching this exchange, the Holy Spirit promptly and clearly reminded me that often, it’s much less about the immediate results of what I’m doing to serve the Lord and much more about the obedience of doing it. 

This principle is especially true in our outreach efforts to share the love and message of Jesus Christ with others.  Consider Paul’s message regarding Israel’s barrier to understanding the truth of Christ in Romans 10:14-16:

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? … But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.” (New International Version – emphasis added)

Go read the surrounding text of these verses.  Powerful stuff!! 

After stating that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” in v. 13, which seems to indicate an individual acceptance of the message, Paul’s exhortation to preach the message is no less emphatic.  Regardless of the outcome.

But this principle also applies to obediently following God’s call on our life or His leading in almost any area.  Of Abraham, Hebrews 11:8 says:

“…when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, [Abraham] obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”  (New International Version – emphasis added

Abraham wasn’t caught up with the immediate result of leaving his home; he simply “obeyed and went.”  Regardless of the final [unknown] destination.

 

 

So yeah, I was utterly convicted and completely humbled by 2-yr-olds.  To serve where God leads, obediently and promptly, with my all, regardless of the outcome.

But that’s SO God, isn’t it?