Monday, June 26, 2017

A Bug Time Story: Voracious Mosquitos

            This blog post is dedicated to 2 very sweet college students I’m working with this summer and what feels like a million mosquitos that live in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park.  Both taught me 2 very valuable lessons this weekend about being prepared so you can live your life in peace.  Thanks for getting me blogging again.  
            
                What a week!!  We are all susceptible to a bad day, week, or month.  If anything this week has shown me how completely flawed of a human I am regardless of how much I want to do the right thing.  I have had things coming at me from every direction.  I’ve been stressed, frustrated, and all this stuff has prevented me from thinking clearly resulting in making ridiculously poor choices.  I was very much looking forward to my weekend off so I could just get away.

            On Saturday at around 4pm (first mistake) I went on a 12 mile hike (second mistake) on a trail that runs through a deep wooded area (third mistake).  I’ve wanted to check out the North Fork area for quiet awhile now so I was super excited.  Well along the hike of what is supposed to be one of the more beautiful viewpoints in the area, a barrage of mosquitos bombarded me.  Seriously, it felt like an army of a million mosquitos!!!  (I wish I had taken a picture of my arm after the walk.  It was covered in dry blood from all the mosquitos I killed.)

          These pesky bugs were coming at me from everywhere and all I had was a rag to swat them away with (fourth mistake) because I left my bug spray at home (fifth mistake).  I was totally not prepared for this hike and so worn out from the mosquitos that I didn’t have the energy to make it to the top (later on I found out I was less than half a mile from the top, so close).

            Along the walk I was getting so frustrated and complaining for God to take the stupid mosquitos away so I could enjoy the nature and process everything from this week.  Well, the mosquitos never went away but that is because God wanted to use them as a lesson. 

LESSON: When I am not prepared in life, just as I wasn’t prepared for the hike, 
it will make the journey difficult and I might not make it to the end.  If I make 
it to the end of the journey I will be wiped out and thinking about how horrible 
it was getting to the end instead of taking in the reward that is waiting for me.  


            Honestly I haven’t been spending time with God like I normally do this past month and so therefore I haven’t been ready for the attacks that come at me, lacking wisdom to handle them well. This week I feel like I failed at everything.  I even went to pick up my bible this morning and before I did the first thought that came to my mind was, “Rachael you don’t deserve to touch that thing much less read it.  You are a hypocrite.”   But I asked God to give me a word of encouragement and He did.

            I went to the Campus Ministry this morning at the Lodge that the college students run.  They read a passage from Colossians and spoke on the story of Job.  These were the two things from the Bible that stood out to me.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart….” ~Colossians 3:15
“And Job died, an old man and full of days.” ~Job 42:17

            Immediately God reminded me of how full my days are when I spend some solitude time with Him every day.  He reminded me of how much more peace I have each day I spend some time with Him, even when the world seems like it is crumbling (as it did for Job). 

            
             So I go into this week aware and prepared.  I’m going to allow the peace of Christ to rule in my heart and give me wisdom to handle any consequences that result from last week.  I survived last week and I look forward to this week.  Last week has come and gone, there is nothing I can do to change it.  But I can change my attitude this week, choosing to rise above my circumstances and handle those “mosquitos” with wisdom, dignity, and integrity.   






Friday, December 23, 2016

2016: A Year of Humility

Humility is a trait that is necessary to shape our character 
so that it reflects the character of our Heavenly Father.

            Humility was my word for 2016. I struggled for weeks to accept this word.  Even though I knew becoming more humble would be good for me, my pride kept me terrified to accept this word. In just a matter of days after accepting this as my word for the year God began to humble me, chipping away at the wall of pride that has been building for years as He forms me back into His original masterpiece.  That chiseling hurt, terribly!  My pride did not want to accept what this year was meant to be but thankfully God gave me the power to keep it in check (for the most part, I still had my days).  This has been a difficult year but so worth it.  I exit the year 2016 thankful that I said yes to humility. 

Lessons I learned:

I. Pride has ruined so many relationships and opportunities in my own life.  It has kept me from being happy.  It has kept me from opportunities I wanted and were given to others instead.  It has kept people I wanted to know better at arms length.  It has kept me from really knowing how much God loves me and experiencing that love first-hand. 

II. Luke 14:11 says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled.  And all those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Often we don’t realize when we have exalted ourselves until we are humbled.  I do this regularly.  But when I look at the life of Jesus, I see that He took on the heart of a servant.  He had every right to exalt himself but chose instead to serve.  It’s important to remember that when I don’t feel like I’m being treated fairly.

III.  Self-justification is dangerous.  It is confidence in yourself and your abilities.  It is pride.  Humility is confidence in how God sees you and confidence in God’s ability to use you.  Self-justification is idolatry in appearance, caring more about appearing righteous rather than being righteous.  God hates it when I prop up my holiness on the failures of others.  God hates it when I read scripture and try to justify my behavior by comparing myself to others.  God hates self-justification and even tells us throughout scripture to allow Him to vindicate us.

IV.  The opposite of love is SELFISHNESS.  Pride has caused me to be selfish in the way I show love to others.  It has fooled me into thinking that I have loved others well.  1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”  Loving people with pride has caused me a lot of heartache because I put unrealistic expectations on others.  When they don’t meet those expectations I am let down by no ones fault but my own.  Humility is doing something for someone without expecting anything in return.  (You can read more about this lesson by clicking here to read a past blog I wrote.)

Reflection:

            As I reflect on this year my question for God is, “Have I learned all I can this year about humility?  Have I taken every opportunity to grow in humility?”  I know I still have a pride problem.  Pride is a sin I’m constantly going to have to keep in check.  But I do believe I have changed.  I feel like a better person.  I feel more alive, freer, and more open to love and to be loved.  This is the way life is meant to be lived.  Humility should be driving the way we encounter, love and respond to people, not pride. 

Even though 2016 is coming to an end, and I will take on a new work in January, I ask that God continue to help me overcome pride with humility.  I don’t want to be afraid of being wrong.  I don’t want to be afraid to be last.  I don’t want to be afraid to love.  I don’t want to be afraid to hold whatever position or job I have been given.  Lastly, I don’t want to think of myself more highly than I ought to think.  God’s truth has the power to transform us. May I never go back to pride, but always pursue humility. 

Where I was afraid to make this my word for a year I now want to make it my word for life because of how much better I feel.  Even when I’m stuck in a crappy situation by thinking about how I can make the best of it, instead of thinking about what I deserve, I find contentment, joy, and peace. 


This is a video I came across as I was deciding about my word for 2016.  It also popped up randomly a couple times during this year.  It is done by The Skit Guys.  The title of it is "God's Chisel Remastered." You can learn more about them by clicking here.  I hope it encourages you as much as it has me. 


Monday, October 24, 2016

My DTS Testimony


Priscilla Shire once said, “It is possible to be a disciple and not know God.”  This quote describes my life perfectly.  I grew up in church, was saved and baptized at a young age, but never really understood the truths I was being taught and raised on.  It wasn’t until this year where God helped me realize I have perfected the role of Martha but He wants me to learn how to be Mary.  (See the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10).

I have loved God from a very young age.  Since I was 12 years old I have been serving faithfully in my church, community, country, and the world.  This service has helped me grow in my passion for helping the weak and vulnerable. While I have served with passion I still felt so empty inside.  After some time, the good feelings I had from helping others would go away, and like a drug, I would want them back, more and more, giving every free moment, and every extra dollar I had to helping others. Believe it or not I was addicted to helping others.  You may think, “well this isn’t a bad thing,” but it really can be!

While helping others is good it shouldn’t be our priority.  I unfortunately spent many years neglecting my relationship with God.  This neglect caused me to doubt God’s love for me, leading me looking for love from the people I served, which was a HUGE mistake. 

My quiet time spot in Nepal
All God has really wanted is for me to spend time having a relationship with Him, to experience and be overwhelmed by His love for me. I was looking for love an acceptance from broken people and constantly being let down, causing the fear of rejection and abandonment to grow inside.  I knew in my head God loved me but that truth never made it to my heart. I made service to God an idol, because I put it before my relationship with Him.

Every year for the past 9 years I have prayed and asked God to give me a word for the year.  This word usually ends up being the theme of my year.  In November 2015 God gave me the word “humility” for 2016.  And in December 2015 the lessons I was to learn from that word began.  God humbled me, allowing everything He had given me to be taken from me.  This forced me to do something I should have done a very long time ago, attend a YWAM DTS (Youth With A Mission, Discipleship Training School). 

In this 6 month school I learned how to be Mary.  It forced me to be still and sit at the feet of Jesus.  Here I learned about the character and nature of God, His desire for all of creation, and His heart for Justice.  Most importantly, this school helped me move the truth that God loves me from my head, to my heart!  God used this school to complete me!  Before understanding God I never felt like I was complete, but now I feel whole, as well as emotionally and mentally healthy.

This school has helped me gain a better understanding of what justice looks like which will help me be a better advocate for social injustice and human rights.  In the past, passion is what has driven me to serve and help others when it should have been the love of God.  Because I didn’t understand the character and nature of God and I never experienced His love for myself, I wasn’t able to care for others with the authentic love that the people in this world need. 

Passion is great, but when there is no love behind passion it’s like someone playing the violin for the first time.  They may have passion to play but they don’t know what they are doing.  While their desire is to make beautiful music the screechy noise they are making instead is extremely annoying.  They need to be taught.  As they learn they will become better at playing the violin.  Because of their passion they will be successful at it, never quitting when it gets too difficult.  Most importantly, once they learn how to play that annoying noise will become a beautiful sound. 


It’s incredible the different sound you get from a beginner learning the violin to a professional violinist.  I believe this analogy also applies to me.  Now that I understand the character and nature of God, now that I believe in my heart Jesus loves me, I am able to serve others with the authentic love of God as the driving force behind my passion to see the vulnerable set free from injustice. As I look to God, the greatest teacher of love and advocate of justice in all of history, I am better equipped to help others find the wholeness and healing they are searching for.  God is pursuing each and every person.  My hope is that I can help others stop long enough to be caught by Him like I was!


My DTS at graduation

Friday, October 21, 2016

Villains Matter to God

This past week I had the opportunity to share about my 1½-year experience living and working in Thailand at a High School in Germany.  For those who are reading this blog that don’t know, over the past 4 years I have been doing social justice ministry in S. Korea and Thailand, mostly with anti-trafficking NGO’s.  


The theme of my presentation to the students was “Every Life Has Value.”  I would also add that if I had to put this past 1½-years into a theme I feel this would be an appropriate title.  That is because this theme is true, every life does have value.  Every life matters, even the lives of the bad guys.  This is one of the points of my presentation that I’m going to focus on in this blog. 

Now some of you may be thinking, “the bad guys who do these unjust and corrupt things to the innocent of this world deserve to have horrible things done in return to them.”  This is how I have thought for most of my life at least.  But during this journey God has helped me to understand that He loves the villain too.   


While He absolutely abhors what the villain does to the vulnerable, He ultimately desires to see their heart changed, for them to repent, and their desire to be in a relationship with Him, pursuing justice and righteousness.  He desires all of His creation to worship Him and experience His love, even the villain.  

I have met several of these villains from pimps, to Russian Mafia, madams, stepfathers, uncles, and johns.  It can be easy to get angry or be afraid of these people because of what they do and the power and control they have of others.  But they need Jesus’ love as much as the vulnerable I work with.  All of them have a story and all of them are loved by God.  

             At the end of my presentation one of the students asked me a really good question that left me thinking for many days, which in turn became this blog. “How are you able to have compassion for the bad guys?”  That was a really tough question for me because I honestly never thought about how I got to this point.  My response to this question was, “Pray for them.  The bible tells us to pray for our enemies.  Over the years, as I have prayed for my enemies, usually the thing that happens is God begins to help me develop compassion for them.” 

This question lead me to really think, pray, and try to understand God’s heart for the villain as I speak about how “Every Life Has Value.”  Here are the things that I came up with during my time processing this question.  I want to just clarify first that this is my understanding and so it may be wrong.  Or maybe my understanding doesn’t work for your thinking.  I want to encourage you to seek out the answers for yourself as well if this is a question that bothers you. 

GOD’S CREATION OF MANKIND

God did not create the villain.  Even Satan himself was not created as a villain.  Satan chose to be Satan.  No one is born with the desire to hurt another human. Every person is born with a sin nature but every person has the option to choose sin or righteousness. 

God gave each human the right to choose; with His desire being we would choose Him.  Every choice we make is a choice to live for ourselves or to live for God. When we choose to live for God we end up living a life that helps others, a life that is full of compassion, joy, and love.  But when we choose to live for ourselves we usually end up hurting ourselves and or others.  The villain decided to make the choice to live for himself or herself, over and over again, leading them down the path of becoming the person they are today. 


Maybe you are thinking the villain can also decide to make different choices and begin to pursue justice and righteousness, but it’s not that easy.  The villain needs help.  Just like the vulnerable are enslaved to the villain the villain is too enslaved to the power, money, and control they are chasing.  They are a slave to their bad choices.  They are a slave to their sin and their pride is what keeps them locked up. 


DON’T BE A HYPOCRITE

Another thought I had was that I cannot go around preaching and saying “every life has value,” if I don’t mean it for the villains too.  Saying this sort of thing and not believing it for all people would be hypocritical of me. 

In the bible there is a great story that can be found in John 8.  It is the story of a woman who is caught in adultery.  The religious leaders who brought her to Jesus wanted to stone her because the Law of Moses commanded this as the consequence for her sin.  But Jesus replied by saying, “Let he who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Each person began to walk away one by one until only Jesus was left alone with the woman.  Jesus could have stoned her.  He was without sin. But he didn’t.  “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’  And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you either.  Go.  From now on sin no more.’” (John 8:10-11)

I too have broken God’s heart.  I too have chosen to live for myself at times and it has caused hurt to others.  I have said words to people that have cut them deep.  I have betrayed and let people I love down.  These things disappoint God just as much as selling children for sex.  I didn’t deserve to be forgiven but God had compassion on me and hasn’t given up on me even though I make mistakes all the time by choosing to live for myself instead of God. 

The great news is that more and more people are beginning to understand this concept.  Organizations new and old are starting to reach out to the villains and they are having success.  People who were once causing injustices to the vulnerable are now living their lives for God.  Prison ministries are finding great success as they go to prisons and share that God wants to give them a second chance.  Pimps in villages in Cambodia are changing their ways and no longer selling children because of ministries that work with the vulnerable and the villain.

This is the result I hope to see become more prevalent as people continue to fight against the injustices of this world.  I realize not everyone will choose the path of righteousness but my hope is that more will choose to live for God than don’t.