Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reflections from Honduras

Every year our church goes on a mission trip to Honduras.  We bag and distribute hundreds of pounds of food, build a house for a poor family, and spend a lot of time playing with the kids in the streets.  Here are the reflections of my heart from this year's trip.
Today I met a woman named Tona.  I would guess she is in her early fifties.  Her house was washed completely away by a storm surge this summer.  She used to make donuts, but all of that was washed away, too.  With no place to live, no job, and no hope, she had resolved to hang herself.  But Marlene, the women's pastor, found her and talked her into going to Bible study.  Now, she attends every week.  She is living with friends and will have to find a new place to stay at some point soon, but now, she has hope.  She has Christ.  I thank Him for making things new.  I tell her in broken Spanish that Jesus saved my life, too.

Tona is the one on the right at the very end, in white.  The lady to the left of me is Marlene, the women's pastor.

(Sisi, on left, and me)
Sisi, who is 10 years old, used to have two sisters.  She doesn't know what happened to one of them.  I am not sure if this sister ran away, or if she just vanished, or what.  I wish I knew how to speak better Spanish.  One day, Lord.  I hope that this sister has not been a victim of sexual slavery, as it is very prevalent here...

Found out later that Sisi's sister is safe and ok, she is just not living with Sisi and her mom anymore due to some rebellious behavior. Thankful that's it. 

I am singing "La Niña de Tus Ojos" in the street with the kids.  It translates, quite literally, into "The Little Girl of Your Eyes," meaning His eyes.  As I play the guitar and sing with these little girls, the meaning of the song and the circumstances overwhelm me with emotion.  These girls...the little girls of His eyes.  I get choked up and the tears roll down.  I am unable to sing, but the little girls, they continue...they carry the song.  How beautiful are their little voices to me.  One of the moms and I meet eyes and she is bawling, too.  I think she tells me what a blessing I am.  We share this moment and embrace each other.

The girls on the team and I are on the patio, singing.  We are learning a new song, a song about trusting Him with everything, letting go completely.  One by one, we are consumed by the Spirit.  Each one of us breaks down.  By the end, the tears are flowing freely.  Spirit lead us where we trust You without borders...

Ashley, Alejandra, Sisi, Kimberlin, Naydelin.  Those are their names.  They take my hand and won't let go. They sit beside me on the rock and snuggle up to me.  They grab me and spin me in circles until we all fall down.  They jump on my back.  They fight for my attention.  We play and play.   "Where is your mama?"  I ask each of them.  "At the house," is always the reply.  Are they really here all alone?  Lord, how they fend for themselves.

("Kreesy, Kreesy, Kreesy!!")

(Me and Naydelin.  She would barely leave my side if I was around.)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

We are fasting today.  Before our devotional I am feeling very hungry and my stomach is growling, but after it, I am full.  Physically and emotionally and spiritually full.  I am not even thinking of food any longer.  
Last year, I never got to tell Shelly goodbye.  Shelly is 7 or 8 years old, but she looks about 2 or 3 because of a developmental disease.  Last year I saw her in the classroom and I said her name, "Shelly!"  She looked up at me in surprise and said, "You remembered my name!"  Of course I remembered your name, Sweetheart.  

The teachers don't want to baby her too much, but I do anyway.  I only come once a year, so I figure it couldn't hurt.  I help her color an assignment that much younger children are doing.  But that year, I didn't get to tell her goodbye, because the last day at the center, the rain was coming down.  This year, I find her in the street and I am so happy.  "Do you remember me?"  I say.  Shelly smiles a knowing grin and nods big. I grab her and hug her tightly.
(Shelly and me)

(Shelly, me, and another little one who wanted in on the picture)

Él tiene celo por mí, 
su amor es un huracán yo árbol soy 
doblándome bajo el peso de su viento y gracia. 

Y así de repente, 
Ya no recuerdo mi aflicción eclipsada 
en gloria, 
me doy cuenta de cuan hermoso eres Tú 
y cuan grande es tu afecto por mí. 

Oh, Él nos ama hoy, 
cuanto Él nos ama, 
Él nos ama hoy. 

Él nos ama, 
¡Oh! Él nos ama, ¡Oh! Él nos ama 
cuanto Él nos ama.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Letter to Our Group

Dear Group,
I would like to start this off by telling you that this sermonette is y’all’s fault for talking to me too much.  ;-)I love y’all.  Lol. Truth is, I love that you feel like you can come to me.  I love that.  So this letter is me, coming to you.

A lot of you guys are in relationships, getting into relationships, or thinking about entering into a relationship, and I was inspired to write you all some thoughts about being unmarried and trying to honor God with your body.  After multiple conversations with many of you, I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you for trying to do that.  It is a tough call, so tough, to be single and remain pure in this world.   The world viewpoint is so much different than God’s, sometimes it is almost embarrassing to admit our intentions of purity to others, much less exercise them.    
So, I wanted to write out some thoughts to encourage you and help you, to give you some advice as you navigate through these difficult waters of being single and Christian in today’s world.  This is especially for those of you who have entered into relationships, new or old, or may be considering entering into one, but I hope that anyone not in a relationship or dating situation will put this into their hearts and thoughts as well.  Wherever you are with dating, I hope you will get something out of it. 

First of all, I wanted to say that it IS possible.  It is possible to have a sexually pure relationship, even in today’s world.   Do not fool yourself to think otherwise, because  I know of too many people, including my husband and I, who have fought the battle and WON. J  I can think of at least 5 couples, right off the top of my head, (heard of another one today, actually) all within the past 2 years, who have refrained from having sex in their relationships until they were married.  You can, too.  Ladies, don’t convince yourself no guy would wait for you, because the right one will.  Guys, don’t make excuses for yourself or try to justify a lack of being able to do what God has called you to do, what He has equipped and enabled you to do.    

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Those of you who have messed up, you can start again.  Even if you have been married before, or if you have had the trauma of abuse and it influenced your further decisions, or if you have fallen time and time again, or maybe you made one mistake, WHATEVER the situation, now is the time to allow God’s truth to guide you.  By His grace, it is never too late.  Sexual purity is not an outdated concept, it is the Word of God at work, and it applies even now.  Even now, His Word lives and speaks to you and through you.  He. Can. Be Trusted.  

But how do we do this?  What are some practical things we can do to try to make our relationships pure?

Here is the best suggestion I think I have: Make boundaries, and do it early.  This means:  Talk with the other person about how far you can go without it being sin for you, and do this at the first possible opportunity. Early on in your relationship. Yes, it is awkward.   Yes, it is uncomfortable.  Yes, it is NECESSARY.  Do you think you can make a good decision if you try to address this stuff in the heat of the moment?  Don't count on it.  Before any sort of physical contact, pray about a good boundary, talk to whomever you are dating about it and have them pray, and honor each other.  Honor whatever boundary is the stricter.   I cannot express the urgency of this enough.  You don’t want to set yourself up for a situation that could easily become sin and address it at that point--it will likely be too late.  Take courage to speak beforehand, in the right circumstances.  (Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances. Proverbs 25:11)

Also, as you are praying and considering what boundary you need for you to remain pure, consider this:  God doesn’t just call you to purity of body alone.  He calls you to purity of heart and mind, too.  In fact, your heart and your mind will be what lead to your behavior, so consider how you can keep those things pure FIRST.  (For out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19) If you are lustful in your heart or in your thoughts while engaging in any specific physical contact with someone, consider making your boundary more strict.  Just a helpful hint: safer is better than sorrier.  You don’t want to wind up with regret.  One more helpful hint:  If you are in a relationship where someone is unwilling to honor your boundary, or doesn’t want to be pure for the sake of being committed to Christ, I would recommend seriously evaluating whether or not this is a relationship God would have you in.     
Another piece of advice comes from my husband, who put it perfectly one time when he said, “Don’t test fate.”  We were created with sexuality as a major part of our makeup and it is a powerful thing, but this is what God's word says about sexual immorality: Flee. Do not entertain it, not even in your mind.  Do not go near it. Do not go as far as you can with it just to test your resolve.  Do not push it as far as you think is reasonable for it to still not exactly be sin. Flee!!  This is a powerful sin and if you don’t treat it that way, you will get burned by it. 

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Your body is a temple. Consider that you are not your own, you are bought with the price of Jesus’ death.  You were made for holy purposes, not of your flesh. You belong to Christ and have His Spirit within you—HE is who you are sinning against when you sexually sin. Don’t be prideful and think, “We can sleep in the same bed and be strong enough not to mess around” --that logic will fail you.  I tell you all this not to chastise you, but to warn you.  From many stories and also from my own experience.  Pride goes right before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18) Sleeping in the same bed with someone you really like (who really likes you) and thinking you can “be strong” is just asking for trouble.  So are late nights with no one around, drinking too much alcohol while the two of you are alone, etc.  Don’t allow yourself to get into situations in which you are tempted.  Be wise to avoid temptation, and you will.   
The other danger of regularly “testing fate” is that you don't want your relationship to fall into the trap that many fall into--creating a false sense of intimacy by making out all the time instead of talking. You don't have to have actual sex to build your relationship on the physical instead of the eternal. If all you ever do when you're alone is make out or fool around, you are not really getting to know one another.  I would encourage you to save the physical stuff as much as you can so that you can really invest in finding out if you are compatible.  You want your relationship to be based on something solid!!  Open up the lines of communication that are healthy and honor God. 

Also a good thing to keep in mind is this:  How you act in your relationships will eventually be part of your testimony. Every minute of every day, you are living out your testimony.  Be mindful that you are set apart for His holy purposes. (1 Peter 2:9)  You are redeemed, you are sanctified, You are holy in Christ….so live it out!!!  Live it out so that your life will speak to others.  And if anyone knows that you believe in Christ, which I hope they do, what you do speaks boldly to them about Him.  In fact, what you do means way more than what you say.  Keeping a commitment to stay pure in such a sexually fallen world will be an incredible testament to your faith.  Your friends who are not committed to Christ will recognize the bravery and strength to do that, and wonder what is behind it.  And you will point to Him and lead others to Him, maybe inspiring them and encouraging them to do the same thing. 
And they have conquered him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…Revelation 12:11

Our stories have the power to overcome the greatest of evil, if we are led by Him.  Fight the good fight for the sake of your story, His story. 

Lastly, know that this is for your freedom. This call to purity is for your GOOD.  God didn’t give you these guidelines to deny you, He gave you these guidelines to give you abundant life, a life full of promise and blessing!!  You will be so much better off without the consequences of sexual sin, I say that from the bottom of my heart.   Jesus died that you might be free from the penalty of sin, that you might put on His righteousness.  His word leads the way for you….it brings joy, peace, love, hope and life.  His ways are freedom from the chains of slavery.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

If you can wait until the finish line, you will see what God intended with the gift of sexual intimacy as He designed.  You will see how powerful and beautiful and binding it is when expressed within the guidelines He created.  You will be able to share with your spouse the awesomeness of it.  You can wait.  It is worth it.