Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“But I trust in You, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” ~ Psalm 31:14-15

Have you ever had the experience where you clearly know God is calling you to do something? In my experience, it's often something I'm not too sure about. Something I'd definitely not think of doing on my own. Something that perhaps makes me a little bit afraid.

Sometimes it can be something small. Like a sense that you should give some money or food to the homeless person you see on the street corner. Or hearing a need and taking a moment to pray for it. For me, it often involves sending a card of encouragement.

Sometimes it can be something big. Like going on a mission trip. With people you've never met. For eight long weeks...and you've never left home for that long. But you know...you just know...that God is calling you to take that leap of faith and depend on Him.

In any circumstances, the choice is up to you. You can say yes or you can say no. I don't think life is ruined if you say no. But you might miss out on amazing opportunities if you don't say yes. But you have to say:

“But I trust in You, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” ~ Psalm 31:14-15

My sister is currently choosing yes. In her experience, she always had the desire, but God kept shutting the doors. She has always wanted to travel to Africa and minister to children. Ever since she was a little girl this has been her dream. (This is not my dream) Several times over the years, she's had opportunities to go and serve. But every time, the door was clearly shut. But, God is faithful and He does keep His promises and this time was His timing.

Every door opened for her. The group to travel with includes people from her church, the ministry includes a Vacation Bible School and working at a children's home. Her finances were covered above and beyond the need, allowing the excess to help other teammates and the children's home. Her passport and visa came through with no issues and her vaccinations had no complications. She is on her way to Uganda with a happy heart ready to see and do all that God has planned for her.

“Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us. If we know not where we go, we know with whom we go. With such a companion, who will dread the perils of the road? The journey may be long, but His everlasting arms will carry us to the end. The presence of Jesus is the assurance of eternal salvation, because He lives, we shall live also.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

She has concerns and worries, but she knows Who is in control. This will be a life-changing experience for my sister. She will have the opportunity to need and depend on God in ways she might not have ever had the chance to before. She will learn things about Him and about herself that wouldn't happen back at home. One of the opportunities she has was to create a VBS program and God led her to a theme about how God knows our names and how much He loves us.

Won't it be amazing to hear how God uses this to reach people? Isn't God amazing? He takes us into trying situations that force us to make a choice. To choose to live in fear or doubt, worrying that things will never get better and having no hope. Or to choose to depend on Him and trust that He is in control and nothing that happens to us is outside His knowledge. Not that it's easy, but we have to keep trying to trust and have hope.

"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promises." ~ Hebrews 10:23

My first big opportunity to take a leap of faith came in 1996. During chapel in my junior year of high school, our speaker was a man named Willie Behrends and he was speaking about an organization called Reign Ministries International and their summer mission trips called Royal Servants (www.reignministries.org). It was created over 30 years ago by a man named Louis Inks who had a passion for youth ministry and seeing teenagers learn about God and reach the world. Each summer they send teams all over the world for eight week missions.

During that chapel service, I felt God tugging me to go. I was scared. I'm a homebody and I'd never been away from home that long before. But, I listened and I gathered information and I prayed. I went home and told my parents that I wanted to go on the 10:10 team - an eight week trip around the United States using drama and Scripture to reach people for God. My parents were initially worried since they of all people know how much I hated being away from home...but they have been in ministry almost all their lives and know what it means to listen to God's call.

“If you want to know what he has to say, you just follow him. You stay close. You ask and keep asking, and you listen. He’ll make it clear. The closer you are to him, the easier it is to hear what he’s saying…You stay close to Christ. Remind yourself that being one of his disciples will feel like an unscripted adventure most of the time. The journey is definitely not a one-size-fits-all. But he has a plan. He is fulfilling his objectives in your life.” ~Robin Jones Gunn

They were an incredible support as I began the journey of preparing for a "summer of service for a lifetime of ministry." I had to raise support (thankfully God provided through a variety of friends and family), meet weekly with some local team members and our team leaders - Willie and Jackie Behrends, and beginning the process of packing everything on their seemingly huge list. I was scared and there were times I wanted to back out. But I knew this was something God wanted me to do and I needed to trust Him.

“Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on [God] –“ ~ Isaiah 30:16a

“…things work out when you trust in God.” ~ Proverbs 16:20b

That summer was incredibly hard. I have never been so tired, so worried about the weather, so happy to get a shower, so happy to eat sandwiches or hot dogs. I have never had so many opportunities to work through personality conflicts with other people. I have never had to memorize so much Scripture and Transferrable Truths and 4 Spiritual Laws.

That summer was incredibly rewarding. I have never been so daily in God's Word, so blessed by close Christian friends who lived daily life with me, or had the opportunity to visit and minister to people in the inner city of Minneapolis or the Native American reservations in Washington or on the streets of Washington D.C. I have lifelong friends and memories thanks to that summer. And the things I learned about God are never far from my mind.

“The LORD is pleased with those who worship Him and trust His love.”
~ Psalm 147:11

That was the first time I ever needed to daily, truly, deeply depend on God for everything. I didn't have my family, my friends, my home, my church, my comfort zone to fall back on. I was alone, with God, and I had to make the choice to trust Him. I'm so thankful I listened to that still small voice. And even though I often describe it as the most wonderful, terrible, awful, amazing summer of my life - I chose to go again in 1998! That's God for you...something I never thought I'd do, and I did it twice!

“Traveling – seeing new sights, hearing new music, and meeting new people – is exciting and exhilarating. But when we have no home to return to where someone will ask us, ‘How was your trip?’ we might be less eager to go. Traveling is joyful when we travel with the eyes and ears of those who love us, who want to see our slides and hear our stories. This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people…and be happy to return home.”
~ Henri Nouwen

One of my biggest struggles is fear. I wrote about that a few weeks ago, but as I mentioned then it's something I continue to go back to...even though I know I should trust God. I was reading a book this weekend and was reminded of the song You Are My Hiding Place. Such a simple song, but such an important message that I needed to be reminded of this week.

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart with songs
of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord
I will trust in You
~ Michael Ledner

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." -- Psalm 32:7

I'm worried about my sister. I know in my head that God is in control, that He has her in the palm of His hand, that nothing will happen to her without His knowledge. It's hard, but I want to trust. I want to have faith. Sometimes I do have faith and I do trust. It's a back and forth struggle. Day to day. She is important to me and to so many people. I know and believe that she will probably be completely fine. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. I know God has big plans for my sister. I know He will do great things in and through her and the rest of her team.

“Don’t be afraid, my people. Be glad now and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things.” ~ Joel 2:21

Over the weekend, I read the most recent book by my very favorite author - Robin Jones Gunn. It's called Forever With You and it continues the story of some beloved characters called Christy and Todd. I have loved these characters and her books for over 18 years. I read through the book in a few hours and by the end I was crying. Not because I was sad, but because I was so incredibly thankful for how much God loves us and cares for us. One of the author's greatest strengths is her beautiful way of weaving God's truth into simple much-loved stories in ways that just bring me to tears.

Last week, I spent some time writing a bunch of encouraging cards for my sister and the team which included LOTS of Scripture, quotes, devotions and love. But after reading the book this weekend, I had one extra verse that needed to be added...it refers to when God spoke to Moses and told him to go to pharaoh and ask him to let the Israelites go and Moses was afraid, but God said...

“Certainly I will be with you…” ~ Exodus 3:12

That promise was true for Moses and it is true for my sister and it is true for any and all of us who listen to God's calling. It's okay if we're afraid. It's okay if we don't have it all together. All we have to do is say yes - and place our faith and our trust in God's always capable hands.

“The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”
~ Henri Nouwen

Two prayers this week - the first is a Hawaiian prayer that I also got from one of Robin Jones Gunn's books and the other is from my heart.

Na ka Makua-O-Kalani, e malama mai ia makou
“Let our heavenly Father take care of us all”

Dear heavenly Father, Thank You for speaking to us. Thank You for allowing us opportunities to listen to Your leading and step out in faith. Help us to have faith and put our trust in You. Thank You for promising to be with us and specifically thank You for being with my sister and her team as they minister in Uganda. Give them strength, peace, calm, comfort, rest, and lots of Your love. Open the hearts of the people they will be ministering to so that Your love and Your truth will be revealed. You know I struggle with fear, please help me to trust You instead. Please be with those who are struggling now Lord, give them Your peace which passes understanding. Help them to feel Your presence and know that You are with them. Thank You for the opportunity that my sister has to fulfill a lifelong dream for You and please keep her safe and healthy and bring her home safely in two weeks. Thank You for loving us so much. I love you. Amen.

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