Sunday, October 9, 2011

Traveling to new destinations.

Sept. 17th 2011 Just Run for a Just Cause

My last post indicates that my friend Mariam was asked to speak at the Just Run for a Just Cause event in Houston.  That Friday before I picked her up from the airport and we drove down to Houston, she had been prayerfully asking the Lord what she should say to these runners who were running on behalf of victims of human trafficking. As I drove she told me what they Lord was asking her to say.  The night before we met with some of the Pastors at Kingland Baptist and it was nice to see some familiar faces from the Free the Captives conference in February. The day of the race we talked to many people, but the word that Mariam had for them was quite different from what they expected. Mariam stood up before them and called them not to just run and pray for the victims of human trafficking, but to also run and pray for those who traffick them, because they too are bound by their sins and Jesus calls us to pray for ALL even those who we consider our enemies.

[Matthew 5:43-45(ESV)Love Your Enemies
Mariam praying before she speaks.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

It was turely a message that those who heard will never forget.  After the race began we hung around and talked with some people in particular a young high school group that had just begun.  Mariam was able to share her testimony and encourage them to pray.  A lot of times we want to dive in and use our hands, get dirty but prayer is the best thing that you can do to help anyone. There was also a camera man there who asked to interview Mariam for a promotional video about the run and the Justice League there at Kingsland. Hopefully soon I will be able to post a link to her speaking and the interview she had.  I was just so completely and utterly amazed at how God used her as a light unto him, it truly was amazing.

Mariam viewing the wall created to inform people
about Human Trafficking.
Runners singing the National Anthem. 
Two runners stop to tell Mariam how they were impacted
by the message God gave her.
Mariam speaking to the youth group.
Pastor from River Bend Baptist Church
praying for Mariam after his run.

Sept. 24th, 2011 River Bend Baptist Church

Mariam's name on the wall.
Mariam praying before she speaks
at the second service.
Pastor John Crowe of River Bend Baptist Church is the one praying for Mariam in the last picture above.  He invited Mariam back to speak at his church the next weekend. So once again we were on our way back down to Houston.  We stayed with a wonderful woman named Ann for the one night we were there and she was just so sweet and endearing.  And she had one of the most comfortable beds ever! That Saturday night we had dinner with a few of the women from the church and as we talked you could really sense God's Holy Spirit in the room, at the end of the evening they prayed over both Mariam and myself and it really felt like we were with family. Like in the days of Acts where the disciples would travel and be welcomed into homes of fellow believers it was truly a blessing.

Again God had a new message for Mariam to speak on: Freedom. Here are just a few things she preaches on in her short sermon:

1. God's forgiveness verses the forgiveness of man
2. Humanism/humanitarians, what they offer victims (which is physically freedom), and how by definition they believe they can accomplish a goal or solve a problem without Christ.
3. As Christians we have power in Christ Jesus to have not only physical freedom, but more importantly spiritual freedom/healing from any situation.

Gods forgiveness creates this in a person:
"The trafficker becomes the object to which I display my love." -Mariam Kagaso
You can watch her speak in the videos below, its not the best quality but it does the job. If they don't work you can go HERE to view the videos.
video
PART ONE


video
PART TWO


Thank you to all who read these words and who have been praying for us on this journey.  I pray that God would keep your mind set on things of his heavenly kingdom and his will alone. Many blessings to you.

A.
[John 9:4] (ESV)
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.


Prayer Requests:

1. During these speaking opportunities Mariam was here visiting on break from school, but has gone back to Colorado.  She attends Ellerslie, an intensive ministry training school created by Eric and Leslie Ludy.  As she is not working during her time there, please pray that God will continue to be her provision and source of strength. Also that God would continue to grant more opportunities for Mariam to share not just her testimony on Human Trafficking, but more so to preach the gospel that is Jesus Christ.

2. I prayerfully hope to attend a conference coming up in Oklahoma City this November.  iGo is a conference put on by AweStar Ministries to invite people from all over to hear from missionaries and also to see how God can use you in the mission field. I do not think it wise to travel alone so please pray that God would send me a traveling buddy.

3. Also I am going to see Mariam for Thanksgiving! Pray for safe travel and that my short time at Ellerslie would a set apart time and provide me with more knowledge and wisdom about my King.

4. Continue to pray for Gordon Griffith, he was recently in the hospital with a serious infection and although now he is much better please ask God for constant protection from health issues so that he may continue to do the work he has been called to do.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gathering

September 17th, 2011: "Just Cause" Houston Anti-Human Trafficking Event

 A few months ago my best friend Mariam and I were in Houston for an Anti-Human Trafficking Event with Free the Captives.  In 9 days we will once again be making the trek down to attend this newest "Just Cause" event put on by Kingsland Baptist Church.  Mariam will be speaking to around 600 people at their second annual 5k event and also to Pastors in the area and some other groups.

I am just in awe of what God is doing.  How he has taken what was meant to hurt and through that is making others aware of the reality that is human trafficking today.  He is equipping people to recognize and make a difference, he is awakening a generation.

Please pray for safety, for open hearts and minds, and for those who are still held in bondage by human trafficking.  Pray that they see the Lord standing with them. Pray that when Mariam speaks it would not be her own words or to glorify herself, but that everything she says points to the ultimate creator the one who is above all else the Lord Jesus Christ, my savior, my God.

News: Mariam has a new blog! SPEAKING FOR THE SILENT(subject to change) Head over and check it out, her words are profound and speak wisdom beyond her years.

Prayer Requests:
1. Continue to pray for Gordon G., he has returned to Thailand and has been traveling a lot. Pray for strength and endurance and continued passion for his mission.
2. Please pray for the Houston Anti-Human Trafficking Event. This is huge. Many people will be informed and many lives could be saved.

I leave you with this:

[John 21]
Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish 1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus[b]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”   “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.Jesus Reinstates Peter 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”   “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”   Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.



Wow.

A.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Urban Encounter

This summer I've had the opportunity to be involved with an outreach at our church called Urban Encounter.  Youth groups from around the country come and stay at our church and we share the gospel with people in the apartments surrounding our church.

During these weeks we connect with so many people, but mostly we connect with kids.  These kids we meet most of the time are unsupervised, probably haven't eaten and probably haven't had a bath in a while either.  We do crafts, songs, dance, and make PB&J's for them and most of all we love them and have a good time getting to know them and just being there for them even if it is just a few hours.

Today was my last day to do UE as I will be in Chicago next week, but I wanted to take some time and share this special picture with you.

This cuddly looking teddy bear was my special friend.  I met him just two weeks ago at our first outing to one of the apartments near by.  The first time we met, he was outside the small bounce house we rented, no parents around just his slightly older brother and sister.  Immediately he captured my heart, I asked him a few questions and to answer he simply nods his head.  And so I reached out my arms to him and without any hesitation he reaches out and is latched in my arms.  Today was no different, as soon as I saw him(he was swimming in the pool) and ran over and called his name and he knew who I was and reached out again and even though he was soaking wet I grabbed him up out of the water and got the biggest hug I've ever had.

I introduced him to some of the teens working with us today and right away everyone fell in love with him and his siblings.  And I have to say that when you come to this place of serving, where you say to God "Here I am, send me!"  it doesn't matter what happens to you, you will do anything for a child with such a sweet face.  He could have been covered in mud, but I still would have taken him up in my arms and held him.  It really didn't matter what happened to me I just wanted him to know that he is loved.

We sat on the side walk eating a snow cone and he sits in my lap, the teens have taught him how to eat the snow cone with the straw like a spoon(fast learner!) and I literally had to hold back tears.  How could anyone with the Spirit of God within them not have a heart for the lost and hurting?  How many of God's people really do the work of the kingdom? When did having a big house and expensive car and living "abundantly" become the goal of our lives?  What happened to having the heart and compassion of God for his people?

This little boy will always be in my heart and he will forever represent the aha moment where I understood that wherever God leads me I will do everything in His power, and that I will not care about silly things like getting wet or messy over a child.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters


A.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I will rest when the work is done.

This summer I've undertaken some extreme responsibilities.  I took 13 teens to a youth camp without a lead Pastor, lead a group of them who I had no idea who they were or what they lives were like and yet still God showed me grace and gave me the words to say, the words they needed to hear.

Its amazing to realize that no matter who you are, what your back ground or what intelligence level you are at God can use you if you are ready and willing to be used.  Before this time I never really believed that God could give me a word like that so that I could share with others, it was truly a blessed time and I am so thankful that God made my heart receptive to his word.

Now comes another challenge: URBAN ENCOUNTER.  This is a summer program that my church holds every year allowing youth groups from around Texas and other states to come and stay with us, participating in work projects, ministering/praying with the people living in apartment complexes in the Fort Worth area and this year getting a much deeper into the presence of God.  At first I was a little apprehensive about participating, UE takes up a lot and I do mean A LOT of time.  You exhaust yourself until you have nothing left, you spend every moment that you have either at the church or on site somewhere working. When you get a free moment to relax, its usually spend sleeping stretched out on the chairs in the sanctuary or in one of the nursery rooms.  You spend all of your time with the same people and that can help bonds grow stronger, but it can also get on your nerves. You minister to those who maybe are there to truly hear what you have to say or might be using you for a free meal, either way you are called to love them as Christ loved you.  You meet people and children from completely different backgrounds, but somehow at that moment God brought you together for a purpose and you must learn how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that he may use you as he wills.

I was pondering all these things on one of my morning runs this week: God how am I going to handle all of this? Sometimes I just feel like I need a break because I am tired and I teach year round, this is summer I'm supposed to be relaxing etc... at this point I was about halfway through my run and I began to slow down, feel heavy and weary and in that moment God gently spoke these words to me:

You can rest when the work is done.


So I thought on this statement as I ran and continued to press forward to the finish line of my run, and a scripture came to mind.


[Acts 5:42]
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

If you haven't read Acts, then you are missing out!  It gives us a picture of the early Christian church, the radical ways they lived and fellowshipped together and also how they functioned as the body and how they began fulfilling the great commission of Jesus Christ to "go and make disciples of all the nations."[Matthew 28:19] These men, these who followed God with all their hearts, forsaking anyone and anything else gave over and surrendered everything in their lives to do the work that God had set before them.  And so I must look at my own heart and understand that I must be willing to never stop teaching and witnessing and sharing the good news. This is not a call to only myself, but to everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

This can be a hard thing to swallow.  But it is truth, how can we go on with our lives knowing that Jesus devoted his life to teaching us, loving us, dying for us....and here we are some of us living as if we are unaware of the greatness and holiness that is his name in which he has authority over all creation.  And how can we live knowing that some people in our world have not yet heard of his wondrous love? Therefore who will God intrust to go, who will be willing to stand up and say "Here I am! Send me!"[Isaiah 6:8]?

And so this is a challenge not only for myself but you as well.  Live your life daily as if your work has not yet finished, live it so that others will know instantly that you are a son/daughter of God and see the love God has for you and them as well. Know the weight, the responsibility that you carry. This isn't a game, it isn't something you do on the weekends for fun, but it is the most important mission you will ever carry out in your life.  To proclaim to others the good news of Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Savior of our souls with how you live and what you say.

I hope that this has encouraged you in someway today, please let me know your thoughts.

A.

Monday, June 20, 2011

TODAY IS WORLD REFUGEE DAY.


Question: What does it mean to be a refugee?

Answer: This is someone that has been forced to flee his/her home country because of war, persecution or violence. Due to this they cannot return to their country.

Since meeting Everfound I've been doing a little research and since also today just happened to be World Refugee Day this seemed like the perfect moment to give you guys some information and websites about the topic.

This spread sheet is from the UNHCR --> The UN Refugee Agency.  It gives you the number of refugees living in the United States from different countries around the world from 2000-2009.  The numbers are staggering, but it also makes me wonder how many people out there are still in need of refuge from the violence and persecution that they experience every single day.  Do we really know how many there are? No, but we can pray and trust God knowing that he has it all in his hands.

This is my prayer for all the refugees in the world:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Please keep those who are refugees in your prayers on this day, and for those who are facing war, persecution and violence in their countries now let us pray that God would give them strength and courage to face what is in front of them with confident hearts in our Jesus.

Mosaic Family Services Inc. is another excellent source for more information about refugee's and what you can do to help.  Please check out their website and inform yourself and others as much as possible.

Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith
On a side note, recently a friend and I went to a public library book sale these were books that were withdrawn from the shelves for one reason or another. I picked up a falling apart book called:

Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith edited by Susan Bergman.

I have to say that I am not even through the first writer and I've already been brought to tears several times, because of the fact that 1. These people deserve so much better than what they've suffered and 2. I realize that the way I live is not enough and I am unworthy to even speak the name Jesus Christ.

This first chapter is written in such a wonderful way, it is not only highly informative, intelligent(I've had to read it over and over again just to get what Bergman is explaining), but it is also poetic and captures my heart with every word. And at one point after describing several instances of martyrdom she simply says: "How to draw close to them?" She is speaking of when Paul wrote to the Corinthians "When one member suffers, all the members suffer..."

How can we, how can I, live with this knowledge of persecution and violence towards my own people and live life so non-chalantly? How can I take the Word of God so half heartedly and make light of what people are WILLING TO DIE FOR?  So today I encourage you who are reading, take a stand for what is right and pray for those who seem so far away, but share in the same inheritance that we have through Jesus Christ the one and only Savior of our souls and rightful recipient of all the honor and glory in the world.

Tell me, how do you feel about this?

A.

Friday, June 17, 2011

We are a Kingdom people.

What do you get when you have hundreds of teens + a handful of youth sponsors + a secluded spot in the country + worship + a powerful Word?

CRAVE CAMP 2011

To describe my experience in a few words I would have to say I was stretched to the brink of myself, but also that I found a new humility and a new found appreciation for anyone who leads a youth ministry.  

To be placed in a position of authority is a huge step for me, to be in charge of 14 people takes a lot of strength of which the only way I was going to have any was to rely on God one day at a time. I found myself thrown into a group of teens that I didn't know, dealing with boy crazy girls and girl crazy boys, unorganized chaos of a youth camp and I suffered hours upon hours of burning hot Texas weather. 

However I also found myself being filled up by Christ in the morning through quiet times, receiving an awesome Word from Jay McPherson, encouraging teens and seeing them transform and open up about their lives/hardships/dreams/prayers, had an amazing time of truly abandoned praise and worship with a band called Everfound, took a lot of pictures with my camera and I got to have a lot of interesting conversations that inspire me to keep pursuing my calling as well.

Jay McPherson really brought the Word to the teens this week.  His main message was about being a Kingdom Worker.  That how we live our lives, how we carry ourselves shows who we are as a people in Christ.  He brought in some staggering information like:
"Out of 1,000 non-Christians asked to choose one word to describe Christians the top three answers were: 1. Hypocritical, 2. Judgmental, and 3. Anti-Gay."
And so he questioned the silent crowd: I wonder if we asked people what they thought about Jesus if they would say those same things? No, they wouldn't. They'd say that he was sinless, honest and true.  That he had compassion and forgiveness abounding, and that he loved all people no matter what.  And he challenged us to take what we'd learned and show those in our sphere of influence who Jesus really is and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

And so in this one of the main themes this week was edification of fellow believers.  We are constantly as a people tearing each other down and as the body of Christ we should be building each other up, leaning on each other when we need help and we should be able to be vulnerable enough to ask for prayer when we need it. I shared this passage with my small group ( TEAM PINK!) one morning as it seemed like they needed a glimpse of what the kingdom of God should look like:
[Acts 2:42-47]
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This is a radical idea.  They fellowshipped together, broke bread together, they had everything in common.  This is what I imagine the kingdom of God should be like if it were established on earth with sincere and glad hearts we would serve one another and devote ourselves to the teachings of God and live our lives as living sacrifices[Romans 12:1-2].

Jay often left us with a question to respond to or a statement that really impressed upon my heart, here are just a few:
  • God loves and calls all people unto himself and desires all people to actively respond to that love through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The kingdom of God is the way of the SERVANT.
  • What does it mean to be citizens of Gods kingdom?
  • Jesus is more interested in the interior of a persons heart(the internal condition) than the exterior appearance.
  • God doesn't say to us, "I'm content with 60% of your heart/life." He wants it all.
  • God uses broken people to do the work of the church.
These are just a handful, but I really feel as if I let God use me in a way to inspire some teens at this camp.  I saw many transformations even in some young people that weren't from my church, to see it was phenomenal and I am so blessed to have been able to witness something so heart changing. This small glimpse gives me hope for the next generation that will rise up and take their place as world changers.  I am filled with joy.

Another interesting thing about this years camp was the band.  Everfound is made up of four brothers from Russia who's family was forced to leave because of religious and political persecution.  I am going to see if I can perhaps get one of them to do an email Q&A to enlighten us about their testimony and also about the state of the church and about persecution of Christians in Russia currently.  I talked to a few of the band members and it was just so amazing to see how God has brought them through so much and how they use their gifts to glorify God.

© A. Quinn Photography
I took a ton of pictures and they will be posted after I sort through them on my facebook page.
A. 

Prayer Requests:
1. Everfound left late last night to travel for more than 12 hours to their next show and have to be on the road again for another camp starting on Monday. Please pray for rest and strength as they keep using their gifts and talents for God.
2. Pray for the teens from CRAVE Camp 2011, that the fire they experienced on the camp grounds would continue and not die out as the summer goes on.
3. Pray for all the youth leaders and Pastors that volunteered their week for these teens, they need rest and rejuvenation after this amazing yet long week.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lead as He leads.

Youth Camp.

It's the thing that most church going teens look forward to all year long.  It's a chance to catch up with last years friends, a chance to make some new friends, a chance to get away from the city, but most importantly its a chance to get a fresh encounter with God.

This year, as our youth pastor is away for a family wedding, I have the opportunity to be one of only two sponsors that take our teens to this camp(did I mention I'm the only one who has been to youth camp with our church before?).  I'm a bundle full of nerves and excitement all at the same time.  Typically I'm more of a behind the scenes type leader, but now God has put me in this position as a leader for a reason.  I am praying that God gives me strength and wisdom during this week.  I want my heart to be open to what he wants to teach me and how he wants me to guide these 14 young people through His Word this week.

I want to lead as Christ leads, to know when to inquire and to know when to let others speak. To hear His Spirit prompt me in a certain direction and to know when the Spirit is prompting the youth and to let them hear and to let them respond as He directs.


[John 12:49-50]
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

I pray that this week my lips would not speak out of my own mind, but out of my mouth would flow the words and wisdom of my Father, and my Savior.


Prayer Requests:
1. Wisdom and Patience for this youth camp
2. Gordon Griffith is currently in the States gathering some footage for another short documentary, pray for wisdom and hope to get the job done to the best of his ability.
3. A few friends of mine returned from a month long ministry trip to Japan, pray for rest and recovery.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This season.

I am in a season of training. A season of breaking down and building up. I am in a season of continual surrender and although it seems hard, I know that this is God's way of giving me what is best.

Things tend to happen to me while I'm driving in my car.  For instance there is a particular road that I drive every single morning on my way to work.  It goes through some industrial buildings, nothing really special about it, it winds and curves and ends up where I need to be.  Most mornings when I drive I'm a little zoned out only focusing on the road, the stop signs and the stop lights any traffic around etc...but on one particular morning I looked up into the sky and noticed something that I had not noticed before.

Dallas.

Just above the horizon in front of me was the Dallas skyline.  How beautiful it was when I looked up as the sun was just rising and shining just enough to make a slight silhouette of the buildings.  I wondered how could I have missed this?  I've been driving this way to work for a year now and had never noticed it before.

In that moment God began speaking to my heart.  Its our typical human response to, instead of seeing the destination and keeping our eyes and hearts focused on that, only focus on the path in front of our feet.  How long it seems, how at certain times the scenery isn't as pretty as we'd hoped, when we find obstacles in our way or have to take a detour, or when we try and take a short cut it doesn't exactly go as we plan and we have to back track....and we do this very often, all the time in fact.

Its really the same as our journey with God.  We are so focused on the path and trying to figure out how to get to where we need to be, we forget where it is we are going, WHO it is we are running to.

Seeing that Dallas skyline, that I had no idea was right in front of me or how I would even get to it from where I was, but that didn't matter.  In the same way we see where God wants us to be right in front of us and we have no clue how God is going to get us there, but that is why we have faith.


[Hebrews 11:1]
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

It doesn't matter if we can see the whole picture, the entire journey, the map of it all, but what matters is that through Jesus Christ we have that blessed assurance and faith that He knows what is best for us and will guide us there if we just keep our eyes on Him.

A.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You have called me to stand at the edge of the world...

...but where does the world end?

I feel as if I am at a point in my life where this poem seems very relevant to me, and not in an high school english class sense of relevant either.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The page where I found it also had this to say:

Robert Frost on his own poetry:
"One stanza of 'The Road Not Taken' was written while I was sitting on a sofa in the middle of England: Was found three or four years later, and I couldn't bear not to finish it. I wasn't thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn't go the other. He was hard on himself that way."
Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 23 Aug. 1953

I am at a road, I feel as if God is calling me to much more than this and its frightening to say the least. So many things have been changing around me lately and I think I have been in this shocked "I can't believe it" state.  And these are not bad things happening, just new and uncertain things, events that will force me into probably uncomfortable and scary situations which I don't know if I can handle.  Well, I do know I can't handle it on my own that is for sure.  That is why I really need God's hand to guide me to lift me up and support me in this time.  Its about to be a whole new world and not matter my anxiousness about it, I am ready.

Lately I have found myself dreaming of the day that I might be out in the world using my camera as a tool for God's kingdom.  But I have also been feeling the urge of the Holy Spirit that there is more to it than that.  I would like nothing more than to just go, RIGHT NOW.  But I also have been realizing that I need training.  I need a good solid foundation to work from and while I love the sermons and Bible studies every so often at church I feel as if it is not enough and I alone do not have the ability to attempt any in depth rigorous study of the Bible without proper guidance, and tutelage.  And so I am praying and asking God for direction in this area, although I have not and will not make any decisions until I am given a clear answer from God on what my next step should be. I just know that I cannot go and do Gods will unequipped in an age where so many Christians do not understand or even know what they believe let alone are able to actually explain or discuss it without misguiding others.  I do not want to stand infront of God and know that in my ignorance of His Word I misrepresented Him to another person.

I just think about the things that I pour my time into: reading novels, watching movies/tv, sitting at home doing absolutely nothing....where does any of that get me in the kingdom of God? Nowhere.  I want/need to make some changes in my life, cutting out somethings(reading novels etc...) and adding others in their place(more prayer time, reading the Word etc...). How can I know what pleases God if I do not know His Word? And how can I stand up to the enemys tactics if I do not know how to counter him with scripture just as Jesus did in the desert?  And how will I survive when I am the only follower of Jesus where I am and I cannot simply be content with sitting in God's presence and drinking in His Word when I am in need of company or nurishment?

So many questions, but only one answer.  COMPLETE SURRENDER. To forsake everything else and live a life totally set apart for God.  This is the path that I choose and I am glad.

A.

Prayer Requests:
1. I have a friend that will attend Ellerslie a school founded by Eric & Leslie Ludy in Colorado for the summer.  She will be in an intense program and will need plenty of strength to endure and be filled during this time.
2. So many disasters have happened recently with tornados and many other things, please keep these effected areas in your prayers.
3. Please pray that God would give clear direction on the next step I should take in my journey.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Every revolution starts with ONE act of defiance." [Josh Mayo]

TAKS.

The most dreaded acronym in the public school system these days.(until of course they change it AGAIN)

Yesterday I was stationed outside a lovely(yuk) bathroom in which I had to monitor children as they would steal away from tests just to get a minute to breathe. At least thats what I would do. And today was going to be no different, except that last night changed everything.

A friend and I ditched our typical routines and went after God. You know you have those moments where you are just so excited to enter into a house where the main thing is worship and letting the Holy Spirit lead and its spontaneous and God inspired? Yeah thats where we were! I can't remember the last time I felt the presence of God so near to my heart that I was literally shaking and crying, and I saw people just randomly walk up to others and begin praying over them because they were listening to the voice of God speak.

It was amazing. Add onto the fact that the speaker they had come was real, gave it to us straight. After the service was over we talked for a couple of hours about the Word he brought and its sad to say that I haven't gushed over a sermon like that in a while.

"Do you believe that God has a purpose for you in this life? That you are meant to be more, apart of something bigger than yourself?" Everyone in the sanctuary raises their hands in a room of young adults, most of which attend theological institute we are visiting.

"I DON'T CARE." DEAD SILENCE ENSUES. And then he continues: "I don't care because everyone believes it but very few ACT ON IT. I DARE YOU to stop talking and start living."

He talked about so many things, that we are a people motivated not by faith but by feelings/emotions and circumstances. That when we cry out "God I want to be a living sacrifice, I lay my life on the altar! USE ME!" we tend to forget that when God begins to use us/change us pain is usually involved and then we say "Woah...uh that hurts, thats uncomfortable..." and we slip ourselves back off the altar. And then we get back on an emotional rush and do it over and over again...a spiritual cycle of take backs. "Oh yeah I remember when I said I'd devote my life to God, but its really hard." or "Oh yeah I remember when I asked God for direction and he told me I'd be a missionary, but I got really lonely..."

*WHEN YOUR FEELINGS FADE DOES YOUR FAITH KICK IN?

I remember when God told me that in order to do the things that I was called to do it would take much more than what I had thought, and I remember weeping before him bowing at his feet saying "Yes LORD, I am ready and willing to do it for You." But along the way, it got hard, I've been feeling tired drained and, yes, lonely. One thing that John Mayo said that really touched my heart was this:

*NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARKNESS WHAT GOD TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.

What a powerful statement, it was like he was speaking to me. He WAS speaking to me. And not just about that aspect, but every point he hit upon seemed to related directly to something in my current life situation. Thats when you know you've just met up with a divine God given appointment. I was leaning forward in my chair, I was drinking in every word of the message that God had meant me to hear.

"There are a lot of great starters in the kingdom of God, but very few FINISHERS."

I do that a lot, I start something so passionately and then WHOMP WHOMP it was just a passing faze that gathers dust on the shelf. Lord I want to finish it, I want our relationship to last until I walk into your arms, help me to be a finisher.

He talked about Jacob wrestling with God, he was alone. Its easy to believe/follow God in a crowd, but when you're alone, when it really matters its truly hard. And when you fight a battle with God, struggle there with Him about something it'll change you, it'll mark you up, it'll MESS you up but we have to realize that GODS VICTORY DOESN'T COME AT DISCOUNT PRICES. The very thing you curse might be the thing that God allows to change you forever.

Another thing he said about Jacob is that he knew what he wanted, God's blessing. "When was the last time you knew exactly what you wanted? GET SPECIFIC!" God answers specific prayers. So instead of just crying out "Oh Lord touch me, touch my heart, heal my soul..." get specific. Tackle the real thing/situation in your life and tell God, "Lord I really need you to keep me from gossiping because its like verbal pornography coming out of my mouth." And so at the end of this sermon God gave Jacob a new name Israel. This one act or defiance, this wrestling with God brought about an entire nation of God.

And so I sit back and I look at my life and I look at how stagnant it has been and I ask myself, do I know what I want? Do I spend enough time with my God? Do I know what endurance is to continue running the race that the Lord has set before me? Am I willing to lay everything down for the sake of His kingdom and forsake all else? Am I ready to devote myself like the early church to the NEVER CEASING proclamation of God's kingdom? YES. I AM READY.

So today I am sitting infront of the bathroom, and I am reading deeper into this book by John Piper Let the Nations be glad! and I am reading about the sacrifices and the suffering that the first missionaries went through and it gave me such joy to know that they too had a passion for Him, and that there are others that have gone before me, others who are there with me now, and others that will follow me that know exactly how I feel now.

Henry Martyn once wrote these words:

"Whether life or death be mine, may Christ be magnified in me! If he has work for me to do, I cannot die."

I want to life my life like this, willing to do the work set before me and unwilling to let even death make me hesitant to take a step out in faith and trust in my God for all of my needs. Either way he will be glorified in me.

Now I leave you with these final words:

I DARE YOU. STOP TALKING AND START LIVING.

A.

Prayer requests:
1. I just heard that David Wilkerson (writer of the Cross and the Switchblade) was killed in a car accident today. Pray for his family and loved ones in this time of mourning.(Matthew 5:4)
2. Changes are happening, big changes pray that there would be continued unity in the body of Christ no matter circumstance or situation.
3. I am seeking the Lord about what I am to do this summer, take some photography classes or go another route please pray for guidance.
4. Also my friend and I are taking a trip to Chicago for the AWAKENING CONFERENCE put on by Jesus Culture, it is going to be an amazing experience. Please pray for the right doors to be open for financial provision for transportation and such. []

Praise Reports:
1. Easter services this weekend were awesome, our church did a Friday night out reach called Rock the Block and the turn out was amazing. Many seeds were planted so I praise God for that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where did the love go?

When did the relationship between church and artist go sour?


I've been pondering this recently and while I was at the bookstore today just happened upon a clearance book that I just had to get.


Churches and Cathedrals: 1700 years of Sacred Architecture.


This book literally sent me back to my first years in college.  I took four or five art history classes, three of which were not required.  One of my best friends at the time and I took such pride in our knowledge and discussions of art history. I remember never missing that class, always sitting in the front row, talking to our professor after class about a particular slide, lingering after finals to discuss our 10 page paper comparing/contrasting a tomb sculpture and a black-figured amphora.  We had numerous conversations that would last for hours about the thought behind a painting, the slant of light that was brought in.  Or even the unbelievable realism found within a marble sculpture.  I was so full of myself. I think for me if felt good to know something, something that only I really knew and could go on and on about.  I even remember clearly thinking that if I ever went for my masters it would be in art history.  There was even an instant in one of my modern art history classes in which my professor had just handed me back an essay I had written about some piece of art and he said to me "You write about art very well, and articulate yourself clearly. You could have a future in it."


At the time I guess I was flattered because after quitting softball and pretty much giving up on any ambition I had, it was nice to hear affirmation from someone, about something, anything.


Bernini sculptures
I remember the last essay I wrote for art history that I truly enjoyed.  It was of Gianlorenzo Bernini's(1598–1680) sculptures Angel with the Superscription and Angel with the Crown of Thorns(1668) in Terra cotta clay.  Something so simple, so small and unfinished and yet so powerful so breathtaking.  Sometimes I think I choose those to give myself a challenge, but looking back I think even then I was searching for God in my life.  I had known God before, but if you've ben a freshmen/sophomore in college God can easily slip through your fingers.  


It seems strange to me now looking back that through all of my studies in art history how the church began to push artists away, by the way they continuously abused them, used them for the gifts God had bestowed upon them.  And I think its happened to all artists at sometime or another...maybe not specifically by the church, but all artists have been used in some form or fashion.  


Michelangelo, Pieta. (Mary holding Jesus' body.)
I just question myself.  What was I thinking as I studied these inspired men of art, men of God?  I mean how can you create something as marvelous as the Pietà by Michelangelo and not be standing in awe and rapture of God?  How could these men create something so beautiful and powerful without the Holy Spirit guiding their hands and whispering the mysteries of the heavens in their ears?  And yet as I studied I did not see divine inspiration, I did not see hours of work and perhaps maybe prayer?  I did not see sweat, life and passion poured out on their creations...I saw the history.  I saw another grade to be made.


Now as I set this book of wonderfully inspired creations down, I wonder to myself...when did the artist and the churches relationship fall apart?  Art was how people knew of the Word of God before they could read, sculptures and stained glass depicted the stories of Moses, Noah, David, Daniel, Solomon, John the Baptist, Mary, Jesus the Christ and his Passion for our souls....when did the church misuse their power over artists and push them away? When did artists become selfish and soulless forsaking the one who gave them their talents? Making art about themselves and leaving God out?


I don't know. But what I do know is that in all my days I will seek to restore the glory of God into the art world, to use my gifts to magnify his Holy Name. 




1 Corinthians 15:57-58(ESV)
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.



Just found this quote:


"Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better." 
-Andre Gide, French writer.






A.  



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

These small moments...

Today I took a day off from work.  I've been so exhausted and drained, I felt like I was getting sick and so its just seemed like the right course of action.  The day past uneventful really, I was able to unpack from the youth trip, clean a bit and get some groceries which I was in need of desperately.  I opened up the blinds to the patio and realized that Spring is upon us.  I took a walk around the apartment, and down by the pool, it was very nice and refreshing I think I'll be going down there to read more.

As I was resting on the couch of my apartment today I noticed how peaceful I suddenly felt in the presence of God. The blinds gently swaying back and forth as the sun began to set.  It stuck me beautiful how much detail God puts into the little things, like the way the shadows and light changed ever so slightly as the movement allowed or prevented light from hitting the blinds.

I love having these small moments with God.

[Acts 9:31]
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace.  It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

A.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SLAVE: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity In Christ (new book I'm reading)

So recently I've been really burdened by the Holy Spirit with the idea of being bound to Christ and being a slave to him.(You've probably noticed from my reoccurring references to Pauls confession in [Acts 21:13] that he is "not only ready to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."   And through my reading the bible I haven't seen that many references to us being slaves to Christ other than a few here: [Romans 6:15-23] and here: [1 Corinthians 7:21-23].  I was just so pulled in by this verse in Acts and his resilience to do God's work whatever the cost I had to make something to express what I couldn't say which you've also seen in a previous post. So when I happened to come upon this book at a Christian book store recently you can probably guess how excited I was to see it.

[On Amazon]
As I read the inside cover I knew that this book was exactly what I had been looking for. So far I've only read the first few pages of chapter one and I can already say that John MacArthur is really digging deep and giving solid references to the statements he makes.  I had to put the book down because it was late and it was just so overwhelming to take in all the information, every other sentence I was saying "WOW!" (as in wow I can't believe that and that is so true, crazy, insane!)

I will definitely be keeping you guys up to date on how good this book gets.  In the mean time check out the book on Amazon.com. You can read through some of the book there if you want to check it out for yourself, let me know what you think about it if you do!

Prayer Updates:
1.  Our youth trip was a success! The speaker Steve Grant was amazing he really brought the Word to the teens in an understandable and applicable way and the worship was truly anointed!  Check out the band Caste that lead our worship here at their facebook page.  I especially loved when the lead singer/guitarist pulled out his bible in the middle of worship and read [Micah 7:8]! PURE AWESOME.

Favorite worship song from the trip:

"I may be down, but I will rise,
it may be dark, but God is light.


I may be down, but I will rise,
it may be dark, but God is light.


I once was fatherless
A stranger with no hope
Your kindness wakened me
Awakened me, from my sleep

Your love it beckons deeply
A call to come and die
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take Your life

Sin has lost it's power
Death has lost it's sting
From the grave You've risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I'm running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I'm free, now I'm free

Sin has lost it's power
Death has lost it's sting
From the grave You've risen
Victoriously!



Into marvelous light I'm running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way."






Prayer Requests:

1. My friend and I are working on something together, pray that God gives direction and wisdom in everything surrounding this project.  More details to come when God releases me to tell. :)
2. Pray for those suffering in Japan, there is a long road to recovery. Just recently found out through the church that I attend that one of our missionaries there had thought to be missing and the church that was just built there thought to be destroyed. But Pastor Shoei Abe was found alive and the church has little damage, it has electricity and Internet and is being used as a location for relief work.  Japan is a country in which less than 2% are following Christ so pray for salvation to come in a time where hope seems lost.
3. Gordon Griffith is in need of a round trip plane ticket to visit his family and then go back to Thailand so pray that God would be his provider in a miraculous way.
4. Lastly, please pray for rest and strength for myself. I am just feeling very tired and worn down.


A.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Updates...I feel....

A few updates here:

The Work of Art-Remixed! facebook competition is over and I came in second place. It was fun, got some really great artwork out of it too.

The ArtistsWanted contest was also a bust so no money for my future trip to Cambodia just yet...lol I'm actually not really that surprised because the content of my work was all about Jesus really.  And you know how the world feels about Him.

In other news God opened a door for a few of my photographs to be published!  Dr. T.L. Grover emailed me and asked for some pictures of her presentation for a publication.  Check out the website she is affiliated with traffickstop.org. On the front page she has this video:

If you don't know much about human trafficking, start with this video.  Its fairly basic, but it'll get you started.  Find more information on the new tab at the top of the blog: Anti-Human Trafficking Info.  
Thats all I have for today, I think I'm too tired from open house at my school.  

Many blessings to you.

A.

Prayer Requests:
1. Our youth is taking a trip out to west Texas for Youth-A-Rama, pray for safety and strength.
2. Pray for our education system, if the proposed budget cuts are approved thousands of teachers will lose their jobs including possibly me.
3. Pray for my friend Drew who was pulled from his teaching placement because of his mentor teacher, he has to wait till next semester for a new placement.
4. Pray for Gordon Griffith that he will have strength to continue doing the Lord's work in Thailand.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God makes the world seem so small...

Picture this:

A little girl born in Texas. A little girl born in Africa. And somehow God manages to bring them together in a series of events that will change their lives forever.

This is how I think of my friendship with my bff Mariam.  She was born in Africa, and was trafficked into the United States.  God brought her to Texas and we met in high school where our friendship began. We have been through a lot together and I am very thankful to have found a friend as trustworthy, caring, and true as she.  It just baffles my mind how God conducts everything to bring us to our callings and what we are meant to do in life. Let me explain.

This past weekend was the Free the Captives 2011 Houston Conference, this is an Anti-Human Trafficking non-profit that put together a day of sessions so that people can be more aware of the reality of Human Trafficking.  Mariam, having survived it through the power and hope in Jesus Christ, was asked to give a brief account of her story during a session.  She mentioned that I was a photographer and Julie the wonderful director of FTC invited me to take some photos of the event.  The night after the conference I was browsing photos, and just thinking about the divine appointments that God had made that day.

Julie Waters the founder and director of FTC(facebook) is very knowledgeable of groups and non profits that work to prevent and help those that are victims of human trafficking and to bring awareness to the issue.  She was so sweet and kind, she and her husband let us crash on their floor(mattresses) and we had some wonderful conversations.

Ted Wall a speaker at the conference(who also happened to be the Pastor at Julie's church) told how God's gift of art can be used to bring awareness and healing to those affected by human trafficking. His church has an arts non-profit called Vox Culture (linked to their blog/website) who just recently conducted a bus tour/art show to make people aware human trafficking.  I was so glad to meet him because I have not met an arts group that really focuses on the cause rather than promoting oneself.

Now I think of myself as one of God's children that he repeatedly has to tell me things over and over again before I get it and that night it just all of a sudden hit me. You see I've known for a while now that I wanted to be a missionary photographer, that God is leading me toward Cambodia, however there was still a piece missing.  The why, what for, the question of "what cause is leading me there?"  Was I going to tackle everything or just one piece of the puzzle?  Being with Mariam this past weekend, hearing everyone speaking I came to the realization that being friends with her was no mistake.  Our lives are linked and I'm apart of her ministry, and I now know that God wants me to use these artistic gifts to bring awareness to the issue of Human Trafficking in the world.  Its like it just clicked.  I told Mariam about this and she was like "Yeah I already knew that." I laughed because like I said sometimes it takes me a bit.

All in all I'm glad that it took me a while.  It taught me to wait on God.  There are so many opportunities to go to Cambodia with different groups and such however, I needed to make sure there was a clear purpose and objective to my going instead of showing up and having no clue what to do when I got into a foreign country.  Now this gives me a place to work toward.  I know that there is a path to be taken, and I can't wait to see how God gets me to this destination.

If you would like more information on Human Trafficking I will be making a new tab with links to videos and other websites that are useful. Check back soon.

P.S. This morning I received an anonymous email from someone and it simply said this:


[1 Corinthians 15:58]
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Praying for you today!
It was a sweet reminder that even when we forget to pray for ourselves, that God knows when to put it on the hearts of others to encourage us and to lift us up.  Isn't the body of Christ amazing?


A.

Prayer Requests:

1. Pray for Gordon Griffith and his ministry to the Karen people in Burma, Thailand.
2. Pray for Julie Waters and Free the Captives, they are doing an amazing job of educating and equipping people to do Gods work for this Anti-Human Trafficking movement.
3. Pray for Vox Culture that they would continue on using their gifts to glorify God and his kingdom.