Grace explosion

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I wrote this in 2011 but needed to be reminded of it again today.  Maybe you also needed to be reminded of the magnitud of God's grace in our lives- so I repost it hoping that your day is an explosion of grace!

You know what I love? I love when Christians embrace grace so hard that it explodes and oozes out all over anyone who stands near them. Try it today.

Do you have a load of dirty dishes, a mountain of laundry, and children who would rather be chasing each other around with knives than singing Koombaya? Did your homemade yogurt curdle? Did your homemade laundry soap leave your clothes smelling sour? Does your garden have more weeds than carrots? Are you a housekeeping failure?
Did your child get seriously ill from a vaccine? Did your son get hepatitis from your lack of vaccinating him? Did your 15 year old daughter come home and tell you she is having a baby? Did you have to place your parents in a nursing home? Did your two year old paint his walls with peanut butter (or something far worse)?  Is your 8 year old hanging upside from a tree, his arm in a cast from when he fell last week? (You might want to go get him down.)  Are you a mothering failure?
Do you have a husband who comes home and sighs because his personal time is interrupted by you handing him a stinky baby, his son handing him a notebook of unsolvable math problems and you giving him a list of all the ways your day WAS HORRIBLE?  Are you a wifely failure?


Did you forget to read your Bible today? And yesterday too? Oh, and last week? Was the last time you touched your Bible on Sunday when you carried it to church? Did you forget to pray for your kids today? Was your mind filled with terrible language when your neighbor’s dog wouldn’t SHUT UP at 3 am? Did you actually say THAT aloud?  Are you a Spiritual failure?

Did you hear the phone ring and then ignore it because, well, you just couldn’t deal with her today? Did you avoid opening an email from the church children’s worker leader so that you can later say. “Oh, I am sorry, I never got that email?” Did you eat that package of snicker bars that were meant for the food pantry? And the cans of tuna too? Are all that you have left those 15 cans of Rutabegas?  Are you a ministry failure?

Did you start ANOTHER diet today? Which is different than the one you started yesterday? Did you gain 5 pounds on the “eat the snickers that were meant for the food pantry diet"? Did you skip a shower today? And maybe yesterday too? Have you skipped shaving you legs for over a year? Did you throw out your fat jeans because they were too small?  Are you a personal failure?

I have some news for you. Sit down, because it will blow you away. Today I embraced God’s grace for myself, and it’s about to explode all over you!

Guess what? God loves you. He doesn’t care that you are a failure. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS FOLLOWERS ARE FAILURES.

All that stuff above? It’s pretty bad (especially if you kids are chasing each other with knives. I would put a stop to that if I were you). It’s REALLY REALLY BAD. It’s selfishness, it’s manipulation, it’s lying, it’s... well, if you really ate those snickers bars, it’s stealing. You are a BAD person! Yay! You are a FAILURE! YAY! 

Cause guess what? Everything I know about God says that every single person he loves is a PRETTY bad person. A failure. An utter and complete disaster of a human being.

God is a lover of people failures. 

I don’t know how it is. I can’t explain it. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t have any analogies that even come close to describing it. Fathers don’t love this way. Mothers don’t love this way. God is different and HE loves me.

People. Do you get it? Even while I am mired in sin (which will be the rest of my ever lovin’ life) God LOVES ME.

So. You are a failure. Good. Means you are human. Like me. 

Oh, and guess what?

GOD LOVES YOU!!!!

So, accept it and then go explode yourself all over someone with all that pure joy you have.

Disclaimer: I KNOW that God doesn’t want you to keep cussing the neighbor’s dog out every morning at 3 AM. 
And I have found that the best way to find that explosion of grace is by digging into His grace-filled words on more than just Sunday mornings.
But He also wants you to embrace HIS GRACE! And He wants you to do that first.


So, tell me. What will your grace explosion look like today?

Category:

What's up with those Kings?

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Just a little hit and run post to let everyone know some of the upcoming plans so that you can be praying for us over the next few days...weeks...months.

Alfa to Omega has had an incredibly busy season and we have another presentation of the first third of the OT on the 9th of January.  We will be traveling 4 hours each way and making it a day trip.  So please pray for our preparations, for our safety and for our energy.  This is an evangelistic trip made alongside a local Loja City church to an unreached area.

The church youth group will begin to study the book of Romans for the next twelve weeks.  Pray for Dustan as he prepares those lessons and that the group will continue to be unified.  We are running between 5 and 10 youth each week and would love to see attendance stabilized.

Our church has an emphasis this year on discipleship.  Pray for us as we move into discipling more believers, especially within the youth group.  Rebecka also has a discipleship Bible study starting in the new year with one of el Sendero's former employees.

The SIM Ecuador internship program is getting stronger and it looks like we may be receiving several seminary trained couples from Latin America to do their on-field training with us.  This has been one of Becka's dreams since we first arrived in Loja, and to see it happening is very exciting.  Pray for Becka as she continues to nail down details and work administratively (which is not her cup of tea)

Pray for the SIM Ecuador team who will be making plans on how to move forward with youth and student ministries over the next year.  We have identified a local church who has an ongoing work at the university campus and we will be praying about how to join them in that work.

December 31 we will be hosting a New Year's Eve party at our home.  This is a way for us to try out the idea of hosting "El Sendero" events at our home, with the purpose of uniting Christian believers in fellowship and eventually in the work of evangelism.  We have several churches who have reserved for the party and we are excited to see what God will do with this idea throughout the next year.  please pray that God will guide us as we try to unify Christian youth to further His Kingdom.

Pray for Dustan as he continues to meet weekly with Christian and Fabricio for discipleship.

Dustan will continue on in his role as SIM Ecuador bookkeeper for the year of 2016.  It is a role he is gifted for and one which he enjoys.

These are just a few of the irons we have in the fire over the next month or so.  And we appreciate your partnership in prayer as we work alongside our church here in Loja and with the local believers to reach all of Loja for Christ.

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Let's Go

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It's 6 am on Christmas morning in a place that suddenly feels familiar at Christmas time.  It could be that we have now spent 5 Christmases here in Loja or it could be that as Christmas commercialization hits this tiny city it brings with it a sense of the familiar.  Cut out snowflakes, and fake snow dot the windows of shops and Christmas trees have become the norm.

So as a North American-looking "Christmas" sinks southward, I caught myself wondering why it just didn't feel like Christmas.  I spent December trying to capture the awe and the majesty of the miracle birth of Christ.  Advent readings (two per day), a specialized Christmas playlist, Scripture writing...

The truth is, I filled my days with that search for Jesus; but those same stories (read three times each day) were old and stale.  My heart was old and stale even as a longed for the fresh beauty of the Christmas story.

In the midst of so many familiar things, something was missing and that missing piece began to replace longing with sadness.  I kept wondering what was lacking. My heart was in the right place, my actions lined up with those desires... why wasn't I "feeling" it?


Two days ago, my scripture writing led me to a passage I have read an uncountable amount of times in my lifetime.  It was the story of the shepherds and I found something there.  Something new, something I hadn't noticed ever before.

Writing scripture is a new habit for me.  I just began to do it this month and it has been an enjoyable part of my morning routine each day of December.  It slows me down.  It causes me to take in every single precious word and in that slowness I caught something new.

After the big event ended.  The last angel had faded from the sky, the songs still ringing in the shepherds head, the instructions still freshly on their mind but before their arrival at the manger scene we get to see a little bit of humanity.

"Well, let's go.  Let's go to Bethlehem and see this baby."

Said as if there was an option.  Stating the obvious?

As I wrote it down it seemed jolting and out of place, this little quote from the shepherds.  The proceeding scene is so filled with God's glory that the lowly shepherd is quite forgotten.  A sky filled with a multitud of angels singing the most quoted song in history  "Glory to God in the highest.  Peace on Earth, good will to men."

Why do we need to know that the shepherds ended that glorious event by standing around and.. what?  deciding if they were going to actually go to Bethlehem or... not????  Really?

Really.

Really.

They had to turn inwards momentarily, because they had a decision to make.

Of course they had just seen the unseeable and heard the unhearable.  Of course God himself had just revealed Himself in a magnificent way with a promise to reveal himself further.

But those shepherds had to decide for themselves if they were going to take the risk of running off to Bethlehem.

I can imagine them huddled together.
"Well." says one of them.
"Well" says the other, because who can really speak when stunned by angel glory?
"So what do we do?" asks one.

And here it comes.  Here comes the key.

"Let's go.  Let's go see the baby.  Let's go to Bethlehem."

Decision made.  Now action can be taken as faith sinks in and response is given.

And even today, as God reveals His glory to mankind, we, like the shepherds must respond.

We can't just stare at the sky in awe of the angel's song.  We have to come back down to earth.  We have to talk it over.  We have to give faith a practical outlet in response.

We have to take a pause in the advent readings, we have to take a pause in the sky gazing and awe of Christmas beauty to return to our here and now environment and make a real honest to goodness decision.

We have to stop doing all the GOOD THINGS so we can do the important thing...

Let's go. Let's go to Bethlehem and see God in human flesh.

Will you come with me?

Category:

Counting blessings

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I woke up this morning and walked downstairs and saw the after effects of working with youth.

Furniture scattered here and there, a forgotten cell phone, party supplies at the ready, a man-purse hidden under the sofa cushions...
and water in my shoes (?)



And since I have another youth event planned for tonight I started to tally everything that needed to be done.  Get the furniture back, make sure the bathrooms are cleaned (again), make some more jello...
get the water out of my shoes (?)

And as I mentally listed it all, I realized I was counting my blessings.
1. Cristian who comes for discipleship and teaching Dustan Spanish and stays to try to steal my Christmas presents and to help us move all the furniture.
2. Christian and Karen who frantically message me to make sure they have all the details right for the Alfa to Omega performance.  Because they are with us even when they are not.  Faithful in all things and looking in search of excellence.
3. Kaitlyn whose brother is here for a rare visit and who shows up anyway because that is who she is.   Dedicated.

4. Gaby, who is so responsible I never have to worry about saying "Gaby!" (in THAT tone of voice) but who spent half the night dancing and giggling with Weston. Gaby who has begun discipling a new believer on her own and who is so excited!
5.  Weston, who mumbled when asked to move the furniture, and frustrates easily, but whose ideas are creative, logical, and spot-on.  And who keeps everyone rolling on the floor when his overly serious mom takes things too seriously.


6. Eli.  Sweet Eli, a rock.  So quiet and steady but our secret source of strength.  She is also a secret source of the unknown.  Secret talents suddenly appear.  Unknown humor sometimes knocking us over.  It's possible she's the one who put water in my shoes.
7.  Mayu.  Spunky curly haired Mayu who can glare at Weston like nobodies business.  She means business but the spark in her eyes is all for fun.  When Mayu laughs it reminds me how much joy God has given me.  She reminds me that all serious sides should sometimes look for fun.


8.  Rachel and Maddie.  So much of this mess is all their doing.  They came over at 10 am for discipleship class, and stayed through lunch helping me make the beautiful mess that it takes for youth work.  Photo booth on this side, decorations over there, furniture needs to be on the other wall. No it doesn't.  Move it back.  Nope, lets just leave it where we moved it.  The projector doesn't work. We won't give up!  Energy, joy, hard-work, and creativity.  All bundled up in two short term missionaries who are helping me pull this bust season off.  Also, I am pretty sure the lost cell phone belongs to them.  They didn't leave until 9:30 at night.
9. Ricky-  I am almost positive the water in my shoes came from him!  I would bet my dog on it.  No one loves fun more than Ricky and if there is a dent in the landlord's car it's because he over enthusatically played basketball.  If there is a dent in my house, Ricky probably put it there with his boisterous play.  Nothing fun happens without Ricky.  Nothing happens with Ricky without fun.


And so I tally the to-do list, all the while thinking of the blessings God has given me.  I put the cell phone in a safe place.  I open the man-purse to find Rocky's script.  I wonder how I ended up cleaning a bathroom every single day of my life.  I check to see if the first layer of jello is firm enough to add another...

And I think about the blessings God will send my way tonight.  Carlos, Walter, Lorena, Rebeca, Sarita, Luca, David, Karen, and Maria.

My blessings are numerous.  And wonderful.  Even when they come with a messy house and mysteriously wet shoes.

Category:

Celebrate! Rejoice! For the promise has been fulfilled!

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We have an extra busy and an extra special weekend planned and although we wish you could be here in person, we pray that your prayers join ours and that you are blessed with all the goings-on happening half a world away from you.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Loja and we have a full day of celebrating planned.  Preparations start today for this day of rejoicing.

BUT, just think of all the YEARS that have gone into the preparations for today.

Thousands of years ago a man looked up at the stars as God promised him that, through his obedience, the entire world would be blessed. A covenant worked through the loneliness of leaving a known-to-him-home and traveling into the unknown.  Years of journey and heartache of promise delayed, and as he looked up into that sky full of stars he had no inkling of an idea what God really had in store.

A few thousand years ago a baby was born, preparations made quickly for a young woman to deliver in an unsterile environment while shepherds rushed to be by her side and majestic kings from afar off began a similar journey, albeit one that would take much longer.  Years.  A slow journey to offer this infant king gifts.

Not one of them thinking.  Not one of them having a clue of the effect that those unfurling events would one day have in a mountainous region of the world a life-time's journey away.

But that baby.  He knew.  And he made another journey.  One that would shatter the entire world into bits of sorrow and mutual joy.  As he journeyed to his death surrounded by the laughter and tears of those He loved more than His own life... He knew.  He knew that in December 2015 a tiny little church would celebrate.  And that all the preparations, all the journeys that came before and after would be rejoiced over.

In the past century of our own lifetime, someone made another long, arduos journey to a country where the gospel had not yet pierced the darkness.  It had not yet brought forth the Light of salvation.  Some of those who made that journey were themselves pierced by spears.  But, I bet they knew.  I bet the past had taught them that God has purpose in preparation, that God brings results from our journeys.

Over 23 years ago another journey was made.  Homes were sold and possessions given away.  Tickets were bought at a price that would make mere men shudder and the long journey from the Northern mountains to the Southern Andes was made.  A journey that must have taken days.  A new language.  A new culture.  The loneliness, the desperation, the heartache that must have been waiting for them.

But, I think they too, had an inkling of what God had in store.  As they looked into the star fill sky they had to have remembered that covenant of so long ago.  They had to have though of all those who had journeyed the way, long before they had even taken their first breath.

And with those thoughts, they began to work.  To mold, to teach, to disciple.  And with each knew believer, God's promises from so long ago began to be fulfilled.  With each person buried to death, and resurrected to new life, the preparations became worth the pain.

And tomorrow, our celebration is not one of just the last year that brought us through painful conflict and into the glorious arms of reconciliation and forgiveness.  Tomorrow, our rejoicing won't be just about the new creations that God has brought into our family or the spiritual growth that has shot forth through the souls of our congregation...

Tomorrow we will celebrate a journey started years ago.  Eons ago.  Long before our imagination can even consider.  We will celebrate a journey that continues far beyond what our imagination can possibly grasp.

We will sing.

We will pray.

We will break bread together and we will embrace one another.

Meanwhile, most of you will be standing in another congregation so very far from us.  And you will also be celebrating.  Because you were also a part of this.  You too had a role and a part to play.

And you too benefit from that promise made to a man so very long ago as he tried to count the uncountable stars.  Your own journey to salvation began with the preparations in the distance of time and your celebration like our church's will last for an eternity.

Glory to God in the highest!  Peace on earth and goodwill to all men.


Category:

It's a post and run!

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1.  It's August in Loja which mean the Virgen of Cisne is coming.  This brings a slew of changes to the city of Loja as thousands of visitors come in. Please pray for our physical and spiritual safety during this month.
Here's a link to read more about the Virgin and her importance to the Province of Loja.

2.  We have moved!  After months of searching and praying we have found a beautiful home that is large enough for us to continue our ministries from home.  It also has a bit of a yard and is very close (walking distance) to church.  Bonus!

3. We will be traveling to the states and Thailand in just a couple of weeks.  Dustan must attend an SIM bookkeeper's conference in Thailand and I will be traveling with him.  On our way, we will drop the kids off with Grammy Pammy and Papa.

4.  When we arrive back in Loja we will be transition to work with our church in building a ministry to youth and students.  This will be an additional ministry to what we have already been doing with two main changes (besides not being at the coffee shop).  1.  Rebecka will not be a woman's leader at the church 2. We are backing out of all English ministries to make time to focus on youth and student ministries in Spanish.



5. Cotapaxi is erupting.  We are praying that this majestic volcano goes back to sleep and besides not interrupting the lives of those who live close by, that it will also not cause problems for our upcoming travels.


Here's a link to read more about Cotopaxi

6.  There has been some recent political unrest in Ecuador that is causing some protesting and rioting.  This is nothing to be worried about as far as our safety goes, but it is a huge prayer concern of ours and we would love to have you pray for Ecuador as it suffers through some political growing pains (a minimizing of the situation at best- but I am a missionary, not a politician :) )

7.  The Alfa to Omega drama group has become a much loved group of young people for me.  I love to listen as they share their heart for God with each other and with others.  They recently went on a mission trip to a neighboring town and village where they presented the drama as well as held a family fun fair and told their testimonies.


8.  My inbox is filling up with requests for short term missions teams to join us.  This is exciting but pray for me as I pray about how many of these teams I can reasonably handle each year.  I desperately want to be a good steward of the time God has given me.

9.  Speak of short term- I will be managing several short term missionaries towards the end of the year.  Several of them are from South America and this excites me to no end!

10.  And speaking again of short term missionaries- We recently saw our good friend Cesar who arrived home to Ecuador from his field.  Hearing his stories blessed our hearts so much and renewed our passion for seeing Ecuadorians believers reach their world for Christ.

Category:

Alfa a Omega Mission Trip

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The drama group Alfa a Omega has been busy preparing for their mission trip to the communities of Gonzonom√° and Portete.  They have been revising scripts, planning crafts and games, and raising funds.  Their garage sale was successful enough to meet our needs and there is some talk of having some team t-shirts made!

Here are the plans so my faithful prayer partners can be in prayer for our trip:
August 14th- Travel to Gonzonam√°
August 15th- Family Fair in the community of Portete as well as some fellowship time with the youth there.  We will be presenting 9 stories during the fair as well as manning craft and game stations.  The youth have planned the entire fair.
August 16th- Church in Gonzo and a repeat of the family fair in the Afternoon
August 17th- Service Projects which may include building an animal enclosure on a farm and painting a mural at the local high school.

Please pray that these youth will see the reward of following Christ into unknown communities.
Pray that this trip will spark in them a growing interest in missions.
Pray that the gospel will be clearly communicated to the people of Gonzonom√° and Portete.
Pray for the last minute planning and for the details of travel to all be worked out.
Pray for safety.
Pray that God will be glorified in us and through us.



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