Wednesday, January 25, 2012

War Hero.

As you read this know that I'm not saying one way or the other how I feel about  America being in war. I'm only telling the story of one man, John.

I sat next to him on a plane ride from Texas to Seattle. We were only a couple sentences into a seemingly shallow conversation when John began to tell me what the life of a war hero is really like. His eyes shouted with brokenness as he shared his story. 

When John leaves for war he leaves his entire family behind. He has a 2 year old. They hardly know each other. His job on the battlefield is to go before the rest of his team to make sure that there are no bombs on the road. This means that he drives up and down roads, waiting to get blown up. He says, "I'm not scared of death anymore. I'm pretty numb to both death and life." For John life is only an existence that awaits death and the close whisper of death never fades away.  

To train for this type of life, John and his wife (who is also in the military) had to go through a required form of torture.  They are brought up into the mountains as they undergo real life torture. No food, no water, and constant beatings.  They were forced to do things like curl up in a small box that was filled almost to the top with water. They were left only enough room to stick their lips out of the water to breath. They were stripped naked. John said that when the uniform is stripped away, men begin to break down in tears. Without the uniform they feel like they have no identity and they can't find a purpose or motivation to help them fight through the torture. 

"We are trained to kill," John said. "It really doesn't blow my mind when people get back from war and kill their families, their friends, or random people who look at them wrong on the streets." They are use to killing people who make them angry. If somebody looks at you wrong in Afghanistan, you shoot them. John's eyes were filled with horror stories. His heart was obviously ripped up the shreds as he told story after story. He said over and over, "I have done so many bad things." He sat beside me and questioned the "Thin line between feeling honored for protecting my country, and broken because of all the bad stuff I had to do to people to keep it that way." In the midst of war, morality and necessity seemed to blur for John. 

My heart broke. So I did all that I could think to do, I told him about Jesus.

John said that he knew and believed in Jesus but he was unsure about what "Saved" meant.  I shared with him what it means to be saved by Jesus Christ and how He had done it for me already. John stared at me as if he actually believed what I was saying (which was really refreshing...a lot of people just stare at me like I'm a crazy person). He kept nodding his head and randomly smiling as he obviously reminisced on something from his past. After I was finished he said, "Yeah, that's what I did when I was 17. I just didn't know it had a name." John began to tell me the story of his salvation. 

Despite his salvation experience, John admitted that he was not growing in his relationship with God. "I don't feel like I have a purpose on this earth, besides being blown up."When he said those words, the holy spirit began to move as I told John about God's incredible plan and purpose for his life. I encouraged John as bluntly as I could to read his bible, to go to church, and to pray. I told John that his purpose on this earth was to fall in love with Jesus, to let Jesus love him, and to lead his family to the cross. Again, John listened as if he believed in what I was saying.

 John was unsure about most things in his life. Life. Death. Morality. War. Necessity. Family. But when it came to the moment that he spent before God at 17, things made perfect sense to him. I tried as hard as possible to remind John that all of these other things will only begin to make sense when he looks at them through the light of the cross.

 I don't know the end of this story. After 4 hours of talking, the plane landed. We shook hands and we got off. All I know is that John looked more hopeful after being reminded about Jesus than he did when we first got on the plane. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You Fill in the Blank.

Before arriving in Washington, a man prayed over me (Jenna) and left me with something along these lines, "I feel like you will be working with children in the future...I see kids flocking to you." I laughed inside because he obviously didn't know my heart. The funny thing is that I have always chosen children's ministry as my least desired area to serve the Lord. Next thing you know we're in Washington volunteering for childcare and babysitting. I thought ol' boy must've been right. That was until I sat in on The Pathway's leadership meeting and listened to Bobby cast the new vision. While he talked briefly about needs and goals, Kids Ave specifically pressed heavy on my heart. I tried ignoring it but it remained with me through the night. Before going to bed, I got alone with the Lord to argue my valid points- "Are you sure because I don't care for kids too much...but I'll just help out for now...I don't even remember going to Sunday school when I was young so how am I suppose to teach it???....oh and did I mention kids aren't really my thing?" Please don't think that I am anti children. We are all drawn to/gifted in different areas and kids have never been one of those areas for me.

Just because you're not gifted in _______ doesn't mean you aren't called to it (you fill in the blank).

This has been the case for the past year of my life. I have figured out that serving God is not always but usually uncomfortable. It shouldn't have been a surprise to me because all throughout scripture God uses the weak in the world's eyes to display his power. Moses was slow in speech, David was a wee little shepherd boy, Peter, James, and John were rough neck fishermen but God called them out and used them for his glory. 

So what goes in your blank?

Much love!

Side notes and prayer request:
Stacie will start taking our community groups through the story of God on Thursday and Kids Ave will officially kick off with it. We asked for continual guidance and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Also, for the people of The Pathway to have receptive and hungry hearts for what God is doing in Tacoma. 

We now have an apartment! We are almost settled in and making it like home :) It is in perfect timing because our van got sick while we were in Texas and we have yet to get it running...sad day. There are some men in the church who are working to figure out the problem and from there, hopefully we can find a solution. 

Talk to ya soon!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

Christmas - Check
New Years - Check

I love that we celebrate the birth of Jesus right before we begin a new year. Every year on January 1st people begin their "New year's resolution." There is always something that we want to do differently in our lives...something that we want to change about ourselves. Sometimes that is giving up bad habits, sometimes that is starting good ones. Regardless, at the beginning of every year people across the world take a deep breath, put the past behind them, and start fresh.

That is what the birth of Jesus brought with it. A sense of newness and freshness. For thousdands of years people were enslaved by the bondage of laws. Their good deeds were never good enough and their best efforts were always short of what they needed in order to enter into the presence of God. Sacrifice after sacrifice had to be made in order to make up for their inability to reach their perfection. In the midst of our sinful nature was a deep desire for a rescue. This world cried out to God in desperation. We needed a super hero. We needed somebody to reach down and save us from the mess that we had created.

God heard the moans of his children and sent Jesus to erase the gap of imperfection. With the birth of Jesus came the greatest relief this world has ever known. Our God is so good. He created all of the grandness of this universe and even made sure to give us unnecessary details like individual thumbprints and millions of different sunsets. This same God has planned since the beginning of our creation to save us through the sending of his own Son. He met us in the midst of our broken world, born in an animal's trough, with the sole purpose of dying to become our never-ending, always perfect, always fulfilling sacrifice. God became Emmanuel. God with us. God within us. He gave people the ability to have brand new years. To start over.

Let's celebrate our new year with the celebration of Christmas in mind. It is only through Jesus that we can find freedom from this world. This year Satan will bring up past regrets, he will pick at our deepest hurts, and he will twist our minds to believe that Jesus is not enough. We will have days when the car (or van) won't start, when your kids are crying, and work doesn't feel like everything you hoped it will be. There will be days when we lose loved ones, when our hearts feel shattered, and when hope feels beyond reach. But if we can just fight to remember that Jesus came to save us from all of this hurt and disappointment and that one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, we will be aight.

Happy New Year!