I haven’t written a lot in the last year. Why not? Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.
But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday. Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.
And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive. Let’s start here. This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”. That title intrigued me. Can we really live every day better than before? Really? What if this is as good as it gets?
I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life. After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet? Why am I medicated? What is there to be anxious about? I know my identity: I am in Christ and Christ is in me. “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31) So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life? What am I missing?
CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)
Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”
That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church. That’s what got my attention. Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working. And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something. What am I searching for?
Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption. I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:
The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).
The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)
We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven. It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven. And why would I want to? Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God. Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.
Deception? Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth. But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do? If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.
Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface. Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good. If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together. Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:
“Maybe you know this. When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word: Whatever.”
Yes, we are being lied to. If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck. It’s an effective tactic. It works. And our job is to fight against it with truth. The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe. The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’ -Acts 17:28 (NIV)
Offspring. Yes. We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him. We are children of God. Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven. And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?
Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father? That’s what he wants for us. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” -Matt. 6:10 (ESV) If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth. And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.
The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Stay connected. Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle. Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged. And be a treasure hunter for others too. Help them to see the gifts all around them. Life is hard and we need each other.
That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth. No church is perfect. How can it be? The church is made up of imperfect people. But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope. And that’s why I love my church. That’s why I go every week. Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not. None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.
A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives. If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
I am in
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
This is my identity
In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:
“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”
Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago. He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.
I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God. A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together. Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight. We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:
keep going keep treasure-hunting and keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.
We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.
Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994? Here’s my story told through the story of my son: Joshua The Prophet
And those meds, why do I take them? Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters. They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together. We’re blessed to be a blessing.
“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
–Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook
In 2013, when Joshua was 11, he and I were blessed to be able to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica with Joshua Expeditions through Kensington Church. I brought my iPad with me and sent email updates home every day to keep all of our trip supporters “in the loop”. Once I got home, I compiled all of the emails into a sort of “blog”, added pictures and sent out the PDF to all of the friends and family who had supported us on our trip through their prayers and financial gifts. I’ve always thought about sharing that “blog” here, but I’ve never really felt the push to put the work into doing so. Until now.
You see, I’m still shocked that I went on the trip in the first place. Looking back, it was an amazing trip, but it was also full of new experiences and uncertainty, which would normally put a person with my anxiety issues over the edge. When I first heard about the trip and read that it was “ideal for first-timers” and for those “11 and up” and realized that Joshua would be turning 11 a couple weeks before the trip, I knew we had to go. And it was that certainty that pushed me through all of the uncertainty.
But when we returned home and I thought about all that we had done, I couldn’t see myself going back. What if it didn’t turn out as well? What if I did completely fall apart? What if I didn’t have the energy to push through the challenges? So many “what if’s” (from the enemy, of course, as that’s where most “what if’s” come from), that I thought the only way I would go back was if John would come with us. So, for the past 3 years, we’ve casually talked about John and I taking Joshua and Jordan in 2017 when Jordan turns 11. But John really doesn’t have an interest in going, so it remained casual talk. Safe distance. No commitment.
Something changed last week. I had dropped Joshua and Jordan off at SpringHill Day Camp in Troy and was driving home. As I drove, I had this vision of taking Jordan to Costa Rica, just the two of us, or maybe the two of us with another mother-daughter team. And I knew exactly who that mother-daughter team was, I just didn’t know if God would give them the same vision, or if the vision was just to encourage me to take Jordan. A gift from God to light a fire under me. So, I came home, asked John what he thought of the idea, he loved it, and I sent an informative email off to my friend. Included in that email was this blog. I thought I would share it with you as well. It’s about time. 🙂
Friday 7-5-13 @ 10:24pm
We’re at the Marriott by the airport, getting up at 2:45am to catch our 6am flight to Costa Rica.
Night-night! Love, Beth & Joshua
Saturday 7-6-13 @ 2:30am
Got 2 hours of sleep, woke up, got ready and now I’m sitting here drinking coffee waiting for time for Joshua to get up.
Blessings to you! Love, Beth
Saturday 7-6-13 @ 9:42am
Feels like afternoon, but it’s 8:25 in Houston CDT. Costa Rica is on CST, so we will be 2 hours behind you. Our flight doesn’t leave until 11:30 (about 3 hours from now). We just found bacon and eggs for $14 for the 2 of us. Yikesters!
Love this Logitech keyboard. 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day to me.
Love you and talk to you soon! -Beth & Joshua
Saturday 7-6-13 @ 10:31pm
We are home from a lovely dinner and settling into our rooms for what will hopefully be a much longer night sleep than last night. 🙂 Two hours was not nearly long enough (nor was Joshua’s 3 hours), but I did manage to sleep on both planes (Joshua didn’t – he was too busy visiting with friends – can you imagine?).
We are at the Country Inns & Suites, so any contact info you had for the Radisson is not correct. That was a mix-up of dates. They had plenty of room at this hotel for this week and it’s the hotel they’ve stayed at all 7 years, so it is the natural choice.
You are all on the blog list, so you should be receiving a blog update each night. Now that we’re here, Joshua and I plan on putting our electronics away for a few days. It was great to talk to Ma, Papa, Jordan and John on Facetime tonight and also to Rick on iMessage. I’m glad we got to connect with you. But don’t be concerned if you don’t hear from us for a few days (other than the blog). I’m so glad that Rick was able to help Ma & Papa get Facetime working. Great job, Uncle Rick!! 🙂
Have a good couple days. Much love to you all! -Beth & Joshua
Monday 7-8-13 @ 12:42am
Or really good morning, as I think it’s 12:30 am your time. Getting out my iPad to set the alarm for the morning, and thought I’d send you and update. I don’t think a blog post went out last night and we just got home from dinner, so I don’t know what their plans are tonight.
Today was a great day. Long, but wonderful. The food here is so fresh and delicious and I had no idea that rice, black beans and scrambled eggs taste good together, but they’re fab! Joshua mixed his together too and agreed with me – yum!
We went to church where we’ll be working this week, they fed us lunch (delicious again!) and we started getting ready for the medical clinic tomorrow. SOOOO many medicines to unpack and repack (we could only take sealed containers through customs), but we got a big chunk of it done before it was time to go. We traveled all around San Jose in our 2 tour buses, briefly stopped at an open air market and road the buses up the steepest hills I’ve ever seen to get to our dinner destination. The view of San Jose was incredible – so many lights going on and on, twinkling and dancing in the distance. There was beautiful dancing at this restaurant and we didn’t leave until about 9:30.
We’re up at 6am tomorrow to meet with everyone at 7am, 7:30 breakfast and on the bus by 8:15, so I better sign off. It will be a busy day getting everything finished and ready to see 400 patients this week.
Love you all! Beth & Joshua
Monday 7-8-13 @ 11:47pm
I got to Facetime with Dad and Jordan for a few minutes before we left for dinner tonight. I tried John, but he had already left the store (it was 8pm your time). Jordan got to say hi to lots of people on our team of 57.
Started out the morning with a small stomach ache (I’m sure I ate some hidden gluten yesterday, but not much), running a few minutes behind (really tired still from getting home so late last night and not getting enough sleep), and a bit unsure of what our day would look like.
Our day turned out to be wonderful. I am on the welcome team for the medical team and our plan was to wash people’s feet and offer them a pair of flip-flops and maybe paint their nails if they wanted while they waited to see the doctor. We weren’t sure if anyone would let us wash their feet, but out of the approx. 50 people we saw (34 adults plus children), all except about 4 let us wash their feet. A couple women cried and I got to hug almost everyone. They don’t just give you a hug and a pat. They REALLY hug you and squeeze you. Really, I was the one who got to receive the hugs. It was just beautiful. I told them “Christo te ama” which means “Jesus loves you” and they all said “Amen, amen”. They were so sweet.
We spent the morning finishing up our 400 first aid packets, counting out pills and putting Spanish labels on everything. The first patients started coming around lunch time, so we stopped for lunch so that we could see them at their 1pm appt times (they were an hour early for the appts). Our original plan was to wrap up around 3:30pm, but it was just after 5pm before we were done with the last patients. Off to the hotel to freshen up quick before dinner (that’s when I tried Facetime) and then off to the restaurant. Everything is so fresh and wonderful. And when they say “fruit punch” it’s REAL fruit blended into a punch. Or they serve a wonderful peach tea that everyone loves (especially Joshua).
We arrived home about 8pm and shared together as a group until about 9pm. It was really neat to hear about everyone’s experiences on all of the different teams. The construction team got to meet the family today who is receiving the new house. We all get to go see the finished product on Thursday before we head up the mountain to go ziplining.
I better get to bed. They need us to come earlier tomorrow, so we need to meet at 6:45am. I got up too late this morning (too rushed), so I’m setting my alarm for 5:15.
Love you all! -Beth & Joshua (who is asleep up in his loft bed – hopefully he’ll get a full 9 hours tonight, from 9pm to 6am, as he was REALLY exhausted tonight. He even laid his head down on the dinner table when he was done and almost fell asleep there). 🙂
Wednesday 7-10-13 @ 12:10am
Started out the morning taking pics around the hotel and posting them on Facebook. I told Joshua he should be very proud of me for getting so much done on the iPad so quickly. 🙂 I tried to Facetime Mom & Dad (but I think I was too late – it was already 8:30 your time and I’m sure Jordan was already off to camp) and tried John, but he was probably busy with customers. Tried again tonight, as well as Rose & Mr Dean, but no answers. Thankfully, when we tried Rick & Delia, they were there and we got to chat for a few minutes before leaving for dinner. Tomorrow night we won’t be coming back to the hotel before dinner, so we probably won’t be able to Facetime at all unless we catch you early enough in the morning.
Today was a great day. We saw about 50 patients yesterday and I believe we saw 101 today. I didn’t wash nearly as many feet today, as I wanted to give other people a chance to experience it (VERY emotional for some people), but the couple people whose feet I did wash were very impactful. One dear woman kept crying every time I looked at her. We hugged a lot and one of our team members who spoke some Spanish came just in the perfect timing for me to ask her how to say that I am this woman’s “Sister in Christ”. When she told her, the woman’s face lit up and she grabbed me and hugged me even harder. She was so sweet.
I ended up making number tickets this morning and gave them to each adult as they came in to keep everyone in order better today. So, my job revolved around welcoming people and getting them set up with clipboards to start giving us their medical info. I also picked out a lot of flip-flops (matching up shoe sizes to what we have) and painted some nails.
Oh, Rick, I think the picture you saw of me in the blog was of me helping a woman pick out nail polish after having her feet washed. Our welcome area is a hallway, so it’s a bit crowded, but it works.
Our meals were all great again today and Joshua’s highlight of his dinner was having a lizard of some sort (which was on the ceiling in the restaurant) poop right onto his hand and his plate. 🙂 He laughed so hard that the tears were running down his cheeks. They offered him a new plate of food, but he was already done. And it rather spoiled his appetite too. 🙂 He wasn’t nearly as exhausted today as he was yesterday. He did manage to get about 9 hours of sleep last night, so that was great. My body just really wants to wake up at 4:45 (6:45 your time) and I don’t have time to fall back to sleep again, so I just get up. Makes for a more relaxing morning too having extra time.
We should be able to go see the completed house tomorrow after 4pm. It’s up and the roof is started. Our biggest challenge tomorrow is going to be something we have absolutely no control over – if people come on time for their appts. We are praying that they will come on time or early and that we’ll be able to see everyone before 4pm so that we can head to the construction site. I know we all want to meet the family and see the house. We haven’t finished until after 5pm today and yesterday, so we would appreciate your prayers for tomorrow. Thank you!
Sharing at our debriefing each night has been really special. And spending time with everyone through out the day has really bonded us all together. I really feel like we now have 55 more people in our family (plus Beth and Jimmy from Joshua Expeditions).
Mom – Beth is Beth Andersen, the sister of Don and Dennis Andersen. She looks just like Don when she talks! And Jimmy is from Costa Rica and tells us all about the country. We have decided that Jimmy’s bus (the smaller one) is the best bus and we all try to get on his bus whenever we can. No offense to Beth Andersen. 🙂 She’s great too.
Ok, time to go to sleep. Love you all! -Beth & Joshua
Thursday 7-11-13 @ 12:32am
I feel like these e-mails are getting later and later each night. And we just found out that we might be back REALLY late tomorrow, so don’t be surprised if there is no e-mail at all tomorrow night. Maybe I’ll just write quick to tell you we’re still alive. 🙂
Today was another amazing day. I spent most of the day charting kids’ heights & weights on growth charts. It was more relaxing that doing the welcome/intake/feet washing/flip-flop fittings and a lot of other people still wanted the opportunity to wash feet, so I was good with that. Later in the morning I had a chance to go up to the kids camp to see well over 200 kids in all different activities that our kids’s camp team had planned for them. I also took my camera today, so I got lots of great pictures of the kids and of people back in the medical clinic. I was really happy that I had waited to take pictures, as I really got to capture quite a bit of what I really wanted in a short amount of time.
Later in the afternoon, I got to go help out where the doctors work, filling prescriptions and saying goodbye to people as they left. Some of them had seen me at the beginning and the end and they looked confused – like I had a twin or something. 🙂 The pastor taught me to say “God bless you” (Dios te bendiga) the other day and I got to say that a lot as people were leaving, as well as “Christo te ama” (Jesus loves you). We’re all slowly building our Spanish vocabulary and it’s been really fun.
Sonja (our trip leader) and the camp director (Flory, which means “flower”) were leaving to go to the kids’ camp over in Guarari about 3pm and Nancy, our medical team leader, said I should go with them, as I was done with my job. Thank you Nancy! What a wonderful opportunity to drive over with a small group of women and one little boy from the neighborhood who Flory watches. We also called him Flory’s GPS, as he tells her how to get around that side of the city. 🙂 Joan (pronounced “Joe-an”) was his name and everyone loves him. When we got to Guarari, Joshua said, “Joan!” He was very happy to see him. What a special little boy. We all prayed for him later at the construction site, as Mariela really felt that he is going to make a huge impact in his life. He’s just that kind of kid. It was beautiful to hear Joshua join in on that prayer for Joan too.
We were only at the Guarari kids camp for a few minutes before it was time to head over to the construction site. The kids had been there since about 1pm and their time was up. We did get a few pictures before we left, but I can’t share them until I get home and can download them on the computer. When we got to the construction site, we were all overwhelmed by the fact that people live in these kind of conditions. Susan shared tonight that she’s been in a lot of proverty-stricken places in her life, but that city poverty feels much worse. Being in Africa out in the bush, at least you’re surrounded by nature. But in the city, it’s just filthy.
What a bright spot in the middle of all of this to see the newly constructed home. And we got to completely surprise the family with the furnishings. They had no idea that the house wasn’t empty. After everyone on the construction team had a chance to share, and the pastor prayed for them, they got to go into the house all by themselves. They screamed when they saw the inside. Screams of joy. We let them have some time and then came and knocked on their door as their first visitors. But it had rained through our whole ceremony, so our feet were pretty muddy and we didn’t want to dirty their brand new house, so just the construction team went in and the rest of us took pictures from outside. I’ll share those after we get home. It was just beautiful.
We went directly from the construction site to dinner and arrived back to go directly to our debriefing. Lots of people shared tonight and it was a wonderful meeting. The kids and teenagers commented that these people have so little, yet are filled with so much joy. Joshua agreed – why are they so happy? He concluded that it could only be the love of Jesus that fills their hearts with joy. I completely agree. Our “stuff” weighs us down, but these people are free to be generous with whatever God brings into their lives. It’s really beautiful to see.
Tomorrow is our last morning at the church and Beth Andersen warned us tonight that it will be very emotional saying goodbye and that we need to leave plenty of time to do so. She said “Saying goodbye takes a long time in Costa Rica”. 🙂 We have to leave the church no later than 1pm tomorrow to get to the zip-lining mountain on time. But God completely answered our prayers today and everyone who wanted to see a doctor got to see one and the rest of the medical team was on the bus by 4:05. Whew!! I know He will answer our prayers again tomorrow.
We got to talk to John on Facetime this morning and maybe we’ll have a chance to try Mom & Dad & Jordan again in the morning. We’ll see how it goes.
Love you all! -Beth & Joshua
Friday 7-12-13 @ 12:27am
As promised, I am writing to tell you that we are alive. 🙂 We did all 12 zip lines today and they were AMAZING! We finished up at the church this morning with a very emotional send off from the pastor and were off to the zip lines. Then we went from there to dinner & shopping and this time we managed to buy a few things (no bargaining this time).
We have to be on the bus at 6:30am, so I am going to bed now. Figure I need to get up at 4:45 to be ready on time. We take a tour bus 1.5 hours to the catamaran, then eat breakfast on the dock and then take a 1.5 hour catamaran trip out to Tortuga Island, where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. Tortuga means turtle. 🙂 We’ll be on the island for 5 or 6 hours and then we take the 3 hour trip back to the hotel. I’ll try to send another quick “we’re alive” e-mail tomorrow night. 🙂 We have a 6:30am flight on Saturday morning, so we’ll want to head straight to bed tomorrow night.
I just gave my SD card to Sonja for her to use pictures for the blog, so check it out Friday. You may see some of my pics from Thursday (the only day I took pictures). Just go to Sonja’s e-mail from a couple days ago with the link to the blog and then click “home” to get to the home page (which will probably show you today’s blog once it’s done). Please pray for Sonja. She looks exhausted. Too many late nights up working on the blog, thank you cards, and other trip details. No rest for a great leader.
It was great to talk to Mom, Dad & Jordan this morning on Facetime. I don’t think we’ll be Facetiming again until the airport, if I can find a wifi signal.
Love you all! -Beth & Joshua
Friday 7-12-13 @ 11:55pm
What a day! On the bus to Tortuga Island at 6:30, breakfast on the dock at 8:30 and to the island by about 10:30. Took more pictures today on my camera, so I’ll download those when I get home. The camera battery is now dead, so I’ll charge that at home too. It lasted just the perfect amount of time.
We snorkeled in the ocean (lots of beautiful fish!), road on a banana boat being pulled by a fishing boat (with a 75 HP Yamaha, may I add), ate a lovely 4 course meal on the beach (in the shade – very nice), rented a 2 man kayak for an hour so that the boys could paddle around and it ended up being used by about 6 people, which was really cool, played in the water, and watched as 9 people from our group got baptized in the ocean. Wonderful!
Then we got back on the boat for another 1.5 hour ride, which was really nice, and a 1.5 hour bus drive during which most people slept (you guessed it, I was talking the whole time). 🙂
Dinner, shower, packing and now heading to bed. Joshua was so exhausted that he took his shower and went right to bed with no dinner (he wasn’t hungry). I could only eat veggies, as we were having pasta tonight, but it was the perfect night for it. I wasn’t really hungry either.
Joshua fell asleep on my bed, so I’m up in the loft tonight. I just posted a quick pic on Facebook. Bittersweet tonight – happy to be going home, but really sad to leave. It’s been an amazing trip for everyone.
Should be home in about 24 hours if all flights go well. We should get into Detroit about 8:30 tomorrow night.
I wanted to share with you a video that we recorded at our new building a couple nights ago. It’s a “thank you” video to all of our customers at Sportsmen’s Direct, but it applies equally to our employees, founding ProStaffers, suppliers, friends, family, really everyone who has supported us over the last 6 years. It’s been a crazy ride and we wouldn’t have made it without all of your support and prayers.
I also wanted to wish all of my blog supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for supporting me and my blog over the last 18 months.
Here’s our annual Christmas collage card:
If you see me live and in person, please ask – I have a hard copy version for you. 🙂
If you’re in the Metro Detroit area (or the Orlando, Florida area), please join us for one of 46 Christmas Eve services at Kensington Church (your choice of 7 different campuses). Free tickets are available by clicking here. If you’re not in the area, I believe Troy will be live-streaming their services: click here to live-stream.
And, lastly, I wanted to pass along several blog posts that have meant a lot to me over the past year. Feel free to check them out if they sound like they apply to you:
1) What in the world was God thinking when he created us? Worth It
I had the honor and privilege of meeting a man named Jaya Sankar in the year 2000, while I was on staff at Kensington Church. Jaya was visiting the US, raising support for Christ’s Evangelical Mission (CEM), his ministry back home in Andhra Pradesh, India.
“In 2000, Jaya Sankar, an already successful pastor and church planter, started reaching out to the thousands of homeless children in the communities surrounding Rajahmundry – a city of over a million people in Andhra Pradesh, India. What began as a small initiative to reach forty kids has grown to nearly two hundred in the Grace Children’s Home and expanded into a holistic ministry reaching a broad spectrum of forgotten people, including hundreds of widows and aging poor in Rajahmundry.” – Impact India 360.org
Part of Jaya’s story was recorded on video back in 2000. I don’t want you to miss a single word, so I transcribed the video below. But don’t stop there. Take another 5 minutes and let Jaya tell you his story, with his rich Indian accent, and watch his face light up as he shares the power of what he experienced. Click here for Jaya Sankar’s Story.
“When I become youth, growing, I got so many doubts in these Gods. Who truly real God is. Which God is powerful? Which God is true God? Because we have so many gods. 33 million gods are there.
So I approach my Hindu priests. They also did not give a good answer to me. Finally I approach the Hindu temple High Priest. He told me and taught me a mantra, a chant, and told me, instructed me, to recite 100,000 times a day. Like that, I had to continue it for 100 days.
So I went to the river at night time, at midnight, I have to go in the water to the neck (water comes to here). I am standing in the water, having two rosaries in my hands, reciting this mantra 100,000 times before sunrise. My temple High Priest told me when I do this ceremony, ritual, reciting 100,000 times every day for 100 days, the God of Light will appear to me and will set me free from the darkness and from the sin. He will give me salvation. I was after truth. I want to see true God, this Light God. So I made up my mind, whatever it may come to me, my body, I want to see God. I want to see God.
So I continued, I fulfilled 100 days, but no Light God appeared to me after 100 days. I was disappointed very, very much. Then I decided there is no God. These Hindu priests, temple priests, are simply deceiving people in the name of God.
Then I was in a great hopeless condition, misery, agony. I was totally deceived. A lot of struggle going in my heart and mind. What is the meaning and purpose of the life living on this earth? A rich man, a poor man has to die one day. A young man, an old man, a child, has to die one day. What is the meaning? I also will die one day, so let me die. Let me die today. I don’t want to wait until death comes to me. I want to die today and see what will be there happening after the death.
Then I went to the railroad track and I wanted to put an end my life under the train. So I was waiting for the train in the midnight and a great light touched me, focused on me, then I thought the train is coming. But I did not hear the sound of engines or train. But instead of the sound of engines, I heard a voice, “I am the God of Light who you are seeking.” And I’m surprised so much and I was not able to open my eyes because of the great light. I was just rubbing and closing my eyes and I said, “Who are you?”
Then he told me, “I am Jesus”. He told me he is the Lord God. He shed his blood for me. He paid the debt to the karma on the cross of Calvary and he made me free from my sin.
Jesus Christ promised me to be with me, to help me, to guide me throughout my life. I never, never forget that day in my life.
Jesus Christ is living today. He is powerful God. He’s not only the ancient times, He’s God of Old Testament, the God of New Testament, he is alive today, right now in 21st century. I am the living witness for him.”
If you enjoyed Jaya’s story, grab a copy of Jeff Petherick’s book “Wavelength: Tuning In To God’s Voice In A World Of Static”. Jeff tells more of Jaya’s story in his book, published in 2007. Here’s the synopsis of Jeff’s book from Amazon:
“Did God Stop Speaking? Or Did We Stop Listening? Hearing the voice of God is like listening to the radio if you re not dialed in to exactly the right frequency, you’ll get nothing but static. Wavelength reveals what happens when a nonreligious businessman learns to tune in God s voice… then dares to obey it. His unorthodox adventures in following Jesus will challenge your thinking, kick over a few sacred cows, and reveal how you can have your own two–way conversations with God.”