Tuesday, March 01, 2011

the call to missions

The first night Peter took us to 3 common passages that are used to encourage missions. In his words we often feel guilted or maybe shamed into missions. We see the negative a lot of times in these following passages. We see the pressure but lose sigh tof the relationship/the heart of it all.

Matthew 28:19,20 so here is one of the famous missions send out. so here yes Jesus is sending out the disciples but let's not forget that at this point they had all been together for 3 years. Jesus wasn't just saying hey you guys go and I'm leaving but rather go and share with others what we have experienced together in relationship over time and I will be with you until the end. The message of the gospel is so much more than truth announced it's about a relationship with Christ like the disciples experienced.

Psalm 67 sometimes this can be seen negatively... so there are lost people not adoring/glorifying God so we gotta go tell people about Jesus so they glorify him(imagine this said in a forceful way). It's true people aren't glorifying Him but in this psalm we see relationships at the beginning and the end. In the middle there is joy. The Lord is transforming and blessing people so that in turn they take Christ to the nations so that they may glorify him and know this experience with Him.

Genesis 12 sometimes we're taught that oh you've been blessed so you are required to be a blessing to others or you feel guilted because you've been blessed. Yes we are oh so rich in that we have first and foremost the Gospel message in our lives. But we also have a roof, a house, a shirt which compared to the rest of the world makes us technically rich. We should glorify the Lord that we have these blessing and in turn use this privilege we've been given to share Him with others, we should let the blessings flow out to the nations.

In all this where is God's heart, what is it for, what are his feelings/thoughts for the nations? His heart beats for the nations. Ask yourself how does God's heart beat for (insert the people of your city)?? So I ask myself today How does God's heart beat for Italy, for Florence? Then I ask him and long that as His heart beats for Italy and Florence mine would beat the same for this nation and this city. I wan't his heartbeat for Italy/Florence to be my heartbeat.

reflections from Nove37 Conference

Just home from the Nove37/OM young adults missions conference and I feel great...spiritually,etc. not so much physically. Trying to recover from a bad sinus infection, fever I picked up down in Pescara, Italy. Despite this the conference was really an amazing time and I can most definitely see the Lord's hand in the timing of it for me personally. I wish you could have all been there to here it first hand form Peter Mead but I 'll hit hte highlights here and share what moved me most. I find myself quite often these days losing sight of the vision, my calling, God's plan or rather the motivation of my heart to engage in missions in Italy...whatever you'd like to call it. I think this is normal over time as the reality of the hardness of the soil sets in, tough days culturally, and all sorts of things seem to assault you and I believe the enemy also uses these things to draw you away from the Lord and discourage you that you might eventually give up. But I find myself after 8 1/2 years off and on serving here in Italy still choosing to remain. This is mainly because deep down when I scrape away all the crap, yes I said crap, that I let distract me, fight against me, etc. and see once again the Lord's heart not just for the nations but specifically for Italy I am revived, moved with compassion and am once again solidified in my decision to serve in Italy.

The last few months or so I have been going back and forth on being certain of my calling to remain in Italy not so much because of lack of need here or love for the people but because it's honestly a hard place to be. I know a lot of people think living in Italy is a dream come true and it's glorious all the time but umm wake up call that's not so. Maybe for a few months or so but then reality will set in and the day to day struggles, hardships,etc will begin to take a toll and I know if we aren't certain of our calling and reflect often on God's heart for the Italian people and teh depths of all of this we will cave. So once again being in this hard place letting the junk take over I was in desperate need of seeing God's heart once again and also seeing my heart. It just so happens the nove37 conference was where the Lord allowed this to happen. So the next few posts will talk about just some moving things I heard while there and wanted to share not just for others but also for me to keep these words ever before me so that I don't lose sight of the mission..the passion of God.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What's up with the mysteriousness of God

So this afternoon I had one of the most fruitful and interesting spiritual conversations with one of my italian friends. The funny thing about it all is that it seems to have stemmed or been spurred on by another event that involved a lot of sin, anger and hurt between two believers, myself and another. It's an event that is yet to be resolved but I find it utterly intriguing how the Lord works and the ways He chooses to do things. I mean really I've been praying for this friend for about 3 years now and though we've had countless spiritual conversations few end in a place where I feel my friend has actually understood any more about the Gospel or christianity in general. But yesterday and tonight that was different we talked about how christians aren't perfect people and they aren't even always nice people. I told Him it's somethign that makes me sad but that is part of the brokeness of the world. He remarked that he'd found out two of his co-workers religious beliefes. One is orthodox and htey have a 5 hour church service while hte other is muslim and is required to pray for 5 mins. 5 times a day. My friend was like religion is so strange it seems just another thign that divides people and can't it just be an internal thing, personal. I was able to talk with Him about how yes it is personal. That's the difference between religion and a relationship. We talked about how I long to foster this relationship I have with God in me but that doesn't mean I am perfect. Another friend added in that we "hang out" with other Christians for fellowship and when the godly community is functioning as it should it is able to point people to Christ, to point each other to Christ. But when it's not functioning and sin has entered in then it's messy. I told him in regards to the ungly event I'm a part of right now that if anyone outside had seen it that they would have been hard pressed to see God. He was like what but how are people enlightened by God acting like that. My same question!! We talked of how yes we are not perfect now but that one day we will be. We are selfish beings now but striving to become more like Christ and because we have Christ in us we are often times able to see right and wrong, sin, etc and that as my relationship with Christ others can see God through me. He thought this was interesting because he says we're all selfish and really God's the only non selfish one who really cares about people. In the end though I believe the Lord was working in Him. It's the first time I believe he has ever really understood that it's all about a personal relationship with Christ because yes we are dirty, nasty, ugly nad sinful people who need a redeemer. It made me smile and marvel at God all the more. How could he possibly use the sheer ugliness of what has been happening lately in my life to bring my friend just a tad bit more understanding of the Gospel. I mean really, God, couldn't you have found a less ridiculous way, a less hurtful way for me or something. Yet I praise Him that he is ever so slowly and gently bringing this friend closer to Christ. I long more than anythign for this person to know the Lord. If you think about it please pray for these two situations the messy ugly one and the spiritual one going on with my friend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Agape Student Video

This is a video a few co-workers/friends and I worked on for a couple months. It's the first of what we hope to be a series of videos that challenge students. It's in Italian but I think you can get the premise of the video just by watching. The idea is your daily life and all the things that get your attention and time but then stopping and reflecting on much time you spend in your relationship with God during the day, how much do you influence those around you daily, how much time do you spend studying the Bible, etc. then it shoots back to starting the day over from the top and changing how we approach the day what we do with our time,etc... Enjoy!

SPOT AGAPE 2010 from Gstudios on Vimeo.

The goodness of the Lord

Since about last January I'll be honest as always and say I've doubted the Lord's goodness, his plan for me and wondered often if I could really trust Him. Many days I answered no to these things and I tried to figure out how to still be a "Christian" but work it out better for myself by taking the control of my life from God. I can't say I walked away from Him but just simply chose to not engage with Him and I began to believe lies about His character and his promises. It has and still is a long road in that spiritual department but I will say over the last month He has show me some glimpses of who He really is, reminded of His promises and that they are trustworthy, He has provided a couple of amazing times with some of the glas in our ministry and well dropped a few things in my lap that provide accountability for me to at least engage with Him. I love those times when He shows me his goodness and the good He says He has for those who love Him. I know I am far from deserving of it but yet even in my valley of dark and struggling days He shows himself and He lets me see Him. Just this morning I was reading somewhere in the Bible for my study tomorrow and it was a verse about the plans He has for us but what caught my eyes was that it said those plans came from His heart. It somehow makes Him more real to me and allows me a glimpse into the depths of His love for me. THe fact His plans for me, for us didn't just come out of his good ideas box, off His list of things to do, out of the fleetings of His mind but rather they came from His heart. They had love, purpose, and our best interest in mind when they were decided for each of us. It's a small nugget I know but for me righ tnow those things are huge to see.

Quasi Decembre...Davvero?!?

Wow! I can't believe it's almost December and well I feel like I'm still struggling to get my feet planted back here this semester. There were a few team changes,etc. as I spoke of earlier but really the problem is more personal. Perhaps it's the place I find myself in life...29 1/2 yrs. old and just realizing that even if I still feel 23. Every couple of days a plethora of thoughts and questions run through my mind that at times create anxiety or fear in me. I wonder what'next for me, is Italy still it, will I end up alone here with several staff leaving recently, who am I as a real adult, what are the passions the Lord is developing in me, more time with my family?, if I ever got a different job what would it be, what are my big dreams/desires for life, where are the Lord and I going, what does He have in store for me, who am I becoming as His daughter and oh so much more. My brain seems to never stop so much so that I often flop around at night for hours thinking about it all or have dreams about it. My desire right now though is to find my peace in Christ, trust Him and his plans for me and my life but I feel like recently the enemy is set on tempting me to doubt, worry,etc. Not much more to say on this just things I am pondering at the moment in life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Italian Perspective... from our Ntnl. Director

I wanted to share this video with you from our new Italian National Director, Franco Bosio. He and his family are incredible spiritual leaders for us here in Italy and I am excited as well as blessed to be workign alongside them in Italy.

The start of a new fall...2010

I arrived back in Italy Sept. 5th after 3 months away in America. I must admit when I left in the Spring I was in a pretty rough place personally, spiritually and with my job. Not to say that I didn't still love Italians and being in Italy but several factors drove me to some pretty significant depression and doubts about my faith in God. The time away over the summer to just be away in a place that was extremely familiar (Yazoo City, Ms) and very predictable along with some great family proved to be a huge blessing to me during my time of struggle. I was talking with a teammate recently about just the heaviness of the environment in Italy and she told me that we all felt it but she'd come to realize what it really is is a low grade constant stress. Like we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop whether it be an insane gas bill, a washing machine flooding your house, a rejection at the immigration office, a discouraging conversation with a student or some other craziness. This stress keeps us from every really fully relaxing. I can say I have felt that for sure and then on top of it there just seems to be something that feels heavy spiritually here. Those things together along with the Lord working in your life in some significant ways, refining you, revealing sin, and more can make for some tough times here.

Since last fall actually longer I think I've been in a low grade yet steady period of mild depression. Looking back on it all and thinking about how I felt I can see it very clearly now. This past January it seemed to all fall apart and I broke down into a time of severe depression. For me there is no shame in depression, admitting it or even working through it. I don't believe it makes me any less of a Christian or that it's a sin issue. I do believe there are many factors and one of which is the enemy at work in our lives trying to destroy us spiritually using every tactic possible. But thankfully the Lord allowed me to come to the realization that I was in this tough place and to ask for help. Some pretty incredible people have stepped into my life over the last few months and I can honestly say I am doing significantly better, that's not to say there aren't still tough moments for me. But in the depths of who I am I know the Lord has to be here at work in my life and I am every thankful for that.

Moving on like I said as I came back on Sept. 5th I was unsure of how I would really be doing emotionally and spiritually as I stepped back into this environment, culture and uncertainty that can sometimes be my job. The first week or so back felt really different and alone in some ways. There are no longer any stinters(1-2 yr. staff) in my city and one of my good friends/teammates has left and gotten married. So in my neighborhood there are really only 3 of us now in terms of American single crusade staff. Others are in the city but with families or they live further away. I had thoughts of what hte heck am I doing back here, can I do this, am I happy, etc. but I also knew I could not trust those feelings and emotions immediately. I needed time for people to come back from the summer and then for ministry to start up. So I pushed through making decisons to trek across town to hang out with other staff and teammates or just go play at the grocery to keep myself doing well with the depression and emotions. It seemed to really help.

The last couple days I've really felt a turn around in how I am feeling. Really back to myself, enjoying Italy, excited about ministry and all the changes this year, but also a little more ready to jump into working on the rough realtionship I seem to have with the Lord right now. Don't worry I haven't stopped being a Christian but I do believe I am in a significant and crucial place with the Lord right now. It's going to take some work on my part and well I know He's already at work from His side. I'm praying for a desire to pursue Him and the ability to fully know and experience Him. If you think about it please feel free to pray about my realtionship with the Lord specifically. I'm also strving to be honest about how I am doing but also not ashamed of the place the Lord has me. Thanks for being on the journey with me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Did you know???

Some interesting facts about the spiritual reality here in Italy.

32,000 (out of 33,500) Italian communities have no established evangelical witness
• Only 10% (of expatriate missionaries) on average return for a second term
• there are 616 official religions in Italy
• there are an estimated 100,000 recognized fortune-tellers
less than 5% of Catholics are actually practicing
• Islam is the second religion in Italy. Jehovah’s Witnesses are as numerous as all Evangelicals put together
• 2.6 million foreigners live in Italy
• in Milan alone more than 1000 teenagers commit suicide each year

Would you take a moment and pray about these things?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

keller on lostness, God's love, etc...

There is way way too much to recount in chapter 4 of the book but I want to highlight a couple phrases that stuck out to me personally because they are things I can relate to over and over again in my life. The title is Redefining Lostness and Keller talks about signs of elder brother lostness and younger brother lostness.

One of the signs of elder brother lostness according to Keller is a lack of assurance of the Father's love. He says that because we are unsure of God's love we try to live up to a moral code to earn our salvation. Problem is we're never sure we've arrived at being good enough for Him. So we simply aren't sure God loves us and delights in us.

Though I might not always come right out and tell you this is where I'm at or how I feel it's often my reality. Many times I may not even see this lack of assurance in my Christian life but if I look below the surface behind all my symptoms I see this is the root. Some of the symptoms he mentions are a lack of wonder, awe, intimacy or delight in one's conversations with God. I'd say since the summer of '05 this has for a majority of the time been very true of me. Most of my life prior to this time I'd say I already struggled with feeling emotionless in general. But I started to explore the roots of this in '05 and well the venture continues... Keller tells us to think of 3 kinds of people: a business associate we don't really like,a friend we enjoy doing things with and then someone we are in love with and who is in love with us. He talks about our communication style with each one. I'll skip to the one about the lover since this is one of the phrases standing out to me. He says that "with your lover you will sense a strong impulse to speak about what you find beautiful about him or her". Personally I find myself doing this sometimes with people in terms of God being the lover here. But too often I can look and see that this is really lacking in my relationship with God. Or often times I find myself telling students and others all about God's beauty, greatness, power, grace,love, etc. because I do believe it's there and He is all of these things and I want so badly for others to fully experience even if I don't myself. I hold out hope that perhaps they will experience it 100%.Problem is I want to know why it isn't this way for me. Why can't I feel it, be assured of it, fully embrace it?? It's not like I always am out there consciously choosing to seek out other Saviors or talk about my other beautiful lovers. But deep down or rather all over I feel very little and most times nothing. There's no emotion, no feeling, no nothing. That opens up a whole other area in my life. Too much for a blog. However, I am not content with this state of being. I refuse to accept that I will never fully get the Gospel and never fully be assured of God's love for me and His delight in me. Sometimes I think I'll never get it 100% myself but I've yet to give up the battle to do so. I believe and know that ultimately God is good and He does what he promises. Usually in his own timing or in his own ways though.

So the place I find myself at the moment is admitting the yes I'm not fully sure of God's love for me and that coupled with my feeling very little makes for a strange and confusing place to be for a Christian whose job is full time ministry. It'd be the same kind of place for any other Christian with any other occupation though I think. So the other night I was attempting to describe my current state of being with adjectives as I lay in bed. This is what I do most nights. Around 2,3 or 4 am when I finally crawl under the covers I begin to just think, ponder, wonder and then dialogue with God. Usually goes on for a while and well I find myself barely sleeping. Anyway, back to the other night... as I thought about a more thorough description for my current state of being I avoided the "dry" word because I wanted to honestly get at the root of what I was feeling or rather not feeling. I began to imagine this place that was pretty large but empty, a light but hazy shade of gray, with an abounding silence where I was all alone. It felt a little lonely at first but mostly it felt calm like it's ok to be in this place and not understand it, not really know how to go forward in it, or exit out of it. Just a place to kind of just be and think.
I would describe this place as where I currently find myself spiritually. I think I'm there just being and wrestling with God and the Gospel. And I don't think it's a bad thing just tough. To end this post here's a couple sentences from pg. 70 of the book that caught my eyes.

"If you've become a Christian out of being an elder brother, you can even more easily slide back into elder brother attitudes and spiritual deadness. If you have not grasped the Gospel fully and deeply, you will return to being condescending, anxious, insecure, joyless and angry all the time." (keller,70)

I logically know the Gospel and have accepted it but I believe mostly I don't deeply and fully grasp the Gospel in my heart and a large part of that comes out of my mistrust of God's heart, my lack of assurance of His love for me and my issues with feeling/emotion. So this is what I am wrestling with. Welcome to the journey.

come back later for more ramblings...

Reading...The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

So if you've read the last couple posts or so you know that there's been a lot of contemplating, thinking, searching,etc etc going on in my life. Well that season hasn't come to an end just yet(not that it every really will). The last couple months or so like I said in the last post I've found myself all over the map emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Many people many not see it from the outside but inside there is an ever flowing and raging river of questions, confusions, doubts, and the likes. My time spiritually has been what some or rather the christian culture would call dry. I find myself wanting to revolt at the use of the word or phrase. It seems so cliche and so well non-chalant(sp?) about the current state of my spirit. My Bible has been left and lost off and on during this time. To confess there where days I didn't really even think about it or know where it was. I actually went to a christian conference and absolutely cannot remember even thinking about it when packing. I don't say this to somehow brag or show off the state I am in. There is nothing glorious or desirable about it but this is where I find myself recently. Since returning to Italy I started reading the Prodigal God at the suggestion of an Italian friend. The first four chapters or so tell the story of the "man who had two sons" more commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son. Keller uses these chapters to show how actually the story is about two sons that are both lost and both refusing God. He draws out what each of these two types of people would look like spiritually-one the rebeller and the other obedient to the letter of the law. To very inadequately sum it up he's telling of how we're really trying to be self saviors and in control. Though one son is "good" and the other "bad" both are alienated from the father because of their wild actions and moral conformity. Read the book to really understand the hearts of both sons. Way to much for me to explain it all here and I know some may be thinking but the older son did everything right why was he left out in the cold in the end. So I say purchase a copy of the book and read on...

Moving along through most of this I was like ok ok got it. Yeah I see that tendency in me to be a pharisee law abider trying to earn my salvation but there's also a bit of the rebeller in me. Keller takes time to redefine sin for us as well just in case we don't quite have it down yet. "Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don't obey God to get God himself-in order to resemble him, know him, love him and delight him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Saviour and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don't believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves." (keller, 43) So in the end what God is saying is sin isn't just doing bad things or wrong things but rather putting ourselves in the place of God as Savior, Lord and Judge.

Then Chapter 5

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jan. 11th, 2010...where I'm at

So over the last couple months my emotions, feelings and state of being have varied wildly from really good to what I might call deep sadness of heart mingled with confusion and some doubt. But the Lord has been faithful even when I am and continue to be unfaithful and lacking in discipline in my life. I've found myself questioning the goodness of the Lord and how and why He does the things or allows the things He does in the lives of His children. And then there are times when an unexplainable peace overcomes it all. I'm intrigued with the Lord and all that He does. No I don't understand it all not even a fraction of it and yes sometimes ok often I wish I did. I'm sure you many of you at some point or another how felt what I'm talking about. Though I've spent very minimal time in the Word lately there have been a few songs that consist of mostly scripture that I just can't get out of my head. It's those promises made by the Lord to His people that keep me going, give me hope and allow me to get up again day after day even when I may not feel like doing so or even when I'd like to actually run the other way. The whole cd is amazing but two Shane and Shane songs in particular have been speaking to me: For the Good and This Is Who I Am. Check them out on itunes. So today Jan. 11th at 11:20 pm I'm feeling good and for today I've felt anew a glimpse of His goodness in my life and a joy in using the gifts He's given me. The sun came out today.

I just finished 500 Days of Summer. Great movie and oddly fitting for the time in my life I find myself in. So go watch it. The artsyness and music are some of my favorite parts. Not your typical humorous or mushy chick flick.

So Dark is Europe

30 Days Of Prayer for the Muslim World