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    "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

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    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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Mission Trip Musings

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten days or so wrestling, reflecting, and stewing.   I’ll admit it:  I’m kind of confused.  It seems to me that after a spending a week in Mexico digging, pushing, lifting, building, smashing, sweating, serving, setting, pouring, and generally laboring, I should feel something more.  In my mind I suppose I thought I should have a better sense of what God wanted me to learn, and what he wants me to do next.  I should be emotionally overwhelmed by God’s grace and strength and mercy and have this enormous desire to DO SOMETHING.  Shouldn’t the raw emotion of the experience overwhelm me and naturally drive me to the next thing? 

Oh, I’ve been praying for direction…asking for Him to show me something. Something that I can do or something I can say.  You know what keeps coming back? 

Surrender.

 That’s it.  Surrender.  I read a book, I see it.  I listen to a podcast, I hear it.  Surrender.

I’m like: WHAT DO YOU MEAN SURRENDER, I DID SURRENDER!!!  Didn’t you see me get on the plane?  Didn’t you see the trowel…the bricks…the mortar?  How about the thumb, did you happen to catch the thumb? (Because it’s a constant reminder for me that I was there doing what you wanted me to do.)  Should I take out the pictures?  You could see me in quite a few of the pictures, stupid goatee and all, doing what I know you asked me to do. 

Surrender.  That’s all I’ve been hearing.  And until this morning, I didn’t get it.  This morning I read James 4:13-14:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

 Yeah, I’ve heard it before.  I’ve read it before.  But this morning I came to the realization that I’m not living it like I should be.  A week of a “little more surrender” than usual (and the ‘usual’ probably wasn’t much if I’m honest with myself) isn’t what God was teaching me.  He was telling me that it’s not about me.   He was telling me that a week in Mexico every other year isn’t the pinnacle of what He wants for my life.  Somehow (careful, this might hurt) I don’t think Mexico was all that big insofar as God’s ultimate plan is concerned.  I know that he stirred in people’s hearts.  I know that he did amazing things in the lives of the mission’s team, and the lives of the people we helped in Mexico.  But for all of the amazing things He did, I can’t help but think that God has a whole lot more for all of us.  He has a lot more for me. 

Ultimately, I have no control over my life and what will happen to me.  I hate that.  But, I figure I have a choice:  Either I can live a guarded, safe, controlled life or, I can acknowledge the fact that I have no control and simply surrender. 

Surrender is hard.  In fact, it really scares me at the moment.  It means I will worship beyond my capacity to worship.  It means I need to love beyond my capacity to love.  It means I give beyond my capacity to give.  I need to share with a boldness that is way outside my comfort zone.  I need to serve with a general disregard for my own comfort. There will be risks, fears, failures, and huge screw-up’s. 

None of this is new.  I have heard it before.  I’ve ignored it for the most part, but I’ve heard it.  Having convinced myself that I was doing what God wanted, I tuned out when the surrender message arrived.  That was stupid.  (For those of you who were sending the message, I am sorry if I ignored you.)

So let me ask a few questions:  What might happen if I surrender…I mean really surrender?  What would happen if I lived with the realization that every breath, every word, every step was granted by God?  He gave it, he could take it away.  What would happen if I worshiped God every Sunday with the same emotion and abandon that I worshiped him with on October 11?   What would happen if I pressed ahead every time I had fear or doubt, but knew what I had to do? (Airplanes and scaffold come to mind).  What would happen if I spoke when he told me to?  WHAT WOULD HAPPEN? The answer is:  I don’t know.  I hate that answer.  I need to know.  I need to know the plan, potential outcomes, strategies, solutions.  I need to know…..and then it comes again:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

If you knew me say six or seven years ago, you might look at me now and say:  “Wow, he’s really changed…God has gotten a hold of him.”  That may be true.  But I have to tell you that a move from 20% surrendered to 40% or 50% surrendered is still well short of the mark.  Metaphorically speaking, I could boast that my glass is half-full.  Somehow I think that God sees it as half-empty (and there’s a big crack in the glass.  That bothers me.  I hope it bothers you for me.

This surrender thing will take strength.  I don’t have it, but I know where to get it.

You know, it’s amazing:  the Bible often refers to us as a vapor, a mist, a cloud, a breath…here then gone. Did you see your breath the other morning?  Didn’t give it a second thought, did you?  That’s how we are:  Here then gone.  Yet for the brief instant that we are here, God not only created us, he named us, protected us, loved us, planned the whole thing out, and even restored us when we rejected him.  And his plan continues to unfold, and all he wants is for me to jump in and live it.  There’s the strength.  And there’s my weakness.

I feel a little better now.  I got an answer…and a bunch more questions.  I know I’m going to mess this up, probably today.  And again tomorrow….maybe not the next day, but there’s a pretty good chance I will botch it then too. 

I told my wife right after I got home that I was going to write something about Mexico.  I knew that I would—it’s what I do.  I tried to write several times, I really did.  After a sentence or two I would trash it and move on.  For me, Mexico wasn’t just about Mexico.  It’s about today and tomorrow and the day after that.  That didn’t make any sense until this morning.  Yes, it takes me a while sometimes.  For those of you who have been waiting for me to say something about Mexico, I’m sorry it took so long. 

For the record, I wrote this for me.  I’m going to need to refer back to it tomorrow, and the day after that.  Accountability, I suppose.  I’ll share it with a few people—people who aren’t afraid to smack me upside the head and let me know I’m only at 40%.  If you are reading this, maybe you are one of those people.  Or, maybe you’re at 40% too.

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