Thursday, November 10, 2011

Distraction

Over the past few weeks, we have been studying worship as a congregation. We have been learning how to worship better as a community of believers. While discussing this topic amongst NewSong band members, I know that I'm not the only one who is learning from this. The idea that we need to take every moment captive for the Lord Jesus during worship on Sunday morning isn't a novel idea. It's what is expected of all of us as Christians for our Sunday morning routine. However, I have been feeling like we really need to examine that line. It's easy to say, but not so easy to do. Being focused, leaving our outside thoughts behind, and surrendering to the Spirit amongst other people is not only hard, but it's scary.
I'll let you in on a big secret. I work for weeks to get a Sunday morning service ready. I've been through the service ten times before it's Sunday morning. Being the worship leader, I come ready to praise God on Sunday morning. Jim talked about being expectant about our time with the Lord. It's my job to be expectant about that time!! But believe it or not... (here's the big secret)... sometimes I'm thinking about other things while I stand up there. Now, don't worry. Not the whole time! I worry that the electric is playing the solo, or that the drums are coming down in volume or if my battery is about to die. What I've come to know over the years is that one of the areas where the Enemy works heavily in my life is the area of distraction. For example, I love studying the Bible at night before I go to sleep. (I dream every night.. The Bible tends to help those dreams be happier! Unless, of course, I'm reading about a battle.) But sometimes, I find myself sitting in the bed filing my nails instead of reading. Or I am headed to Starbucks to study my Bible and all of the sudden, taking a run seems like a better idea.
Now to be honest, taking a run isn't my favorite thing, so you can see how powerful this distraction thing is!

It's hard for all of us to concentrate on Sunday mornings. I know some of you wonder if your kid is okay in Sunday School. Some of you are thinking, "My feet hurt. Will she let us sit down?" "That hair sticking to the shirt of the woman in front of me is driving me nuts. I wonder if she'll notice me grabbing it..."
We all struggle with this. So this Sunday, as we come together to worship, I implore you to declare to the Lord that you will not be distracted! Tell Him that He is worthy of all of our attention and that the Enemy has no power over you. "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you" (Romans 16:20)

Thank You Lord that You are not offended by our human, wandering minds. Let our thoughts be taken captive by You! We love you and want to worship You and give You all the honor and glory that You deserve! We will not be ashamed by our worship this Sunday because You have never been, are not, and will not ever be ashamed of us.


Therefore, go forth and be not distracteth!

I promise, I'll be praying that prayer with you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scents

I know that this seems like an odd thing to talk about.. but I have a fantastic sense of smell. I don't have it in the way that you can blindfold me and I can name whatever you put in my face. Meaning, I don't necessarily IDENTIFY scents well, but I certainly can smell extremely well. I can smell when someone has been in a coffee shop, even if it was hours ago. I can smell when you've been to get gas, grab a drink, or when you didn't shower this morning. I tend to be extremely sensitive to smells of people around me. Just ask my boyfriend - I won't hug him even if he even so much as thinks about sweating. It drives me crazy sometimes because I don't want to be near people when I don't favor the way they smell. There are awesome people that I don't want to be around because their smell drives me nutty. There are some people that I'll instinctively scoot closer to solely because they smell good.

When I read the Bible, I find at times that I always stay in the places that smell good. I stay in the books and chapters where the Lord is doing great things. I stay in the places where my heart is captured again by the saving grace and love of the Lord for His people. I scoot closer to these books. For those books that are particularly challenging and baffling to my sense of who God is, I can stay away. They are awesome books. God-breathed Scripture. God's Word for my heart and my life. But just as I have to deal with foul smelling people at some point, I have to deal with Scriptures that I don't think smell very good. If I didn't smell bad scents, I wouldn't know how to appreciate the good scents. They are all unavoidable if I want to live a full life, and talk to and appreciate all of God's people.
The Scripture that I don't prefer to read is the same for me. I have to get over my initial problem that it doesn't appeal to me. Then I'm often surprised at the heart-changing, life-giving quality of the words once I start to read. Those books of the Law, those hard words, those hard to understand words and those long lists of names can smell bad at first, and then I learn to love the scent.
My grandmother's house always smelled funny to me. Now that she has gone on to be with the Lord, it's the most treasured smell that I find. Those obscure prophets always sounded funny to me. Now I hold many of their Scriptures deep in my heart.

The Lord doesn't always have an appealing, wonderful, baked bread smell. Sometimes it's a little stinky or funky. And that is what is perfect about Him. Once I get to know Him, I learn to love those scents too.
So dig in deep to His Word. Get over the fact that some of the parts may not smell very good to you at first. The Lord will draw you to Himself through those times and you'll learn to love, cherish and appreciate the scent of the Word.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Write Your Love on My Heart

Funny how the thing the Lord desires us to do can fill us so quickly.
Last week was a chaotic week and somewhat of a bittersweet one as I sent one of my best friends off to Naval Boot Camp in the Great Lakes. It was beautiful to watch a friend step into God's will for his life. What a beautiful picture to be a part of!!
It was busy last week. I worked some odd and long hours. The Word of God wasn't in my hands and I severely missed it. I was burdened for the need of God's breath in my life but I couldn't (WOULDN'T) take time to make that happen. Today I took off from work an hour early and came down to a coffee shop in downtown Mobile. As soon as I opened the Word and put my iTunes on shuffle, the peace and comfort of having a cup of coffee with my Best Friend settled on my heart and mind.
Not being particularly overwhelmed at the moment, I felt it unnecessary to open up Lamentations, but that's where I ended up. Lamentations 3. In chapter 3, Jeremiah speaks of his life saying, "He (the Lord) has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. .. He has made my paths crooked. ... He has made me desolate." And then something that really hit home, "I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood."
Something that I all to often become upset about is being the laughingstock of all peoples. I can be desolate and brought into darkness by the Lord but to be the laughingstock of people is the sword to the chest of my pride. But the Lord reminds me even now that I am NO laughingstock to him. He created me for different things that are ridiculous, yet suited just to me. So I will be a laughingstock forever to those who don't understand, as long as I am seeking to make Him known.

In the middle portion of this lament Jeremiah proclaims, "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; The steadfastness of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ... The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him."
Wow. To the Lord who has sated me with woodworm, you are faithful and you are good for those of us who seek you.

Now from my iTunes as I read this book:
"When I've got nothing left to say and I don't know how to pray won't you write your love on my heart?" - Matt Maher
"Where would we be without your love? We'd still be lost in darkness!" - Matt Redman

I'd still be lost in the darkness and fog of failed creativity and work hindered by the lack of the Holy Spirit if I didn't take time to find the Light. I can't escape the darkness. I can't make my paths straight. However when I turn to the One that I love, worship and adore, I can confidently say, "You have taken up my cause, O Lord, you have redeemed my life." Lamentations 3:58 and praise Him according to his faithfulness and new mercies that come each morning and I sleepily rub my eyes.

I do love the Lord, and I remember each time that I sit with Him how precious, life giving, path-straightening, forgiving, disciplining and loving that He is. Oh for the discipline of God! That my paths may be straight! In His name...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Glass Door

Over the past few weeks, life has thrown ups and downs. I'm waiting on a reply for my dream job and that in itself is enough to drive you bonkers along with my sister getting married less than 3 weeks ago. (Yes.. I said bonkers) Travel plans, meetings at night, family, etc. It's all been "life" and I love it. It's been a little consuming of every moment, but I kind of like the busy-ness. It keeps me on my toes for sure.

Speaking of the job, I'm actually the interim at the job that I've applied for so it's quite difficult since I am already deeply invested in the cause and in the routine of having the job. I was approaching the interview last Friday with much unease. I am 21 years old and broke out from the stress of going to the interview. My boyfriend was kind enough to "not have noticed" and the words "You're always beautiful" followed that rehearsed quote. It made me want to barf but I know he was trying to be nice so I didn't stick my finger down my throat in disgust in front of him. I saved that for the car. Anyways, the stress of the interview was nearly killing me. I couldn't laugh, smile, cry or show/feel any other emotion. I knew that once I cried, I would feel worse and it'd be a downhill slide right into homeplate: the interview. I was too stressed to smile or laugh or think about anything else. Which, as a side note, isn't it extra-annoying when you are being self-centered and you know it, but can't help it? That is one of the worst feelings to know that you need to change your focus but absolutely can not do so. So I went on through the week just emotionally dead and praying "Lord, let me hold on until the interview."

I got into the interview and as the interviewers prayed, the Lord gently reminded me, "I created you and called you to this vocation. You have served and given of your life and I will be faithful. I made you with wonderful talents that I want you to give back to Me. Trust me. You are capable and deserving of this job, so please leave it up to Me." At that moment, I released what wasn't mine to hold onto and I smiled in my seat as the interviewers asked for blessings upon me and wisdom in their decisions.
Looking back on that week, I see the places where I did not allow the Lord to move in my life to defray some of the stress. I didn't give the stress up to Him, but merely complained about it and held onto it like a small child holds to their teddy bear. I also did not spend enough time sitting at His feet declaring who He is as my Solid Rock and my steadfastness. He is faithful, if I'd just trust Him to be so.
God doesn't always remove obstacles in our lives. I kind of think that He likes to leave them until we get the point - He wants us. To trust Him, to love Him, to be with Him - He wants us. From His view, God was watching me last week and I looked like a person continuously walk into a glass door, over and over again. I am so glad that the Lord finally met me at the glass door and helped me open it.
He is so good.

For now, I am still waiting to hear back. I can't deny that I am anxious, but I'm not an emotional stump and that's wonderful. The Lord has this way of consuming our lives when we give them up and that's a beautiful surrender to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Waking Up

Waking up this morning was exactly what I feared it was going to be.
Today is Tuesday, the 24th day of May which means that I leave in two days. As I wrote those words, my stomach sunk lower that it ever has before.
I don't want to leave at all and while usually this feeling of dread is reserved for the day before I leave and the day of leaving, the lack of sleep due to sunburn isn't my best friend.
The past couple of nights have been miserable as I try to lay as still as possible so as not to induce pain. The pain isn't that bad when I'm awake but it has been in my dreams for the past two nights, meaning laying down is the culprit. Sunday night I dreamt that I got so sick that I was loaded on a plane to the States for treatment. Extreme, yes, but I'm not known for being the understated type, especially in my dreams. With that being the case, yesterday and today have been filled with the task of staying awake and coherent. I danced around La Torre yesterday in a state of delirium that caused a few laughs but was just pitiful. I feel okay but I'm really sleepy!
Jessie told me that the girls were asking what's wrong with me today and she asked if it was my leaving that was holding me down and it truly is. Tears are coming to my eyes as I think about leaving this place and these people that I love so much. I want to wake up every morning to my girls, spend time with my older girls as they do their homework, and get a million, "Hola Poporopo!"s as the younger girls come in from school. I want to get to hug and kiss a their faces everyday and tell them that they are beautiful and that I love them. I just love spending time with them and as Jim Kinder says, "Just doing life together." I don't want to turn their worlds upside down and make them live life like me. I want to be here to support them and play with them and be with them as they live their lives.
That being said, I have had the blessing of a lifetime this past week. Last night, Jamie took me, Jessie, Lily, Raquel and Julisa to MiraFlores (a mall) in the City to celebrate Julisa's birthday. The Jacobs (the American and the Guatemalan) went along to hang out with Jamie as we shopped. Jessie got Raquel a new cell phone since hers was stolen when she got robbed. Raquel was so excited to have a new phone and Jessie was excited to be able to provide that. Julisa picked Pizza Hut for dinner and she was going to pass out on me if I didn't feed her by the time we got there. We finally ordered the pizza in the food court after 8pm and she was tired. After she started eating breaksticks and pizza, the Julisa that we all love came back to life. We took a lot of funny pictures and had a good time being together. Something about just girls hanging out is a blessing in itself. We had a wonderful time and while Julisa slept on the way back, the rest of us shared laughs. It was a great evening!!!
Right now, Raquel is gone to University and Julisa is in school so I'm going to make a birthday cake for Julisa. Hopefully she'll love it. I am excited about spending another evening with the people I love. The gringos from Nebraska are having a movie night so we will enjoy the movie, cake and hopefully a little Skype time for the girls in Doncellas to meet some people from home.
As sad as I am to be leaving, I'm excited about all the weddings going on in the States. Skype is the coolest thing in the world and will soon become my best friend as I leave Jessie here.
I am looking forward to absorbing as much as I can within the next 48 hours!!

-courtney

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Guatemala Trip 7

Over the past week, I have again been astounded by the bounty of the Lord's beauty in this place. I see His beauty everyday in Mobile and the places that I travel in the States, but something about these people tends to open my eyes in new ways.

I haven't been able to blog due to lack of internet access on my own computer, but Jessie has been kind enough to let me borrow her computer each night to at least update my parents that I'm alive and well. Since I got here last Sunday, we have done a lot of hanging out with the girls and just being with them. Sitting around, watching YouTube videos, novelas, movies, and talking is such a blessing. I got to watch La Bella y la Bestia (Beauty and the Beast) with Maria and Chiquis earlier this week and it was amazing. Since the school had exams this week, it wasn't the best week to hang out due to the kids' devotion to studying for school. The mornings were filled with me trying to distract them (failed attempts, of course) and the afternoons were filled with hanging out with Raquel and then being bored after she left for school. It was a great week.
Yesterday, we got the amazing privilege to take the girls who were level 5s and the girls who got As and Bs to the water park. We drove over two hours to Puerto de San Juan to Aqua Magic. It was the best day I've ever had in Guatemala! Being free of exams, distractions of responsibilities, and just enjoying time together with girls was amazing. I got to teach a good number of them how to avoid holding their nose underwater and a few of them how to swim a little bit. Jessie and I also took them into the ocean for the first time. Some of the girls were young and some were as old as we are, but they all had a wonderful time experiencing all of these new things. My flip flops were stolen off of the beach, I got terribly sunburnt and I got stung by a bee, but the blessing of spending the whole day with the girls far outweighed the bad things that happened.
It was more than amazing to talk to them on the bus, and have pure fun with them over the entire day. No one cared what they looked like after the initial shock of wearing bathing suits in front of each other and it became one of the most amazing things I've observed with the kids amongst themselves. They got to play and be together.

This week has been challenging in my thoughts and prayers as it has been the most different of any trip that I have taken here. The Lord has been so good teaching me through His scriptures in Isaiah and the Psalms about His faithfulness to us, even after our great sin and also His willingness to fight for us and bless us in many different ways. I've had the privilege of writing all of these thoughts down and it has been a tremendous week in learning for me.

I got up at 4am to go to University in the City with Jacob one day as well as sleep late one day. I've watched every Latin singer's music videos in English and Spanish multiple times. I've stayed up later than I thought I could. i've gone to bed earlier than I ever do. I've taken a few naps due to lack of sleep, given a million hugs, given a couple thousand kisses on the head and cheeks, observed a thousand smiles, and been blessed by the presence and beauty of about 100 unique souls on a consistent basis throughout the day. I've squashed a few bugs, screamed a few times on the bus while we hit speed bumps, sung a lot of worship songs, been required to recharge my camera battery already, gained a few more nicknames, heard a few squeals of delight when cute boys show up on the screen, and have had to ask what someone is saying multiple times. I've understood more Spanish, spoken less Spanish, been torn between who to spend time with a couple of times. I've eaten some rice and beans, lived off of tostadas, been asked for more chips and more cookies about ten times a day and smiled with delight when I could fulfill someone's wish, even if it was a small one. I haven't done manual labor or built a house, but the relationships that I have invested time in this week have grown substantially with the blessing of the Lord's favor in them. I have been so thankful and grateful this week for these girls. It is a privilege to live with them and be with them as much as I have been.

Everyone should be so lucky as to be me right now. These are the most wonderful people in the world and there is no way that I could ever bless them in the way that they have blessed and changed me and my life.

I love this place.