Monday, July 30, 2012

What I've Learned




 May 2008
I started going to Casa Aleluya in Guatemala over four years ago. I went for the first time a few weeks after I graduated high school. Back then, I not only was different, it was before my face surgery and I even looked different. Guatemala changed me that year and I've never been the same.

When I went for the first time, I fell in love with not only the kids, the small part of their culture that I experienced, but with the idea that maybe I could be helping someone who really needed it. I know that there are a lot of people here in the United States that I could/should help, but God called me elsewhere. And in the "global" culture that the internet has allowed us to have, I know it's okay for me love serving there. I can't forget about the people in the United States, but I'm not scared of the people who wag their pointer fingers at me and say, "You need to serve in the US!"

I also know that the children at Casa Aleluya are very well taken care of. I know that they have people there who love them. And that's part of the reason I love going back. They see my face again and know that once again, I've taken time and money out of my life to invest into theirs, and I get to become one of the people that they share their life with.

But for the kids who don't know me, I am not there for a special type of friendship. I'm there to serve them. Whether it's painting their building, scrubbing the floors, sewing a curtain, or just cleaning out the fridge in the visitor's building, I am there to enrich their lives. And for all of the long-term missionaries there, it's my greatest privilege to bring them cake mixes so that they can bake a cake for their kids. And it's my greatest privilege to do whatever they ask, because they are the ones left to love those kids long after I've returned to work at my desk and sleep in my own bed.

As I have gone to Casa Aleluya over the years, I look back and see the places where I could have given more. But I mostly remember the incredible times where I've seen the Lord at work in the most common of places and common of conversations. And I remember the number of people I personally know who have been transformed by serving for a week. As we engaged in serving together, not only did they grow, but their relationship with the Lord took a much deeper dive. Everything became a joy to do and every experience deepened their appreciation of the extensive work that God did in creating each of His children as different people. And when we see the face of God (since He created us in His image) in the broadest of spectrums, we can't help but worship and be in awe of the expanse that is our infinite God. 

So in October, I'm hoping to lead another group of servants to Casa Aleluya. I can't wait for what the Lord is going to do. I'm praying that we will all learn more about ourselves, the Lord, His people and our relationship with Him as we go to serve some of the most precious people in the world. You don't have love the kids the same way that I do, but I bet you will. You don't have to love every moment of the week, but I bet you will. You don't have to be the best dirt mover around, but I bet you'll try. You don't have to be perfect at the tasks assigned to you, but I bet you will. Because you'll be "working as unto the Lord." All you have to do is be open to the Lord's calling and to the work that He wants you to do. He will guide and direct, and we will be blessed by the way He is moving in Casa Aleluya.






Here are the songs we did in NewSong on July 22nd,
"Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin from Passion:White Flag
"God is Able" by Hillsong from God is Able
"Lord, I Need You" by Chris Tomlin from Passion:Awakening
and for the offering song, (and absolutely one of my favorites!)
"Fires" by Matt Redman from his album 10,000 Reasons (a great album)

If you were in NewSong yesterday, July 29th, Jim talked about not being able to sustain our own passion for the Lord. He talked about how only the Lord can sustain that. The song we did on the 22nd for offering, "Fires", is a great song about that idea. It says, "God who keeps our fires burning/.../You can move the highest mountain/You can keep our dreams alive/You're the joy of our hearts/and You're the fire in our eyes." How true is that of us! Only God can keep our dreams from being smashed and only He can put that fire in our eyes. That zest for life and unmovable joy can only be traced back to Him and His fountains into our lives!!

On the 29th we worshiped together, singing:
"All My Fountains" by Chris Tomlin from Passion:White Flag"Awakening" by Chris Tomlin from Passion:Awakening
"You Alone Can Rescue" by Matt Redman from Passion:Awakening
"Set Free" by Chris Tomlin from Passion:White Flag
and for the offering song, JD helped me out with
"Steady My Heart" by Kari Jobe from Where I Find You

By looking at that set list, you can certainly tell who I've been worshiping with over the past few weeks!!! All of those albums and artists are incredible and if you're looking for someone to listen to, they are the worship folks!!!


I sincerely hope that you will think, pray and talk about coming to Guatemala with us in October. It's a great week of service and fellowship. An informational meeting will be this Sunday (August 5th) after the 10:40 services, in the gym. You aren't committing, but you can bring your questions and learn a little bit more about what will happen on the trip!
Please feel free to email me any time (before we leave in October, of course!) about going with us! We'd love to have you join,  even if you are reading this in September!
My email is courtney@christumcmobile.com and I always love it when you all drop me an email!!
Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Excitement.

 I don't know when the last time you got really excited was, but I can remember mine. And I don't mean a little excited, but like... really excited.

Not like this excited..


But like THIS excited!

I feel like I don't get really excited very often anymore. When I was a kid, it was all day, every day. When I was a teenager, I still got really excited often. When I got into college, things became a little less exciting. Responsibilities aren't always exciting.
And since college, I've only ever gained more responsibilities. Paying bills, running errands and doing the things that consume 70% of my time aren't always exciting. 
I remember when I started dating JD over a year ago. At first, our relationship was so exciting. Every little date and every hand hold was exciting. Though on my bad days now, putting something into our relationship can feel much more like a responsibility and not something exciting.

I've been reading the book of Ecclesiastes and Solomon isn't very excited in that book. Every single stinkin' thing "is vanity and striving after the wind." It's kind of the way I've felt lately. All of my responsibilities are just chasing something that can't be caught. I think (terribly depressing) things like "Paying down these student loans is just never going to end. And when they do, I'll need a new car! It'll never end." or other things like, "As soon as I get this laundry folded and put up, I'm just going to have to do another load."
Responsibilities seem as though they are the end game of this life. Make money, pay your bills and make your relationships work with the lowest level of effort possible. Do the laundry, take out the trash, cook an alright dinner and watch a re-run on TV before bed. But this is exactly what we've been talking about in NewSong. Normal isn't working for our society. We aren't getting what we want OR need. We're chasing after the wind, things that can't be caught. So the solution is to be weird. Follow God and what He says to a place where we look and act weird.

A few weeks ago I blogged about Responsibility Shmonsibility and letting some things that we need to do wait til later so that we could finally have some fun. But I think there's more than that.

And for me, that means being excited. It means finding joy IN the responsibilities. Not only can we let it all out and celebrate the beautiful, wonderful life that God has given us, but we find joy in the things that seem God-less and boring.

I'm really bad about sometimes wanting to "get this over with and get out of here!" I think God's joy wells inside me when I stop to talk to people and share a laugh on my way instead of pushing my way through the line and out the door. And I meet some really exciting people along the way.
I hate doing household chores, but when I'm done with them, I'm able to invite people over to the house without being embarrassed.  (still working on that one... vacuuming does what the vacuum itself does. if you don't get that joke, just keep thinking on it.)
Maybe I need to stop looking at the money being drained out of my account from student loans, and instead looking at that big number shrinking. With this payment, I'm owing less and honoring God in the process by honoring my commitments. (I bet if I told a Sallie Mae person that over the phone, they'd definitely think I was weird.)


If I'll slow down and look for Him in some of these seemingly-boring activities, I think He'll show up. God has been known to do that before. A lot.

For those things that I must do in this life, I am determined to let God's joy fill my heart while I do them. And I'm going to be really, really, really, excited by His presence in those places.

A place that God was present this week was in worship with us on Sunday. And that was really, really exciting. My flag football team being the ushers was awesomely exciting too!
So here are the songs we did this past week:
"Here For You" by Chris Tomlin
"One Thing Remains" by Kristian Stanfill or Jesus Culture
"Our God Saves" by Paul Baloche
for offering, Jamie did a great job on
"Burn Us Up" by Shane & Shane (the whole album is called Pages and it is incredible)
and at the end, we sang
"How He Loves" by David Crowder or John Mark McMillan


And for your enjoyment (and my pride), here is my super cute.. sorry.. manly flag football team.




Have a good week!








Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ugh.... Choke!

I must say, I was so excited for this past Sunday morning! I was so excited that I was not surprised when I woke up at 3:12 am (yes. that is exact.). However I was surprised that I started coughing at 3:12am on Sunday morning.
And when it didn't stop by 4 am, I got worried.
Then I started coughing.
And coughing some more.
And drinking water.
Then drinking Throat Coat tea.
And panicking.
Then remembering the Bible, praying instead of panicking.

But thank the Good Lord above, I made it all th... No wait.
I made it ALMOST all the way through NewSong on Sunday morning!! And then, during the middle of the offering song at 10:40, my tea ran out.
My water ran out.
My voice ran out.

And the good people of the NewSong service at Christ UMC took pity on me and sang along! Thank you to everyone who helped finish our musical worship time on Sunday morning. I'm kinda sad that it wasn't perfect because "Speak Now Jesus" is an incredible song that shouldn't be sung with a frog in one's throat.


Just by the way, I always pray like this when that happens, "Lord. I'm singing for YOU! Please get me through this!.... no?! Funny, God, but the joke is over. Now get it right! My face is literally turning purple now. Still no!? Come on, now!" 

But anyways. I've got to tell on Johnny, our incredible drummer. All Sunday morning, I was drinking Throat Coat like I was trying to drown myself with it. As soon as we got off stage from my choking incident at 10:40, I was coughing my lungs out. He was so worried, afraid that I wasn't going to get over it. He's such a wonderful guy that he stuck around to make sure I didn't pass out. And when I finally stopped coughing, he just looked at my with a big smile and said,

"That tea ain't working."

And I died laughing. I think of all the funny things that I've heard backstage in NewSong over the years, that one takes the cake.

But I think Sunday was a great day of worship anyway! I had a blast being able to relax and enjoy voices. No electrics guitars or bass drums, but just voices. Don't get me wrong, I think the Lord's Spirit may dwell in some of the electric pedals (that's a joke, people) but I loved just hearing everyone.  I'll be honest. The thing that brings me the most joy (aside from the Lord) in this life is both seeing and hearing the people of God worship Him. Whether it's your hands lifted high, eyes closed, an off-beat clap or just a look of sincerity in your eyes, seeing other people worship just makes me all giddy. And hearing people sing, that's the best. And while perfect four-part harmony from an entire congregation is awesome, really loud, really bad harmony or... ah-hem.. noise, is truly my favorite!

So this Sunday, I'm hoping that I'll be able to stop coughing for a while (otherwise you'll be enduring noise) and be able to worship with all of you again. I think we've got a great set planned and I'm looking forward to it.

 Here's what we sang last Sunday, July 8th,
"10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman
"Never Once" by Matt Redman
"Jesus, Son of God" by Chris Tomlin
and my favorite!!
"Speak Now Jesus" by Starfield
(btw. Starfield is innnnncredible.)

See ya Sunday.
Let's make some noise together.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

Last week after church, I ran home, ate lunch, took a shower and headed off to the airport! I took another trip to Guatemala! I went down for a few days to start learning some of the tips for taking a team to Casa Aleluya. I've been down there so many times but never as a team leader for adults. Brenda Davis taught me so much and it was a great experience.

Of course my favorite part was seeing all of my favorites down there. I stayed with the team instead of the girls there but I still got to spend a lot of time with the kids!! They are all growing up so fast! Some of the youngest kids that I met when I went there for the first time are now living with Jessie Wilson. (In case you don't know, Jessie is a friend of mine that went to youth with me at  Christ UMC and when she graduated college, she moved to Guatemala as a dorm parent!)

It was a really great week. Although since I brought JD last time I was there, the first question out of every kid's mouth was "Where is your boyfriend?!" followed by, "Well why isn't he here? When is he coming?". They all wanted to see him again so badly. They love him so much!! Good thing that I was alright substitute :).

I must say that one of my favorite things about Guatemala is that there is no internet or phones. I can't be distracted by text messages or any of those other things that always get me! I thoroughly enjoyed finishing a book (while waiting for water to boil!) and getting to read my Bible by flashlight each night. That kind of peace and quiet is so hard to come by. It's mostly just hard to make that peace and quiet happen because everyone expects you to be available at all hours. So I loved every minute of it!

I will be taking a team to Casa Aleluya in Guatemala in October. It will be a Saturday-Saturday trip, October 20th-27th. If you are interested, please email me at courtney@christumcmobile.com

Last week in NewSong, we played the following songs:
Cannons by Phil Wickham
Holy, Holy, Holy, (Savior and King) by Gateway Worship
Forever Reign by Kristian Stanfill
 and for the offering song,
My Hope Is In You by Aaron Shust
and for Communion
O the Blood by Kari Jobe/Gateway Worship

I loved last week's worship and I certainly, like most of you, was blessed to see Jeremy Steele baptize his own son during the 10:40 service. It was so beautiful.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow as we have an acoustic Sunday!!! I can't wait to see everyone and worship with you again.