Archive for April, 2012

We Can’t Go Back

I caught the end of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King today and noticed something that I had overlooked the past hundred times I had watched the movie.  After Frodo finishes his quest to destroy the One Ring, he makes a comment to his fellow hobbits that journeyed with him to the ends of the earth and back.  He simply states “We can never go back.” 

Throughout our journey, we see and experience many things.  For a while, I constantly looked back and wondered why things couldn’t be how they once were.  We can’t go back to how things were before we encountered God. 

When I journeyed to Uganda the first time, part of me wanted to return home like nothing had ever happened.  I didn’t expect a four-week trip to change me, but I didn’t know what I would experience either.  I saw the effects of Malaria, felt them first hand.  I watched as life passed away before my eyes and saw life restored to a dying man. 

I returned home unable to explain what I had experienced.  I could not describe the emotions that tore at me as I tried to move on with my life.  Trying to describe it is a challenge because there is just no way of putting it into words. 

A year later, my journey took me back to Africa as I joined Mercy Ships M/V Africa Mercy in Togo, West Africa.  I remembered how I felt after returning the first time.  I knew that I could never just return.  After spending three months aboard ship, I knew that life would never be the same. 

I returned home knowing that I had changed.  I no longer saw things the way I once had. 

I could no longer think like I used to.  I could no longer just go through the motions.  My eyes were opened to things that I had seen. 

I can’t be the same person I was four years ago.  I have changed.  I can’t explain it.  I no longer see things the same.  I no longer think the same.  Hear the same.  Feel the same. 

I see things now and I react differently. 

The same thing happened through my experiences in AmeriCorps.  In St. Louis and Joplin. 

People that haven’t seen me in years ask how I’ve changed.  I can’t really tell them how, it just is.  I’m not the person I once was, and I can never be that person ever again. 

When we encounter God, the same thing happens.  When we develop and grow in our faith, we can never turn back.  We experience God and become a new creation.  Our old selves die and we are reborn in our faith. 

Yet, I find that many of us are trying to run back to who we were.  We can no longer accept who we were.  It will never satisfy us any more.  Only God will satisfy us now. 

Just some thoughts…

God Bless and PEACE

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Looking Back (Good Friday Tornado)

A year ago, this day, a series of storms dropped several tornadoes across the city of St. Louis.  Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed.  STL Airport received a direct hit.  Many neighborhoods were reduced to nothing but piles of ruins.  One house was gone, the next almost untouched.  While there were several injuries, it was a miracle that nobody was killed as the line of tornadoes raced from west to east across the city.

That night, members of the St. Louis AmeriCorps Emergency Response Team (ERT) responded.  Over the next couple weeks, hundreds of volunteers and organizations poured out.  Among them, All Hands Volunteers with the help of two AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) teams based out of Denver and two teams from the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC).

While we started off doing damage assessment throughout the destruction area, most of the work we did was debris clearing.  Working alongside the ERT, the WCC, and the various other volunteers gave us the experience needed to step up and become leaders.

We learned a lot about chainsaw work (bucking and limbing), teamwork, and the strength of a community that was brought to its knees.  The experience prepared us for bigger challenges that we were going to be facing in the coming month. 

Today, we remember the devastation that ripped through St. Louis a year ago.  We also stand and remember the eleventh month anniversary of the destruction of Joplin. 

Just some thoughts…

God Bless and PEACE

Standing on the Edge

What happens when you discover yourself standing at a crossroad, after you have followed through with the plan that God laid out before you and now you don’t know where to turn to next?  When you feel like your standing on a cliff, looking out over the vast space of possibilities, how do you know where God is calling you next?  Where do we turn when our hearts are pulling us in a hundred different directions? 

There is no answer that I can give that will shed light on God’s plan for your life.  There is no secrete formula in life that will guide your feet.  It’s all about standing there and being able to silence all your thoughts so that you can not only hear God, but feel Him guiding your feet. 

I don’t like the feeling of being still.  All my life, it’s been constantly moving.  From one place to the next with barely any rest. 

To stand still is difficult.  To surround myself with silence is a challenge.  It’s usually when I’m trying to fall asleep that I finally am able to quiet myself enough to hear God speaking. 

When we are standing on the edge, we must put all our trust into God.  Sometimes, we just need to shut up and take that next step, trusting that God will either put a bridge under our feet, give us a soft landing, or teach us to fly (yes, shout out to my mothers favorite quote). 

God doesn’t always tell us that there is only one path for our life, He gave us free will and a choice to make us happy.  You can serve God on the missions field, the classroom, on the street corners, in our homes or wherever makes you happy.  Sometimes, God doesn’t care which road we take, as long as He is the final destination.  He just wants us to continue moving. 

 Just some thoughts…

God Bless and PEACE

With Open Eyes

    Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.  
    He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
    They stood still, their faces downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
    “What things?” he asked.
    “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.  “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.  And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.  In addition, some of our women amazed us.  They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body.  They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
    He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets had spoken!  Did the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scripture concerning himself.
    As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly.  “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”  So he went in to stay with them. 
    When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were nor our hearts burning with us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scripture to us?” 
    They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem…
 – Luke 24:13-33a

Oh, what it would be like to walk beside the risen Lord, listening to him teach about the things you have just witnessed with your own eyes.  There is that fear that you lost everything that you held onto for the years that you followed this Jesus of Nazareth when he died on the cross.  Then to find out the tomb in which he had been laid was empty. 

One has to wonder where these disciples were headed and why.  Were they returning back to their homes and families?  Were they going to tell those that couldn’t make it to Jerusalem the news of His death and mysterious disappearance?  Were they fleeing from the Jewish leaders and rulers? 

A stranger on the road opened their eyes to the things unseen.  For years they had listened and watched their teacher, learning how to live, but they were not living.  They studied the scriptures, the prophets and kings, but they didn’t see it being fulfilled right in front of their eyes. 

Their eyes were open as their Savior started walking along side them and explaining everything that they had experienced.  And yet, it wasn’t until they shared a meal that they realized who this stranger was, their savior. 

And it is in this day we celebrate with our unseeing eyes opened through our faith.  We have not seen, but we believe. 

Then Jesus told him [Thomas], “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
 – John 20:29

God Bless and PEACE

Entering into the City of God

As he [Jesus] approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'”
 – Luke 19:28-31

They went and found the colt outside in the street, tied to a doorway.  As they untied it, some people standing there asked “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.  When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.   
 – Mark 11:4-7

… the great crowd that had come for the Festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
 – John 12:12-13

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
 – Luke 19:39-44

Palm Sunday.  The day of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  And instead of riding in on the white horse of war to overthrow the Romans, he comes in on the animal of peace.  Jesus wasn’t what everyone was expecting, he was everything that we needed. 

On the same day, across the city, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect of the province of Judaea, was entering into the city with a Cohort of Roman soldiers (almost 500 troops).  There as a deterrent against to prevent the nationalists from insurrection during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. 

One came in to die.  The other came baring the sword of the Roman Empire.  And here we stand, two thousand years later still asking ourselves how we will enter into the Kingdom of God. 

Will we enter in as lambs, children of God?  Or will we try to sneak in like goats and get thrown out?  Will we enter in like warriors and lovers?  Or will we hide in the shadows when the King of kings returns? 

Jesus knew when he entered into Jerusalem that he would die for all of us, will we have enough courage to be what God called us to be when we enter into His Kingdom?

God Bless and PEACE