Saturday, January 22, 2011

'Can't get enough' of Drew & Ellie...

I woke up this morning with a heart full of so much joy... much due to some sweet friends that I got to spend some time with last night. I know I've mentioned Drew and Ellie Holcomb here before, and that I've shared bits and pieces of just appreciating Ellie's friendship in my life, but for some reason they are just really on my heart this morning (morning? It's 1 pm... I just woke up, so it's morning), so I feel like I want to share some things about them with whoever happens to be reading.

I met the Holcombs at Young Life camp in the summer of 2007. At the time I was a pretty angry, rebellious, lost teenager. As Jesus softened and recaptured my heart that summer, their music and voices just so happened to be the soundtrack to that chapter of my life. Ironically we were both from Nashville, so we were able to bring relationships back from camp to real life at home. I'm not really sure how it happened from there, but Ellie and I just developed a relationship that's grown into a sweet friendship from afar over the last few years. When we happen to cross paths, whether in Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville, Asheville or some other random city, we seize the opportunity to get a few minutes of quality time... and more often that not, it's way too short.

But she's just one of those friends that it's worth a 5 hour drive for a 10 minute face-to-face conversation — it's just good for my heart to see her face once in a while. Last summer, while I was living in Nashville, we were lucky enough to be there at the same time for a whole 3 weeks or so, so we got to hang out a few times during those weeks. I was going through this season of kind of hearing a new calling on my life from the Lord, and as I shared it with her one morning over breakfast, it was Ellie that made me really believe in it, and really believe in myself... and she's continued to encourage me through that over the last 6 months or so.

I think it was last night that I really realized that just as she believes in me and believes in my calling and purpose, I believe in what she and Drew feel called to do. Which is why some friends and I raised the money to give to their kickstarter campaign in October and bring them to Jonesboro for an acoustic show. And it was so fun to watch all the people in that room last night fall in love with them. I love to watch them change hearts and lives just by telling their own stories through their music. I think music is one of the most powerful forms of art and communication... people listen to music because they want something to relate to. They want to know that they're not alone in whatever they may be feeling, and a lot of times you can find that in music. And to see two people that I love with such beautiful hearts for Jesus and for people doing that, and doing it well, is such a sweet thing.

So to the two of you, Drew and Ellie, thank you for being who you are, and for ministering to hearts through your music. It's a beautiful thing! To Ellie, my sweet friend, thanks for pouring into me, for encouraging me, and believing in me. I believe in y'all too. Which is why I love to share you with other people... after all, that's kind of what the gospel is about, right? Sharing with others what you believe in.

...And to anyone who's reading this and doesn't know them, allow me to share the love a little more! :) ... check 'em out.

A few photos from last night, at ReMix in downtown J-town:

Drew & Ellie

Way to show up, friends :)

We were really happy to be together... we jumped on the couch. Until Ellie almost broke an ankle.

Gosh, I love you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

learning not to tiptoe.

Lately God has been teaching me a lot about faith and prayer... and how the two go hand in hand. I had a conversation with a friend last weekend about how we don't allow the Holy Spirit to really move in us sometimes because we don't really believe in it. And we started talking about how Jesus was human, with human limitations, but he performed all these miracles because he knew who he was. Not that I'm trying to take away from any of the glory of Jesus, because obviously there never has been nor will there ever be another Jesus. But he even says himself in John 5:30, "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me."

And when you read any of the gospels, and look at instances of Jesus performing healings, there's this common denominator of him saying, "your FAITH has healed you." (Or some rendition of that) And then there's so many instances of Jesus getting on to people for their lack of faith. When Peter walks on the water with Jesus, and he begins to sink and cries out for Jesus to help him, Jesus says to him afterward, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31)

Then there's another instance when Jesus gets frustrated with his disciples because they didn't have the faith to cast a demon out of a boy, and when the father of the boy brings him to Jesus he tells him that he went to the disciples first and they couldn't heal him. His response: "O unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? ... Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt. 17:17, 20)

And again when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and Martha doubts that it's possible, Jesus says to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40)

So why in the world do we continue to doubt? I think we're kind of like Nazareth. Jesus' hometown. We think we know him... we've created this Americanized, Sunday school Jesus that fits perfectly in our little box and he wants so badly to be let out of that box so that he can show us the glory he's talking about with Martha. In Matthew 13:53-58, Jesus is back in Nazareth, preaching, and the people keep asking themselves, "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't it Mary and Joseph's son? Don't we know his brothers and sisters? So where did he get all of these things he's telling us?" And they get offended. Jesus says to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And they very next verse says, "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."

I think in America we are so numb to the power of the Holy Spirit because we don't really need it. We don't need faith, because we're so self sufficient. And gosh, I think that's a dangerous place to be. We miss out on miracles because we don't have faith. And we're so numb to the word miracle that we don't even understand what we're missing out on! And maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive to this issue right now because I just got back from a place where you would think, in your American mind, "none of these people should have faith," but they have a faith that is so much greater than you can imagine.

And here's the thing: Jesus even says that if we have this kind of faith he's talking about, we will do things even greater than him. This is the son of God speaking, telling us we're going to do something even greater than what he did. How did we miss that?! John 14:12-14. "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

So this is where I started thinking about faith and prayer being so connected. I think we pray selfishly a lot. "God, do this for me." Sound familiar? But if you look at the way Jesus lived, it was never about him. It was about where God had him. And he even struggled with that at times, like when he asks God before his death if there is ANY way he can not have to go through that, to bail him out. But he ends it with this: not my will, but yours.

That's where I think we go wrong. We don't want to pray for God's will, because it probably doesn't really match up with ours. And since we live in the good ole' Land of the Free, we don't really have to. We can live in our will and get by just fine. But we continue to miss out on the miracle of letting the Spirit that lives within us lead our lives.

I've been learning that prayer starts with me thanking God for where he has me. Because where he has me is exactly where I'm supposed to be, and if I begin by thanking him for that then I'm already living in his will, and asking him to keep it that way becomes a lot easier. I believe that it's when our hearts are willing to be where HE wants us to be, that we will truly experience the truth of his promise: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

There's a chapter in The Irresistible Revolution called "Jesus made me do it." Shane Claiborne talks about facing the "dangers" of living in God's will. He starts with a story of a lady that basically told him Jesus would be ashamed of his recklessness in going to Iraq in the middle of war. Then he says this: "I listened, silently, wondering what Jesus she was talking about. The Jesus who died on a Roman cross and invited his disciples to do the same? The Jesus who taught his disciples that if they wanted to find their lives, they should lose them? (And most of them did, perhaps leaving behind some angry parents.) For centuries, Christians have been jailed, beaten, and executed for preaching Jesus. How was I to tell this lovely lady that Jesus was actually the one responsible for my traveling to Iraq in the heat of bombing, not a decision I would rationally make, even on my worst days?"

In the same chapter he quotes a college professor of his who said, "All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive and death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don't tiptoe." And later on he quotes a passage from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Lucy is about to meet Aslan for the first time and she asks if he's safe: "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

He isn't safe. But he's good.

That's what I'm learning. That living in God's will is hard, and it's scary, and it never takes you anywhere you would have chosen to go on your own. But he invites us to have a faith that will allow us to experience all the miracles he has in store. I'm learning to pray differently because of that. I'm learning not to tiptoe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

seeing Jesus in the eyes of some pretty precious kids...

As mentioned in previous posts, probably the one thing that made my heart go "pitter patter" the most during my time in Honduras was the kids. Although I didn't have to travel all the way to Honduras for kids to make my heart melt; I've always loved little kids. I just think there's something so precious about their innocence and the joy that they find in the simplest things.

Innocence and naivety are funny, because I feel like once we lose them we never really get them back. And I'm not really sure when it happens, either. I guess a psychologist would say whatever age we can truly begin to have cognitive thought is when we may begin to lose that naivety of being a child... but I saw something so sweet, although a little bit heartbreaking in the naivety of some of those Honduran kids.

Everywhere we went, we gave the kids beanie babies. Somebody donated hundreds of beanie babies to my grandparents, so we would just take a bag full of them every time we left their apartment. And the looks on some of those kids faces when we would hand them a beanie baby... it was priceless. They were so excited to get a gift. It didn't matter what it was. Now, having just had Christmas, you can imagine what a kid in the US might have done if all you handed them on Christmas morning was a beanie baby. No kid in the United States in 2011 wants a beanie baby... beanie babies don't have 3G.

One day we were walking down the street and there was a group of kids (they seem to travel in packs of at least 5 or 6) just playing in the street, and the only thing they had to play with was a bike tire. They were just rolling it down the dirt road, chasing after it. And having the time of their lives. There's something so sweet about being free of want. Those kids are exactly that.

But on the flip side, I struggled with the thought of them not knowing what they're really worth. They have nothing so they want nothing — which is amazing. But like I said in my post before, their government makes the system work so that they can't afford to get an education, so many of them won't be literate and will end up never voting... so all the country's wealth will remain in the hands of government officials and a few aristocrats. I mean, this sounds like crazy archaic stuff to Americans today, because we just don't have to deal with that. We go to school, we learn things, and we vote... we have a voice (to an extent, anyway) in our government. That's not the case in Honduras. Those kids don't even dream about ever having a life outside of the slums they live in because it's all they've ever known. They don't know they're capable of something better.

But they're so precious. They find joy in the smallest things. And they GIVE joy with every smile, every hug and kiss, every word that comes out of their mouths. And part of me doesn't even want to rescue them from poverty and show them "success" or "money" because on one hand they have such sweet spirits of joy and lack of want, since they don't know any better. But at the same time you don't want them to continue to live in oppression. I wish there was a happy medium. I wish I could just pull a Robin Hood and take a little from the rich and give a little to the poor. (I know what you're thinking... now I'm a socialist) But really, it's not a bad idea. We don't need all that we have. And someone else does.

I was talking with my grandma one day about the selection process for kids in the program. She said they have groups of people within each committee that choose the kids, so that she and my grandpa don't have to. She said often times just one kid from a family will go to school, so that the others can work and help bring income to the family. I asked her what happens to all the other kids when the ones who have the funds to go to school are in school. She just told me, "so many of them just get left behind."

Can you imagine? All your friends going to school and you just not being able to, because there isn't $10 a month... something like 30 cents a day to send you to school. But see, we are heartbroken over that because we can't imagine life being like that. But that's just the way it is for them. They don't know that they deserve to get an education, so they can have an understanding for the injustice that's done to them and fight back. They don't know that they're worth anything beyond what they've always known.

That's why I have such a desire to tell my grandparents' story, to help them create their website and market their organization a little bit, because they are literally changing the world with every kid they get sponsored down there. But right now, there's still so many left behind.

If you met them, you would understand why I fell so in love with these kids. They just exuded joy in all that they did. Their little faces, so innocent and precious, always covered in dirt, for some reason just made me think, "Jesus loves these kids." And He wants us to learn from them... and just as we take away from the love that they so freely give, He wants us to give something back. I really believe that. And I think if more people actually took the time to go and experience that, we would give more freely to them as well.

But we stay comfortably where we are, numb to the oppression of the outside world... but that's for another time. :) Right now, just take a look at some photos and let your heart melt...

Some of these pictures still bring tears to my eyes. I'll look at them and just start praying for all of these kids, because it's really the only thing I can do... I don't even know half of their names, but I fell in love with every single kid I interacted with while I was there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sneek peak: a little glimpse of Honduras

Here are just a few photos from Honduras... I have videos that I'll upload as soon as I figure out how to do that on here. I may have to put them on YouTube first. Anyway, enjoy a quick glimpse at some of my experiences! I've got a few more posts up my sleeve of other things God revealed while I was there that will be coming soon. :) Stay tuned, folks.

Some little boys that we met as we walked down the street in one of the communities just outside of the city of Teguc. Soon after we started talking (and playing charades) with them, about eight more of their friends came running up from all over. It was precious!

At the two different daycares we went to, we took kids' pictures, printed them, and helped them decorate frames. Their moms loved it! They can't afford things like this... which is crazy, since it probably costs less than $1 for each of them. Here is a mom holding up the photos of her two little girls.

This is one of my favorite little buddies from my trip. I'll be dedicating an entire post to the kiddos later, so stay tuned :)

This is how people store their water... they only get it one or two times a week, and it obviously is not drinkable, but they use it for washing, bathing, etc... this family lived way up on a mountain, so I can't imagine that they get water too often.

...more from Teguc coming soon! Dios te bendiga!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

I spent the last 8 days in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with my friend Sarah and my grandparents who do missions down there. My grandparents oversee a program called Becas con Bendiciones — Scholarships with Blessings. The idea is that for about $100 a year, you can pay to send a kid through school. Their belief is that by educating the poor, they will eventually be able to break the cycle of so many people living in extreme poverty.

I've seen a lot of heartbreaking examples what people who are the poorest of the poor live like... I've fed the homeless in New York City, seen the aftermath of Tent City in Nashville being washed out by the May 2010 flood, lived right next to what we called "Tin Town" in Costa Rica for 3 weeks with my family one summer... none of those things come anywhere close to the poverty I saw in Honduras this week.

Tegucigalpa sits in a valley, and when you look up on the hillsides in every direction, all you can see is what literally looks like cardboard boxes stacked on top of one another as far up the mountain as you can see. There are no paved roads or paths that go up into all of these slums, they just carve out steps in the dirt and climb to wherever their "house" is. They only get water 2 or 3 times a week. Some may only get it once.

And all of this is just normal to them.

There is a very small "elite" — my grandpa said something like 1/10 of 1% of the population — that holds all the wealth in the country. Many of them probably being government officials. It's so corrupt, and they just look out of their mega-mansion windows from the top of these mountains, and their "beautiful view" of the mountainside is just covered with the way the rest of the population lives, with almost nothing. They just ignore it, as a vast majority of the Honduran people struggle to feed their families every single day. So the goal of educating the poor is to ultimately get them voting and fighting back and ending the corruptness that allows them to stay in extreme poverty while just a few live in the lap of luxury.

The very first thing we did when we got there (it was a Sunday) was go to church in one of these little slum communities. I was blown away by the joy in that place. I've never seen these people a day in my life, I obviously look nothing like any of them, I speak very little Spanish, but I was greeted with open arms and kisses, and it was just a beautiful thing. As the service went on, it was sweet to listen to their praises and prayers, though I didn't understand much of it. The line from Phil Wickham's song "Cielo" came to mind, "All around me melodies rise, that echo with a joy inside." I was so humbled as I watched them give what little they had in an offering. Luke 21:1-4 comes to mind, when Jesus says that the poor widow's offering was worth far more than the rich people's, because she gave all she had to live on.

It got me thinking about this: I don't think it's a coincidence that the poor seem to have a joy that is invaluable, and the rich, with all of their valuable possessions, often seem to be lacking that. I don't think it's by mistake that the very first of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 is, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In all the poverty I witnessed in Honduras, there was this joy in the hearts of each of the people I met that I was just so humbled by. We would make house visits, delivering food to the families of kids in the Becas program, and those people were just some of the sweetest souls. Always offering us a place to sit down, scrounging up every chair they could find from their house... their neighbor's house... their neighbor's neighbor's house... they wanted us to be able to sit down and just be with them for a few minutes. One lady sent her daughter down the street to buy us something to drink. We brought her food so that she could feed her family, and she bought us a drink. I think if Jesus had been there, he would have spoken of that woman the same way he did the poor widow.

Here's the interesting thing about seeing the way the poor people in Honduras live: they may not have anything, but they have a joy that just made me see Jesus in them. Shane Claiborne writes in The Irresistible Revolution about spending time in Calcutta with the diseased and the dying, and he said over and over they would whisper "namaste" in his ear. He later learned that namaste means, "I honor the Holy One who lives in you." If there were a Spanish equivalent to namaste, I would have said it to every person I met in Honduras.

Leaving Tegucigalpa, I didn't really feel sorry for those people. Frustrated with the social injustice of that country and the poverty that results from it, absolutely. And I believe my grandparents are doing an amazing thing that will hopefully over time make a difference. But as far as the hearts and souls of those people go, I think they're doing a lot better than a lot of people in America. (Or I suppose I should say North America) I think we could all stand to be a little more poor. I think there's a clear calling in scripture (more than once) to let go of our possessions and love on the needy. I don't think anyone can say, "You know, I don't really feel called to do that." And if you can say that, I think you need to search your heart and try again. In fact, we're warned in Revelation 3 of being lukewarm. (Take a look... particularly at verses 16-17)

I hope we'll all learn to be poor. Now I'm not saying I think we all need to live in poverty; I'm saying that we need to learn to live with the same spirit of those people. Gosh, can we learn something from the way they live despite the conditions that they live in. They have no distractions... only non-material things to cling to. And the non-material things I took away from them were love and Jesus; two gifts that are way better than anything anyone ever gave me with monetary value.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

S'mores, wine and worship.

I had a low-key New Year's Eve, but it was actually one of the best I've ever had. I've heard people say that the way you spend your New Year's Eve sets the tone for what the rest of your year will be like... if that's true, I'm really excited about 2011.

Tonight I sat around a fire with one of my best friends that I've known since I was about 4 years old, and three other people that I didn't know before tonight. We made s'mores, had a glass or two of wine, played guitars and sang some worship songs, watched fireworks in the distance and had great conversation. We talked about all that God's done in our lives this year and about the things we're looking forward to in 2011. It was cool, because going into the night I had never met three of the four people I was with, and by the end we knew each others stories and were all hugging each other goodbye. A couple of us even planned a road trip for this summer.

I hope this year is like tonight was. Full of intentional relationships with people and fruitful conversation. Full of s'mores, wine and worship... all of which, I'm convinced, are good for the soul. And full of adventure!

Happy New Year, friends. I hope however you rang in 2011 was wonderful!