Sunday, August 14

We Don't Believe In Accidents

I'm from a really small Southern town, things generally stay the same. The day I graduated I walked through the halls with my class a final time, and I can honestly say that I knew the name of every single person as they lined the walls to wish us farewell. I'm very comfortable with the life that I live.

A couple of months ago I got a chance to be a worship leader for a girls mission camp. Now if you've ever been to Baptist Vista, you know that this is truly an adventure. Mosquitoes are the size of dogs and everything is cut into the side of a treacherous hill. While I was there, the speaker, whose name I desperately wish I could remember, talked about how the devil uses seemingly good situations to distract you from doing God's work. She used the example of someone who had everything going for them. Great friends, great family, great job, great church, great hair... the list goes on. And that person is so thankful to God for all that He has given them, and that's great! But are they keeping God's gifts a secret? And therefore depriving others of the greatness that they have?

That hit home. That was basically me in a nutshell, that woman stomped right on my toes. So, I decided that I was going to go DO something. I didn't know what or where or how, but I knew I was going to go do something for His glory. So, I called my friend Bro. Doug, a church planter in Spearfish, South Dakota. My youth group had worked with him the previous summer starting Connection Church. He didn't even hesitate, he just said: "Text me with your flight details and we'll be there to meet you." They needed help, he said, with their worship and college ministry kick-off, which is right up my alley. It was almost perfect!

So I prayed and prepared for that for about a month. I got here on Friday evening after a surprisingly smooth flight. We sat down to eat supper (apparently no one uses that term in South Dakota?) and afterwards we began discussing plans for the week ahead. Halfway through the conversation, Bro. Doug got a phone call. His good friends, Larry and Anita, had been in a motorcycle accident, and Larry had passed away. Anita was in the hospital, 18 hours away from her family, alone and grieving. Immediately Doug's family and I loaded up to go see his wife, two hours away. The only issue was that they have two elementary age children, who probably didn't need to be exposed to that tragedy on a full scale.

This really threw a kink in our plans! We didn't know how the week would pan out, just that Doug and his wife, Dana, needed to be with Anita at this time, and that their kids did not need to be a part of it. Wouldn't you say it was perfect timing that they had a nanny staying with them for a week already?

I was just amazed at how God orchestrated the timing of my trip, so that I could minister to the Hixson family, therefore enabling them to minister to the Gibson family. That's a small thing, maybe, but still. I believe that without the small things, nothing works on a big scale. Ever try to use a straightener without the on/off switch? Or drive a car without the keys? My trip was stumbled upon, but as Bro. Doug preached this morning, God doesn't believe in accidents.

Not even motorcycle "accidents."

Mr. Larry was from Alabama, and had been working with Doug and Dana in the Connection church plant. It was Sturgis week, which I learned was a world-famous motorcycle rally 15 miles out of town where literally anything is legal for seven days. Connection Church sets up a booth each year where they give away a free Harley Davidson motorcycle. To be eligible to win, all you must do is listen to a 3-minute testimony of what God has done in a volunteer's life. The gospel had been presented 6000 times that week, and 600 bikers accepted Christ as their Savior. That's what Larry and Anita had been doing all week long. As the story was told to me, when the doctors informed Anita that her husband had not made it, her immediate reaction was not shock or tears. She looked straight into the doctor's eyes and said, "To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord." The nurses were so shocked, that they told the visitors to Anita's room. Even in his death, Larry was a witness for Christ Jesus, whom he loved so dearly. He truly left a legacy. He died doing what he loved. He died working so that others might forever live. I can honestly say that I wish so dearly that I had gotten a chance to know this man on earth. I can't wait to meet him in heaven.

So there's a little peek into what happens on mission trips. Sure, you minister to people, but most of all, you are ministered to. God speaks to your heart and reveals himself in the weirdest ways. God doesn't believe in accidents. Everything happens for a reason, and that is the greatest feeling of all.

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Friday, July 15

Corn-pone Opinions

I like to think that I'm an independent person. I mean, I make my own decisions. I do the things that I choose to do because they make me happy. For example, I am proud of myself when I run two miles each morning, or eat fruit for breakfast instead of leftover chocolate cake and a Dr. Pepper. I run because I want to run! I eat healthy because I want to. I don't need the approval of other people. I do it for me. Right?

As a rule, our self-approval has its source in but one place and not
elsewhere -- the approval of other people.

I don't do,wear, or say things just because it's cool. I watch college football on Saturday
mornings because it's something I enjoy. I post my Instagramed pictures to Facebook because I want to. I tweet about what is #trending because I want to. I wear cardigans and feathers in my hair because I think it looks pretty. Right?

We are creatures of outside influences; as a rule we do not think, we only

Mark Twain strikes a little deeper with these thoughts than with the adventures of Tom and Huck. He wrote an essay called "Corn-pone Opinions," in which he shines a light on the hidden truth behind a person's opinion. "It's not your own!" is the basic message. According to him our opinions are shaped by the opinions of the hand that feeds us. Our likes and dislikes in fashion, manners, and social-networking are shaped by our neighbors, friends, and the MSN Wonderwall. We trick ourselves into thinking that we strongly believe in this or that, simply because our Moms and Dads and Teachers and Preachers and next-door neighbors believe it, too. We adapt our ways to please people. What a dangerous way to live...

It's one thing to live so dangerously, seeking the approval of others in your fashion, eating habits, and free time, but what about when it rolls over into your faith?

Mohammedans are Mohammedans because they are born and reared among the sect, not because they have thought it out and can furnish sound reasons for being Mohammedans; we know why Catholics are Catholics; why Presbyterians are Presbyterians; why Baptists are Baptists; why Mormons are Mormons; why thieves are thieves; ... Self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people. The result is conformity.

This thought scares me. How quickly have I fallen into the norm of craving the approval of my peers in all other aspects of life? How can I possibly discern my beliefs from my parents or teachers or friends on a concept so important as my faith if I cannot even keep straight whose idea it was for me to make my tea with Splenda instead of sugar? How will I keep my sights set where they need to be? How? How can I do that if I by nature only imitate others?

I think I'll imitate my God. That's how I'll do it. I'll surround myself with His teachings, His works. I will desire His approval in what I do and say. I will be His copy-cat, loving like He loves; sharing like He shares; caring like He cares.

And if, in the process, I develop His ways of thinking, being, doing, loving--if I become a sort of miniature version of my God?

Well then, what more could I have gained?

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Thursday, July 7

what a silly child

There are ten of them, and I'm their nanny. They're running around with underwear on their heads. They scream and fight with one another and always want to be the first one in line to make snowcones, paint faces, and help sweep the floor. I may want to smack them sometimes when they make fun of me, but I secretly enjoy their company. I almost feel as if they are my own little brothers and sisters. There are days I don't want to leave, though. The times when one of them looks up at me with "glitter soup" all down her shirt and stickers fashioned into a princess tiara around her eyebrows and says, "Shelly Blynne, this was a bad idea, huh?" I just laugh and think to my self, What a silly child.

I bet God thinks of me like that.

Like the kids, I get these ideas in my head that are awesome! I just know they'll work. I may not dream of sticker crowns, but I have my own plans for my life. How I'm going to spend my days. Who my friends are going to be forever. Where I'm going to go to school. What I want to be. Where my life is going. Those sort of things. But, like three-year-old Stacia, having a great idea is not enough for me. I have to set it into motion. I have to grab all the glitter without first looking to see if I'd chosen the ugly colors. I have to throw mix in a cup of water without first making sure the bowl is big enough to accommodate such a combination. I slap those stickers to my forehead before I think through that it's going to peel my eyebrows off when I'm done. Then when I'm about 3/4 of the way through, I get overwhelmed and turn to Him and say, "God, this was a bad idea, huh?"

Then I'm sure He looks at me and smiles and says, "What a silly child."

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thought than your thoughts.

...after Stacia realizes that she should've asked for help first, I look down at her and say, "Come on, honey. Let me help you fix it."

I know God does that to me, too. He finishes that thought in Isaiah by saying:
My word that goes out from My mouth,
it will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which i sent it.

Even though I get wet when He washes off the stains and it hurts when He peels off the ugly stickers, I feel better. He fixes me. I'm a mess because I'm just a kid, and I don't wait on His instruction and guidance. But He fixes me. I'm such a silly child.