Monday, January 23, 2012

Catching Up

Before writing this, I took a minute to just sit… and breathe. I’d like to invite you to do the same. Just take one moment to take in a deep breath… and let it out.

A lot of us can relate to feeling too busy. All of us have heard sermons of various kinds telling us that we need to set aside time to spend alone, to pray, to meditate, to read. Similarly, we have all heard “shoulda/coulda/woulda” stories from older men and women that we need to spend more quality time with our families and friends. We all struggle through knowing whether or not to dedicate time to this or that activity, to volunteer with this or that group, or to teach this or that class. Most of us know what’s most important to us, but then there are also bills to pay and houses to clean and food to prepare and everything else in the world to take care of. 

I certainly don’t have the answer for these predicaments, but I would like to address at least one aspect of the issue – do you sometimes feel like you’re behind? Like if somehow you can take the maximum hours in school that you’ll make up for the fact that you’ve been living abroad for a couple of years? Whether you’re going through Sunset or a university or cosmetology school or just working up the ladder, are you rushing through this phase so you can “catch up”? Do you even know what would it look like to be caught up? 

Does the end goal matter more than the way we get there? The Bible is replete with examples of patience and encouragements to live now. If we are looking to the future, it’s with the mindset of heaven being our home. I would like to encourage all of us to be grateful for the experiences we’ve had, even if they were really trying, and to be content with what God has for us in this moment. If that’s proving impossible, maybe it’s a sign that God wants you somewhere else. But before you decide one way or the other, make sure you talk with God about it, and with others you trust. If our whole lives are about what’s coming next, well, we’re not guaranteed anything but today, so let’s dedicate ourselves to making life count regardless of whether we’re married yet or have a degree yet or have a career yet or have a mission team yet. 

God wants our lives now. And if that feels like a burden instead of a blessing, I would challenge us to take a look at our lives and think of one thing we could drop. It could be the tiniest thing that’s sucking out that last bit of energy from our day. Remember, God is omnipotent, not us, and he will equip us to do every good thing we’re called to do. Rest in that promise, and let yourself be a little less busy today.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." - 2 Corinthians 3:17

-Brettin White
 Tlalpan, Mexico 
 AIM 2007

Monday, January 16, 2012

Revolution Today

If I could do one revolutionary act today                                    
... I'd listen
If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I'd give my possessions and my friendship
If I could do one revolutionary act today  
... I would mind the gap between household and nation  
If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I'd give my lovingkindness one more time to 'the                    

If I could do one revolutionary act today

... I would love those who love me

... I would love those who don't love me well

... I would love those who don't love me at all

If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I would close my lips to argument
If I could do one revolutionary act today

... I would give my lunch to one waiting on a paycheck

If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I would work an extra shift so someone could travel the world
If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I'd give my patience to that one annoying person
If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I would encourage those who encourage
If I could do one revolutionary act today
... I would ask my neighbor 'how are you eating?'

 If I were the revolution today
... I would be the peace meal of a slain people, shared between the survivors and the killers    in places like Rwanda, in Israel/Palestine and in the Americas
 If I were the revolution today
 ... I would be the extended hand, no matter how different
 If I were the revolution today
 ... hanging in bedrooms of palaces and white houses of power I'd be the dreamcatcher  retelling the nightmares of suffering in labor camps, sweatshops, prisons, deserted places of empire and the ghettos of wealth
 If I were the revolution today
 ... I'd be the change of mind in the deathdealer to give living a second try
 If I were the revolution today
 ... I'd be the renovated structure of sex trafficking and drug peddling turned organism of food gardens and no cost housing where 'the haves' and 'the have nots' find a                              common rhythm to live by
If I were the revolution today
... I'd be the pulse of the doctor who practices medicine among those who will never be able to pay the bill
If I were the revolution today
... I'd be the better world maker's thoughts spray painted in the sky so empires won't crush their heart with a dream no one can afford

... someone will forgive regardless of the wrongdoing
... someone will leave a soon to be dead life behind for a resurrected now
... an unwanted child will be taken from the trashlands and raised to birth love
... a peacemaker will leave a fresh change of heart for an angry mob to clothe their nakedness with

... someone will lay down the way of the gun for the fruits of the Spirit

... a household will harbor refugees

... a family will have enough food to share with their hungry neighbor

... an addict will be released from their chains

... someone will throw a birthday party for a prostitute

... prisoners will bless a cruel guard

... someone will sing jubilantly of another world ripening in the face of the emperor's sickle

... an aged and dying person will be cared for and instilled with dignity until their last exhale
... a hopeless leader will see a way of peace and hope thriving in the lives of obscure and 
    weak people

-Leland Grammar
 San Diego, USA 
 AIM 2005

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Fork in the Road

           What is God doing? What does God want?  Questions I have asked often in the last two years.  There are so many ways to describe AIM to someone.  My personal favorite is “an emotion, spiritual, and physical at times rollercoaster”, but something I would never change. It has been a journey, but I think I’ve learned a lot about how to answer these questions in a healthy way. I don’t believe that I could ever say I fully know what God is doing, but I always know that He is working. I don’t believe I could fully know what God wants, but I know that He wants for us to know Him more, and be happy doing that.
            I never have been good at making big decisions; I always wonder if what I have decided is what God wants. I have started to learn in understanding God’s love for me—that in the decisions that I make, God does want me to be blessed. The biggest decision that I had to make recently was where I wanted to be after my field time. My options were California or Texas. I went back and forth for the longest time about where I wanted to be, the answer was both, but as we all know I can’t be in both places at once. I was then reminded that it doesn’t matter where I choose to be because God is always working. I struggled with that for a long time, remembering that God may give me two different paths that I can choose from, but He isn’t going to bless me in one and not bless me in another. I find that the only time I won’t see God using me, is when I don’t let Him use me. I constantly need to remember that God is showing us things throughout the day that I can be doing for Him. Sometimes, I’m just not looking.
            As of this last week I have had to remind myself once again of all this, also remembering I may choose something and God may change that up a little to work in different ways. As I said before I had this big decision on where I was going to go after the field. I chose to go to Grass Valley, California because it just seemed to be working out and that God was just putting more open doors there (pretty cool thing to see God was helping me out). But, throughout this last week God has changed that and has blessed me more through this process. I am now moving to Auburn, California where I will be able to live and work in the fields that I wanted to before, but couldn’t. But there are also so many ministry opportunities here. I have seen God just change around plans, but open up ways that I can choose to give myself to Him and let Him use me.
            I thank God for the times that He has given me and the things that He has allowed in my journey with Him. I don’t look back and regret anything, because He is the one guiding me. I thank God for the choices He gives me, but I also thank Him for changing those around when needed.
            I encourage you all to make choices based on what you love to do. I encourage you to choose to walk with God in each of those choices that you make, because if you are looking towards Him, He WILL use you. 

-Jeni Bandanza
 Leon, Mexico 
 AIM 2009

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Inadequate in Ministry

What do you do when it doesn't feel like you can do anything right? 

I know that coming back from the AIM mission field, that's an easy thought pattern to slip into. When I shifted fields from Boston to Wichita Falls, TX, back in '93, in order to do a youth ministry internship with my home congregation, several times I got caught up in situations that left me feeling like I couldn't do anything right. In fact, at one point I even said that I would never get into youth ministry.

I think, in my case at least, we get fooled into thinking that we're supposed to be able to do things on our own. 

By the time we leave our mission fields, a lot of you have had to learn a whole new language to survive, and you leave having this fluency that you never would have imagined you could. We left behind a college Bible study and a small group of teens that had grown closer together. It's easy to look back on that as we board the plane or train, or dare I say, automobile, and think, "I did all that."

And it's a trap.

Some of you will have heard a guy named Randy Harris speak before. One time I heard him speak at an event about his mantra that he repeats to himself every morning. I like it so much that I took his mantra, put the Scriptures with it that he referenced, and printed it to put up in my office.

The first part of this mantra says, "Today I will be incompetent." 

The Bible verse that is the basis for his statement is 2 Corinthians 3:5: "Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." I love to read that each day when I come in my office, because I tend toward pride. It reminds me that I'm a bumbling idiot left to my own devices, but when this bumbling idiot gets in God's way and lets Him push him around, amazing things can happen. 

So what do you do when it doesn't feel like you can do anything right? Remember that you're correct. All you need to do is keep making your mistakes in the path of God, and He'll be the Adequate One for you.

When have you felt inadequate to work for God?

- Donovan Fox