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Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Bread and Apple!

Have you ever sat down and really looked at the words Christ taught us to pray? I grew up in a church where every Sunday I would say the same thing over and over again without really KNOWING what I was saying.
One summer while I was working at camp our director who happened to be a pastor did a weekly bible study of the Lord's prayer. After that eye opening experience I haven't looked at the words in the same light. I look at them and I put them into context of what it means for me.
Give us this day our daily bread. Interesting formation of words since grains for bread would have been pretty abundant during Jesus' years here on earth since carbs were the staple of their diet. If you think about it in terms of energy, you wouldn't need bread if you weren't moving around harvesting crops or caring for child, but since these were daily occurrences in the life of a Jew, bread was a crucial part of survival.
Bread in the form of what Jesus was talking about has nothing to do with physical hunger but the spiritual. One does not desire the spiritual bread of God if they aren't going anywhere. God will give us exactly the right amount of bread needed for each day's journey. The further I walk in my faith the more I realize that I need that bread that comes from heaven. I can't do this on my own.
One of my biggest heart-troubles of leaving in November is the fact that I know I have to do this alone. I have always gone away from home with at least someone I know but this time I am not. I do not have that comfort of a friend or family. My bread is my comfort and my sustainer. Literally my bread of life.
In the past I used to get frustrated with the Christian 'lingo' so to speak that seems to circulate amongst my friends. I remember hearing words or phrases over and over again and thinking to myself 'can't we come up with something better to express ourselves?'
I mentioned this thought to a good friend of mine and her response is worth noting. She said that that may in fact be true that there is a common lingo but that words for her mean so much more because she can think back to an experience that reminds her of it. I thought 'Wow, what a positive way of thinking rather than being judgmental!'

Bread of life has a whole new meaning!

I sang in a youth choir for more than 7 years and it was a big part of my life. I was just overcome with a memory of singing a beautiful song called "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree"

Jesus Christ, my bread and apple! Such comfort that brings to a troubled soul!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Abundant Blessings

Blogging has become a real blessing to me. As I sit here writing this blog I am inspired to share with you all the abundant blessings God has provided for me over the past week.
Normally when I sit to begin a blog I have a direction I am going to take. Today is different. I don't know what to write but I'm looking forward to what may come out of this.
Last week myself and five other individuals from North Park Community Church departed on a journey to Chicago to participate in a Short Term Mission Conference aimed at opening discussion for the usefulness of STM (Short Term Mission). I was hesitant to go because I only knew one other person who was going and I wasn't sure what to expect from the conference itself. It turned out to be an immensely growing and wonderful experience.
We had a very quick trip down and had a lovely time talking and listening to music. There is something about being in a very small car and bonding really quickly that I've really come to enjoy despite the fact that I'm claustrophobic!
We arrived shortly after noon and got some lunch and headed straight into the lectures. I had the chance to meet and talk with Gil Odendaal who is the Director of STM at Saddleback Church under Rick Warren. He did a presentation on the CHE (Community Health Education) work the church is doing in Rwanda. I was totally impressed!
In the evening they had a key note speaker from Nairobi Kenya named Oscar Muriu. He is certainly a mover and a shaker. He spoke very powerfully that certainly struck deep down within me. To summarize his talk wouldn't do him justice but I'm going to try and give a very broad and very general overview of his talk. He discussed the detriments that STM has brought over the years. He talked about how the Western Church often comes with an agenda to 'fix' things whether that be to build something or give money to something. He was very clear in saying that he didn't agree with others coming to do things that local Kenyans could do themselves. He talked about how mission groups come and never really experience the culture or the people since they arrive in large groups, stay in the same hotel, eat together and generally never leave each other's side. To them it is a glorified vacation. What about the Kenyans, or any other host country for that matter. At one point he boldly stated not to come to Kenya with your own agenda, we don't need you. He also talked about Kenyan culture in that they won't say no to you. It is apart of who they are that they must 'keep face' per say. As I sat there listening to him I came to a horrible realization. The Presbyterian Church had ASKED if I could come. In one single moment it seemed as if my entire world had crashed down around me. Now I didn't know which way to turn.
As soon as he was finished his talk one of the leaders of my group from North Park suggested we go up and meet him since he is good friends with the Kenyan Pastor. I was terrified that he would mention something to Oscar about me going to Kenya and I quietly pulled him aside and asked him not to say anything. I immediately left for fear of breaking down into tears in front of everyone in the auditorium.
I sat in the bathroom for a long time crying... crying out to God. I remember saying to him "God, I don't understand. I thought this was where you told me to go. I am so lost. Please tell me what to do!"
I pulled myself together and walked back to my hotel. I fell asleep last night trying to figure out what my next steps were going to be.
The next day, broken, I woke up not really wanting to continue on with the seminars. During most of the time slots there were more than one person presenting. I decided to attend one by a Dominican Republican pastor named Rev. Robert Guerrero. HE also had a similar theme as Oscar. He based his talk on Luke 22:24-30 "Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." What struck me was his sincerity and courage. He spoke about the need for missions to shift from the mindset of the Benefactor to the Kingdom Builder. So many groups come thinking that they have all the answers for the people. What is it that makes us think that our way is better anyways? What he focused on was his desire to see people come because they simply want to BE with each other as the body of Christ; to come to build a relationship rather than a building.
After he concluded I felt a resurgence of courage within me. I am called to Kenya not to be a Benefactor but a Kingdom Builder. As Robert said " We (The Western world) are not called to fix the problem but to participate in it."
The next day our group got together with Oscar to pray for him. Our group leader asked our group to share with him anything that was on our hearts to encourage Oscar. I was overcome with gratitude towards him. I told him that I was deeply grateful for reminding me of my purpose and the value of the Kenyan people. I thanked him for his honesty with us in the West that we were, in some cases, a detriment to others. When I finished Oscar said to me words I will take with me through the remainder of my days here on earth. HE said "Margaret I hope you know that I DO believe in missions. I believe in the power of human relationships and I know that is why you are coming. I WANT you to come to Kenya and when you do come have coffee with me." It was hard to hold back the tears in that moment! Praise God that he tears away all that is unclean and was so gracious to build back up so quickly!
Over the past few weeks I had begun to allow thoughts into my mind which were not of God. I began to think about how useful I could and have been. What I began to ficus on was my own success rather than God's.
We arrived back in London just in time to attend the evening service, albeit I was really late. After the service I had to rush to the bathroom but I was intercepted by three different women that I've spent time with these past few years at school. I was overwhelmed by their welcoming and happiness to see me and I was convicted by God. He showed me in that moment how he had been working through me in these women's lives. It has absolutely nothing to do with me at all. Praise God that he takes all the credit. I don't want it anyways.. it just messes with my brain!
On Saturday I got up and drove to Tillsonburg to do a church service that I had taken for a minister on holidays. I found the church to have a wonderful environment about them. They were relaxed and prepared to worship their God in whatever way that might take. There was a beautiful dynamic in the service where there was no disconnect between the person speaking and the congregation. Everyone participated and it was reciprocal. I felt completely at home.
As I drove back to the 401 I realized that my roommate from third year, Vicki, went to church right near there. As I was driving I prayed "God, if you want Vicki and I to meet would you please help me to get there in time". I made a few wrong turns but eventually walked into the service as they were finishing their last song.
I spent the afternoon with Vicki and her friends at the beach just laughing and having a wonderful time with wonderful conversation.
VIcki and I made plans and she came to my house the next day, slept over then we went back to the beach. We had an extremely relaxing day of lying on the beach then swimming and repeating. We got a bit scorched but I was just overcome with what a blessing the past days had been.
Fellowship really IS just BEING with people. It has nothing to do with an agenda, although that is something that comes with the relationship.
I didn't plan on being cleansed in Chicago, nor did I plan on being so relaxed and free to speak frankly with the congregation in Tillsonburg. I did not plan to meet Vicki or spend 2 days at the beach but that is exactly what God wanted. As the singer Matt Nathanson says " Everyday is a start of something beautiful!"

So true... So true!!!