I am a missionary in Spain who desires for the power of the Holy Spirit to be unleashed in me, to be unabashed about the love of Christ, and unafraid to go where God calls. These are my stories in this journey of letting God have everything.

26 July 2006

Weekend of Firsts

Ever since I have moved to Madrid, I feel like I am constantly experiencing "firsts." This past weekend was filled with an exceptional amount. I took my first bus trip in Spain all by my self. Before I can even get that far though, I missed my first bus in Spain. Now, I know, after six and a half months, that Spain uses the 24 hour clock, but when you look at a bus schedule that says that a bus leaves at 1:00, do you think am or pm? I was thinking pm, but had I thought properly, it should have occurred to me that 1 pm is 13:00. Needless to say I showed up for my bus to Castellon 12 hours late. Unfortunately, no one else really seems to care about these mistakes so the only way to remedy it is to buy another ticket. So I guess this was my first time buying 2 tickets for one trip. Anyway, once I finally got on the bus, I was headed to Castellon, which is a smaller town on the Mediterranean where my friends, Kelly and April live. I worked on my day off last week so I could spend three days with friends and at the beach. Once I finally arrived, only 14 and a half hours after I was really supposed to, I made it to Kelly and April's flat with no other problems.

Just some back ground here, Kelly and April used to be on the team in Madrid, but took a one year hiatus so April could finish her masters but Kelly has still been working with Christian Associates just in a different capacity. Anyway, after they have their first child, due in October, they are heading home to the States to do some support raising and then returning to Madrid in the spring. I have gotten the chance to get to know them over the past six months and would consider them good friends. They, along with the rest of my team, make me want to stay in Madrid, just to be with all of them. (No Heather, Troy, Kelly, Kelly, and April that doesn't mean I have made any decisions yet, it just means I really like you guys!)Ok, back to the weekend. Friday I got up and explored Castellon a little bit. I had a wonderful walk through lots of shade, the sun is just too hot. Kelly had told me of a Bascillica that he and April walk to sometimes so I checked that out too. It was beautiful! Later in the afternoon, I experienced another major first, I swam in the Mediterranean. It was incredible, it was so different from any body of water I have ever been in. First of all, the water is warm. I mean, fill the tub warm. Unlike the Atlantic or Lake Michigan, which are more like stepping into a glass of ice water, this was warm. It still baffles me that you actually have to get out of the water after a while to cool off. Another oddity about the sea is the buoyancy. April and I tried with all our might to swim under water, but without fail after about 2 strokes we would bob back up to the top. I guess that's good news if you aren't a fan of drowning, and I'm not. It was great to be able to float and not have to use any energy what-so-ever. I could just lay back and relax. Treading water was a new experience too as all you had to do was kick your legs like once every couple of minutes. It was pretty spectacular! Besides experiencing the sea up close and personal, it was beautiful to behold from not so up close. Saturday was more of the same. Reading, relaxing, laying on the beach, and chatting with friends. I also spent some time just watching the families at the beach. It is nice to be out of the city and see some normal family interaction. The little kids are so much fun to watch. This one little girl was so cute and she was a very determined little girl. I watched her over and over again bring her sand toys to the water to wash them off, run back to join her friends in the sand and then moments later run back to the water to wash of the newly sand covered shovel and bucket. It was just too cute. It was another glorious day! Sunday morning was another first experience for me. I attended my first mass. It was really interesting. Seeing as how most of Spain, if they have any religious affiliation at all, is Catholic, I thought it would bee a good experience to see what it is all about. Kelly and April have been going to this mass for a little while so they can learn more about Catholicism. I definately learned more from this one mass that just what I have heard. I think there are some valuable things that the Catholic church is doing, I just question their means of doing them. It was impossible for me to participate in the service, despite the fact that my Spanish is inadequate. The entire service seemed choreographed, which in some ways I think it is. It is the same routine that I'm sure they have been doing every mass since the doors opened to this church. I was witness to a series of standing up, sitting down, singing, listening, repeating liturgy. None of this was posted anywhere so I just went a long for the ride, standing and sitting when everyone else was, but that was the extent of my particpation. Unless you have always done this or just determine to go and learn from week to week what is going on, there is no guide book. I wonder how significant those liturgies are to the people who have been saying them out of habit all their lives. Anyway, I'm really glad I went to the mass and got a chance to kind of debrief the experience with Kelly and April in a little air conditioned cafe' over breakfast. It was good to talk through the service and learn from what I observed. After breakfast, we decided the best way to spend my last few hours in Castellon was at the beach, so off we went. When it was time to finally go, I grudgingly packed my backpack and we headed to the bus station. I was on time and everything. Unfortunately the bus was not. It was 45 minutes late and once it finally got there I took my seat in the very front of the bus. This was a first for me as well, and I hope it will be a last too. Let's just say, when the bus driver slams on his brakes, I would much rather not be able to see how close we are to the car in front of us. I think I would instead like to be back far enough that I can't see and just imagine that we are really close to that car. I did manage to survive the 8 hour trip back, which should have only taken 5 hours by the way, and got home safely. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I feel as though I am somehow a little bit of a better person to have experienced so many more "firsts." Thanks again Kelly and April for your hospitality.

14 July 2006

Oasis Madrid

Well, tonight was a momentous occasion. I spoke at Oasis Madrid. The following is the manuscript of what I said. This is very basic as I can't stay with what I write. I said a lot more than what is here, but as I didn't record myself, this is the closest we'll get. I hope you enjoy what God led me to talk about. I think it went well, but you'd have to ask one of the 14 people who were there. Sure it doesn't seem like much, but 14 is good for the summer, especially for the middle of July. Madrid clears out in the summer. People heading home for the summer, or gone on holiday. It was a good group and I was so excited to be able to speak. I just pray that God used it.

We started by singing "Blessed Be Your Name"

I wanted it to be fairly interactive so we started with small group discussions. I asked these two questions.

1) Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” What does this mean to us as Jesus followers?

2) Matthew 20:26-28 says, “…Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” What does this mean to us as Jesus followers?

There was some great discussion and it was really interesting looking at both of these in context of the other. Well, according to these verses, which I believe to be true, Jesus came to set an example for us as a servant. I want to read an account of Jesus setting the perfect example as a servant and then we are going to serve one another as a form of worship.

John 13:3-17 “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand,” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Ok, let’s try it. I just thought this would be a good way to get us in the right mind-set for everything else I want to say tonight. You know that in Madrid, this is actually a pretty practical thing to do with as dusty as this city gets. While we are washing each others feet, we are going to be singing "Humble King." If you do not feel comfortable participating, just pass on to the next person. (By the way, everyone participated and when we were done singing we just spent some time in silence. It was cool.)


Alright, jumping right in, here is what I want to talk about. Because the name of our church is Oasis Madrid, I want us to think about the implications that has for us. We are going to do this by looking at how God is an Oasis, Jesus was a moving Oasis, and as His followers, we are to emulate His life. So let’s get into it, this has been really exciting for me to research and study. I love this church and I am becoming more and more passionate about what it means for us to be an oasis. Ok, but before we can discuss how God is an oasis, let’s make sure we know what an oasis is. Anyone… Yeah, I looked up oasis in an online dictionary and here are the definitions I got that I really like:
• In geography, an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source
• A shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary
• A haven
• A fertile or green spot in a desert or wasteland, made so by the presence of water
• A situation or place preserved from surrounding unpleasantness; a refuge; an oasis of serenity amid chaos (I think that is my favorite definition)

I’m guessing, because I know how smart all of you are, you have a pretty good idea as to where I am going with this, so without further adue.

There are many instances in the Bible where God is referred to as a refuge or sanctuary. I looked it up on Bible Gateway and about 70 passages popped up that refer to God as a refuge. Here are just a couple of them.

Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 141:8 says, “But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death.”

This should be enough of an example as to why we should strive to be an oasis, a refuge, a help, a stronghold, a source of life, but God made it even easier for us. He sent his son to set a human example for us. I think that for God and Jesus to attract people to them, they needed to offer something that no one else had, such as water in a desert. Is it ironic that in John 4 Jesus offered the Samaritan woman living WATER that will quench her thirst so she would never be thirsty again?! Where else can we go to be completely filled? Another way that Jesus can be seen as an oasis is through serving others. Jesus cared for and served the poor, weak, sick, and broken, just to name a few. He met their needs. And if God in the flesh can serve His creation shouldn’t we as his followers also be willing to serve in order to glorify Him.

I just read a story the other day about a man called Brother James Kimpton. I believe that he knows what it means to follow God’s example and serve. He has served the poor and broken in India for over 50 years. Here is a brief description of what he does there. He digs wells, builds homes, runs schools, dresses wounds, rescues orphans, rehabilitates the disabled, feeds the hungry, trains the unskilled, and shelters the abandoned. Wow, it doesn't sound like he's doing much. (Ha Ha) Needless to say, people are drawn to him, like an oasis in a desert. When asked why he does some of the things he does he replied, “To me, every child I serve is Jesus.” Pavi Krishnan, the woman who wrote this story says this after her visit to some of the Children’s Villages that Brother James has established, “The love you’ve seen everywhere comes from one man at the center. It radiates from him, and everything he touches ripples forward.” Like the water source in an oasis, one person, or one action can start a ripple effect. When we focus our lives on serving God and trying to reflect his image to those around us, people notice. Imagine the impact. Lambert Dolphin says, “When the world looks at the church, it should see a different way of life, a different standard of behavior. People should say of the church, ‘They know how to love, how to reach out.’” Are we living like that? Are we making ripples?

Now I want to talk a little more about how we can follow Christ’s example and God’s call to us to be like Him and be an oasis in the desert, but first let’s listen to this song and read the words on the power point. I think this song clearly describes how our love for God should move us to want to serve and obey him.

Love of My Heart, by CeCe Winans PowerPoint

Ok, now let’s step back a bit to the Old Testament for a second. Even before Jesus had come to set a human example of what it means for a person to be an oasis, a refuge, God was already instructing his people how to live worshipful, vibrant, godly lives so as to attract others to him.

Isaiah 58:6-12 says this: (I’m reading from the Message because I really like how it is worded here – Heather would be so proud, she loves the Message)

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims; quit gossiping about other people’s sins, if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.”

I know that most of you have heard this passage before. I actually read it at the last service in June. I find this passage to be quite convicting especially for myself. This is a huge call we have to answer as Christians, but the promises for doing so seem make it well worth the sacrifice. The main theme of these verses is; what does it mean to know and serve God? The late pastor, Ray Stedman said, “the ultimate test of faith has always been: does it lead you to serve, to help somebody in need? Do you feel motivated to act?”

I think this passage has some implications for us as individuals as well as for us as a community. Our name is Oasis Madrid. You could say we live in a desert wasteland. People are wandering around out there searching for the source of living water. So I want to end with a little more discussion. And this week, take some time to look over this passage from Isaiah and really just let it sink it and then let it move you.

We discussed this question in our small groups and in honor of Troy, who always uses the time limit of 7 minutes, we talked for 7 minutes and wrote our ideas on post-it-notes (also in honor of Troy) and then after that, shared our ideas with the rest of the group.

What are some real tangible ways that we as individuals, as well as, we as a community can be an Oasis here in Madrid?

After the discussion Kelly led us in a couple more songs, "All Who are Thirsty" and "Heart of Worship." It was a great night! After the service, half the group went out for dinner and drinks at a place right down the street from our house. The service was actually at our house. I know I already said it, but tonight was great. Well, that's all I have to say. Later...

13 July 2006

What's So Amazing About Grace?

I just finished reading that book, "What's so Amazing about Grace?" byPhilip Yancey yesterday. Wow, it was good. It was eyeopening, heart breaking, and beautiful all at the same time. I want to share some of it with you so here are some quotes from the book that spoke to me.
  • There is only one thing the world cannot do that the church can - offer grace
  • Grace is shockingly personal. As Henri Nouwen points out, "God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, not becuase thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost has been found."
  • The problem of pain meets its match in the scandal of grace.
  • Grace costs nothing for the recipients but everything for the giver. Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.
  • Grace delcares that we are still God's pride and joy.
  • If grace is so amazing, why don't Christians show more of it? How is it that Christians called to dispense the aroma of grace instead emit the noxious fumes of ungrace?
  • Those most conscious of another world have made the most effective Christians in this one. -C. S. Lewis
  • The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.
I hope these quotes have served to wet your appitite to read this book. I would highly recommend it. I wish that I had some deep theological conclusion to make about grace right now, but I don't. I just know that grace is a gift that we maybe hold onto too tightly sometimes when we should be eager to give it away. I hope you receive this gift, especially from those of us who claim to be Jesus' followers. Grace is amazing!!!

07 July 2006

Blog Abuse

Did you think I fell off the face of the earth? Well, I did't. I just fell off the face of cyber earth for a while. My friend Jo would call what has happened here "Blog Abuse". She doesn't want to have her own blog for fear that she would neglect her faithful readers and not post often enough. Well, I am guilty of both. I'm sorry. Let me fill you in a bit on all that has kept me away from faithfully updating my blog. These may sound like excuses, but to each his own. I know Pete, "Excuses are for losers," I don't think these are valid reasons. Anyway, at the beginning of June I headed home to Michigan for a week to visit family, friends, supporters, and witness my older brother's wedding. It was such a beautiful wedding and a great time with family and friends. I only wish I could have visited for longer. It came at a perfect time though. I had been in Madrid for 5 months when I got to go home for a visit. It was much needed! One week later I reluctantly boarded the plane back to Madrid. The trip went fine but needless to say I was exhausted when I returned to Madrid. I got home, dropped my things off and went straight to my staff meeting. Let me just say, I do not like jet lag at all!!! So then I was back in Madrid for 4 full days before Kelly (my roommate) and I left for vacation to Prague. We spent a week in Prague checking out all that we could possibly see and walk more than we thought possible. It was incredible! Everyone has always told me, "If you can go anywhere in Europe, go to Prague." I am now saying those exact words. The city is just amazingly beautiful. We returned to Madrid on 25 June. Three days later our team leaders, Troy and Heather, and their kids left for the States for the rest of the summer on furlough. Needless to say, those few days with them before they left were quite busy. So now a week and a half after that, things are finally settling back into a routine. Again I apoligize and hope you except my explanation.

I don't want to write much more now so I don't run out of things to say so I can blog again soon. Make sure you check out the "My Pictures" link to the right. I just posted all the pictures from my trip to the States, and more specifically from Matt and Mandace's wedding and all the pictures from my trip to Prague. I will go ahead and apologize now, because there are loads of photos. You may want to grab a glass of lemonaid and get comfortable. I hope you enjoy them though. I had an incredible time in both places and I love taking photos, hence the absurd amount of photos. Well, thanks for being patient with me and I'll write again soon. (Hopefully;))