Saturday, April 30, 2011

February huh? Disgraceful.

Let's shoot off some bullet points.

  • Next. The 3 weeks and events the Scripture Union planned leading up to Easter were, in a word, SPECTACTULAR-CHRIST-CENTERED-GOSPEL-GLORIFYING-AWESOME and just really really fun. (I come from a church where hyphenated words are actually one word :)
  • I have shaken hands with the head of the entire police force of Northern Ireland.
  • I'm learning to play rugby, throw a mean javelin, and am on a winning team in our Ultimate Frisbee Tourney.
  • I am coming to love the people here so dearly I don't know how I'll be able to leave.
  • Sarah Chestnutt is due on Sunday. She resembles a small continent...a very attractive continent, but a continent nonetheless.
  • Teaching is not as scary as I always thought is was. Actually, I really enjoy it.
  • I'm supporting my roommate as she runs in the Belfast Marathon this Monday.
  • If you think of it, pray for the community here in Mourne: we had another shooting this last week and a Lithuanian man was killed around the corner from my house. I'm not scared for my own safety, but I wonder at the folks who live here with that kind of reality everyday.
  • I'm learning new words, like "mingin" and "skundered".
All that aside I find I'm seeing that your walk of faith with God is often times nothing like a walk or a run, canter, gallop, or anything along those lines. Instead it's a fight-a bloody, uncomfortable, painful, and tiring fight to keep your thoughts captive to Christ and to delight yourself in Him only. The fighter verse this week is almost a barb because when I picture a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season with no withered leaves, I don't see the storm surrounding and lashing out at the tree. But then I read promises like:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

And down a bit further...

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:12-15, 33

And then I know that my redeemer lives and that he has not left me to fight on my own. His very Spirit of truth will come and stand with me and remind me that He has overcome the world, so don't give up!

That's all you probably want to read for today so I'll end there. Jesus is alive and working and building for himself a kingdom that he will come into and he will reign over it with us at his side...
Get excited about our King!

Friday, February 18, 2011


It seems ministry isn't meant to be easy. What do you do with a program that has hit its stride, produced much fruit, and is now struggling to recover its vision? What is the key to teaching the gospel that makes it come from the heart when your literal heart is pounding at 200mph and choking the life out of you? What do you do when you want to stop sharing the love of God because your audience isn't listening? How do you reach out to a small group of people you care deeply about but don't understand their heart language? How do you go about admitting your past sins humbly when people you know don't care about you ask in order to tear you down? How do you prepare yourself for heartache?
I'm not asking these questions to be a Debbie-downer. I am asking out of a heart that loves its Savior and knows its utter dependence on Him, but is still struggling to keep from breaking. I love being here, my times with God, waking up thinking how I'm going to serve him today...but then going to bed saying "What am I doing here? Lord, you must've sent the wrong person because I'm not able to wave your banner under these kind of attacks." 
Again-I'm not depressed! I'm wrestling with God. Any and all of your prayers for wisdom and peace would be an encouragement to me.
On the side of blessings from God: Becca, my roommate, is an absolute angel of mercy. She's been kind, supportive, generous, and a real joy to my heart. Also: Samuel and Sarah. These three keep me sane. So do my long walks around is so beautiful. I'm getting more things to plan and places to be so I'm staying busy and engaged in the ministry here. God is doing a work here...I've just come in at a transition time that's inevitably leaving some holes. 
Much love and grace to you all,

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62: 5-8

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Closer Look Reveals

Things have been tottling along. Going to meetings, attending services, trips to ASDA...that's the grocery store, and then more meetings with the occasional super fun and awesome game night. It's this super fun and awesome game night that was much much more than that for me. The 45 minute trip to Donpatrick was great craic and I really connected with my driver, a 32 year old woman from Kitty's Road. I'm not sure whether or not to put her name in, so I'll call her...Kitty. The folks on Kitty's Road are an interesting bunch. Their accent is very strong, and they are very reliable when it comes to speaking their mind. It's this part that made a difference on the way back. 
   Bottom line: Kitty asked me if I thought she was going to Hell. She knows she's done bad things (Catholic background) and yet she doesn't want to call herself a bad person. I was completely stunned that she'd asked me right out, but I also knew that God had given me this opportunity and I wasn't about to shrink back like one who has no confidence in what they're talking about. So I asked her a question: are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins? She replied: do I believe in Jesus? I countered: no, do you believe that Jesus can save you from your sins? Now I wish I could tell you that she answered me straight which would have pushed for the acceptance/denial of salvation, but she didn't and the conversation swerved back to whether or not she's a good person. 
   I'm glad she asked the question straight...I'm sorry she thinks I'm the one to judge her. She seems to think I'm a good person. Well I shot that balloon right out of the air, but struggled to keep from flaunting my sin. Note: humbly talking about your own sin is hard! What pushed me to keep going was in recalling my former life-I could only remember it vaguely-I could see so clearly that Jesus had done a radical thing in my life that changed everything. The thought of seeing the face of God was so keen in that car...I had to proclaim him in as many ways as I could. So many promises and truths of Jesus were swirling around in my head and I wanted to grab them all and make them fit in one single sentence that would show her a fraction of what life in Christ is and how it redefines your very existence...but then I remembered there are 66 books in the Bible with many much sentences and besides: God is bigger than all those words. Our language can't hold him and neither can our heads!
   "Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments    
   and how inscrutable are his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his
   counselor? And who has ever given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through
   him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen." Romans 11: 32-36
Upon closer examination I found that I need to be rehearsing the gospel to myself more often. I didn't see that conversation coming, though I certainly had been praying for it, and when it did come I couldn't order my thoughts as well as I would've liked. Later that evening I found myself saying "That's what I should've said! Rats!" But that's not to suggest that I'm ashamed of what I said. It was all true, to the best of my knowledge, and I said it from my heart. Now I'm resting in God's promise that his word does not go out void. I don't know if what I said that was what Kitty needed to hear, but our conversation ended with her saying: "I'm going to start saying my prayers again Alli...because of you." I find that very unsettling as I don't think that means she's expecting to encounter God in those prayers but still encouraging as at least she's going to try. Please be praying for Kitty as she struggles to understand her life in the context of the gospel. And for me as I continue to love on her and pray with/for her.
   More thoughts and experiences are sure to come: please keep praying and be encouraged that God is at work in these hearts, both young and old-er!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A thought from my devotions this morning: Exodus 2...and then 3

23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25God saw the people of Israel—and God knew...
7Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you (Moses) to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."

I highlighted and underlined the verbs to make the point that we have a relational God. And that we have an active God. Once it's understood he sees, hears, and knows the sufferings of his people, he sends Moses to be his instrument of deliverance. I he calling me to be such as Moses-a means by which people are drawn out of suffering into the kingdom of God? And another thought followed quite quickly: if you're asking if God wants to use you...the answer is always yes. See what needs to be done and do it. 
Now-this is very easily said, not easily done. We know this-especially when seeing what needs to be done requires understanding the will of God. Because it's never our belongs to God Almighty and he alone can grasp it. So what then? Do we wait around serving ourselves while we wait for divine lightning bolts to strike? I've found that if you don't know how to do something, imitate someone who does it better than you. Therefore let's be imitators of Christ and watch his will unfold in serving him through serving others!
Seeking the will of God in serving with you,

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Just when I think this isn't a different culture, out pops another contradiction to my perceptions. I'm choosing to think of this as a good thing: I'm not always right and it's good to remember that. On that same vein...I've been reading in the sermon on the mount again and the beatitudes have always unnerved me. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is good news if you're poor in spirit. But what about when you don't feel poor in spirit? Or you don't perceive yourself as merciful? The last thing you want to be right now is a peacemaker. Pure in heart? Not today...maybe never. I did some thinking and came to two conclusions, with the second rising from the first. On our own we can't be any of these things. We aren't any of these things. That's what Jesus came to abolish. His death satisfied the requirement God gave and that we, sinful people that we are, couldn't keep. We're too caught up in ourselves and our own comforts/desires.  Without Christ we can't be what God requires.  (Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.) But with Christ...being in Christ...we become coheirs with Him. We are given the right to become children of God. With Christ the rewards are real. To those who receive Christ, who believe in his name: rejoice and seek the things of the kingdom! His promises are for you in Christ: you pure of will see God.
Many blessings,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hello from over here

Well. Uh...I made it. The flight was pretty uneventful and even more uncomfortable. I really enjoyed my stewardess and her sassiness. "If you absolutely need to smoke, we have special seating for you: on the wing of the plane where you will get an exclusive performance of Gone With the Wind." I snickered :)

I met my flatmate Becca at the airport and praise God for her! She's easy to talk to and very patient with a bumbling American. I know God is going to do a great thing in our flat.
I had dinner with the Chestnutt's and that was a good thing. I needed to be with folks that I knew in the middle of a whole lot of things I don't know. (and there are more than I thought...I have electric water :)

I'm super tired and having a great time with Sarah and Becca watching Big Fat Gypsy Wedding so I'm not putting everything up now. But God is at work here and I'm seeing it in little things.
Please keep praying for strength and patience as I try to figure out which way is up :)
In the hope of glory both now and in the not so distant future,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Perspectives on Hope

All the paperwork is in. An extra 150.00 dollars was required. (Hidden fees) And...I still don't know if it'll all get here in time for me to leave on Monday. 
I'm on the edge of my seat to see what God will do. I've never felt hope like this. This is the kind of hope where what I'm hoping in is not the efficiency of our esteemed government to issue this paperwork, or the efforts of our BBC short term missions office (Tina-you are an angel of mercy and a true servant of God!), but on God alone to keep his promise and to keep my sanity.  It's living in the complete assurance that God's will is supreme and good. There is no error, no oversight, no incoherent thought in the mind of God.

Hope is believing there will be a positive outcome to a particular set of events. It isn't knowing-that's something closer to expectation. Hope, on the one hand, is far more dangerous, for "what do we have if not belief?" (C.S. Lewis) But if hope-a belief that indeed God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)-is all we have...we have much!  

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

So. We don't press on as those who have no hope. "24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:24-26)

Continuing in hope and in prayer,

Monday, January 17, 2011

What a way to start a trip...

For the record: I'm not a blogger. But I also don't want to force Facebook on anyone, nor do I enjoy long email lists. So the lesser of two has been selected. Enough the point!

I, as some of you may have already figured out, am not in Ireland as I had intended to be right about now. Radio may have killed the video star, but a Visa killed my trip to Kilkeel. I applied for a Visa last Monday and got all my paperwork in today rush order/expedited shipping/the whole shabang and it should arrive in New York tonight. I've also got a ticket for the 24th of January-it's pushing things, I know! But...I've not given up on this thing yet.

While these are the facts, I have to keep preaching to myself more important facts. God is good. He is wise-far wiser than I-and He is merciful. I have no doubt that there is a God-glorifying reason I didn't leave on Friday and it comes down to His love for His name and for me. It's staggering really to think that God, who loves as passionately and fully as He does, never leaves those He loves. He stands to fight for them...even when I feel He's left me standing at the station. So He's fighting battles for me now: doubt, desolation, discouragement, and (breaking with alliteration) fear.

Please join me in praying against these attacks on a struggling sinner with a strong Savior and for this Visa to come through quickly. Everything is for our sanctification-an opportunity for God to take hold of and tear away our old natures that we so fiercely cling to, though the new is here in Christ!

Peace be with you as you dwell in the love of God.