Thursday, August 31, 2017

Distracted by the drama

As I sat in this familiar board room, with the sound of rain pouring down on the acoustic tin roof that shielded us from the storm, I could feel the tension starting to rise as many of those present rose to defend themselves while subtly lashing out in a confrontational, yet orderly waltz. It has been a few weeks since the rug was pulled out from under us with a sudden change in authorities, and most of us are still regaining our footing. And it is in this season of transition that I have come to see a new side of humanity. There is a fascinating drive to maintain status quo while keeping friends and enemies at a superficial distance that will be useful but not threatening; to be utterly distracted yet intensely focused. Government entities are set up this way, at least here in Guatemala. As quickly as one person is appointed, a movement to dethrone them is already on the way, provoking waves of uncertainty and doubt. These kinds of situations where we, as humans, feel threatened in some way, whether that be in our jobs, in our home life or on a deeply personal level, generally provoke predictable behaviours from us. Although we are quick to hide behind our degrees, declarations and diplomacy, a sense of feeling threatened lights a match to a well-know neurological  pathway whose fuse blows up in manipulative and confrontational behaviour. I have seen this as much in my two-year-olds as in the adept and accomplished lawyer who sat a few chairs down from me. We feel threatened because we don't feel safe. We don't feel safe because we don't know who to trust. All of these transition and interpersonal struggles are currently magnified by the current high profile political turmoil played out as a bureaucratic soap opera coming out with brand new episodes every day. #crisis.

I clearly recall two years ago, when the then-Guatemalan president was caught in unprecedented corruption scandals and was eventually cornered by societal outcry into a hesitant resignation. I can remember refreshing my Twitter every twenty minutes (much to my wife's dismay), as the political drama was just too important and entertaining to miss. Every conversation revolved around the news of the day and it wasn't long before I had been completely wrapped up in a battle that was not my own and distracting me from where my attention needed to be. As if the scales had suddenly fallen from my eyes, I promptly deleted my news apps and ran to a place of reflection and repentance. So now, two years later, as the drama is reborn and I find myself uncomfortably close to the action, I seek to put into practice the lessons I have learned. Instead of buying into to it, I feel capable enough to sense the threat and uncertainty and remember that my roots spread much deeper than the soil of this world. When I am tempted to replace the most important things in life with trivial tweets and posts, I am learning to speak hope into those situations and be the ambassador of Jesus I was born to be. Failure is a familiar foe, and I confess that in lieu of shining brightly this evening in that board room, several of my fellow attendees may have caught me rolling my eyes and slouching in despair. BUT. I can look back over the past two years and see how God has led me by my the hand, and guided my reluctant heart to broaden my perspective and focus my spirit. It is so easy to get caught up in the drama that life offers, but my prayer is that God would look down on His beloved children, the ones whose adoption cost Him everything, and would see hearts that aren't distracted and distraught. That He would see us remembering daily just who He is, what He has done and where the story is leading. What this world so desperately needs, whether we are currently waist high in flood waters or political turmoil, is hope. And God's plan A to bring hope to this broken world in the most desperate of situations is that we would inject Jesus into the picture, focus the frame and reach into those broken and needy lives that He was willing to give his life for. For the change I long to see in this beautiful country, and for the lives that are longing for a hope that does not fade, let us continue to walk, not distracted by the bright lights and loud music, but focused on the gentle voice that is the true source of life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

You are no sheep of mine

Imagine the feeling of having dedicated your life to what you firmly believed was the correct and righteous thing to do, only to be confronted with the immaculate beauty of Jesus as He looks deep down into your eyes and says, “You don’t belong with me”. I was reading through the gospel of John the other day in the Amplified Bible and stumbled upon some words that really frightened me. Jesus was walking through a parable that I have known for decades, however in this version the text portrays Jesus standing in front of some inquisitive Jews and says to them "You are no sheep of mine". These men were committed religious gurus who had dedicate their lives to following Jesus' Father, but there was an abysmal disconnect between what they were preaching and the lives they were living. How easy it is for me to sit back in my chair, read these words and think, "Poor guys, they really missed the mark". Yet, I couldn't help but envision the day I will stand before Jesus and imagine Him uttering these very words to me. Frightening. Yes, you became a missionary at a young age and were actively involved in ministry and helped some kids, but YOU are no sheep of mine.  I am not usually frightened by what I read in the bible, but this time I could feel my eyes open wide and my heart beat fast as I thought about the monumental moment when I will see Jesus face to face. Will I, like the Jews, believe I am doing everything right and dedicating my entire life to following Him without actually doing what He says?

It's one of our most intrinsic human needs; to belong to something greater than ourselves,  to find our purpose for existence in the context of a community with a nurturing authority figure who singles you out as precious and worthy. But imagine standing before the greatest being who has ever lived, the one who thoughtfully created those very needs and desires we all have, and to have Him say that you are not one of His. Following Jesus is so much more important than I thought it was. Truly following Him has such an incredible eternal impact and the enemy wants nothing less than for me to be in the group of sheep that doesn’t belong.  This echoes another verse that has haunted me for decades, in Luke 6:46 where Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I say?” Jesus offered wide open invitations to follow him but with very real and specific instructions. Following Him would look different than following Cesar or the elite Jews of the day. I am freshly intrigued by the comparison of Jesus being our shepherd and that we are to simply follow and obey Him because it is the best thing for us. So, the question remains: are you truly following Jesus or just doing a good job at looking like you do? If he asks you to stop criticizing your government or move to another country or enter into a season of rest and uncertainty, would you follow? Jesus' desire is that we would belong to Him and find our security and identity wrapped up in who He is, but I need to take Him at His word. So I choose to surrender. More than anything I choose to live intentionally, trusting that God looks down at me through the lens of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection and confidently says, "This one's mine." The Good Shepherd had to lay his own life down for this to happen and if that's the kind of God we are talking about, then I definitely choose to follow. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Battle We Cannot Lose

My life has changed rather dramatically over the past few months, marked by a significant change in work life and daily routines. I admit that my gravitational pull is to an attitude of indifference towards life if I am not careful in pursuing perspective and intentionally fostering a sense of purpose and significance. There are so many different levels of struggle and fighting going on ranging from the deepest parts of who I am warring within me up to the heavenly dimensions where the kingdom is breaking through into earthly territories in incredible ways. Though I am aware of this context of war and struggle, I still cherish a childish belief that following Jesus should look a lot more like peace, comfort and ease when compared to my chaotic pre-gospel existence. In spite of knowing the truth, I act as if I don't. Romans 7 bounces around my head reaffirming that I am not alone in this carnal struggle to fight for the "real me" that has since been redeemed and rescued however, my flesh is like the elephant in the room that doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon. I have recently been so amazed by God's favour and provision as He has opened doors and hearts in places and people I had never dreamed of. I have sat at tables, received phone calls and met people that brings me to a place of complete awe of what God is doing in Guatemala and for some reason choosing me to take part in. Yet, instead of shamefully walking out of the room with his tail between his legs, this elephant, that is my flesh, seems to quietly take a seat, kick back and make himself at home. I heard a sermon this week saying that when we decide to follow Christ we are transferred from fighting a battle that we could never win to one in which we can never lose. I see this new battle as being two-fold; one in which my redeemed self, now found in Christ and being renewed daily is frustrated by my persisting flesh. The second battle is in the kingdom that I now belong to as it forcefully pushes back the forces of darkness and breaks through the satanic structures that have plagued us since Adam. In one case, my salvation could never depend on any of my works or efforts, yet in the other, what I do today could potentially resonate throughout all of eternity.

As I have transitioned into a government institution that I once so effortlessly judged and criticized, I realize that my minutes do indeed matter. Where I invest my time and energy is important and can be a part of God's strategic plan. This world so desperately and successfully distracts me and keeps me entranced with funny video clips, live updates and breaking news yet I am slowly learning about the importance my God-given time that I so effortlessly surrender to my social networks and other earthly abysses. In a meeting this past week, a pastor I respect greatly told me that at the end of the day, things were going to happen in these times with or without us and that we were to simply stand back, watch and "trust". I love this person, but I deeply reject their sentiment. God wants us to know that we are His exclusive design for carrying out His plan on earth and that the way He chooses to shine on planet earth is undoubtedly through us. Standing by will most definitely not do anything to bring heaven to earth and bystanders certainly won't get the prize. Though my flesh wants to weigh me down with beliefs of insignificance and pity, I want to decide to fight. The people God has placed in our sphere of influence are worth fighting for. Will we continue to be bystanders, entrenched behind our tweets and Facebook shares without engaging in the real battle? Will we justify our inaction and indifference while our unique window of opportunity steadily slips away? I need this message more than anyone. God has most definitely won the war through Christ however, as His followers He sends us out to fight the battle. We are his plan to bring light to this earth. I implore you to not simply sit back and watch. From your point of influence, and with the way you live your life, fight the fight that is before you and let us see to it that God's kingdom break through into the earth, just as it is in heaven.