The Maxfields

The Maxfields

Sunday, December 27, 2015

she came in, quiet without words.

She pushed my hand away twice before I felt it tugging on my sleeve.
She wrapped my arm around herself then.

She crumpled the song sheet, brows furrowed and hand clenched in concentration.
She whispered not long after, asking more than once to take the bulletin home.

She came in, quiet without words.
She lifted her hands in the Doxology.

She squirmed in the seat, feet all over the chairs and floor and in the air.
And then she stopped squirming, and she looked up at me as we sang:

Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us.
You're faithful forever, perfect in love; You are sovereign over us.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

And The Lord Will Guide You

What a year this has been! I apologize for my delay in an update; it has been a very busy past few months as I transitioned into East Valley High School for my sophomore year and continue to settle into life on the east side of Washington state. 

These past few months, I have struggled with feelings of guilt. I left many friends and the life I knew in Seattle and moved to an unknown place for a known God. I knew that I’d be giving up a lot and that it’d be one of the hardest things I’ve done. I was blessed throughout the summer with forming relationships with the children here. I started leading a group of K-2nd grade girls on Sunday mornings and was blessed beyond belief by their friendships and getting to share God’s love with them. I felt like things were working out great. I missed my friends, but I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be and loved the kids here.

Then school started. Transferring into a new school as a sophomore is hard, but I began making new friends. I was blessed with great teachers. I looked forward and continue to look forward to school every day, and Sunday mornings every weekend. However, I started feeling a lot of guilt. Leaving Seattle was really difficult. The summer was difficult. Once school started, things seemed easier; almost normal again.  I started feeling like I hadn’t really given up anything. I had, but I felt like I had gotten it back and it wasn’t hard anymore.

Suddenly, my guilt turned to thankfulness. I believe that our God is so great that he fulfilled his promise in Isaiah 58:10-11 by blessing me for fulfilling His work. “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places.”

One of the truths that I often forget is that life is about serving God and only Him. He will bless the work that is fulfilled for his glory. 

Pray that I will make an impact in the lives of the K-2nd grade girls every Sunday morning, and that the Lord would provide wisdom in how to teach them about His love. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

He's Enough.

Tonight I tied a shoelace.
I asked to tie it.
She let me and stood for a few seconds.
I wish I prayed silently over her in those few seconds, but I didn't. I regret that I didn't.
She told me, softly, gently, "My teacher does that too," when I double knotted it.
Were those seconds of twisting the lace and tying it two times over - were they enough?
Were they enough? Were they enough? I think tonight.
Did those seconds count?
I pray she sees Christ at work.
I pray she'll know His hope.
I pray she'll believe that He is the healer of hurts: the shoelace master.
I pray I'll see Christ at work, even in the tying of tonight's shoelace.
I pray I'll have faith to believe that what He ordains is good - and enough.
I pray I'll believe that because of what He has done on the cross, it is enough for now.
Enough until His fullness is revealed.

I pray I'll believe that it is enough until His fullness is revealed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Learning the Word

One of my favorite things this fall has been the Sunday School class I am teaching with one of the best age groups:  3rd through 5th grade girls!  There are usually 8-10 girls who attend regularly.  I really look forward to seeing them each week, giving them a hug and watching them grow in their knowledge of the Lord as they hear a Bible story and learn of God's love for them.  We review the Bible story and discuss what we have learned about God from the story.  We talk about what it means for us. We color and make a craft related to the story.  The girls surprise me with how much they are retaining each week.  Honestly, I am not sure that some children in main stream churches are taught the many Bible stories we are covering.  

We have also learned two verses together this fall.  One of them is:  "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Jesus)."  Psalm 56:3.  This verse rhymes with the reference and we learned it in song form.  A couple of weeks ago I was out of town and Emily and Rachel taught the class for me.  Emily and Rachel asked the girls if they could remember the verse they had been learning and one girl immediately began quoting it.  They were able to sing it without me.  It thrilled my heart.  This is a good verse because most of them experience scary things in their lives.  I pray that they might remember this verse along the way as they encounter times when they are afraid.  

The second verse we are learning is Proverbs 18:10 "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are safe."  The very week we started to learn this verse, the story was on the tower of Babel.  I told the girls we don't have to build a tower to get to God.  His very name is our strong tower!  

I am amazed at how quickly they are picking up these verses. We have been given a promise in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active...."  I want these precious girls to have Scripture in their hearts and minds because it is alive and powerful.  Please pray that they will continue to recall the verses and that the Lord might use His Word in a special way.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Update: A few thoughts from the Rez

It has been way too long since any of the Maxfields posted on this blog. Not sure why. Anyways, here are a few thoughts as we head into Fall. (It still seems like summer here. Except for a couple rainy days, most days it's 70 degrees and sunny.)
  • I recently learned that some check cashing places and/or title loan companies charge as much as 300% interest for small personal loans. 300%! Some people are evil. (Over 40% of Native Americans have used check cashing companies as a source of capital.)
  • We had 17 pre-schoolers at Hope Fellowship last Sunday. Thirteen of those came without a parent, 14 were Yakama.
  • Have you heard about the ACE study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego? ACEs are Adverse Childhood Experiences. The study found that ACEs lead to and cause much of chronic disease, most mental illness and are at the root of most violence. What is happening in the homes of America today is an abomination in the sight of the Lord and more must be done to prevent abuse and neglect of the children in this country. Go here to find out more:
  • We haven't had TV since last January. I recommend it.
  • If you ever find yourself being chased down by an angry bull, don't try to outrun it. They are much faster than you'd think. Instead, you'll need to outsmart it. If you aren't able to do that you have other troubles that are much more long lasting.
  • We had 88 youth (6th grade through 12th grade) at youth group last week.
  • Don't ever plant two walnut trees in your yard. The number of walnuts that can fall from one tree is staggering and you may need to watch for your life when a windstorm blows through and you happen to be walking in your yard.
  • The Men's and Women's Bible Studies at Hope Fellowship are going great! Pray that more Yakamas would attend.
  • I've been playing WordFeud (a Scrabble game I play on my phone) with a guy in Louisianna for at least 5 or 6 years. All I know about him is from chatting via the game over the years. He recently confided in me about his marriage troubles and by the end of the conversation I think he agreed to take his family back to church! If that isn't God ordained I don't know what is.
  • Rachel was voted Student of the Month at East Valley High School for the month of September. She just started there this year and only knew one person on her first day of school. Talk about making a first impression. I'm waiting for my bumper sticker.
  • A couple people have dropped off their giving to our support account at Sacred Road. If you would like to join us in this ministry, please email me.
  • It is amazing the difficulty to find cheap, reliable internet service in the country. It is expensive, slow and very annoying to find the right solution. Don't take your cable provided, unlimited data, internet service for granted.
  • Living in rural America is a blessing. Even in the midst of brokenness on the Reservation.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Short Sermon

We are nearing the end of our first summer living here on the reservation.  We have each experienced great days as well as hard days.  I will be honest and admit that the past couple of weeks feelings of doubt began to creep in.  Can I really do this?  Do I want to do this?  I began to think about things we have given up....a great income that would have easily paid college tuition for our girls, nice vacations, carefree summers, friends and family back home, a "normal" life.

Over the course of a few days, I started to casually ask Darren, Emily and Rachel if they were feeling this way...hoping to make myself feel better.  They weren't.  Rachel even said, "But mom, we know we are called to be here and God hasn't told us to do anything different."   Her short sermon was exactly what I needed to hear.  I have been clinging to that reminder.  It was the affirmation and confidence I needed to hear.

The Lord has also put so much Scripture right in front of me this week to help me and give me strength for each day.  His Word is so powerful!
  • 2 Corinthians 4:17 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs they all." 
  • Galatians 1: 10 "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?"
  • Ephesians 6:10 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."
  • 2 Corinthians 8:3 "...they gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability."  
And then yesterday, the sweetest moment of the day came.  Right during the sermon, I looked over and the 9 year old girl next to me was slowly whispering each word of a song in the church bulletin.  The song was "Mighty to Save" and here are the words I heard her reading aloud, "I give my life to follow, Everything I believe in, Now I surrender.  Shine your light and let the whole world see, We're singing for the glory of the risen King."

My heart was touched.  I felt like it was a gift from Jesus as I watched her.  I thought of Jesus listening to her read the words.  I sat and prayed for the little girls around me -- that they would know Him all the days of their life.

Thank you for praying for these children and young people who are hearing about Jesus for the first time in their lives.  Please pray for healing in their hearts and minds.  Please pray they will fully trust in Jesus and when moments of doubt come to them or there is a wrong path they could walk down, that they will stay faithful to Jesus and keep coming to church.  Thank you for continuing to pray for our family as we also need it.

Lastly, I'm including the words to the whole song. I think she had read every word before I noticed her doing this:

Everyone needs compassion
A love that's never ending
Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations

Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as you find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again

I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender

Shine your light and let the whole world see
We're singing for the glory of the risen king, Jesus.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Six Little Girls and My One Heart

The stars shine down in the black blue sky tonight, whispering reminders of my Father whose presence is faithful and with us even in the valley, even in the darkness. I never knew that in a single day one's heart could be filled, broken, overflowed again and blessed so freely before it begins to sting with heartache and burst with laughter and rest at the end of the day knowing that it has learned and been taught by His mighty hand on the six small girls we had in preschool church today. A paragraph for each so you can get a taste of the blessing too.

The youngest of the bunch is new to all of us and known to some as the little chipmunk that waddles into church, sleepy eyed and smiling, ready to give hugs and secretly knowing that after church we will play. She doesn't know which color crayon connects to her name. The girl smiles as she calls her brother by his traditional name, seeking him out in the crowd, unaware that the language of her people is slipping away quickly and that she's one of just a handful of children I know who uses that Sahaptin word for brother. Love flows out of this little one, and He, out of His perfect love, is showing it to me from the color queen one Sunday at a time.

Her cheeks scrunch up when she smiles and make her eyes tiny, and her voice is much softer than that of the other girls. She comes with her hair done and is eager to help pass out snacks. Her love for those around her feels unconditional when we're in that preschool classroom, and I can't help but wonder where all of us will be in ten years; she'll be thirteen, I'll be twenty-seven. Watching her love others gives me hope: hope for her generation, and hope for the Lord to work miracles in His earth.

"Now you're an Indian! I'm an Indian too, but I don't always wear feathers," is what I heard as a five-year-old stuck a peacock feather in my hair tonight while we watched four baby peacocks follow their mama across the yard. After the feather was in place, she grabbed her cousin's hand and pulled her close, their hands held, to watch the babies and mama duck under the fence and out of sight. They turned back to face me, giggling, squinty eyed as the sun set. My heart couldn't help but swell and ache all at once.

I've written about the girl whose name is music before, and I've written about the Lord's plan and purpose that is so far beyond my own, a concept my heart battles daily, moment by moment, when it comes to resting in it. He is still teaching me through the music girl. Today the lesson was one of praying for hope and joy in the life of this dear one, as well as for the thoughts of my own heart to be ones of contentment and peace in His will. In Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper writes in regard to our human questionings of God's will: "Moreover, we will not always, right now, have these answers for ourselves. But in glory the answers will be clear, when we will see Jesus face to face. Then we will see that God has indeed done all that He pleased and has done it perfectly, both for His glory and our good." Be still, my heart.

Hope and a future stick out in my
mind from Jeremiah when I think of the sand box princess. Each night this week she's asked to play in the sand. After we run fast to reach the edge of the grass, our sandals come off and we jump into the dusty ground that is warm in between our toes. She offers to build me something, all the while eager to share the buckets and shovels with me, because "Sharing is nice," as she tells me herself. Her mind is wild with imaginings and as her Elsa braids blow in the wind, I'm reminded of His miraculous grace. Lord is using her in my life to teach me even more about the ever-present balance between brokenness and beauty.

She comes, hair crazy in a mad pigtail attempt but too short to fit into the ponytails, ready to sit in a lap and be loved. She talks more now than I've ever known her to before, and her words hold a lovely trio of care, laughter, and sass. Her face is lit up in every single picture I've seen of her, and she's who I picture when I hear the truth that joy comes in the morning.

I can't think back far enough to when I didn't know these six girls and more like them. There are at least fifteen names on our role sheet, and we get to taste His love in a new way each Sunday with a different handful of them there with us. I am truly prone to wander, but He has taken my heart and sealed it, and it's so full of preschool love.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Unsettled & Learning Lessons

2015....a year to never forget.  We have been somewhat "unsettled" for 6 months now.

People ask what has been the hardest thing about this transition and so far; I think feeling unsettled is my answer.  We have been renting an older double wide home for 4 months now.  It was the only home we could find available to rent.  

The first couple of days we were in it, I would get overwhelmed and tell Darren, Emily and Rachel I wasn't sure I could do this.  I wasn't sure I could live here.  Mice poo in almost every cupboard, closet or shelf.  Dirty walls.  A dead rat in one closet.  Hearing mice in the walls at night.  No screens on the windows.  No air-conditioning.  Ants.  Earwigs.  Spiders.  Oh my!  

As the days went by, I would occasionally say, "this house might be growing on me" just to get a laugh.  And we have had lots of laughs over many things about this house....we even named the llamas outside our windows.  Darren bought a roll of screen at Walmart and duct taped it up onto 3 windows so we could have airflow.  It looks ugly, but it works.  I learned how to find a dead mouse in a cupboard and be okay with it.  I can now squish bugs on the kitchen floor with my bare feet.  We have learned to share one bathroom.  I learned to make popcorn on a stove that doesn't work very well.  I can actually live without a microwave, a garbage disposal or cable TV.  And guess what?  We could actually live with just one third of our stuff.

More importantly, I began to embrace that this is right where Jesus wanted us.  He allowed us to live in this double wide home which is far nicer than many we serve here on the reservation.  I needed to live it to get a glimpse of the poverty some experience.  And then, as some of you know, the electric company turned off our power on a Friday afternoon and we learned what it feels like to have no power.  It's a scary, hopeless feeling.  Food in the fridge goes bad.  It feels eerie and dark in the house. 

Would you believe that this past Tuesday night, one of the youth told me their power was off at their house?   The power bill was overdue.  The food in their fridge was going bad there was nothing to drink.  My heart felt a kindred sympathy and sadness.  I whispered to Jesus, "I understand now."  I don't know when their power will go back on. And I know most people here on the reservation would not have the resources we had to deal with it.  Our power outage was short lived. We stayed with my aunt and uncle for a few nights.  Our food was able to be salvaged.

What I've shared here is only a speck of what some are going through here on this reservation, but I'm thankful for the tiny glimpses and things Jesus is teaching me during this unsettled time.    

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"My Power is Made Perfect in Weakness"

A lot of thoughts in my head today. I had a real good Lord's Day today in spite of not being in the Word much the last week or so. But to be in worship this morning and hear the Word preached and take part in communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ can do wonders.

At the beginning of May I started a new little Bible study "program" that I developed after reading a couple books summarizing the prayer life and Bible study life of our Puritan Fathers. You can see the books here, #4 and #5. I love what I'm doing right now, but the last couple weeks I haven't been able to be as diligent as  I'd like. As God's Word is wont to do, I was blown away today.

I was reading II Corinthians 12 and verses 9-10 are mind blowing.

"But he (God) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Lately, I felt my tension and stress level going up a bit. A tell-tale sign of this is when I start playing music louder and louder and its not the calm stuff. For some reason it is a stress reliever for me.

I think the stress has partly to do with economic development research I'm doing. It is actually going pretty well. I feel a plan coming together and a course of action. But with that progress comes stress - is it the right plan? what will people in the community (and outside the community) think?, what do I really know about this stuff?, with all the issues here will anything actually work?, what can I do that hasn't been tried already?, etc, etc. In short, what do I know?

The stress is also related to what is happening on this Reservation. It is heartbreaking. Have you ever heard of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Study the CDC did several years ago. You can read about it here. Warning: The results of the study are not pretty and implications disturbing. In short, childhood trauma has a direct link to adult mental and medical problems. We know that children on this Reservation are living in a constant state of trauma. It is wreaking havoc on them now and will continue to do so.

Let me tell you about my friend. He's probably 5. He has the classic facial structure, physiological signs and behavioral signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He lives in a house with at least 9 kids living in it from I don't know how many different families. I don't know what is happening in this house and I don't want to know. I got to spend a couple hours a day with him last week. I won't see him until next week. What will happen in the mean-time?

I was also reading Psalm 19 today.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
  Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
  There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
  Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
  Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
  the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Really, my stress is because I think I have some control over any of this. I think I have some ability to actually affect the economic realities here on the Reservation. I think I have some ability to effect change in the life of this little boy. I think I have something to boast about.

Give me a break! What can I do in this situation, but go to God. As He says in II Corinthians, His grace is sufficient. Sufficient for me, this little boy and this Reservation. Christ has been working on this Reservation long before I ever got here and He will work long after I leave. The weaker I am, the more Christ will be glorified when He accomplishes His work here in this place.

How thankful I am that it doesn't depend on me. The creator of the Universe, the One that sets the course of the stars, who has revealed Himself through His innerrent, infallible Word, is active in my life and in this place!

What other response can I have but to echo God's Word:

Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Facing the Battle

Getting used to 100 degree weather every day is not my favorite. Waking up at 7 each morning in the summer isn’t either. Facing daily battles of doubt brought on by the enemy is definitely not easy. Observing and processing extreme poverty in lives that I love dearly has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. 

However, my favorite thing about moving, my first choice of anything I could be doing, is seeing God working through me and using me in visible ways. Not many fourteen-year-olds get to observe and live that. Teaching Christ’s love is by far the biggest blessing I have experienced. My faith is being refined and tested, and I’m learning more every day. At church last Sunday, a nine-year-old from the small group that I help lead asked me, “Rachel, if we believe in God, do we have to believe in the devil?” A little panic shot through me. My answer was something like, “well, we know from the Bible that Jesus died for our sin and the devil tempts us to sin. We do believe that the devil is real, but we don’t believe in him. We believe and trust in God because we know that he died to free us from the devil.”

How often do fourteen-year-olds get to answer questions like that? 

Please pray for more opportunities for questions like these and wisdom for answers. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A day in the life . . .

As you might imagine, we've had quite the eventful last few weeks. So many different events, thoughts, discussions, laughs, cries (and you name it) that it's hard to remember everything and be able to communicate just what I think about it all.

But I'll start by just giving a run-down of some of the different things:
  • The best purchase ever - portable air conditioner for the rental house.
  • Which then became worthless when the power company turned off the electricity with the temperature up over 100 degrees (because the electric bill didn't get paid and no one gave any warning or notice and then we found out about it at the end of day Friday and they won't come turn it back on until the end of day Monday and if the lady on the phone at the power company hadn't been so nice telling me the power wouldn't be on for 3 days I might have lost it.)
  • Helped put up my first teepee.
  • Stranded on Hwy 97 when my distributor cap went bad (praise God that the AAA tow guy was only 10 minutes away - for once.)
  • 2 great summer team weeks with teams from all over the country coming to serve on the Rez.
  • Flat tires on two separate vehicles (we got one on the way to pick up my car at the shop.)
  • Rachel has been helping out at Sacred Road, working alongside the interns, becoming friends with everyone.
  • One duck blown to bits when it ran into the road right in front of me. Don't worry, it died instantly. You should have seen all the feathers.
  • We made an offer on a house that was accepted and pending all the rest of the stuff needed when buying a house, we should be in it by mid-August.
  • Spent 2 weeks cleaning up a very dirty, gross double wide rental.
  • I turned 44 and was given this t-shirt by Fishii. It's awesome. I also got a cool Bolo tie featuring real Native American beading made by someone here on the Rez.
  • One new set of tires on a vehicle.
  • Emily began working as an intern for Sacred Road this summer and loves getting to know people better.
  • Was terribly disappointed when I found out that the 3 llamas and 1 goat owned by the neighbor wouldn't eat the bizarre vegetation growing in our yard at the rental and I was going to have to mow it myself all summer.
  • The big smile and wave from one of my buddies at Kid's Club.
  • One bird blown to bits by another driver in our family and still in the grill of the car - because I'm the only one that can take it out apparently.
  • Progress being made as we research economic development alternatives, opportunities and approaches.
  • Learned the feeling of panic when I realize I forgot to take my daily Claritin pill and I'm nowhere near home where the army size box of additional pills are.
  • Several great Kid's Club days spent playing with great kids.
  • Wondering why there is a helicopter hovering over our house constantly at 3.00 am. Then realizing it is the apple orchard wind fan that turns on when the temperature gets too low.
  • Our first Pow Wow and Treaty Days Rodeo.
  • Some guy pounding on the door at 5 am asking for the previous tenant while I was across the country on a trip
  • Many examples of the Lord providing comfort, encouragement and strength.

Why do I tell you all this? I think maybe its some form of therapy. But more importantly, we need your prayers.

We are all learning a lot. Things like, how the ministry works, what our individual roles will be, how I will divide up my time between operational items and economic development and ministry, how to live with 2/3 of all our belongings in storage, how we can rock the boat as least as possible as we join this team, and a ton of other things.

And we are loving it! We know this is where we are supposed to be and are encouraged daily.

But that doesn't mean it's all easy and that there aren't obstacles.

But, as Emily put so well in an post earlier this week, God is Sovereign.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31-32, 37-39

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

He is Sovereign.

My heart has felt heavy this past week: overwhelmed, weighed down by the brokenness of this earth. I've journaled daily and finished each page disappointed at my own ability to put my thoughts into words. It seemed that each day this past week the Enemy worked hard to bring me down, to put lies into my head and bring me to doubt God's goodness and His will. I'm learning that like most things out here, you can't be prepared for what you'll encounter, no matter how hard you or others try. It's not a matter of anyone not doing a good enough job; it's a matter of God working in our lives.

I watched a little one distance herself from me at church over the past couple of Sundays: no longer does she want to sit with me or listen to me. This week alone I watched her detach herself from me almost completely and reattach herself to someone else in the span of five days. No longer did she seek me out or smile at me when I called her name. It felt like she left me in the dust without looking back.

The fact that I know this kind of behavior is common doesn't change the fact that it hurts. It hurts badly. I found myself in tears Thursday evening, asking myself questions. Why did she attach to someone else? What did I do wrong? What did she want from someone else that I couldn't give her? Why wasn't I enough?

But as I continued to journal and read and process and talk with other members of our summer staff, I realized that I was asking the wrong questions, that it's not about me being enough. It's not about me doing anything. It hurts, and it's not about me.

It's about the Lord working in the lives of all of us.

He is still teaching me to look to Him and to give Him the praise for these relationships and blessings, to rely on Him. He is still showing me that I am not the one doing anything, but that He is the One working all things for His glory.

He is teaching the girl whose name is music about His love for her that never fails and never changes. He is showing her that He is good no matter what.

He is teaching all of us that He ordains everything according to His will. He is teaching all of us that He is sovereign.

Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all.
     Dom Julian of St. Benet's Hall

Monday, June 1, 2015

Abounding in the Work of the Lord

Wow. It feels like we were packing up our house a month ago. As we near our three month mark of living in Yakama, I thought I'd share pictures and glimpses of our time so far. There is no doubt that these past three months have been some of the most eventful of our lives. Even though some of these weeks have had their ups and downs, I feel very secure in my calling here.

The first team of the summer has arrived and we are starting with worksites and kids club this morning. Craziness is picking up and we have a lot to look forward to. If you're planning to come visit this summer, we're looking forward to seeing you!

The following passages of Scripture have been especially meaningful in my time here so far.

Isaiah 40:31 "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

2 Corinthians 12:10 "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Here is a slideshow of pictures and memories from our first three months.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

God's Grace and Your Sufferings

In an essay written by David Powlison titled God's Grace and Your Sufferings (in the book Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor) he made a couple of fairly profound statements that I thought I would highlight here.

"What makes it hard for us to hear [God speak to us through His Word]? There are times we have a hard time slowing down to listen. There are times we simply don't want to listen. There are times we are busy listening to ten thousand other voices, including our own. There are times we feel so weary and disheartened that we don't feel up for listening. But whatever the particulars, our essential problem is deafness to God's voice. We become absorbed in the world of our own experiences, thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The early church used a wonderful phrase to capture the essential inward-turning nature of sinfulness: curvitas in se. We curve in on ourselves. Sin's curvitas in se pointedly turns away from God. When you or others suffer, you experience or witness the strength of this incurving tendency. It's hard not to be self-preoccupied." p. 155

"But it is worth noting that Christians, as new creations in Christ, also live in an essentially different relationship to their own sinfulness. Your sin now afflicts you. The "dross" no longer defines or delights you. Indwelling sin becomes a form of significant suffering. What you once instinctively loved now torments you. The essential change in your relationship with God radically changes your relationship to remaining sinfulness. In Christ, in order to sin, you must lapse into temporary insanity, into forgetfulness. It is your worst cancer, your most crippling, disability, your most treacherous enemy, your deepest distress. It is the single most destructive force impacting your life. Like nothing else in all creation, this threatens your life and well-being.

"This is not to justify or excuse our sins. Your sin is your sin. When you get your back up in an argument, when you vegetate in front of the TV, when you spin a fantasy world of romance or eroticism, when you grumble about the weather, when you obsess about your performance in the eyes of significant others, when you worry, nag, or gossip, you do these things. No evil twin, no hormone, no satanic agency, and no aspect of your upbringing can take credit or blame for the works of your flesh. You do it. You wanted to do it . . . but you don't really want to, when you come to your senses. And you do come to your senses. The conflicted dual consciousness of the Christian always lands on its feet. You commit sin, but you are more committed to the Lord, because he is absolutely committed to you. Many psalms capture this tension that always resolves the right way. They confess the dark vitality of indwelling sin while confessing love for the triumphant mercies and goodness of the Lord." p. 163-164

"Grace means courage. When God says, "Fear not," his aim is not that you would just calm down and experience a relative absence of fear. He does not say, "Don't be afraid. Everything will turn out okay. So you can relax." Instead he says, "Don't be afraid. I am with you. So be strong and courageous." Do you hear the difference? The deep waters have not gone away. The opposite of fear is fearlessness. Fearlessness is active and enduring. It carries on constructively in the midst of stressful things that don't feel good at all. Courage means more than freedom from anxious feelings. Endurance is a purposeful "abiding under" what is hard and painful, considering others even when you don't feel good." p. 165

I have not read enough of David Powlison's writings.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Books, Books and more Books

One of the things we decided to do when we got here to the Rez, was not get cable TV. Because of our training in Colorado and periods of limbo before and after the training, we had gone about two months without watching TV. So I figured this was a good opportunity to continue the TV fast. Surprisingly the revolt was very muted.

We do have internet and can watch movies and shows on Netflix. But its not the same and we just don't waste as time watching like we used to. (I should probably state for the record that I was the biggest offender.)

A benefit of this is that we all read more. For me especially, I've read a ton over the last couple months. I know most of you probably couldn't care less, but I thought I'd share a few of the books I've read and why I thought they were so good.

1. Reservation "Capitalism": Economic Development in Indian Country by Robert Miller. While Mr. Miller could have used a better editor (there was too much repetition in this book), overall this was a great summary of the economic problems on modern Reservations and ways tribes are going about solving this problem. It gives a great history of the US Government treatment of tribes and the different approaches it has taken, how the approaches have changed over the years and consequences of these government approaches. Very good book if you want a primer on economic development on modern day Reservations.

2. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene H Peterson. I know I'm not a pastor, but I've seen this book for years and thought I would finally read it. It is a great book that helps us non-pastors get a picture of the life and struggles of our pastors. They have a difficult job: often thankless, stressful and often bearing criticism and complaints. Everyone should read this book, pray for your pastor and then see what you can do to minister to them and their families.

3. Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard. Eugene Peterson mentions Annie Dillard in his book and it lead me to want to read more. Very, very interesting writer. Her style is beautiful. She is able to observe the created world around her and see things that I can't. And then her ability to describe those things is amazing. I'm now in the middle of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek of which she won the Pulitzer Prize. It is very good as well.

4. Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer edited by Joel R Beeke and Brian G Najapfour. This book was given to me by friends from our church as we were leaving. It is an amazing book and very practical on why we should be praying, why it is such a blessing in the life of the believer and the prayer life of our Reformed and Puritan fathers. I was also exposed to A Method for Prayer by the great Matthew Henry in this book. A fantastic resource and still as practical today it was in the 1700s.

5. God's Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W Saxton. This book has transformed my personal Bible study. After reading this book as well as Taking Hold of God I was struck by how feeble and malnourished my own personal time with the Lord was. The examples of the Reformers and Puritans were very helpful and convicting. I heartily recommend both books!

6. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. This is not a book for the faint of heart. You will come face to face with a sovereign God that is in control of every event that happens and has ordained all suffering - for His glory. Our God is great. He is also gracious and compassionate.

7. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. A very good book that helps point out some of the problems with the current approach to alleviate poverty and some methods on how to change what is currently being done. I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Steve Corbett in April and ask him a long list of questions. He was very gracious with his time and gave me a green light to call him with questions in the future. You can bet that will happen.

In the Lord's provision, a couple weeks after we got here an FM station started that replicates the KIRO 710 AM programming from Seattle. So now I can listen to the Mariners games on the radio. You might smile when I say, "in the Lord's provision." But I truly believes that's true. The one thing that would have pushed me to get TV would have been to watch the Mariner's games.

While my own list of books to read is long, I'm always looking to hear about good books other's have read. Feel free to let me know what you've read.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Faithfulness and Friendship

"Are you making friends?" is a question I am asked frequently. It's not an easy question to answer, but it makes me stop and think about the people the Lord has put in my life. My favorite answer to that question is a story from Youth Group a few weeks ago. When we all break into smaller groups after worship upstairs, the high school girls go downstairs to look more deeply at the passage of scripture we read upstairs. We are able to think about how it applies to each of our lives individually. Because I am very new to the group, I don't feel as connected with the other girls, some of whom have been coming for years. It has been an adjustment to get used to feeling new and slightly awkward, and while I know God has called me here, I can't help but feel slightly out of place.

God's faithfulness has been a major theme for me this past year, but He never fails to remind me of His faithfulness when I need it most! Before the discussion time officially began on Tuesday night, the girl sitting next to me took my binder and started writing on it, hiding it from me as she wrote. I was honestly really curious, wondering what she would think to write on the blank front of my new binder. As she handed it back, I could read Welcome 101: Love you! written in red sharpie. It sounds simple, but it felt like the closest thing to friendship and it still does.

He is faithful, and He will surely do it.