Denver’s Formation for Mission Intensive

Open HandsDenver’s Summer Formation for Mission Intensive:

This is a four week course that will invite you to understand your own formation, equip you with practices that you can incorporate into your life and your daily rhythms and will also give you a new look into what does it mean to live out of our formation as person of blessing in the world, in everyday mission. The learning will be in groups, individual coaching and self-driven practices to incorporate at home and where you work and play.

We will learn from one another along the way. Our main text will be the book of Mark, the Creation narrative and a few books or blogs that you will read on your own (recommended reading, not all necessary)

There will be optional learning experiences during the month as well, to learn from others in the Denver area who live out of their own formation in mission. A list of those will be made available when you register for the Intensive.

The Information Basics

 Dates: Groups will meet every Tuesday and Thursday between July 12 and August 4

If you are able to join a morning group it would be from 9-11 or an evening group offered from 6-8 *You will need to choose either the morning or the evening group for the duration of the month, unless otherwise worked out with Cari before hand.  Individual work: one day a week practice in your own space and rhythm

Content: Tuesdays will hold content on Identity and Formation

Thursdays will hold content on Mission as we will study Mark and the verbs of Jesus

At home practices that will help you engage the places you live work and play through the eyes of your formation in Jesus

Location: There will be various locations based on time and content.

If you choose to join us, the information will be sent to you before we begin on July 12.

Cost:   The intensive will cost $250. If you need information on scholarships, please      email me at carijenkins@mac.com

20 things I brought back with me from three months in Europe

1240212_10153273930545004_1372512634_nI came home with 20 take-a-ways from my time abroad. Here’s the list:

1. No matter where we find ourselves, our mission is always the same, to love well those in front of us, to encourage people in Jesus, to give selflessly, to be people of peace, to offer hospitality, and to be light. This is one of the take-a-ways from my time abroad. Location never changes our mission.

2. Learning and/or trying to speak someone else’s language is one of the fastest and deepest ways to show a person of another culture you value them.

3. When the desire is to be a blessing. There is never a lack of opportunity. Expecting the miraculous connection daily has become a habit in many ways.

4. There is much to celebrate about what good is being done around world through all kinds of people from all kinds of places. I’ve been thankful to hear stories of this good as I’ve been abroad. Expecting that God is working in every country, through all people groups causes me to want to learn from others… more than teach them. Being a listener and a learner is crucial and opens us up to experiences and stories we’d otherwise miss.

5. History informs the present. It’s important to learn the history of a place as a means to love others of various cultures. Ask questions about a place. Learn about the faith history and the story of the people. This will always help you to better understand the present.

6. The differences between cultures and peoples are beautiful expressions of human life that are to be celebrated. Allow differences to be a guide to understanding rather than division or judgement.

7. Perception and reality are often very different things. Asking questions and believing the best are always the best way to approach situations that seem off. Personality, culture, circumstance and more often affect others perception. As I’ve been abroad I continue to see the value as I assume the best and seek to understand.

8. Asking questions and really caring about the answers communicates that I value another’s story. Questions are a doorway to relationship.

9. Creatives hold a very important place in shaping cultures for good. Victor Hugo played a part in saving Notre Dame, which was to be torn down, by writing about it in a book, artists tell the stories of good, like Leprojet Imagine in Paris. Others, like Jonathan Boulet, use their creative influence to publish the story of Jesus in the New Testament, told with art and creativity. Yesterday I met George, who’s craft is pottery. He taught us of patience as he told the story of each piece’s creation. As I’ve been abroad I’ve seen, again, how creatives are using their gifts to bring about good and to speak of Jesus. The creative leader is needed in every culture.

10. True hospitality is not shown by entertaining a guest, but by offering your whole self and welcoming the whole self of those around you. Tonight I’m reminded that true hospitality is not culturally specific. Offer hospitality (I think Paul may have been on to something)

11. Being rooted and in community is hard and is important.

12. Two full days left. As I continue to reflect on lessons learned, experiences shared, people visited and places seen I am confident that love is the most powerful and life changing and unifying language. The way of Jesus always is a way of love. Love that is patient and kind, love that does not get jealous or boast in ones self, love that is not rude or self seeking, love that truly keeps no record of wrong, love that always assumes the best, always hopes and always perseveres is the kind of love that will never fail, in all cultures.

13. Our work does not define us. In fact while in Spain, I was only asked what I did for work one time in two months. This created space for others to know me and my heart, not just how I make a living. Not all cultures think of success, accomplishment and responsibility in the same terms as those of us in the US. There is much to learn from this way of thinking.

14. Freedom has as much to do with saying no as it does with being able to say yes.

15. Being outside and moving and walking and physically engaging with the world and our neighborhoods opens doors to relationship. For its pretty easy to drive by a person without engaging, much more difficult to walk by. Relationships gathered because of shared space are some of the best friendship surprises!

16. Every moment we have a choice to speak well of others, to treat people with kindness, to assume the best and to walk with humility. Today, as I traveled and had a few bumps along the way I am once again reminded that in all things I am to choose love and grace and kindness. These attitudes and actions are always ours to choose and are not dependent upon circumstance or the actions of others.

17. Never assume that mine is the only part of the world at play. My choices effect the lives of people all over the globe. When I choose to live in the way of Jesus, I choose to speak life and give life not only in my part of the world…. But in all of it. Our actions matter.

18. There are a lot of differences between cultures. But simply because something is different doesn’t mean it is wrong, weird, bad, rude or negative. Seeking first to understand is imperative as we seek to build relationships. (Oh yeah, this same practice works when your friends, spouse, co-workers, roommates and classmates do things differently than you.)

19. Though I’ve been gone for 3 months it feels like my time was just a split second. Thankful for the relationships formed and deepened during this time. Relationships are the most precious memento!

20. Vulnerability is found alongside freedom. For freedom greets us when we are truly honest with self and others.

Call, Mission, and Missing the Point

imagesIn life there is much talk about the word call. Well, I should qualify that statement, in the United States of America, in certain Christian circles there is a lot of talk about call.

Where am I called?

To what am I called?

To whom am I called?

What if I’m not living out my call?

This is what I’m called to!

This is where I’m called!

I can’t do that because I’m not called to those people.

I can’t serve there, it’s just not an issue I’m called to.

I have been known to throw these phrases around with the best of them. I have sought long and hard after call and location and work. I know the seemingly ever present strive to be obedient to the “call” placed within me.

While I’ve been in Spain something unexpected has happened for me. I have so incredibly easily adapted to the culture that many around me have said that it’s like I was born Spanish. Some have wondered if there is call on my life to Spain because of how easily I’ve been able to connect with people. Just yesterday I was having a conversation with someone who alluded to me fitting in Spain so easily and wondered what God was going to do with that. Though it was not asked, I felt a question, do you think it’s God calling you here?

Though I believe that God calls people. It is clear and it is something I’ve witnessed, but I think we’ve twisted it so that much of what our true call is has been lost along the way.

Call, in many ways, has become equal to career. I am doing that to which I am called, is a phrase often used when one describes their career of choice.

In Spain, I’ve only been asked one time what it is that I do for a living. Two months, many new friends and ONE TIME, I’ve been asked what I do. That is a far cry from the reality of life in the States. As a result, I myself have stopped wrestling significantly with call. Instead, I’ve taken time to do the good I know I’m to do. James talks about that in his letter in the later New Testament. He says, “To him who knows the good he is to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

Today I wonder if we miss the good we are to do because we are so busy chasing call?  I wonder if we miss the good we are to do, because we are chasing significance?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend where we talked about how easy it is to be and to know that every conversation has significance when outside the borders of the US. In two months, my striving for the perfect living out of call has ceased. I am not chasing after significance. I am, instead, realizing the significance I’ve been living.

As a church culture in the states we strive so much. I wonder if we miss the point? Have we missed discipleship and mission because we’ve been searching for personal significance? Have we missed Jesus because we’ve been searching for his call on our lives? Have we missed people and moments because we’re looking for the largest impact possible?

I’m sure I have.

Last week I sat with a man who owns a restaurant that we frequent. We’ve become friends over my months here, though he speaks little english and I very little spanish. He had seen me meet with the students one on one and asked if we could do the same thing. So here I was, sitting in a coffee shop, having a conversation about life and our stories and I was able to ask questions prompting thoughts about his journey personally and spiritually. The conversation was powerful, even through a translator.

He left and I felt overwhelmed by the significance of the moment. I wasn’t standing before a crowd. I wasn’t training large numbers of people. I wasn’t rescuing a thousand people from horrific life situations. No one in the coffee shop would have even taken notice. But this moment, these two hours were incredibly signifiant.  These two hours actually have the potential of being a catalyst for life change in him and therefore life change for all with whom he comes in contact. Every [single] person who has a changed life, encouraged heart or new spirit alters eternity! Therefore, this moment, was incredibly significant to the world.  And, this moment was the significant I was to give my life to.

This significance, this moment, was not tied to a career. It was not tied to a people group, culture or country. But it was the good I knew I was to do. He was the person in front of me to love, not because I’m called to full time mission’s in Spain, but because as one who follows after the way of Jesus, I have no choice but to love, invest and listen to those around me.

Being a minister is not a call. Being a missionary is not a call.  Being a friend is not a call. NO! And, I believe we must stop using our words to describe them as such. Being a minister, sharing the story of the good news, and loving people are a part of the identity we’ve been given as children of a good King and as such they are a part of the good we know we are to do.

I did not go on a mission trip to Spain. I simply came to Spain to live, to learn, to teach and because I am now here and the people around me are all Spanish and it is mine to love them, to serve them, to give to them, to tell them the story of good news and to minister. Because I’m called to Spain? NO! But simply because I’m here and because I’m a child of a good King who has given us the incredible opportunity to love and give to those around us, no matter where we happen to be.

The Miracle of Nothing

IMG_6829This morning we were sitting on the shore of the Mediterranean. We laid our towels and blankets down on the rocks and sat to spend one last morning in worship together as a team. The waves were crashing in. The sun was beating down. The heat was nearly unbearable.

The students have been here in Altea for a month now and they have seen many things. They have built many friendships. They have poured into the lives of others in the group. They have immersed themselves in the culture and language and they have experienced transformation in their own hearts and lives.

And now, we sit together, on the rocks and remember, celebrate and learn.

We sang a few songs as we remember the character of God and then Justin, a new friend and the man with whom I’ve co-led these past weeks began to teach. He had felt prompted to speak from John 21. I was excited as John 21 is one of my favorite passages of scripture for many reasons.

Jesus’s closest friends and followers had gone back to their home town, they picked up life where they had left off only three years earlier. I wonder if they were confounded by how quickly the time had gone by and how they were so different and I wonder if they knew what to do with it all. They found themselves in the mundane of life, again. They returned to the career they had left and went out to sea to fish.

How easy it is to go back to what we know once we’ve experienced transformation of any kind.

These men, go back to their old jobs and fish. Something they knew well. Something in which they were quite proficient and skilled. And the unthinkable happened. They caught nothing!

They were out all night and caught not one single fish!

The story goes on to Jesus telling them to lower their nets on the other side of the boat and as they followed his instruction their nets could barely hold the catch.

Usually, when I’ve thought of this passage I have focused on the miracle of the catch. But today, something different stuck out to me. It was the very first miracle. It was the miracle of nothing.

Nothing!

You may ask how that is a miracle? Well, these men knew what they were doing. They were out on their own strength. They had done this for years before they had even met Jesus, and on this day they could not catch one single fish?

That sounds like a miracle to me.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus encourages his followers to pray, “lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.” I believe that Jesus, held back the fish, to deliver them from evil and to not lead them into temptation.

The men had returned to their lives before Jesus and were doing so without dependence on him. Had they actually caught a few nets full of fish, they may have been tempted to believe they could do life now on their own strength. Perhaps they would have been tempted by the profit those fish would bring in. Perhaps they would have been tempted to give their lives once again to careers in the fishing industry. Perhaps they would have been tempted to leave all they’d experienced from the past three years? Perhaps they would have been tempted to believe the lie that they were to run their own lives on their own strength once again?

Perhaps.

But no! They were kept from believing the lie and they were actually even kept from the temptation of such.

In life, most of the time, we think that the absence of result from our labor or even the thought that we’d not get what we “deserve” is unjust! and there could be no way that God could be involved in it. How could “nothing” be a miracle.

But today, I was struck by the miracle of nothing was as powerful as the miracle of the full net.

The disciples were left with nothing on their own, but once Jesus instructed them the fruit of their labor was greater than they could ask or imagine. If they had full nets in the first place they would have missed out.

There is a great miracle in the nothing. There is a life changing truth in the nothing.

In the past few years I have been walking in the miracle of nothing. It is in the nothing that I’ve been kept from evil of self achievement and self dependence and I’ve been kept from the temptation that I can do all things through my self. And now, I believe as I lay my metaphorical nets on the other side of my life’s boat, I know that utterly and fully am dependent on my Jesus. I need him.

In my first week here the song, “I need Thee O I need Thee” played randomly on my computer. The words made me cry as they washed over me.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
Oh, make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.

Jesus’ friends and followers were given a great gift on the beach that day. I wonder if they realized it? They were given the miracle of nothing, so that they would know that it is only in Jesus that they can do every thing… all things…

As the students go back to the States tomorrow it is my prayer for them that they leave knowing their deep need for Jesus and that He will change them. In honesty I pray the same for me.

 

Rabbit trails and leap frogs

Tonight I’m pensive. I’m reflective and I’m watchful.

There is a slight breeze blowing, yet the air feels thick and still. The sea is rough and yet there is little sound. Sunday nights are quiet here.

I am tired today. My siestas seem to last longer and are much deeper than in my first days in Altea. Today I took two. And, I seemingly sat most of this day, rather than my usual running around up and down the hundreds of stairs going from one part of town to the other. Stopping allowed my body to feel its true self, and its true self is tired.

In a few days I will have been here for one month. This fact is seemingly hard to believe. I have a life here. I have friends. I have those I look forward to seeing and with whom I look forward to spending time. The characters who fill the shops, cafes, streets and restaurants have become a sort of community for me. I love these people. I long for them to know good and be blessed with every spiritual blessing. I long for them to know life and walk in it. I want that for the students too.

It is now mid-afternoon. Last night, my tiredness took over and I did not finish writing.

The day began by me waking 7 minutes before I was to arrive at the first event of the day. This was not a good plan. I woke up to a hot room. Already by early morning the heat was stilling the room and making it heavy. I quickly prepared myself for the day and made the hike down the stairs to the home where we’d spend the next couple hours as a group.

Our time was good, but I can tell that most are tired, feeling the pressure of meeting with friends they’ve met while here and they are wanting to squeeze as much into their time as possible. I feel this pressure for them. I think it’s strange for everyone to have invested so deeply in new friends that now they have to leave.

I’m thankful for the fact that I have another month to stay and invest and learn. It frees me of the pressure of leaving and needing to balance all of the good-byes.

My mind wonders as I write.

I think back over the stories I’ve encountered over the last few weeks and I’m so thankful!

Here’s a snapshot:

1. I swam in the deep dark blue of the Mediterranean Sea at midnight. It was so remarkably peaceful to float and star-gaze at the same time. I could hear the water and the sound of my breath and I felt peace and I knew freedom.

2. I was given the most beautiful dress by my house as a thank you present. And by beautiful I mean… totally and incredibly beautiful. I feel loved, valued and treasured. They have been a gift to me in so many ways.

3. I sat with one of the guys from the trip for four hours talking about Jesus and spiritual warfare and our identities and the Kingdom and it was good. We were given free mojitos too, that was also good.

4. Wednesday night the guys from Hot Home Pizza, which is my favorite place to eat in Altea, invited Ariana and I for mojitos after they got off work. So she and I showed up and the four of us sat around, swapping stories and life until we were all yawning and needed to head home.

1003005_10153019561965004_198410538_n5. We hosted an artist named Miriam, whose work is incredibly wonderful last week. She also was the artist for our gallery on Friday evening. Her art created connection through whimsy and thought. She had small surprises set up all over the gallery for people. I LOVED watching the children. They were so filled with wonder over each element and they drew their parents into the wonder. (Oh that we would remain childlike in our wonder of God and His world! He is the God of whimsy and surprises! and it is good.)

6. My days and nights have been filled with deep conversation with students and locals a like. I do not share their stories, but each person with whom I’ve been able to be in relationship, has shared both heart and story with me and it feels good and heavy and redemptive and beautiful and painful and glorious. I think that is how life is. It is a mix of throwing off the old and putting on the new. I’ve seen a lot of people put on new these past few weeks.

7. Yesterday our friends from Hot Home Pizza told us they’d like to make paella for us. So they came over for several hours. We ate and laughed and heard their story as a business and hear their story as people. I’ve come to treasure these men and women. They are friends and I’m so thankful for the time that we’ve all shared. In the next few weeks, we are going to make dinner for them, with a traditional American meal. I’m excited for this.

8. I’ve continued to learn the language, soaking in as much as possible. This next month I will have Spanish lessons, one on one with a man from town. I’ll speak with him in English for an hour and then he’ll speak with me in Spanish. I’m so excited about this!

9. I miss my friend Sara from Altearte, another cafe in town. I look forward to seeing her and spending some more time with her. It is an amazing reminder to me, the power of invitation. And how friends can be made so easily, when we make the effort.

10. Each day I awake wondering what the day will hold and what I’ll observe and how God will use it in my life. I don’t yet know how this season will play into my future or how God will encourage me through it, but I look forward to learning.

I feel a bit like this blog is filled with rabbit trails and leap frogs; jumping from story and thought to story and thought. But I do know a few things. God is in the details. He reveals himself through whimsy. He desires us to be conduits of relationship to everyone… everywhere. One does not have to leave their country to live a life that pours into others. That can happen right in our own neighborhoods, stores, cafes and streets. We simply must look for relationship and love with action. (I am sure there will be much more said about this topic.)

I’m off for lunch now. Tonight I move to the other house by the beach as Ariana heads back to the States. I will have to make reasons to climb the stairs daily, as it’s very good for me.

Look today for whimsy. Look today for God. Look today for ways to love. Then maybe, take the time to tell someone the story of how you encountered God and people!

Chasing Tails

DSC01055The days go by melding together forming a picture I can’t quite make out.

The same gentle breeze blows as I write. The same sea beckons me. The same peace falls over me. The same faces greet me each morning. The same faces of locals fill my time.

It is good.

I continue to eat differently. I continue to move more. I continue to wonder about my life here and why I’m here for these two months and how this will all play a part in my life’s story in the future. I continue to wonder what metaphor I’m living in, that I’ll need to draw upon for later teaching, growing and living. I continue to wonder what life will look like when I return.

I’m not anxious here.

At home, I can struggle with anxiety. Is my life making a difference? When will I have a home I can call my own? Will I every marry? Will I have children? Will I finally get that book written? Why hasn’t this or that happened? Why do I struggle with envy? The questions go on and on and I, like a dog chasing it’s tail, chase after these questions and answers in a non-stop continuous motion.

My days are not filled with questions in Spain. My days are filled with enjoying the present. Living in this moment. Soaking in the new and walking in it. There is a slow pace to life in Altea. I know that if I were in Barcelona or Madrid my experience would be somewhat different, but here in Altea, things are slow. People enjoy each other. People live simply, running a small business or having an artisan booth for a few months a year satisfies.  Some of this simplicity, is because jobs are scarce. And I think, some of the simplicity comes from a different set of cultural values. (This makes me think I should ask some of my friends who are locals, what their culture values, instead of me assuming from three weeks of observations.)

From what I’ve observed and from a few facts I’ve come to know, people here love being with friends and they love eating. Over a 1/3 of one’s budget goes towards eating out. American’s spend that much on housing. Here, having a large space is not important as people rarely invite others over.  But, you will find people in cafe’s and bars and restaurants at every hour (with exception of siesta). I actually think I fit this way of living. It is not a shock to my system to sit and listen to other’s stories and share in life with others relationally for hours at a time.

But, at home, there is a running dialogue about how that isn’t enough. There is seemingly, always more to be done and one is evaluated not by who they are as a person, but by what they accomplish. This is dangerous!

I think of people I know who do not know how to linger in conversation. People who feel unproductive if they didn’t accomplish a huge list of to dos. People who rarely act as though they know peace, because they can not stop chasing their metaphorical tails.

I haven’t chased tails here.

When I’ve been tempted to worry about things when I return, I stop myself, confess my worry, confess my temporary belief that God will not have good for me and then dive back into the practice of being present with people and being present with self.

The students are all on a hike today. I chose to stay back because I needed a few hours alone. It’s been good for me. They’ll come back with tales of jumping off of rocks into the sea, the time they each spent with the Lord along the way, the conversations they had, and I’ll happily greet them like a mother welcoming her children home from day camp.

Tonight we are hosting a beach fiesta and night swim. There will be food and blankets and the beach and the sea! What more can one want? It will be good to be with the students and to enjoy being with those we’ve met along the way.

What tail are you chasing? How does it keep you from being present?

 

 

Morning, stairs and sleeveless dresses

1000395_10152988074930004_898015445_nMorning breaks yet again. Mornings are bright and quiet and still. I feel grawgy in the morning. The brightness often collides with my face and instead of joy like a Disney character waking up to the sunshine, I grimace and turn away from it. “Stupid sunshine!” I say aloud, as if the morning were an older sibling awakening me early on a Saturday.

Morning.

The days here often greet me as if I were a child on his birthday or a woman as she prepares for her first date. Anticipation comes with my mornings in Altea.

This morning, to my surprise, I woke up with the sunlight. I half-way greeted the new day as though I were cinderella awakening to a room full of rodents and birds happily preparing my outfit. I was glad to wake up. I had fallen asleep at the second of our two homes here in Altea.  So, I woke up to the sound of the sea and the sweet voices of girls bustling preparing for their days.

I was glad to wake up. I was glad to wake up because I knew I’d get to spend another day living into a new freedom, in a new place, filled with my once unfamiliar, but now familiar home.

Wake up!

Words which once conjured feelings of anxiety, now greet me with anticipation.

Freedom is a new rhythm for me and with it come feelings of discomfort. I feel as though I’ve moved into a new house and though it’s a beautiful house, it is new.  Much like the big reveal on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, when the big bus pulls away and a whole new world is revealed, I look at my self, my understanding of self, my beliefs and ideas of identity with awe. And, at the very same time, there are also feelings of discomfort. Everything is new. Everything feels as if it could break or be taken. Everything feels like a dream. Everything feels like an invitation to trust that yes, this is from God and yes, this is good. Freedom is a new house. Freedom is my new house.

On this morning I knew freedom deep within me. I walked in it. It steadied me. It held my head high. It propelled me forward.

I walked the hundreds of stairs to my house, still wearing my yellow dress from the night before. The steps came easily to me. I walked tall. I walked free. I once again felt like a character on a movie set, as my dress flowed and my newly purchased basket purse accented my outfit with perfect Spanish style. I once wore freedom as an accessory, I now find myself living as though freedom were my backbone.  It causes me to stand tall. To dance. To laugh loudly. To wear shirts with no sleeves. To greet strangers in a language I barely know. To eat new foods. To try a new language. To jump into new without fear.

This is not the case every day. Some days the newness of my freedom overwhelms me and I want to run back to the old. I want to put on that old t-shirt, only to realize I’d thrown it away the week before. But, the old no longer feels permissible or completely desirable. New is not always comfortable.

Altea, a small Spanish town, resting on the shores of the Mediterranean, has been the land on which my new home has been revealed.  It’s been the place where I’ve been invited and challenged to live in this new way. It’s been filled to this point with joy and invitations to deeply trust in the one who gave me my new home. The one who has given me my freedom.

The sun invites me every morning to live in the new and today…. I chose to walk in it.

A day of rest

968839_10152975071055004_1090486230_nI woke up to the shine beating in the window. It was hot and the morning had just begun. I made my way down the terra-cotta stairs to four students curled up, still in dream land. They are tired. They have explored and soaked in so much culture and experience that though they want to be awake for hours can not help but fall asleep the instant their heads hit their pillows and slumber until they are forced to wake up by an outside source. Soon noises filled the downstairs. Their voices went from  being slurred and half awake to loud and boisterous as they laughed about the previous days events. We laugh a lot in our house. (They have not yet fallen in love with my jokes, but I’m working on it!)

One by one they left to go experience Spanish church culture for the first time. All of the students were divided into three groups, each going to a different church. Three of the students from my house had to take a train nearly an hour away to go to their church. As each group left the house became quiet and I got some much needed fully alone time. I breathed in deep, taking a look around my room and once again being struck by my view. The water never ceases to amaze me. It is as though the sea were made to be a patchwork quilt with all shades of blue. There are patches of blue, turquoise, aqua-marine, sky blue and a deep sea blue. They move in a continuous and rhythmic motion as though they look up to a sovereign conductor, who directs the sea as though it were a choir singing in 8 part harmony all in the rhyme. I love it. I’m moved by it. My soul sings to it.

I decided to do laundry, a simple task that at home is one of my least favorite things to do. But here, for some reason, the simplicity of the laundry is one of my favorite things. I love the smell of the fabric softener as I hang each item on the line. I smiled once again as if I were a character in a play. I then made a breakfast of caramelized onions and eggs and savored the flavor as I enjoyed the silence of my home.

I could not wait to spend some time with Jesus. Though I’m here on a trip to walk with college students in their own spiritual formation, I have felt a strange distance between me and Jesus. It feels like the kind of distance one experiences when they live in a different place from their best friend. Though they know their friend is there and close and the relationship is in tact and secure, there is just a missing from being separate from their loved one.

I needed to be with Him.

I took time to write, to listen, to pray, to cry. My heart is much like the sea, a patchwork of colors of experiences, thoughts, new ideas, old habits, memories, hopes, dreams and questions. And they all flow in motion as they look to their conductor. But let me tell you, if even just one of the patches doesn’t submit to the direction of the great conductor, the rhythm is off for each part. Today, I wanted to once again submit to the direction of my conductor. One by one I laid my thoughts, experiences, memories and the like to His care and peace swept over me.

The peace was rich and good and it rocked me to sleep. I woke up to the sound of people coming home from their church excursions. We talked a bit, did our separate work and eventually the last group came home. The three of them; Claire, Brianne and Donald came upstairs and we chatted about our days and made a plan to go to the sea shore.

We walked down the street to the shore and laughed and listened and played. Once on the shore, we made a plan to swim out to the rock bar which rests a little over 100 yards away. We laid down our towels on the rocks. (Yes, rocks, not sand. The beaches in Altea have rock that is much like river rock covering their banks. Not the most comfortable, but for today it did its job.) I laid and cared for our belongings as they swam out to the bar and back, then I made the swim myself. It was good to be in the water.

Once I got to the bar, I stood on a rock and listened. I felt as though I were connecting with the mystery of God as I looked down at the water. The sea is vast and full and beyond understanding. It is powerful and full of life. As I breathed in the air and the smells of the sea I breathed in the life of Jesus. He too is vast and full and beyond understanding. He too is powerful and full of life.

I felt alive.

I swam back to shore. It was a more difficult swim than the swim out. The tide kept pulling me back and I kept pressing forward against its pull. Soon on the shore I laid covered by the sun, until shadows washed over us.

We headed back up the hundreds of stairs to our home. Donald had discovered a new way that he wanted to take us. It was beautiful. Maybe it was beautiful because of the geraniums. Maybe it was beautiful because it was different. Maybe, it was beautiful because I was with these two students whose hearts amaze me.

We stepped in our home and each have rested from a long walk and long swim.

I once again sit in my room, looking out at the sea, which is now a very light grey blue color, and am calm. I know my Jesus is with me. There is still much to say and hear from Him, but I am thankful for a day to be. A day to be with my Jesus and to be with these students who remind me of him.

(Tonight I’m going dancing!)

In Ruins: old and new

309203_2176535584743_1131563830_nIt’s almost 3:00pm here in Altea. It is hot. It is quiet. It tastes of rest.

I love the siesta hours. They are like a deep breath in the middle of the day.

As I type I feel a gentle breeze ease its way through the doors to my terrace. I hear the sounds of Claire, a beautiful young woman from Biola, playing the guitar downstairs. Brianna, just made her way upstairs to pick up her journal and her bible. The bells of the Old Church just rang out and I turn my eyes from the computer screen to the doors opening to the terrace. I see the white of buildings and the deep blue of the water. Even from this distance I can feel the calm of the sea and her waves, constant in motion as though she were rocking the shore to sleep. There is ease here. There is peace. There is good.

I feel the good deep within my heart. I feel peace ease its way through the walls of my heart and I breathe it in.

The past two days have been filled with rich depth of experience and conversation.

This morning Ariana told the story of El Diseno, the home and art gallery she and her family purchased on faith in 2005. As Ariana and her family moved to Spain they were reading the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall. They knew they were sent to rebuild the wall here. To be a part of the restorative process in the lives of many. She had no idea that God had given her a vision that was both literal and metaphorical. She and her family purchased El Diseno through a series of miracles. The home is a tower of three rooms, one built on top of the other, much like stacked square legos. And, her home, El Diseno, was built into the old wall of Altea. There are only two segments of the old wall left in this small community and the home which they had purchased, they discovered was actually built into the ruins! They were literally going to be rebuilding the wall, just as God has prompted them. As she talked about her home and the stories of times held within its walls her tone turned to that of one speaking of a great love. She loves her home.

Last year, in June, as Edge Project was underway, Ariana was upstairs in her home when she heard a loud crash that sounded much like an explosion echo through her home. She had no idea what created the loud crash. She made her way down the stairs to discover the ceiling of her precious home had come crashing down. Their home, their love, their miracle was literally falling apart and collapsing. She spoke of this and I could hear her heart ache. The depths of sadness reflect the depth of her love for this three room home in the cross roads of Altea.

The city had built a plaza just above El Diseno and since their building the plaza, water has crept into its walls. Seven years of water rushing directly behind the walls of her home with only sheets of styrofoam to absorb the moisture had taken its toll and was now paying the price. For nearly a year Ariana has sought to resolve the issues of the home, but things do not work here as we are accustomed to in the states. She now has one month for this to be resolved before her case becomes null and void. (If you are the praying kind, please pray for resolution.)

I was struck while she was sharing this story and thought of our collective stories as people. We each carry with us a deep need for restoration. The kind of restoration which occurs from the inside out. We each carry with us a deep need for a true change. This change may come in the form of tearing down the old and building something new in its place. Often, we have to tear down the ruins, to build on a new foundation. This may have to be a part of the story of El Diseno, it has been the truth with me. I know many of us have had a significant breaking or tearing down occur before new can come in its place.

I love this picture Isaiah paints of Jesus.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities

I believe that El Diseno will be fully restored. The promise was actually in the purchase. The promise of it being fully restored is a part of its story. The students and I get the honor of being here in the hours of necessary impossible miracles.  These hours invite us to great faith. These hours invite us to prayer. These hours also invite us to dependence upon our Savior, Provider, Sustainer and Hope.

The parallel of the restoration needed in El Diseno and the restoration needed within the walls of my heart, our hearts, does not go unnoticed. Nor does it occur without effect. I believe each of us come to a place of ruin in our lives and there is an invitation found in the ruin. The treasure is found in the rubble. The healing is found in the broken.

As I live into the new, I remember the walls of my heart that have been torn down and I find myself actually thankful for the ruin.

Do you know the ache of ruin? Do you allow yourself to enter the ruin or do you scurry trying to create a quick fix to avoid the pain of destruction? My prayer today is that those of you who read this will know the hope and beauty and healing found within the ruin. Do not be afraid! Do not look back! Do not hold onto the old, but let it go; let it fall through your fingers and allow your trust to reach out to the hands of Jesus and hold on to him. May Jesus be your strong hold and as the foundation on which you’ve built your life crumbles, trust that Jesus will build for you a foundation that is strong and secure. Your hope, my hope, is built on nothing less, but Jesus love and righteousness

Please join us in praying for restoration for each of us here in Spain, for those with whom we come in contact and for El Diseno.

Parties and Freedom

1044783_10200841588753834_1389747617_nTo be honest I don’t know what to type today. My thoughts are full and rambly. Maybe, just maybe that is what I’m supposed to write about… my random trail of thoughts?

Yesterday we hosted our first party. I loved watching the students transform as the night went on. We welcomed 10 people into our home. To the students these men and women were strangers who did not speak their language. The discomfort was palpable. As the hours passed on the discomfort turned to ease. The fear of speaking Spanish turned to comfort and risk combined. Friendships were established, future plans were made and people lingered for well past 5 hours. It was incredible in every way.

I love watching the students. I love  listening to them. I love hearing them. It is a pleasure to serve them.

Today we hosted a dinner (which is our lunch) for a local artist, his girlfriend and he also invited another friend to join us. Both artists showed us their work and as they did, we were invited into their stories. It was powerful. The artist who was invited by his friend, I believe, was truly invited by Jesus to join us. His art displayed a deep sadness. This struck the students and their desire for him to know freedom is beautiful to see.

Our conversations about mission and being in people’s lives have been rich and full and already transformational.

 

On to another subject:

My year has been challenging. Quite actually. When I received the invitation to come to Spain, it was almost as if Jesus himself were inviting me. I knew I had to go. I packed my bags and without much knowledge about “the what” to my trip, I knew I was to go. Since coming I’m even more certain that this is a time for me to live into the freedom that has come from my months of darkness. (The darkness actually was a catalyst for freedom, so in many ways I find myself thankful for the season.) The freedom I felt as I got on the plane was almost as though I stepped into the passage: The old has gone and the new has come.

Living into new is not all that easy. My life was filled with patterns, coping mechanisms and ways of living that kept me from truth, learning and freedom. I now find myself unwilling to participate in those habits and am unwilling to step back into the old. It is truly gone. But …. new has come. This passage for me almost always was this happy, chipper almost euphoric idea. NEW! New has come.

And at the same time… New has come. New. Not old. Not familiar. Not comfortable. But NEW!

I don’t know about you, but every time I’ve experienced anything new, at first it’s always been challenging. A new home. A new job. A new city. A new haircut. A new pair of glasses. A new language Everything… everything new must be worn in and lived into. But, at first the new is difficult, uncomfortable, challenging and seemingly impossible, all held in the hands of peace, good and freedom. I’ve known this reality here. For not only am I in a new location physically, I’m also in a new location spiritually and emotionally. The old has gone and with it, went my habits, control tactics and coping mechanisms. Therefore, when discomfort, sadness or the unexpected hits I feel completely out of my skin. Yes, I feel freedom, but I also feel discomfort. There have been moments here where I’ve felt an almost instantaneous compulsion to burst into tears. I get caught off guard as I feel a new that I know is good, but the familiar which kept me “safe” for so many years is no longer with me and there is great risk and vulnerability in that.

I feel naked a lot. I feel as though I have been stripped of all the things I’ve used to cover my shame and now I’m standing naked, wondering if it’s okay to be doing such. I feel a deep vulnerability. It is good. It is risky. It is true. God is in it.

With all of this new, I am experiencing good. The good is real and filled with truth. It is beautiful and I’m so thankful to be walking in it. (even though at times it is painful) Freedom is uncomfortable. But I intend, as a friend reminded me today, to do as Marmie said to Jo in Little Women, “Go and embrace your liberty… and see what beautiful things may come of it!” What a great line. What a great invitation! It is an invitation I fully intend to take.

I am living into my liberty and beauty is found here.