God Loves Open Hands

A blog I originally wrote for Go International. I wanted to share it here.

   I came to Ecuador with two big bags. Trying to fit my life for these seven months into two bags of fifty pounds proved to be a challenge all by itself. My mother and I spent at least thirty minutes organizing, reorganizing, arranging, and rearranging the contents I had deemed necessary for my time overseas. Needless to say, I could not take everything. There were several things I thought were necessary, but were beaten out by things I knew I could not live without.

   Last Friday, our team gathered, with several friends, in Plaza Foch in downtown Quito to do the Let Go campaign. This outreach creates a stunning visual of “casting your cares on the Lord.” Participants are asked to take part in a campaign to “let go” of their worries.  Using helium balloons and markers, they are invited to write down the thing on the balloon that worries them the most and at a designated time the balloons are released after a time of prayer signifying letting go of all of our worries. We encountered people who wanted to let go of financial burdens, unforgiveness, bitterness, fear, broken relationships, and anxiety, among many others. As a team, we pray that those who participated left inspired, and encouraged, to take a step of letting go and moving into the future that is in store for them.

         We all live with things we are holding onto. Maybe for you it is hurt from a past relationship or a diagnosis you cannot seem to recover from. For me, fear and worry have often held me back from pursuing dreams and desires. But just like my two bags and the things I wanted to take but couldn’t, I must let go of some things and trust God that as I give them to Him, He will take them with open hands and do things with them that I could never do on my own.

         What is that one thing that is holding you back from stepping into the future that is ahead of you? if only you let go of it, and believed that moving on from something small could lead you into something much bigger and better? We all have one thing. In my case, I have several. Letting go of things such as these is not a one-time deal. It is a constant decision we must make in our hearts and in our minds. But making that decision could lead you into the best season of your life. 


Vision Test

   A blog I originally wrote for Go International. I wanted to share it here.

   Ever since I can remember, I have worn glasses. I think it was first grade when I got my first pair. But I can’t be completely sure of that. What I am sure of are the countless nerdy school pictures and the one negative encounter with contact lenses that resulted in more nerdy school pictures. I think the eye doctor even diagnosed me as blind if I did not wear glasses. That is something I am especially proud of. But just because I am physically blind, at least without glasses, does not mean that I have to be blind in life.

   Last Friday, our team gathered at the corner of Parque Carolina in Quito to participate in the Vision Campaign. For this campaign we create a “living art piece” with people wearing blindfolds and holding signs that have various quotes on vision.  We also hand out “vision tests” which have several thought provoking questions, which challenge people to have vision for their life. The point of this artistic campaign is to start conversations with people, encourage them in the direction that their life is headed, and ultimately point them towards having a deeper relationship with God. Despite the occasional raindrop and feet falling asleep from standing in one place for a significant amount of time, we deemed it a success.

   What makes things like this a success are the conversations that take place. Sometimes in broken Spanish, sometimes in English, sometimes through a translator. But the conversations are what make these campaigns what they are. One particular gentleman that we spoke with, after hearing about vision and dreams from one of our team members, embraced him with a hug, saying that he has been waiting for someone to share these things with him. We believe that if only one person is affected from a campaign, it is a success. By this perspective, this vision campaign was an absolute success. Although we cannot provide people with an actual vision for their life, we can provide them with something tangible they can take and read and look at often, and we do. But more so, we can provide people with prayer. We pray that peoples’ hearts would be opened to these ideas; that they would begin to see their lives and the specific vision for their lives more clearly. We pray that something they would see or hear during a campaign would spur them to action. Sometimes we hear from people we meet, saying they have not been able to stop thinking about these things and that they have been inspired. Sometimes we don’t hear anything after “goodbye,” but we trust that God will continue the conversation when we cannot.

   I don’t believe there is an excuse for why each one of us should not have a vision for our lives. You may be physically blind, like me, but that does not mean you have to be blind for what you want your life to look like. So I say all that to say this: what is the vision you have, or want, for your life? What are you seeing when you examine your life? What do you want to see when you look back on your years? What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to remember? I do not want to go through life blindly, and I don’t want that for you either. I pray that your eyes would be opened. And you would see clearly. Here’s to your vision. 


They Are Worth the Fight

This is  guest blog I originally wrote for Gointernational.tv. I wanted to share it here. 

   Our team recently participated in the Dream Campaign in Plaza Foch here in Quito. Our goal was to engage people in conversation, and hopefully spark something in their heart about what their dream is and encourage them to pursue it. We met all kinds of people with all kinds of dreams. From writing a book to living a happy life together, from traveling the world to marrying a girl from the United States. We learned that a dream can be anything that sits inside your heart and makes it beat; makes it yearn for something greater. Some people we met were in the middle of their dreams; sharing with us what it was like to be doing what they most desired in life. Others were approaching their dreams; sharing what it was like to be hopeful. Others were moving from one dream to the next, sharing that life is more than one moment in time. It is a journey, a progression from one moment to the next, all the while capturing the moment and making the most of it.

   I think dreams are like the mountains that are not far beyond my house in Quito. I know they are there. I know they exist. But some mornings, and some nights, a thick blanket of clouds, hiding them from sight, covers them. But just because I cannot see them at that moment does not lead me to believe that they no longer exist. Sometime it is difficult to see them because of things that get in the way; fear or anxiety, uncertainty or confusion. Sometimes things can cloud our vision, keeping us from seeing the beauty of what stands in front of us or of what lays in our hearts.

   Hearing about dreams so often can sometimes make it even more confusing when trying to determine what they are in your life. I have come to notice that I have many dreams, all with varying degrees of simplicity and complexity. But just because it is hard does not mean I should not strive for it. As I write this, I realize it is much easier to write it or say it than to actually live it. We have a saying here at Go: We don’t say “I can’t” but we ask, “How can I?” When I think of this, I think of dreams. I think of the positivity it takes to pursue your dreams. I think of the faith that is required to believe each morning that your dreams can be accomplished.

   What dreams lay in your heart? Which dreams hover just beneath the surface, trying their hardest to get out and come to life? What stands in the way of your dreams becoming true? It is not always easy to detect such things. But often, some things have to be conquered before others can have their turn. I encourage you, as much as I constantly encourage myself, to give life to your dreams. They have been hidden long enough. The world needs your dreams to come to life. It needs what lays in your heart. I believe your dreams matter, not only to yourself, but also to those around you. 


10 Things

Some thoughts from the last 6 weeks in another country while sitting in a coffee shop.

1. You can choose your attitude

I learned this the hard way. Something that applies to a four year old can also apply to a twenty three year old. You can choose how you will act and respond in life.

2. Creativity is a way of life

Creativity will open doors for you. It will allow your mind to be free.  In everything you do, how can you do it differently, and maybe get different and even better results?

3. Critique your environment

My supervisor and friend shared this with me. Whether you are in a coffee shop or a shopping mall, critique what’s around you. It will help you with creativity and thinking differently.

4. Take time to dream

Dream a lot. It gives you things to shoot for.

5. Be intentional with time

Things can either grow or die because of time. Invest your time where it will produce fruit. Make the most of the time you have.

6. Make much of opportunities

Some things may only happen once in a lifetime. How will you embrace those moments?

7. It’s not about me

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. So should be our way of life. Contrary to what we may tell ourselves, it’s not about us. It’s about people.

8. God has his ways

God has his way of doing things. They aren’t our ways. See Isaiah 55:8-9.

9. Always be open

Be open to the possibilities. You may end up saying no, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider something. Give it the necessary time. Some things may begin small, but can become big. Don’t be afraid to be open.

10. Think about your life

Where do you want to go? What will you live by? What have you learned from past mistakes? The answers to these questions can propel you into your future. 


I Don’t Want to be Blindfolded Anymore

   The car stops. We are all wondering. A tap on my window. It’s rolled down a bit. But not enough for a hand to push through. Greg hands us blindfolds. He tells us we are not to talk. Not a sound. Not even a laugh or a sigh. We put the blindfolds on. We begin to move. Zigs and zags. The car stops. We get out and form a single file line, arms on each other’s shoulders. I am in front but Greg takes my place. He leads us down a road, up and down curbs, through gates and under trees. Faint lights off in the distance through the black cloth over our eyes. He tells us to stop and remove the blindfolds. We do and look around. “You are standing in the middle of one of Quito’s’ most sacred cemeteries.”

   I slowly turn around and scan my surroundings. We are on a hill with the city lights stretching out beneath us, up and down the valley floor, the faint outlines of the Andes Mountains not far from us. “There are three things on a gravestone: the name of the deceased, their birth date, and their death date. What do you want to put in the gap between those two dates?” It was not the first time I had heard, or even pondered this question. But something about the place where we were standing, about the atmosphere, lightning in the sky and all of our fixed gazes on what lay on the ground before us. What did I want to be remembered for? What did I want to write in the space between the dates?

   My favorite author, and one of my heroes, Donald Miller writes often about his life, our life, and the power of story. He says that our lives are meant to be lived as a story, writing a page every day, until eventually we have formed a book of our lives. I think the question that emerges from that is “what will be written?” What will people read about our lives when they are no more? Greg says that many great people have come before us, so why cannot we do great things as well?

   Greg shares an example, a quote from Steve Jobs, about how he would wake up each morning and look at himself in the mirror and ask himself if he wants to keep doing what he is doing; if he still loves it, because if he doesn’t, it is time to do something different. If someone as influential and revered as Jobs felt the need to ask himself this with each waking breath, how much more should we be asking the same of ourselves?

   Greg says later that so many people go through life just sitting on the bench during the game; that fewer and fewer people get up and say “Coach, put me in, I’m ready to play.” When I think about my life, I do not want to sit on the bench and watch the minutes, the quarters, come to pass without doing my part to win the game. There is a need that proactivity must play in all of our lives, that God has given us this life and only this, and while He guides our steps and had our lives planned long before we drew our first breath, it is our calling to do something with our lives, to do great things to bring glory to His name and to His Kingdom.

   While this happened almost a week ago tonight, it has taken me several drafts and countless thoughts before I could put something down on paper, or on this screen.  Right now as I write this, it is almost 10:30 at night and I am sitting at the dining room table with ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong United playing through my headphones. And I am thinking that being proactive in life is not easy. It involves taking steps, often leaps, of faith in order for God to truly work within us. Simply sitting idly by doing the comfortable often proves few results. This song is my favorite because it talks about our calling to step into the unknown and the need to trust God when we do.

   Almost two weeks ago, I stepped into the unknown onto the soil of another continent, trusting God that He would do only what He can do in and through me. I am not saying that that one act of proactivity is all that is needed, and no more will come. But it was a step. And I took more steps once the blindfold was removed from my eyes. And I am still taking steps. And I am praying that God would reveal more and more to me each day. Because no more will I settle for what is normal, just sitting by and watching the days go by while I only dream of dreams to come.

   So the blindfold has been removed from my eyes, from my life. That night will forever stay embedded in my mind, and in my heart, of a push to be more, to do more to be a part of my own story, to not let my fears take the pen instead. The blindfold is gone. I can now see. And what I see is bright skies to come, with God giving me a new pen each day, saying “what will you write today that you will remember tomorrow, and ages to come?” That is what He says, and that is how I will live.