Monday, March 26, 2012

San Francisco: Part 1

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whome they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
---Romans 10:14---

San Francisco. A city that is 7 miles by 7 miles and has a population of above 800,000. A city that is passionate about many things such as the environment and individual rights on controversial issues. A city that is synonymous with the Golden Gate Bridge. A city that has a high homeless population. A city that needs Jesus. A city where I got to spend my break serving God.

Melissa Thomas and myself got the amazing  privilege of spending Spring Break 2012 in San Francisco with Ryan and Rachel Blackwell and there adorable son Brady. Ryan is the pastor at First Baptist in SF and his wife is a gifted photographer and both of these people opened up their home for a week to two college girls who didn't really have much planned except that they were in love with this city and what God was doing there. 

I went on a mission trip to San Francisco last Spring Break and it absolutely stole my heart- which is weird for a girl that is not a huge fan of rain or of the temperature being below 70. This year since there was not a group going, I decided to invent my own mission trip. Best decision I have ever made. I could go on forever, but I want to hit a few of the high points. 

For starters, I am very confident in the fact that God answers prayers. This happens daily in my life but there I want to give you an example that happened in San Francisco. 1 Corinthians 1:5-6 says, " For in  him you have been enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your knowledge- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you." On Wednesday I prayed I would live that day so that this verse would describe me. I prayed specifically that people wouldn't see me, they would see Jesus. Well we get to  YWAM where we were hanging out with some homeless people and about 3 minutes in to a conversation about the weather with a homeless man he held up his hand to stop me and said, " I know what you got. You got Jesus. He lives in you , doesn't He?" On the outside of course I smiled and said "Yes, He definitely does," and then continued to share he gospel with him along with parts of my testimony. BUT on the INSIDE I was absolutely floored by what God had just done. I knew when I prayed that morning that God would answer it, but He way exceeded my expectations!! How encouraging is it that as a Christian we can ask God for something and He not only answers it- He makes sure to go above and beyond.

Another event that floored me was that when we were serving at a dinner for homeless people, besides the fact that I got asked if I had ever been in playboy and the fact that I received a very unexpected kiss on the cheek while hugging a homeless man, I was able to help give someone hope. Standing there I was thinking, "Man, I wish I knew each one of their stories. You don't just decide one day you want to be homeless, do you?" Then I met James. James is a 50 year old man with a mischievous smile and always ready to answer you with a joke so he can get you laughing. While talking about various things with James and laughing he stopped and said, "This is not me. This is not who I am. I raised two boys that live in Florida. I had a good job. I had a beautiful wife that I loved so much. She died in 2009. That's when I started drinking. That's when I became an alcoholic." As he was talking tears started streaming down his face. This man's addiction had ruined his life completely. He didn't even have a place to rest his head because all he could think about was getting his fix. I was able to tell him about the Celebrate Recovery program FBCSF has but I also went a step farther. I wrote on a piece of paper - "James, Jesus loves you. He cares about you. I care about you. Jesus wants you to over come this. I am praying for you every day."  By the grace of God, I was able to give James hope.

Like I said, I could go on for pages with story after story of how God revealed himself, but what I got out of this trip (and what I want you to get out of it also) is prayer is so powerful and that it is really just all about Jesus. Jesus has died so that ALL people may know him. Not just the ones who get get saved young. Not just ones who grew up going to church. Not just ones that kinda messed around with alcohol or drugs a little but got smart and quit that. He died for ALL. Even people that have no hope. So why, then, as Christians are we not trying to be Christ like and reach ALL people for Him?

Because most of  it's hard work and it means a long term commitment to building a relationship with a person that needs hope. And we just simply don't have time to help someone that doesn't instantly grasp the idea that Jesus died for them and saved them, do we? Well maybe it's time we remember how much time and effort and time God spent (and still has to spend) getting our attention.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

 Heart of a Hillbilly

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with His joy."
---Psalm 126:3---

This verse sums up my past few days so well I am going to say it again; The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with His joy. For those of you that know what's going on and think I'm crazy- Hear me out. For those of you that don't know what's going on and are curious- Hear me out. 

I'll start from the beginning to avoid any confusion. 

During Thanksgiving 2011 my dad suffered from a severe heart attack. He was in the hospital for about a week after that recovering and regaining his strength. It was ridiculous how much support we had from our friends and family by visits, prayers, and helping hands. The cheerleader in me came out to help cope, so I made a sign. :) No, it didn't say "Go, Fight, Win," although now that I think about it, that would have been fitting as well. I put Jer. 29:12 on it and then wrote down all the names of people that had contacted us telling us they were praying.

After leaving the hospital, Dad started eating healthier and exercising. He wasn't happy about the new foods he was trying and trying to get him to eat it was sometimes like eating with a picky five year old. . . Waaaiiittt, maybe I don't have any room talk? ha! At one point during my Mom's loving and caring attempts to make him a heart healthy, yet still slightly taste-bud appealing meal, she figured out how to bake fries. That night my dad got to eat a whopping FIVE french fries. He said it was the best meal he had ever eaten. The tone in which he said it left it's credibility up to interpretation.

Fast-forward to a week ago: Dad started having chest pains again. He scheduled a stress test to hopefully find a quick fix to what ever was giving him problems. What started as a simple test soon turned into immediate hospitalization and the news that he would have to have bypass surgery. After many schedule changes, surgery finally happened this morning at 7:00am. He is out now and doing well. Prayers are still GREATLY APPRECIATED!!! The surgery went smoothly, but the recovery process is a long, painful one. Please be praying specifically that the pain will be tolerable or completely erased and that he (and my family) can stay positive and joyful throughout the whole process.

Now that everyone is up to date on his situation it is time to give credit where credit is due: Jesus. The entire bible points to Jesus. I have recently decided to go rogue and live my life biblical in every aspect of it. Do I mess up every day? No, more like every hour. But the bible is my playbook as a Christian. So I want my life to point to Him. Philippians 4:4-6 COMMANDS us to rejoice always through everything. Then, verse 7 says: 

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I can tell you first hand after this weekend that this verse is true. Seriously not ONE time since we learned about surgery have I been worried about it. God has a plan that was written way before I was born. For a split second I thought, "Should I be worried, I'm not worried? Am I heartless?" Then God whispered, "No, you are my daughter. Your dad is my son. I will take care of both of you."

Waaaaiiiitttt, WHAAATT?? The God of the universe is taking care of me? The perfect Lamb, Jesus, died for me? The Holy Spirit prays for me when I don't know what to say? Mind. Blown.

I am SOOOOOOOOO unbelievably grateful that we live in a country that could fix my dad's heart and that God made sure it went through without any complications. I am SOOOOOOO extremely thankful for everyone that prayed. The source of my joy, though, is Jesus. Had he not saved me, my dad, my brother, my mom, YOU from dying forever, none of this other stuff would matter. 

Jackie :)