September 25, 2013

The truth I was reminded of from a hamster... (Guest Blogger: Nancy Janes)

While we were in Haiti we had an escape. Not there but back here in the US. Kelsey’s hamster Smoreo is nowhere to be found. They looked and looked but couldn't find her. Today I have searched the house with no success. I had the sad thought that should I find Smoreo the chances of her being still alive are not good. It’s been several days now with no food and no water. The other danger is Tigger, our cat. Who knows if he’s had an extra kitty treat. I started thinking….Smoreo got out of her cage. She now had her freedom. Or did she? In her cage she had everything she needed…food, water, a place to run around, a noisy wheel for exercise, almost daily hamster treats, bedding to get cozy in and Kelsey who watched over and loved her. Now in Smoreo’s “freedom” she is without. Maybe she can run more but she no longer has the necessities of food and water and no one to come love on her.  

This made me think about the prodigal son in the Bible and us as people. The son in the story had all he needed at his father’s house just as we have all we need in God’s arms. But within both there are boundaries. Just like Smoreo’s cage. But boundaries to protect us, not to hinder us or hold us back. The prodigal son didn't and sometimes we don't see it that way and feel we are too confined with God. There is no fun! That we need our freedom and independence. So we run.  

The son took his inheritance from his father and ran. We turn our back on God and the truths we know and run. Just like Smoreo I’m sure did once he was out of the cage. It feels great at first. We can stretch our legs, do what we want and not listen to the boundaries of life. But this excitement will begin to die. I would think that after some time Smoreo became hungry and thirsty but there was no Kelsey to fill the bowl or give a treat. With the prodigal son once his inheritance was gone the good times stopped. He was free but he was hungry and lonely.  

In our Christian life if we turn our backs on God so we can be ‘free’ but we still know the truth and real freedom in Christ and after some time that begins to haunt us. At this point there is a choice to make. Continue in ‘freedom’ or repent and go back to true freedom. The prodigal son did that. He went back to his father, asked for forgiveness and his father welcomed him with open arms. God too waits with open arms to welcome any of us back who have turned from him. Yes, this means boundaries again but as have discovered it means love and forgiveness and freedom in those needed boundaries.  Unconditional love.

Unfortunately I don't think this will be the case for Smoreo. I don't think we will have him return to say sorry for getting out of his cage. Unfortunately I think we will find Smoreo at the end of his life. Don't be like Smoreo. Don't wait until its too late. Don’t live your life running away and not having the life that God so wants to give you. Turn back and ask for forgiveness. You can never do anything that God can't forgive. He loves you and your present and your past. He waits for you.

September 20, 2013

Haiti Women's Conference 2013

What a great blessing and honor it was to be a part of the Southbrook led Women's Conference at Pastor Rene's church in Haiti. 12 of us (2 men, 10 ladies) traveled to Haiti this week. 6 of these ladies taught on women in the Bible, and how their stories relate to our own stories. They are did an amazing job. Public speaking is always a challenge. Add speaking through an interpreter, and speaking to over 600 eager women, and the opportunity for stress and nervousness goes off the scale.

But this did not phase our speakers. They shared what God had placed on their hearts, and God used their words to speak to the hearts of those who attended the conference.

Each day started off with worship, Haitian style. Dancing, clapping, shouting and singing for over an hour, it is easy to see the sincerity on the faces of these ladies as they praise the name of Jesus. If only there were some way to bottle up this intense experience and bring it home! What would Southbrook Church look like on Sunday morning if we would let go of our selves and just let loose and freely worship God! It's always refreshing to worship with this group.

After worship, 3 of our ladies spoke each day. They shared their stories, and they related to women in the Bible. It was amazing to discover that though we are separated by an ocean, and that we live completely different lives, in the end we are all human beings with the same basic needs and desire. After the third speaker, we offered the opportunity for people to come forward for prayer. Many came, asking for prayer for things like their marriage, their children, their husbands, their homes. Their concerns are no different than our concerns. And what a blessing to take these requests to our God in prayer.

At the end of the day we were able to serve lunch to each conference attendee. A styrofoam box with rice and beans, a piece of chicken, and some pasta salad was passed out. Our team tried to help, we were mostly in the way, so we got out of the way. 

This is the second year we have led this conference, and the expectation for another one next year is great. Begin praying with me now that God will form a new team this next year to return and be a part of this amazing experience. Maybe you will join us?

Family Update

It's been a busy summer. I went to Haiti in July, and had the awesome opportunity to take Kara and Kelsey with me on a missions trip to Mexico in August. Then in September I was back in Haiti, this time Nancy, as well as my dad Gary. We were a part of a group from our church who led a women's conference at a church in Port-au-Prince. 

Meanwhile, the kids are all back in school. 

Garren is a junior at Piedmont High School. He has really come a long way. Last semester he would take his power chair three times a week, and his manual chair the other two days. This year, he took his power chair the first 2 or 3 days of school, and has been using his manual chair since then, every day. That is amazing progress.

Last semester, Garren only went to 3 of the 4 daily classes (they call them blocks now). This year he stays all day. One of his classes is weightlifting, which is great. This ensures that he is getting exercise 5 days a week. We continue to work on other strengthening exercises at home as well.

Garren is still learning to walk. We continue to see amazing improvements. He can get around the house with a walker. He is doing really well with that. Garren still cannot swallow. This is the biggest prayer item for his healing. I know that he is healing, though it is very slow. I trust God and pray daily that God will allow him to swallow again. 

Kelsey is a 3rd grader at Porter Ridge Elementary School. She is growing up so quickly. She loves school, which is great, and is doing a great job. Kelsey has also started piano lessons, and is going to be training with a group called Girls on the Run 2 days a week. They will be training to run a 5k later this year.

Kara is officially a high school graduate. Nancy and I took her to New York City where we helped her move into her new home. She is attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It has been her dream for many years to live in New York City and to pursue a career in acting. Her dream is coming true, and God is going to use her in an amazing way. Pray for her, that God will keep her safe and focused, and that God will continue to provide the funds needed to pay tuition (it's not cheap)!