Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Top India Takeaways...

This experience has been absolutely amazing for me.

It has exceeded my expectations on so many levels, from just what I physically saw with my eyes in the people and landscapes all the way to what I experienced spiritually with my team and especially within my own heart. And when I say spiritually, I am not referring to a general sense that one may use when saying “there is something spiritual about this land,” but instead a very specific spiritual experience with Jesus Christ, Who I accept to be my living God.

Though we were only gone for 10 days, it is impossible for me to recap all that happened in those 10 days here, but instead I’ll share some of the major realizations that I’ve had on some very important areas in my faith…some that are re-realizations, but some that are completely mind-blowing for me and new.

1. Being PLANTED in a community centered around Jesus is necessary.

    Having a community is much different from being planted in one. Having the resource of a Christ-centered community is awesome, but unless you are deeply rooted in the middle of that community you will not fully utilize the benefits of that community, and as a result your faith is at danger of being just lukewarm. I used to think it was just important. But “important” isn’t the best word, and is misleading.  It is nearly impossible to experience Jesus fully by yourself, because from a community you will continue to grow through the support received BY them AND through support you give TO them. Use iron to sharpen iron…always, not sometimes.  Then you don’t leave your sharpened in the drawer with the other iron, you make use of it outside and return to always be sharpened. My teammates on this journey(who are part of the larger community that I have at home) were more than I could ever ask for. They encouraged me in ways that I’ve never experienced before and shared with me the growing pains(and blessings) that I endured…and will continue to share them with me moving forward.

2. I firmly believe in the power of prayer.

    I’ve never firmly believed in this. I always understood the concept, but I always thought it wasn’t for me. I didn’t identify with it, and I treated it as an exercise, before meals, when asking for help and safety, because I didn’t feel anything. It was not my strong suit. I experienced more prayer on this trip than any other 10 days of my life…prayer in a crowd where everyone was praying out loud at the same time(which if you’ve never experienced is indescribable), prayer in large and small groups, and prayer alone. I FELT the power of prayer in different ways, something that I’d never felt before. I felt it when I was prayed over, and felt it when I prayed over others. On Sunday I had the opportunity to pray over a group of 5 of the orphans, huddled with their heads down in front of me, around ages 4 through 10. For the first time, I didn’t feel like I needed to think of the words.  The words spoken were channeled through my heart instead of my mind. It was just…different, and I’m realizing now it’s so hard to put into words. All I know is now that I firmly believe…and desire to grow much more in it.

    **I initially started writing this blog on the plane ride back from India, but it feel by the wayside and I’m finishing it up today,  a month later. But in the last 30 days since I’ve been home, I’ve participated in a 30-days of prayer challenge, with mostly members from the India team, where daily (except Sundays) we meet from 6am to 7:30am.  I don’t even wake up this early to surf!  But it has changed my life, my experience in prayer, and improved my the clarity that I have in who I am, my relationship with others, my relationship with Jesus...and I’ve never felt so close to Him ever in my life.  I feel it’s necessary to mention that the other areas of my life(work, relationships, etc) aren’t exactly rosy despite what many may think, but I feel on top of the world because of this, and it proves to me that with a strong prayer life, despite any problems I run into, I’m able to not only get through the days, but succeed through the days with a super high spirit.

    The purpose of prayer can be different for many of us. I think that the most common use of prayer is to ask in time of need. Many of us only pray to God (or for some of us to just “a” god out there) when looking for hope, when things are out of your control. I’m guilty of this of course. But I’ve discovered that this is because my view of God has been inaccurate all this time. I saw God as a disciplinary God…a judge (NOT a judgmental judge, but just a judge who gave punishment when deserved, and granted good when appropriate). I knew He was about love, but I still needed to adjust my understanding. And it’s through personal experience that I have been able to adjust my understanding. I’ve learned that God is just as real as my own father and mother, as my brothers, as my friends.  He doesn’t judge me, instead He focuses on loving me. He focuses on what is best for me. If I sin, the consequences of my sin are deserved, caused by me. If I do not suffer consequences, I’m not “lucky,” I am fortunate, because due to God’s grace for me I won’t be punished. But if I suffer consequences, God isn’t punishing me, I’m walking through the effects of my own actions.  Sometimes I walk through negative effects of actions that had nothing to do with me, that I wasn’t responsible for.  I appreciate and accept these times just as much, because I have faith in God, who is completely real to me, that He is protecting me and that I cannot understand the big picture(His plan for me) as much as He knows, and I’m okay with that…because what happens today and tomorrow is just a part of what He has in store for me overall.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to expect to be able to understand what God understands because He is so much bigger than I. I know He is speaking to me in ways that I may not realize, and especially in ways that are uncomfortable to me, which I have to take and I’m learning to embrace. Anyway…I’ve detracted a bit, but the point is that I understand that God is love, and He is only love to me, I choose treat Him the same way I treat other relationships in my life…with communication, with openness, not with just requests for support and wisdom and guidance, but also with praises and gratefulness. I talk to Him daily because I want to, because it’s necessary to maintain a good and healthy relationship with Him.  I cannot expect to have a healthy and close relationship with a friend I speak to once a week or less, who I call only when I need a favor….so why would I choose to communicate with God of all people in that same way?

3. I believe in healing and miracles.

    I saw a few things happen during the trip…healing, and experienced being healed myself.  I’ve also learned since then that healing doesn’t always happen. I’m not always going to see big bangs and crazy miraculous things. But it’s okay. Because it doesn’t mean they don’t work or exist. They are just happening in ways that I’m not realizing, and sometimes I’m so focused on what MY perspective is, what MY definitions of healing or miracles are, that I miss everything else going on. It’s so narrow minded. And it continues to boil down to being obedient in realizing that what we ask and pray for isn’t always what God wants for us, and certainly isn’t in the timing that He has for us.

4. Not having IS having.

    These boys and girls in the orphanages…you know they either do not have parental guidance, or they don’t have living parents at all. Some of them have crazy stories, parents in the sex trade, parents who were murdered, parents who died in front of their eyes. But you would never tell from looking at their faces. You’d never tell by looking at their eyes and their smiles, and interacting with them. It’s because they are filled with the love of Jesus. They have been loved by Jesus also through their guardians who display the love of Jesus because they themselves have dedicated their lives to Jesus. These boys and girls don’t have material possessions. They don’t have iPhones, iPads, toys, not even really much clothing. On top of this they face persecution and potentially death because of their beliefs. Despite all of this, they are so focused on God and their love for the Lord is so pure. They don’t have what we think is important and essential to have in this world, yet they HAVE SO MUCH MORE THAN WE HAVE.  I’ve said this in a testimony given about Mukestamar, a bible school student that we met in India(ask me if you want to hear the full story)…the things we have here that we think are essential are just distractions…distractions from Jesus and what He wants for us and of us and to do with us.  We think they help us do things, get closer to things, maybe even learn how to build our relationships with Jesus…but in the end, we allow them to be distractions that pull us away. If I only had this…it’s hard for me because of this…you know what would be awesome and would get me there is this…um, how about thinking about not having my mom, my dad, my brothers, no surfboard, no clothes, no home to live in, no car, no phone, no computer, no internet,…how hard would it be then? Would it be easy to love Jesus then? For me, probably not, because I’d wonder why my life was so unfortunate.  But this is my problem, and this is what I focus to work on: being okay with not having, and understanding what I really need in my life, versus what just distracts me. I’m blessed that I will probably never have to go through not having anything like those kids in India, but that’s not the point. And while these needs may be different from you, my only need is a relationship with Jesus, and I’m learning what it means to have only that.

5. I was lukewarm for the Lord.

    I think that through all of the realizations above, I understood how lukewarm I was in my faith. And the more I grow from these things, the more and more  I realize how lukewarm I really was. I don’t want to be lukewarm, because there is so much more fulfillment when I’m not lukewarm…it’s not good enough, and God wants more from me, and I know why. I never want to be lukewarm ever again because I know better and I feel the freedom that comes with not being lukewarm.

If you don’t have that relationship with Jesus, or have never even been to church before…I hope this blog doesn’t scare you. I actually thank you for reading it through because perhaps it’s a reflection of the respect you have for me…either that or you are in such disbelief of how different this sounds compared to person you used to know. But I’m no different to you as a friend. I hope it doesn’t turn you off.  Instead, I hope it makes you think a little more about your life and how you live it, what you value, what you place your faith in, and what hope you have.  If you’re reading this and cannot relate, I don’t wish that you believe in God because of these words I’ve written, but that you simply reflect and give it the thought that it deserves. I encourage you to put aside any preconceived notions, any pride, and any laziness. Because there is so much more to gain by not being complacent in this. Anyway…I’m just absolutely stoked on the journey I’m on, and I would want everyone else to be just as stoked as I am.