Monday, February 25, 2013

Jesus is in the Airport!

         My heart is steadfast, O God: I will sing and make music with all my soul! Awake harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Oh Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens and let your glory be over all the earth. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered.
 ~ Psalms 108: 1-6.                  

Five days and counting until we head off to Guatemala to be a part of the Jesus Film 2013 ministry trip. We will have the chance to share a line or two in God's continuing story in Northern Guatemala. It was a regular week. Everybody worked and went to school. Thursday was basketball practice and laundry.   Friday the packing began, we even had a nice "family dinner". Lights out by midnight. Not bad, not bad at all! Saturday we were up at 6:30am out the door by 9:15, and at the church before 10am for a wonderful day of Upward basketball and cheer. Made what seemed like 1000 walking taco's and watched Zach play is heart out. He made some great shots and rebounds for his team; then we kissed him goodbye and sent him off with Grandma and Grandpa for the start of his weekend. Cleaned up the gym and church, checked in with the airlines. On the road and headed for Arther's deli for a quick dinner and then our amazing group was Chicago bound. Good dinner. Good driving ~ but not at all quiet since we had the van with the 3 teenagers :-) Found the long term parking lot, caught the tram and zoomed over to the international terminal.

Interestingly enough, there isn't a lot of extra staff on hand at O'Hara Airport at midnight and English is not the first language of any of the Taca Airlines staff that we met, yet they were very professional, friendly and helpful. We figured out where we needed to be, and then started the process of checking in 9 people and 17 bags. Each bag had been weighed in advance. The 25 pounds of candy we were bringing, along with a case of evangicubes, puppet supplies and other Jesus film materials had been allocated to various bags. But the generator and the screen ~ it just was what it was. We planned, We prepped, We PRAYED. We knew that one crate was over weight ~ the generator is 50.2 pounds. Standard shipping covers up to 50 pounds...and the overage fee is $120. We knew that the carry case for the screen and stand was 10 inches too long and we brought duck tape to "shorten" the bag at the airport ...and the over length fee is $120.  But God had other plans for that $240, so we were blessed from the start when both bags were accepted by the airlines without additional charges!

Airport security was a breeze. We were quicker than the other missions group ~ 47 wonderful Christian folks with 94 bags plus carry on's from the Midwest who were on their way to Southern Guatemala to do a weeks work of dental and medical clinics while sharing the Good News. Check in for us was simple and before long, it was 2am and we were headed almost straight South to join our soon to be friends in Guatemala City.  The plane was clean, my in flight movie worked and the breakfast we were served at 3am was tasty. Just after 6am we landed in Guatemala City, and by 7am we had all 17 bags plus 9 tired travelers and their carry on's and we were headed to customs.  A few of us got stopped. The agent that checked one of my bags turned on EVERY flashlight that was in the bag, left them on, zipped up the bag and said "Thank you, you may go".  So I did. Then I scooted to the side, reopened the bag and turned off every flashlight in the bag.  Pastor B also go stopped. He had the generator. It was new, it was unused. We had been warned about the likelihood of problems getting the equipment into the country. We had been warned about the possible charges and fees, but again God had other plans and we were permitted to proceed without additional charge.

After nearly 26 hours of "awake" time, 9 members of the Jesus Film Team finally emerged from the international airport in Guatemala City and were greeted with love, friendship and a large school bus by our new friends Kelly and Ulysses. We would go to breakfast ~ at McDonald's of course ~ and then head to the Nazarene Seminary for some much needed rest. In those first few minutes our eyes, our ears, every part of our reality was bombarded with the newness of our surroundings, but my heart was calm and singing. God's glory was shining, we were getting to see small slivers of His plan...and it wasn't even the beginning of day one!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Do I really care about my friends?

So I am reading thru the book of Luke, and today I got taken to a place I didn't see coming at all.
This morning as I mentally chew on Luke 5:17-32, this is the question that popped into my heart.
"Do I really care about my friends?"

One day when Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and legal experts were sitting nearby. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea, and from Jerusalem. Now the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. Some men were bringing a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. They wanted to carry him in and place him before Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they took him up on the roof and lowered him—cot and all—through the roof tiles into the crowded room in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The legal experts and Pharisees began to mutter among themselves, “Who is this who insults God? Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus recognized what they were discussing and responded, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions?  Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  But so that you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins” —Jesus now spoke to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, get up, take your cot, and go home.”  Right away, the man stood before them, picked up his cot, and went home, praising God. All the people were beside themselves with wonder. Filled with awe, they glorified God, saying, “We’ve seen unimaginable things today.” Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them.  The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”   Luke 5:17-32

In the first part of my reading there is a group of friends that goes to extraordinary lengths to bring someone they care deeply for to the life changing hands of Jesus. These friends know who Jesus is, they know what Jesus is capable of, and they will do anything to get their 'person in need' up close and personal with Him. They climbed up a roof, did some quick demolition on the roof, got their friend on the cot up the roof and then literally lowered him before the Son of God. These friends were not dissuaded by the crowd, their need was to great to simply give up when things got complicated. These friends KNEW that Jesus is what would make the difference. Now the man on the cot had to do his part too. When Jesus told him to get up, he could have said "but I am paralyzed", but he didn't. The friends role in this lesson, was to get the man to Jesus. They did their part, and then Jesus did His.

Then Luke rolls right into Levi's dinner party. Levi himself, had a face to face encounter with Christ. And what did he do next? He called up all of his peeps and had himself a party. Good food. Good company - his inner circle of friends being giving the chance to meet his Savior. What a great idea. I have always believed that "if you cook it they will come."  Don't give me wrong - I love my church building and the things that happen there. But in my life, the way Matt and I build friendships, and do life as a Christian community always happens easier and more significantly around the kitchen table, the couches in the den and the bleachers that surround the basketball court and the soccer field.

So what's my take away from this great passage (and I do consider it one passage and not 2 separate lessons).  Well, it's more a series of questions than a single life changing statement.

1)  How deeply do I care about my friends really?

2)  Do I let complications, distractions and problems keep me from doing whatever it takes to get my friends to the place where they can have a life changing face to face meeting with Jesus?

3)  Am I doing my part to get the people I share air with to a place where they can experience Jesus?

4)  Do my friends understand that life with Jesus is a party? A celebration?

5)  Do I have room in my heart, my life and my calendar for the hurting, the broken, the struggling, the people Jesus is missing right now?

Open my heart and my eyes today God, to the things that matter to you. I don't wanna miss it. Amen