Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Where the rubber meets the road

So I have grown up in America, and have heard a lot that we are "Christian" nation, a "post - Christian" nation and a lot of other garbage really. This is a nation that has a lot of images of Christianity but anyone who thinks this is a Christian nation is either extremely naive or from another country. BUT this country still has a great many people who are truly Christian, and even more who would say they are. Thankfully a movement has been stirring and continues through these days, of powerful prayer as like that of the first church.
I have seen many people who are very passionate in their pursuit of God through prayer and have been shaped into that very much this year. It started for me a couple years ago at AFLBS when I really started to see the fruitfulness of fearless, fully surrendered prayer but has really been worked in me this year. Coming from a background where prayer was mostly only seen before meals and at the weekly service I am glad that I have gotten beyond that limited reality. From what I have been hearing prayer has been spreading through all denominations and across the world.
It is my conviction that prayer allows for people to meet God, beyond doctrines, theologies, ideologies and everything else and really become the Church again, at least for a little while. I am also convinced that the prayer movement is being stirred by the Spirit as the first stages of preparation before the End times come upon us.
I am going into summer and as much as I fight it right now, it's a pretty emotional time for me and I am taking that as a chance to dig into God more through prayer. During our 20 minute break from class myself and 5/6 other students got together to pray for the unsaved ones in our lives. While I was praying I had a clear sight of shockwaves sweeping over America that represented the prayers of the saints changing this nation.
God wants us to pray, A LOT, individually and in groups but at all times. It's gonna be crazy tough to get to that place in my life, but I want that sort of prayer life and I would say that all true followers of Christ want that kind of prayer life too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A True Relationship

So I have sort of been thinking about this post for a few weeks, since my birthday week to be exact. The basic thought that I had was that I should look at the recently changed idea of friendship with the onslaught of social network sites. But I think it is going to take a different shape after some things that have been highlighted to me very recently. The basis of this though is friendship, and to go a little beyond that, what is a true friend.
Not to sound too cliche, but as I have begun to see and understand, a true friend is a gift from God. For some they are very abundant and easy to come by, for others they are rare, tough to come by but often highly valued. I would fall into the latter category and am only now beginning to understand how to value the friends that I have. It is difficult for me to know exactly how to treat many of the friends that I somehow acquire, I give God credit for each one, because I can be quite a mule sometimes.
The tough thing is that I have tried to balance my temper with the controlling nature that I have. It wasn't until tonight that I figured out that those elements of my life are very much connected. By trying to control so much of the things that go on around me and often going far beyond anyone else, yet holding those same people to the same standard that I hold myself to and often being shown "failures" allowed frustration and anger to build in me for many years. It really is like a cancer in my bones, because untreated the failed expectations will continue to just grow until I am buried under an ocean of frustration and stress.
Then something relatively insignificant will trigger the burst of pent up issues.
Well for me, and for all people who deal with this, the only solution is to find the freedom that comes through Christ. To walk in authority and position that Christ freely gives and to continually surrender to His Lordship. From experience this anger and control will only push people away, I have been blessed enough to have people forgive me for my ridiculous behaviors but it may not always be that way. I will do what I can, go after God,  to see myself free from this and on the path toward true identity in Christ that He seeks to keep building in me.
I guess the only way to keep the friends that I have is through the continued work of Christ in my life and allowing that to be the everything to keep them going. A true friend may break off the friendship, but won't stop praying and won't hold the grudges that are justifiable against another. I hope that we, as a body of believers, can get past Facebook friends and onto real relationships.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A season of singleness

So I have been at BCOM for just under two months now and as I expected the greatest struggle for me has been the dating fast. Sort of sounds weird coming from me, but I do enjoy dating and have longed for that one relationship to come along for quite some time now. Well I came to a school that has a 6 month long dating fast to start it off. It makes sense to my logic - people of similar passion coming together in a very small community can lead to relationships quickly!
Well I haven't really been taking it seriously. Inappropriate I know, but it was the reality of the last 2 months. I wasn't going girl crazy or anything like that - not just hunting without stop for a girl. But I definitely wasn't being disciplined in my thoughts and attitudes. Last night things sort of came to a new level of frustration.
Let me take it back a few years for the sake of context. My love story is filled with brokenness and pain. I was too attached to a girl that lived too far away for far too long. She tore my heart out and stomped on it many times but I was never able to really get free from her until very recently. She was never good for me (if you need it restated) but in hindsight God was very faithful to protect me from it being much worse. During the same period of time there was another girl that I knew that I had a crush on. Well once I moved down here for AFLBS I spent some time with her, but she ended up meeting one of my friends and they are dating. It wasn't such a big deal but the way that they handled the beginning of it left some pretty big scars on me.
There has been a level of freedom that has come this year that I haven't known in a long time, but last night a lot of those old hurts came flooding back. The girl that I have been most attracted to here was flirting with a different guy and then I saw the main symbol of my time with the long distance so I got into a big time funk.
It just confounds my thinking, if I have a pure heart as he revealed and if my whole desire for wanting relationship is to have a mate/a best friend that can be with me in ministry then it is very frustrating that He is making me wait. I am trying to just trust in the time of God - that it is perfect and that even in his "slowness" He is working much faster than I could ever do in my "fastness".
So I know that this is an area that I never really talk about and try to just keep to myself but I am entering a new season in my life and need to be open with the reality of it. I may not always like...very presumably but I know that to grow in intimacy with God I must truly fast from relationships and from that desire. So if you are reading this, you know me and I would just ask you to pray for me in this area and let me know what God says to you (if He says anything to you for me!)!
I must make it clear that I have no idea how long this will last, it could be a few days - but I doubt that or it could last for months to years. I am just continuing to eliminate the things that have served as the biggest distractions to me in my daily life.


So just as an update about this, nothing has really changed as far as it goes. God has still got me working through this time in my life. I have done what I could do resist it but that usually just makes it harder to deal with. Maybe if I went and lived in a cave it would help. I probably won't do that though, too much work finding a cave to live in. But seriously, it is a major contributor to the exhaustion that seems so firmly planted in my bones that no amount of sleep and rest can shake free. I think to myself, I should just submit it, but I have and I know that truthfully my desire for my other is pure and good. Until God sees right to end it, I will continue to live in this season. 

The Outreachs

Before we left BCOM our group leader told us that this would be the last time going to the U for outreach.
After last week I thought I should go out prayer walking again. I had a redbox movie to return so a little after seven I left the church and headed to McDonalds to drop off the movie. While I was walking over and around McDonalds and through Dinkytown I was just praying. Specifically into the reality that a lot of the treasure hunters usually ended up in that area and that they would find people hungry.
From there I started following the signs again and ended up sitting outside one of the buildings. Outside the building there were two signs that said "between the signs" so my thought was that I should wait and see what happens between the signs. I sat down across the street and just prayed for a little bit. I didn't know what the building was, so I prayed that the next person that stopped in front of it I would go talk to. Literally, the next second I looked up and there were two muslim women sitting on the bench and I have no idea how they got there that quickly. I went over and asked them if they knew what the building was used for - it is an education building.
 I went into the building and spent 15 - 20 minutes wandering around in it just praying for the professors and students. From there I just walked along through a park and ended up near the river, facing the Minneapolis sky line. I got into a short conversation with a guy that was sitting there, who I figured out had been at New Hope center when we did our ministry week, so that was neat.
I walked along this road and passed under the bridge and ended up behind Coffman Union. I walked up and just kept following the signs that stuck out to me. I walked out to the road and over the bridge and around the bus stop before I decided to talk to some of the over BCOM students for a bit. I just wanted to check in with them and see how it was going.
From there I b-lined it down the road. I was thinking about starting to head back to the church, but the stop where I would have gone left had two "no left turn" signs so I went with that and headed right. I walked down the hill and ended up in the medical training area and yeah the Spirit really started getting at me. I was just praying for the doctors, nurses, professors and students for really belief in healings and having there medicine be a second line of action, not the primary form. I continued along and saw a children's medical center and was really praying in and for them. I found out later that one of the treasure hunt groups actually ended up in the children's center so that is a neat little fact. The whole time I was walking along I kept trying to get into the buildings but every door that I tried was locked so I just kept walking. The road I was following curved right and I ended up outside the heart treatment center.
I continued on praying but headed out back to the main road. I still got the feeling that I wasn't supposed to go straight back to the church so I crossed the road and headed right again. After a couple blocks I ended up across the street from where Remedy meets so I prayed into that ministry for a couple of minutes. Afterward I finally started walking back to church.
As I made this portion of the walk I saw 3 or 4 signs that really spoke to me about the condition of the church so I really prayed into that. Again, I found out later that the intercessors were really praying into church and into a lot of the same things that I was praying for.
I sort of just ended the walk in thought of all that I had just been able to pray for and went back to the church. It was a pretty good wrap up of the year and really made the whole year worth it.

So as a change of pace I decided to go out prayer walking tonight. I wasn't sure how to go about it, but just headed out praying. I walked a couple of blocks from the church and saw a sign for Church St. I have walked by it many times, but it hit me in a new way this time. So I just following street signs as the Spirit highlighted them to me. Incase you didn't realize it, there is nothing spiritual about street signs, but I was just going on faith as a child and knowing that God is the one working out all the stuff. So I walked, mostly around the mall and around Coffman union. My prayers felt very dry and ineffective so I was a little discouraged by that. As I passed by the bus station I saw the hot chocolaters with a big group and later found out that it was a really busy, good night. The group leader is convinced that my prayers were involved in the openness and quality of the night. I can't deny it because God isn't limited by our bumblings and failings but it is hard for me to say definitively about it.

For the final two weeks of March I just did the normal Hot chocolate. The weather is getting nicer so I wasn't sure how it would be, but people are getting more talkative, more open and it's a real blessing.

Good evening. That could summarize the whole evening, but wouldn't do justice to it at all. It was a nice day out and people kind of wanted to break out of their cycles so there was only one hot chocolate group today, and I wasn't apart of it. Instead, I went with Bryce and Eric on a treasure hunt - basically we were walking around campus, listening to the Spirit to identify where to go and who to talk to. 
We started out by walking to Dinkytown. After walking for a few blocks, a guy came up and started talking to us. It was a little strange because as we were walking we passed him going the other direction. This guy was walking next to a group of students, but I noticed that he wasn't really with them. So yeah, I'm calling that a Holy Spirit Highlighting. Eric ended up talking to this guy for about 20 minutes. He was a self proclaimed Atheist, with some Agnostic beliefs mixed in, kind of confusing. Well the Word was busted out and the guy was so interested, it was written all over his face. There was no on the spot acceptance of the truth, but that guy is closer then he would ever admit.
After that we got a call about a black woman with short hair who was getting off work that we should talk to and said she was in the region of the mall. We headed straight over there. We all needed to relieve ourselves so we headed into the library, it was one of the only open buildings because of spring break. As we were leaving it got the sense that we should stay there for a little bit, I told the guys and they had the same feeling so we hung around the library for about 25 minutes. We saw a woman who matched the description, but at about 8:55 we found out from one of the other employees that they were working til midnight, so that was a strike out. The library closed at nine so we had to roll out. 
While we were waiting though I had a vision of an arrow going down the mall from the library to the bus stop. So thats where we went. We got to the top of the stairs and immediately saw a group of guys praying over one guy. We went down and talked to them for about 20 minutes, it was really cool. They were from Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park. It was really good to see their evangelism style. 
So yeah, the weather is getting nice and I don't really know how much longer we will be doing hot chocolate, I'm kind of done with it already, but if it gets chilly again I may do it. I'm going to kind of take it week by week from now on. 

So I was just looking at this post and realized how inefficient it was, having the newest info at the bottom was kind of stupid so I rearranged everything from old at the bottom to new at the top. 

Well I will be honest, I wasn't super stoked about going to the U tonight, but didn't have a good reason so I got over it went, good thing I did. At first nothing was really out of the ordinary, a few people wanted hot chocolate, most didn't. But around 8:20 things started to shift a bit. We had like 8 people in a row wanting some of the drink with the line being started by a guy who identified us as "the kids from the Christian school who come all the time." I was impressed that he remembered that much and yeah, it definitely goes to show that people notice and remember even such a simple act.
After a while a student named Caleb came up. He seemed really interested and very engaging. I ended up talking to him for 5 - 10 minutes just about school and life. He told me some of his story and allowed me to pray for him. I love praying for people, and it has become increasingly more of a comfort for me to pray over people directly but I knew that when he said that I could that God was setting that up so much. I want to say that it was nothing like extraordinary, but considering all the weeks where little to nothing has happened and considering that God is orchestrating all of it, I would be pretty foolish to think that it wasn't extraordinary!

So we had spring break over last week, thus the gap in dates.

Because of the blizzard we joined up with the streetlevel group and we headed to the MOA to do ministry - mostly through prayer. It was a nice change from the usual stuff that happens at the U. I don't really have any crazy stories from it, but really just taking the time to pray on behalf of and for people was something that has been stirred on my heart a lot lately.

So wow, I knew I hadn't updated this in a while, but it has certainly been a long time. I guess the excuse for that is that I have been on vacation semi often and have had other kinds of outreaches over the last few months.

When we go to the U I have still been handing out Hot Chocolate at the bus stop. The first time we went back after Christmas Break, the U was still on theirs so it was taken as an intercession day. I spent about an hour at the bus stop and received a few things from God to keep praying about and for. The main thing that I saw was a cross being staked on both sides of the road so it was an encouraging thing to hold onto.

The last few weeks have been pretty standard, the same questions, same answers but still a very good opportunity to just serve.

Well we had the King's Banquet this week. I will put up a larger post about this soon, but sufficite it to say that it was very good!

We didn't go out on our weekly outreaches this week because of the King's banquet next week. Instead all the freshmen went out and handed out invitations at different locations around the metro. Fairly uneventful, but also kind of a nice change of pace from the U.

In a change of direction this week and for the foreseeable future I will helping with the group that hands out free hot chocolate around the Universities "mall." I have been hitting a wall as far as it goes with the photography thing so I am going to be going this direction until God opens the doors to go another way. The group I was with set up by one of the main bus stations. It was the first time over there and we didn't set up in the best spot, but still got to hand out quite a few cups of cocoa.

So I kind of free lanced around the campus again, staying within the vicinity of the group but branching out and go all over that part. I spent most of the evening snapping shots as I strolled around, kinda with the hope that I would run into somebody with the same interest to strike up a conversation with.  After a little while I went back to where most of the group was stationed. On my way over to them I saw a guy standing a little distance off just looking at the group. I went over to talk to him and tried to encourage him to get some hot chocolate but he just wanted to listen to a couple of the guys play their djembes. I told him that we will be there every week when ever he wants to get some drink or just listen. At best it's a small crack in a door but God has worked with much less so that is good going on!

I decided to get out this week. I brought my camera and just walked around the mall praying and doing what I could to photography the goings on. It was a dark, rainy evening so I didn't have very much luck with the photos but I was just listening to the Spirit.
Before heading back to the church we met a guy from China who had just gotten to the states a few weeks ago. The little bit that we talked to him, he was interested in what was said, so that is a very neat door that God is opening into a life and group.

So yeah I haven't posted about the last two weeks....so I will be brief
I interceded again this week. I was very distracted during most of the time, I really got the sense that God didn't want me to get settled in it and miss out on the greater things that He has for me with the Photography ministry

So I didn't go to the U tonight, the main reason being that I had to go make a little bit of money in Plymouth. But it ended up being very sweet. On the way back to BCOM I got a text from one of my buddies about going to watch the Vikes game. I have been bringing the sports fast to a close and thought that this would be an ok thing to do. So by way of a divergence that I will tie back in, I did the sports fast to bring into correct alignment sports with my relationship with Christ. I went cold turkey for about a month and am still very much keeping myself accountable to the use of my time. So I went to Applebees with this guy to watch the game. We got there a little after it had started because of the game had a delayed started. After a little while I went to the bathroom, nothing out of the ordinary but the guy in the urinal next to me started chatting me up. He was saying some weird stuff so I thought he was maybe a little sauced. I walked away but his timing was the same as mine. He asked me a couple questions and it came around that I go to Bethany. Well it turns out that this guy came back to Christ through the leaders at the church. He told some details of his life and I felt the need to pray for the guy. I was still in the bathroom at this point, I don't know what people were thinking that came in and out while I was praying for this guy but it was really good!
So I went back to my table and he came over a couple times through out the evening to talk with me and my buddy. During one of these visits he said he thought we were there for our waiter. That's kind of a random statement, but I was pretty jacked up at this point so before we left I asked the guy if there was anything that we could pray for him for. It turns out that our waiter was a southern AG boy who had just moved to the cities and was sort of in a funk. So I prayed for that and a couple other things that he mentioned. Now some may say that that stuff is just coincidence, I never will! God had that set up from the moment that the idea popped into my head. It was really cool because God still kept me true to my word - making Him priority over sports. So yeah, in summary, listen to the Spirit and sweet stuff happens!!!!

Well things are still getting settled with the photography ministry, but God has definitely been opening those doors! For tonight I just stayed at Sojourn and prayed with a few others. It was really the first time I have done legit intercession but it was super awesome! God was giving us a ton of people and images to pray for and alert the street teams to watch for. It was super great, because when the teams got back so many of the things that they said lined up with exactly what we were praying for. Obviously, there are no coincidences but God just really stepped in and directed our prayers!

Spent the whole evening at Sojourn. Mostly just praying and waiting for direction for myself. The doors definitely seem to be opening for me to get involved with photography based ministry. That was what God spoke to me last week and it is definitely being worked out. I won't know any more details until later this week but I'm super excited right now!

First day of UofM outreach with Chi Alpha. We got a tour around the campus from the campus pastor that is our on campus coordinator. Went back to Sojourn campus church to pray and figure out where we will fit into the work on campus.

So this time around I was part of the group that went downtown for outreach. I wasn't really looking for anything specific this time but instead was intentional in my prayer. As we walked the many blocks of downtown and passed bars of all kinds I had much to intercede for. Occasionally the guy I was with would start talking with some people and I would pray for that person. Or when we would be waiting on a street corner, I would pray for the people waiting too. Near the end of the night it started to rain so we got under a bus stop for a few minutes. After a short time a lady came outside to smoke. She was standing in the rain instead of coming under the shelter, so I invited her to come in. It turned out that she was a flight attendant from Iceland in the cities for the night. Shortly after that her pilots and another flight attendant came out and the opportunity to engage them in conversation was taken. As with the rest of the night I just committed to praying for open hearts and seeds to reach. It is possible for some to say that I wasted an evening, but I know that change will come through God's people uniting in prayer and I was praying into the reality of a place that is so often filled with debauchery.

So same as the first time I really didn't want to go on outreach. I forced myself to go out, to live the convictions that God has branded on my heart, to live out the Bible. This time there was a much larger group of students and we got divided up into different groups. Once again I was feeling like I should look for someone who was having car trouble. I was with one other guy for the first hour of the outreach and we just began to walk the blocks of Uptown, but neither of us were really getting that pull to a place or person. So after a while I just decided to stick by the bus station. After about 15 minutes I went inside. Two guys were sitting in the bus station and almost immediately struck up a conversation with me. They were followers of Jesus, so I didn't have to say much or really work at all. One guy did most of the talking and I just answered him occasionally. They said that they just come and spend time at the bus station because they don't really have anything else to do. And while it wasn't what I was looking for, God manifested to me that I must just be patient and attentive.

I was really nervous about going before committing to going, but amazingly once I got in the vehicle and couldn't go back God's peace swept over me. I am of the opinion that as I trusted Him to take care of me, He did just that...go figure! So we met at the "base camp" and got divided up. I ended up going to Uptown, which is sort of an urban hipster part of town. On the drive to Uptown I got the feeling like I was supposed to go to a coffee shop so as we were driving I was looking for one in the vicinity.
After parking, we walked to the main bus station in the area. Across the street I noticed a tea shop and figured that it would be good enough. (I realize that tea and coffee are very different but the shops atmosphere are similar) So we (myself and the two that I was with) walked over to the tea shop. I pulled my Bible out and started reading over some passages with intermittent prayer. After a few minutes I walked up to the employees and asked them if either would like to pray with us. The lady said that her life was "pretty good", so she needs prayer more but the manager said he would come and pray with us. After a few more minutes he came over and told us a little bit about him. It turned out that he goes to the church that I went to during my first year at AFLBS. So God was being very active on the encouragement front.

So, I have gone out each of the last three fridays with a ministry called Streetlevel. I just thought I would share about a few of the experience that I have had through those three weeks.

Newness goodness!

Well it is a new year, though it's still technically pretty fresh nothing is not dramatically different just off of that fact. But what is pretty new and nice is that the January freshman are around now and it's been pretty good so far. Will it be this new for long, doubtful but for now new is good! Well what else is new, hmm, not much, just the routine, slightly altered in days and timing but yeah it is good to have some new faces and energies around!

Also, I should mention, their is another school on campus now, "Rivendell." Yes, as in from the Lord of the Rings, and yes I do call them elves. But interestingly enough I know one of the guys from my Hillcrest days. Not sure what God has in store for that, but since there are no such things as coincidences He has something pretty good with that I would guess!


Well new things don't stay new for very long. It's actually been kind of annoying to have most of the elves around. They don't really contribute to the atmosphere around here and they just create tension through their behavior with some of our students. I guess we just have to take the good with the bad, because there are a couple them that have been really great to have around. I don't exactly know what to think about it, because there are supposed to be somewhere between 70 - 100 new students around here next year and yeah, I expect some growing pains with the that.

An attempted summary

So it's another Wednesday night at BCOM. I am tired from work and haven't done much of anything since getting off. Unlike all the other days gone by though, this one just feels different. It may be the fact that there is a beautiful sunset outside which strikes me in a way that so many have back in Fargo. It may be just the fact that I am trying to be nostalgic of the last few months of my life. It may be from the reality of missed opportunities that lay so abundantly on my life path. I can't pin point a single point, but for whatever reason I just feel like I am supposed to write a wrap of the year right now.

I have gone into detail for so many of the life altering events that have gone on in me, for me and through me this year so I won't rehash them here. I will try to bring into a view the "lesser" details that have been going on. I have seen all the students here grow. Some have grown more in love with Jesus and some have seemingly lost all concern for Him. Speaking for my class, I have seen and been involved in a lot of quarrels, bad days, reconciliation and growth. Some say we are united, most say we are divided and that is how I would lean. Everyone has there clique and some don't even have that. It's easy to establish where they came from and why they have formed and it's not all bad. Close community is a good thing for all people and is hard to find in the quality that it is available in here and not to sound too trite about it, but we are Christians so we are very good at dividing ourselves.
Am I a perfect example? No, God no. But I observe and seek to understand why things are the way they are - beyond the typical excuses..."we are fallen" etc. What have I observed you may ask yourselves? Sum it to say hypocrisies that could be found in any congregation of believers. Let me go into detail though. Here at BCOM there is a strong emphasis placed on Prayer and Fasting. Totally good things to be sure but it's funny to me how rarely people will meet together for corporate prayer. I really started noticing this a few months ago when a lot of people were having a tough time of things.
The solution that was arrived at, get together one night and pray for each other. Totally a blessing, but what about the rest of the time. I wonder if, in our whole Spirit - filled zeal we have lost sight of meeting together often for prayer. The school builds it into our schedules to a degree, but I know that it would be so much more effective if we sought after it on our own. For the detractor, who says that I am not supposed to judge, well they are right to a degree but that whole no judging crap has gotten us into the whole that we find ourselves in today in America. I made an effort of trying to get beyond the schedule and have time for prayer together but no one ever showed up.
It just confuses me that people pray for growth and revival but so rarely meet together and pray. I don't want things to change because of anything I say, but because of what the Word says for us to do.

So is that all I can say, no - but let me preface with this - I understand that this is a missions school where most students are studying with at least one eye on the world outside of America but it is really annoying how little attention we pay to this country that we are in and have profited from so much. The most stirring example of this was from a few weeks ago. The day of the earthquake in Japan specifically. Well it was announced in chapel and we had a time of prayer for it. Is that bad, no and should have been done without question but during the entire chapel - which happened to be a time wholly meant for prayer - there wasn't one mention of Mardi Gras. I haven't made a big deal of it and have been intentionally trying to not talk about it because it's a personal gripe but really, we want to be instruments of change but we over look one of the biggest annual abominations that this nation has produced. It's wrong, just wrong.

I don't like talking about this stuff, because well, it's been a good year for the most part but it seems inappropriate and dishonest to paint the picture the way that I have for most of this year. I have grown like crazy, and really don't even know how to quantify my growth yet because of this bubble but it hasn't been all roses and sunsets this year. Will I be back next year, I hope so and really desire to return. But instead of just brushing over everything for a few more weeks and look forward to what next year will possibly...hopefully bring I needed to express.

Maybe that's what feels different about the day, that I needed to express all this stuff.