Monday, September 28, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Wednesday, September 16
I was taking loads of sand up the hill for wellington and I was thinking about being humble. I had just read in Acts that Peter healed a crippled beggar and credited everything to God. I cried out for this kind of humility. I realized that if God won’t tempt us beyond what we can bear, why would he give us power beyond what we can handle. He knows our hearts; whether we will take all the credit for a good deed or give the glory to him. In order to do what God wants and be great servants of Christ, we must first have the humility and give God what he deserves; everything that we do good is from the creator and everything bad is from our own weakness.
I’m just starting to read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and it is exquisite. It makes me feel good to know that I’m getting the symbolism of a man so great and intelligent. Written, I believe, as a personal testimony, I understand the struggle he went through believing in God. Either it is really C.S. Lewis’ testimony disguised as a Greek myth or he’s an excellent, excellent writer, or both.
Monday September 21
James, Steve, and I were hanging out together talking about philosophy and theology like normal (when were not philosophizing we’re watching comedy routines on youtube), and the college subject arose. We concluded that the majority of college students won’t get a job based on their degree. All they have is a piece of paper stating that they studied about something that they won’t use ever again. Yet many things happen in an adults life during college, many of those things affecting them negatively. Though they may not realize it then, most college students end college worse and with less direction than when they started. This subject quickly turned to the topic of success. Who is a successful person? What makes them successful? “Success” is a relative term for everyone. For some it may mean wealth. In the United States, you could be a drug addict, an adulterer, or 50 Cent and still be considered successful if you’re rich. However for Christians, I’ve realized, being successful means obedience to God. Some people may think, “Wow. What a tool.” (the word “tool” of course meaning someone who is used by others and blindly submits to authority) The truth is Christians do have free will and the ability to question authority, although it is the authority of the one true God who created us and loves us to an unimaginable degree. If one had the conviction that this God exists through His appearance in their lives, how could he deny Him? The Padley’s testimony is proof of how obedience, though without support or a clear direction for 10 years, will always reap rewards. James tells me how genuinely content he is with his life. He lives in adventure everyday, has amazing kids, the chance to bless people everyday, and a priceless wife. Though he struggles to keep his car every month and put food on the table, God always provides. He is happy with his life and it is a direct result of his obedience to God. Divine authority over man’s authority. In my eyes and God’s eyes James is successful. A man who lives in a trailer, yet is a man after God’s heart is successful. I can only hope that when I ascend to heaven that God says to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Yesterday a group of us climbed Elephant Mountain. Normally, waking up at five in the morning and walking an hour and a half to the base of a giant hill, climbing it for another hour, then going down and back, doesn’t sound fun. This time it was. Later in the day a school had a pie fund-raiser. All the students made a different pie and I could eat as much as I wanted for 5 reis (equivalent to about $2.63). It was glorious.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Miscellaneous Thoughts and Observations
This whole sheep idea is a little confusing to me. On one hand, being a sheep sounds awful. We are all the same. We follow the crowd though the leader may be so dull that he leads the entire group to their deaths. However on the other end, we are sheep of an eternal God that is good and would never lead us astray. We are humble sheep before the Lord, pastors too. I hate listening to authority, but every man must serve someone. I don’t think it to be an individual with choices that chooses to serve the one true God, who is the only God that can offer eternal life and truth.
I think it would be ignorant of us to limit our God and think that the most fabulous thing he has created is earth and humans. We have a creator God who has made galaxies and space an infinity. It bottles my mind to think that God arranged physics that way that he did. We humans think of gravity, for example, factually. Gravity has always been, is, and will always be. Whenever we have mass, there is gravity. But the reality is, god invented gravity. He invented how light works. How the frequencies of light change so that our eyes can only see a certain spectrum of light. In heaven, physics is meaningless. Who knows how heaven’s physics are? They are no longer facts but mere concepts that can be distorted at God’s will. How will light work? is there light, or something completely new?
I discovered something interesting about being children before God. Children have a certain ability to see the truth that adults have lost. Children know when they are being lied to. They have a sixth-sense that tells them when something isn’t genuine. To be children is also to have this mindset, to see things as they are. What you see is what you get. In this way they are extremely perceptive. It should be easy for us to decipher between good and evil, between what is just a rule an what is truth, what is of the Pharisees or what is of Jesus. I just asked Ryan, a two-year-old, if the villan in the cartoon is bad. He nods his head without hesitation.
Thinking about God giving his only son to save humanity seems so much more profound when you see it from God’s perspective. He’s giving something so dear to him for a species he doesn’t need. God didn’t need to make us; he was perfect before he formed us from the dust. Receiving no benefit whatsoever, He gave his only son so that we might be saved.
Steve helped me realize something interesting about Jesus’ humor. When the woman begs him to heal her daughter, he says something to the effect of, “The children must be fed before the dogs.” In this metaphor, the Hebrews are the children and she is the dogs. If we take what Jesus says sarcastically, he is annoyed with the Hebrews because they have rejected him. The woman understands and counters with, “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.” Because of her understanding and wit, Jesus heals her daughter.
Halfway (saturday september 12th)
Two and a half months down. Two and a half months to go. Wow. It’s so hard to believe it has already been this long. I thought i would never get here. Recall from my first entry that I thought I was going to die.
We just finished laying down the layer of concrete that is Wellington’s roof after hauling rock and sand up the giant hill, which has become a regular job. It’s awesome to be a part of helping this man provide for his family. Not only am I able to help him with his house, I enjoy talking with him, his wife, and playing with his kids. I met his father that Wellington didn’t even know two months ago. His father already adores his grand-kids. This is when I realize that there is no other place I should be; or want to be for that matter. Instead of sitting in a desk and learning things that have no value to me, I’m here learning what is valuable and why. I have something so much more precious to me with eternal benefits.
I had my first dream in Portuguese, if that’s any proof that my ability to communicate isn’t improving.
James invited Steve to a camp from Saturday night to Sunday. Nothing really crazy happened but two guys got baptized, I met a cool guy named Paulo from Betim, and I took a walk through the forest. We were with a house church started by women. Actually it started in a hair salon. Eliza went in and mentioned her love for Christ and the hair-dresser became interested. She converted and more people started hearing Eliza talk about it. Pretty soon the entire hair salon was converted. Anyway, the two guys that were baptized were a bit socially awkward. One had a long mohawk with piercings and tattoos and the other was quiet and spoke out of turn. It’s amazing how these women who met at a hair salon invited and accepted these men into their group.
Last night I found out that Juninho’s grand-mother died. It is customary in Brazilian culture to have the funeral the day after. Actually it’s normal for the person to be buried within 5 hours after death. Brazilians think it’s so strange that we have funerals 5 days to a week after. So I will be there, but not in the kind of clothes you would expect. At Brazilian funerals one can wear jeans and a t-shirt. Pretty much anything that’s not offensive. And that’s exactly how it was.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
We arrived at our host’s apartment and we are treated like kings. I ate shark sufle. Delectable. Our hosts were Nedson & Andrea who have a house church. James visits here every two months to encourage and bless them as well as a number of other families in Rio. There was a meeting that night and people showed up to talk and receive an encounter from God. It was insane how intently they all listened to James. Andrea even took out her camera to record him speaking.
The next day Nedson took us to the beach. It was so clean and it smelled great. Everyone wears a speedo and it’s gross. We climbed a nearby mountain and could see the city, mountains, and the beach at once. It was beautiful.
One of the most important things I have learned here is how to be hospitable. Wherever James travels he has hosts and he takes visitors to the places that he knows they will be cared for. Oh and was I ever. Excellent meals were made and our hosts would not let us help or clean. They wanted us to feel at home, giving us access to their refrigerator and anything in their home. I need to learn to be a better host. If I have a guest with a dirty plate and they wonder where to put it, I show them to the dishwasher. All in all, I was treated like a king.
We left Nedson’s place on Sunday and thats when we knew things were going to get uncomfortable. James was asked to minister at a Baptist church whose pastor is names Edison. He had no idea what the church was like nor the people. He was also a little skeptical of their motivations for inviting him. Was it genuine or did they just want to use James’ status in the ARC to give them popularity. Churches in Rio have a tendency to be concerned with numbers. It seemed a little awkward at first(By the way the word “akward” doesn’t translate into Portuguese at all. It doesn’t exist. So it becomes awkward trying to express this sentiment) just because the ice was breaking, although it was apparent that their hearts were in the right place. Little did we know that God was planning something much greater for the next day. AfterI James conducted the service, we were given a meal and we slept at the pastor’s house and were again shown great generosity. I like traveling with James.
The pastor, Edison, has two kids, Didigo and Stephany. Both are the music leaders at the church and Godly kids. The former is 14 the latter is 18. Both play the keyboard. Didigo also plays drums, guitar, and a little violin. He is amazing at guitar. I was astounded by his skill and ease while playing. He played insane solos with finger-tapping and chords that spanned the entire neck of the guitar. He has been playing for two years.
The next day’s meeting at the church was amazing. It was here that I realized and experienced the presence of God. I always believed but never really felt it. This is precisely what James spoke about in Portuguese, and though I was not listening because I was playing drums for the church meeting (which was awesome). James told the people who believe but have not felt the love of God to come forward. Then he told those who told a stranger that Jesus loves them to run forward and prove it. Immediately people were hugging and praying over each other. Some were slain in the spirit for the entire service. Though I didn’t understand I felt an extreme sensation of love come over me sitting at the drum set. A feeling that validated my beliefs.
In the same way I realized the presence of God was through James and the pastors that he ministered to. The Holy Spirit seems to talk to James all the time, rather all of us all the time. Whatever congregation or group of christians he is asked to minister for, God puts something on his heart specific to that group. I stand in awe at how often God speaks. I’m with people who are listening all the time, but not only listening; obeying. And the results pour in. I can see physical changes being made as well as changes in the hearts of the people in Rio toward Christ. It’s amazing what simple obedience to the almighty God can do. I rarely see this in the United States; something specific that God lays on someone’s heart that makes itself known and changes people.
While I was in Rio, there were some things that I realized about my churches in Denver that I have come to appreciate. One, that both Scum and Celebration are open to new people coming in unlike other churches that are stagnant because the old pastors are afraid of change or a loss of power. They are unwilling to lay down all that they have achieved for God; they are unwilling to give up their earthly possessions. But not only new people, but the young and the entire body. My churches are not defined by an old guy preaching down to those from the pulpit. It is a community of believers that all bring something to the table. The pastors know that they are not the single most powerful one in the church, but rather the least. Pure humility.
Coming back to Nova Lima, we witnessed the most spectacular sunrise. I always like sunrises better than sunsets. It reminds me that we are on a planet constantly in motion. I can’t understand how some people can look at a sunrise like that and not believe that there is a higher power that gave us eyes to see the light frequencies to witness the spectacular dance of colors and a planet with an atmosphere to make it all possible. James described it as a marble-like sunrise. How the light played upon the beautiful green mountain ranges of Minas made my jaw hit the floor. But the thing I love about sunrises and sunsets is that the one we are witnessing at that moment is the best one we have ever seen, every time! Its glory is fleeting and can only be enjoyed for a minute before the entire sky canvass changes. A photo doesn’t even do justice to it because it is limited to a box of a photo. Our eyes can only fully appreciate it due to our periferal vision giving us the ability to see it all at once, engulfing us in its beauty. beleza.
Friday August 28, 2009
I just arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Driving here was amazing and beautiful. Water pours from every rock. the lush mountains are enveloped in mist, and cone-shaped like something out of Dr. Seuss. I step out onto jungle-like grass and immediately spot some geckos warming themselves on the concrete.
We had some good conversation on the 6 hour car drive, aka James giving us a lesson. One of the most interesting conclusions I came to were that perspective is everything. How you choose to look at something determines how you judge and act. Learning to view things from others’ perspectives, in my opinion, would heal relationships, feuds between families, and even nations.
Also that the Christian life is full of judgement. Some people say that judging people is bad and we should never do it. However we judge who is a good friend, who to confide in, who to walk with, who our pastors should be, but never defining that person by our judgement. God judges and tests us all the time. Who are we not to test others? However, we do not want to gossip and limit someone to our initial judgements as some girls do. “Look at her nails! It looks like she came out of some horror movie with... sluts!”
Stemming from that, it is good to be observant. Some of us, myself included, can be so oblivious that we don’t contain anything from the day. If we ever need to access in our memory anything important, like what someone was wearing because they committed a crime, we won’t know. In relationships, it means a lot to the other person if you remember details about them and make the right inferences. Also it’s a great way to test your memory and become more observant.
Another point: It’s better to work for something and pay the price up front than to obtain whatever it is you want and pay the price for it later. What price you pay will determine the quality of the product. This ratio works every time. Guaranteed. This has so many applications to our lives. Within a man and woman relationship, it is best to save physical pleasure until marriage. If you get what you want then and there with a woman or man you will not marry, you will pay the price in relationships to come. The novelty of having your first kiss with your wife will not be there. How could you enjoy your first kiss when you’re not married to the person you had it with? Would your husband/wife be jealous? What an awesome thing it would be to have had that experience with my wife! We could revisit that moment and take pleasure in it anytime we want! Also this concept of paying the price now relates to following Christ. The Bible says to deny yourself now and follow Jesus and receive life in heaven. What good is it for a man to own the world but not attain eternal life? Everything is dust, and all that will remain is heaven and hell. If we die to ourselves now, for 70-80 years now, we will have so many more riches and joys in heaven. Just thinking about heaven gives me such a greater love and understanding of God and how much he loves us. I look at the stars and begin to imagine myself exploring all of God’s creation. Every galaxy, every star, every planet, every coast, every sky will be mine to enjoy.
Rio is a beautiful city. My jaw literally hits the floor as we drive past a 9 mile bridge, gorgeous museums, waterfalls, mountains, and beaches. The salty ocean air brings back memories of being in Florida with my grandparents, Papou & Grandma Lou. Christ the Redeemer perches himself high above the city. Very ironic considering that it is one of the most violent cities in the world. If you step foot into the favela (ghetto) without business or being expected you are killed on the spot. We drove by the most famous favela in Rio, Rocina. This favela is owned by a drug lord and he takes care of the people who live there. No one enters or leaves; It grows by pro-creation. The children serve the drug lord as middle men for drug deals. It’s a very sad reality for those who live inside Rocina, never knowing any sort of reality outside the dictator community.
I think anyone who knows the Bible’s stories finds the common theme that God’s followers are extremely dull & flaky. We read about the Israelites complaining to God after he rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians, David writing psalms of praise then turning and rebuking God, Peter denying Christ three times, and countless other stories and we think, “I wouldn’t do that, I would be smarter and more faithful.” But the more I read about this, the more I find this complaining unfaithful quality in myself. I am indifferent towards him, then I praise, then I yell at him for not giving me a clear sign when my entire life is a testimony to his greatness. I look at baby Kyle. He has just become competent enough to realize when he is being yelled at, when he is doing something he should not. He turns and looks toward his parents when his name is called, but then goes right back to what he was doing before. This sequence of events repeats. We are like Kyle and so were the Israelites, David, & Peter.
Sometimes I think to myself, “Why did Adam & Eve have to eat from the tree of knowledge, I wouldn’t have done that.” When the truth is that I know I would have. I would have screwed over all of humanity for the chance to find out what was really going on; find out if there is some greater truth than anything I have ever known. I do it today! Time after time I convince myself that God cannot be real. There is nothing he has done to convince me that he is real.
And many times, on the other end of the spectrum, I convince myself that there is nothing greater that what I know. I become satisfied. I realize now that I missed out so much on being a kid and exploring. Except I became contented with my video games or some of the other things I found “truth” or satisfaction in. Sometimes I feel content with my relationship with God. The gold that I have settled with is enough for me, though there is an entire city made of gold that awaits just a little deeper. There is no limit to God’s love and understanding. If we don’t consistently dig deeper, we become dead. Churches become dead. People who don’t believe in Christ become contented as well in the things of the earth whether it be drugs, their relationship with their girlfriend/boyfriend, porn, etc. when life is much deeper. Just as God has no limit that we can know here on this earth, people as well have no limit as we are created in his image. People forget this and their relationships and marriages become stagnant. But we are children of a limitless God! So there is a kind of contradiction in being satisfied in Christ, yet never being satisfied with how much you know him.
OH. and I realized that the book of Mark is just the Cliff Notes for the rest of the gospels.