Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cooking a Cake

It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since my last post! I feel like time has been dragging the past few weeks for a few different reasons. One, I have not been feeling that great and battling some type of cold/bug. Two, I am getting very homesick as the holidays approach. Two reasons why my main concern has just been to keep up with my students!

One thing that has been heavy on my heart the past few weeks is my students’ relationships with the Lord, and I guess my relationship with the Lord too. In Bible we are learning about obedience and outward behavior. In different areas in the classroom, I’m always thinking up new ideas and rules to help keep things running smoothly. In our relationships together, I am always trying to make sure everyone is getting along in a healthy way and not hurting one another. But, true to the philosopher I am, I always end up asking myself “WHY?” or “WHAT’S THE POINT?”

I’ve been challenging my students with this recently, and I just pray that something in their lives will start them thinking and wanting to be closer to God. We’ve been working our way through a series Francis Chan does with Next Step Ministries on youtube: check it out. It has been so good! Why am I here as a teacher? Because God has a plan for me to specifically disciple these students in a certain way. Why do we have to obey? Because God places authority in our lives to help guide us to Him. Why do we read the Bible? So we can know God better and love Him more. Why do I try to monitor relationships and guide students? Because God has given me the responsibility to teach and disciple these students.

I made this chart at the beginning of the year, and we reference it almost every day. The cake stands for our lives, and the goal is to start at the bottom of the cake and work up to the top. It begins with the 3 foundational posts to hold the cake up.

1.     Roots: We need to be growing into strong trees, which means building strong roots. This is based off of Psalm 1, where it talks about how we need to be planted by the stream (God’s Word) for this to happen.
2.     Identity: We need to identify everything about ourselves with Christ, which comes from my life verse, Galatians 2:20. Being a true believer in Christ means giving up our lives to live the life He chooses for us.
3.     Foundation: Finally, we need to make sure our foundation is the Word of God and nothing false, like our own logic, desires, or other people. I take this from the parable in Luke 6 about the wise man that builds his house (life) on the rock.

Once we have set up the 3 foundational posts, we move onto the cake, which I have found is a lot more enjoyable and fun!

1.     Accountability: The first layer refers to God’s desire that are honest with others and keep each other accountable with the way we are living. James 5:16,19-20 talks about how we are supposed to hold each other up. This can be very stressful for the person who fights following God, but I’ve found that if you really want to be following God and obeying His Word, this is where friends come in! There is nothing more enjoyable than being closely knit with your church family and other believers, and they are the people who will help keep you accountable as true and honest friends.
2.     Unity: The next layer of the cake, unity, shows God’s heart for how believers should work together as the body of Christ. Ultimately, our connection with church and this unity with one another is our best way of showing Christ to this world and witnessing of His power. As people who were naturally antagonistic to God, all true believers have experienced reconciliation with God thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. If we have been reconciled with God, we need to make it our priority to reconcile and seek out peace and unity with everyone we can. This has been a harder layer for me, but it is one of the most rewarding.
3.     Purity: The next layer up the cake brings us closer to having a better relationship with God. Beyond having accountability, being at peace with others, and reading God’s Word, we will not be able to become truly close with God if we are struggling with bitterness. Bitterness is such a vague term though, as we all feel similar feelings every day, like frustration, anger, annoyance, and so on. I remember reading Hebrews 12:15 and the meaning truly sinking into my heart. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” That term, “root of bitterness,” was the perfect picture I needed to understand how bitterness could prevent a close relationship with God. This root of bitterness bears fruit in us similar to Esau: self-gratification, sexual immorality, and broken relationships. Even trying to do everything else on this cake, if you have just a little bit of bitterness against someone or God, you will not be able to continue to grow closer to God.

The final result of building the cake? THE CAKE TOPPER! Which stands for the perfect relationship with God. I immediately think of Proverbs 3:5-6 as the perfect relationship status. When I am completely depending on God’s guidance and leading, when I am acknowledging His work in my life and letting Him set my paths, then I know I am right where I need to be!

The goal of this poster was not to teach my kids that with a lot of good works you can build your own cake and be saved. I wanted to give them a visual of the verse James 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” I am mainly doing this for myself too, but I keep reminding my kids that even on those hard days when nothing makes logical sense and it is hard to even want to be close to God, those are the days we need to take a moment to ask God to help us want Him. Those are the days that we need to remain faithful with our Bible reading, keep our Christian identity, and work on our relationships with other believers, because that is our way of drawing nigh to God. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Into the Mountains

This past week has been a vacation week from school, so my roommate and I were excited for the opportunity to explore Mexico a little further, strengthen some friendships, and learn more about the culture.

Part of our drive towards Cuautemoc.
On Monday, a small group from the school went up to Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, a small town west of the school. Really, the most exciting part about the short trip was the drive! The drivers took the back roads up through some mountains, and I cannot describe how beautiful! I never get tired of seeing mountains. Further past the mountains, we entered Mennonite country. The diversity of the landscape is amazing. After crossing some mountains and desert, we entered into a valley that felt like farm country in Pennsylvania. The entire day was so much fun, and I learned a lot more about the Mennonite migration into Mexico and how that has affected Mexican culture.

Wednesday was the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead. For at least here in Chihuahua, the holiday felt very similar to the American Memorial Day. We visited something similar to a carnival, and we got the chance to visit one of the older cemeteries in the area. Hundreds of people flocked to their family’s burial plots with flowers, crosses, and brooms to clean/decorate their family members’ gravesites. I think even more people wait to go at a quieter time, but when we went the area was full of flower shops and remembrance opportunities. 

Notice the broom and flowers. I felt a little out
of place without them. :)

Our final trip for this break was a little bit longer. We left Thursday morning to head even further up into the mountains to the small village, Caborachi. We were able to visit a missionary couple there who has been ministering to the Tarahumara people for around 30 years. We were able to attend a Bible study and ladies’ group Bible study while there, and I am so filled with thankfulness after seeing the work God has been doing there! There is a church now with about 60 believing adults attending. There are still many there that need to accept the Lord, but it was such a joyful opportunity for me to see how the missionary couple there reached out and ministered!

Here is the church in Caborachi, which has
about 60 adult believers and a lot
more kids!
I have always respected missionaries who give up their lives in order to spread the name of Christ. My heart was just so overwhelmed by meeting and getting to know this particular couple. They live far away from any of their children, grandchildren, parents, and other family. They have given up their culture and much of their comforts. They are extremely intelligent and gifted people, yet they choose to live in a mountain of Mexico with little to no reward or glory that the world strives for so desperately. Yet, they are the winners! They are the ones with the joy of the Lord as their strength. They have lived and hurt there, yet they still love the people and desire to reach more. That is a calling beyond any other. Not everyone is called into that life, but it is a vital part of the body of Christ that sometimes we forget to pray for and support.

Here is Caborachi :) 
This morning in church, the pastor was speaking about the rich man found in Matthew 19. He was so resistant to give up what he had to follow Christ. He obviously was very proud, thinking he had perfectly followed every law out there, yet he was looking for that last thing he could DO to get to heaven. When Christ responded to sell everything and follow him, he decided eternal life was not as important as his wealth and social status! I thought of the missionary couple that I just spent the past few days with in Caborachi. They gave up literally everything to follow Christ. I’m so thankful for their example, and though God does not call everyone to give up everything to follow Christ, He does ask that we all give up something to follow Him. What should we give up to follow Christ? Video games? TV? Education? Status? Friends? Style? Whatever is keeping you from following Christ, give it away. I don’t want to be like the rich man, who valued his things and status over eternal life and a relationship with Jesus. I’m so thankful that the Lord connected this morning's message to what He has been teaching me this week. Know that I have my own things that I am deciding to give up this week, and I pray that you’ll join me to follow Christ.

We started off with a Bible study at one of the
houses of the believers.

It may look pretty, but I cannot explain to
you the stress their roads caused me.
I jumped out to direct Kathleen through some pretty
deep potholes and big rocks.
We were all praying for her car to survive!
From left to right: me, Lauren (who we were visiting),
Kathleen (who kindly drove us), and Connie (my roommate).

Here is the house that the Tony and Lauren built in Caborachi. 

Let's end with the sunset over Caborachi! So beautiful :)
This has been such a blessed week, and I am SO excited to get back in the classroom with my kids and tell them all about it! I have prayed for them all week, and find myself waking up at all hours of the night to brainstorm new ideas and things to teach them.