Sunday, December 6, 2009

Unless You Become as Children…

Jesus spoke these words in response to the question: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God?” He wasn’t saying that we should act childish, He was telling us that children are the picture of a life lived freely, dependently, and without condemnation and worry. Don’t we long for such simplicity?

On Saturday, the WAVE groups all joined together for a day of “childlike” enjoyment…which included all kinds of activities centered around being “a kid.” We had lots of lively conversation, great food, a viewing of Disney’s “The Kid”, some games on the grass and on the beach as well as some time to swim in the biggest waves we’ve seen since arriving in Barbados. It was a wonder-full day (you should have seen Barry, the oldest “kid” amongst us, getting pounded by those waves and laughing with delight). We just thought we’d post some pictures for you to get a glimpse of the “WAVE’rs” at play. All part of the journey…



































































































Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Little Inside Information...

It's December 1st- oh my gosh...really?? How did we get here so fast? We've been in Barbados now 2 1/2 months...time is moving way too fast for me. We're nearly through first half of The Wave...can that be possible? I suppose it must be. No......Stop!!!!

Well, I guess I can't control the movement of time any more than I can control anything else. So, having once again realized such a profound Truth...let me move on to more amazing things. This past Sunday we continued our series at Barbados Grace Fellowship on "Foundations of New Convenant Relationship." It was my "turn" to speak and the topic we chose for the morning was in regards to our being called to live from a place of Union with God rather than a system of standards (The Law). It was a good morning and I've had some amazing feedback as to how powerful this struggle is for most of us. It is so easy for us to buy the lie that if we can just measure up to the standard, life will go well and God will be pleased. Just not true. But dang, sometimes it just seems so much like it could be.

I recieved an email yesterday which has started a glorious conversation (sorry, I know I sound like Herb, but he's here now I want him to feel like he's special so I used his rhetoric - ha ha!). I thought I'd share a bit of it with you who are following our BLOG as I think it will give you a little "inside" look into what our time here is all about...walking with people on their journey to discover the Truth (Jesus) that sets them free.


Here's the email I received:

Hi Laurie,

Hope you don't mind me emailing you. With regards to yesterdays service my husband and I have been discussing alot of things. One of the questions that has come up is this; What about someone who kills then? If the law still exists, but you are under grace what happens when you sin to that extent? Does there not still have to be a rule of right and wrong for people to follow??

Love Gertrude (made up the name!)


My response:

Hey Gertrude:

I love questions, especially when it is in response to what the Spirit is saying inside of you. So, no problem, ask away. The truth is, I might not know the answers either, but we can explore them together and see what He reveals.

As to the Law…there are several levels of “Law” that we’re dealing with. There is “Old Covenant Biblical Law”, personal laws, and society’s laws. They are all independent of each other while at the same time intertwined at different levels. The LAW (Biblical) was given to reveal the character and nature of God and to provide a means by which society could function without anarchy. So, it served both to reveal man’s inability to measure up to it (in terms of God’s perfection) and therefore lead us to a need for a Savior. But, it also pointed out needed guidelines for a functioning of the governing forces in a community. Now, we’ve moved a long way from this point, but, nonetheless, it was the foundation. So…to your question…if a person kills someone else, they will be treated one way by “society’s laws” and another way by God. Society will prosecute and inflict consequences (hopefully!) in order to maintain safety and security for its members. So yes, right and wrong are extremely important when it comes to the functioning of a society. However, just because there’s a law that says, “Do not murder” does not mean people will not murder, obviously, it happens every day, countless times. So, there you can see the principal that the LAW does not stop people from sinning, it simply points out what sin is and institutes consequences for breaking it. And, under the Old Covenant, that’s how man related to God, as well as society. BUT… (and it’s a big BUT!)…when Jesus came in human form, He fulfilled the LAW…in every way. He never sinned…amazing huh? Not because He was God but because He was a man living in total dependence upon GOD. That’s how we’re now called to live. So, when Jesus died and said, “It is finished!” He was saying the “Old” way of relationship with God was now over and a “New” way was being instituted. It was no longer man’s job to keep the LAW (they never could anyway, that’s why Jesus did it for us) but that the LAW was now written on our hearts through the UNION we now have with Jesus through the Spirit. So, you know internally that murder is not a part of your new nature, even if you’re so angry you feel as if you could commit it. But, it’s not the LAW that keeps you from doing so, it’s the living Savior within you that says, “That’s not who you are…let me fulfill the commandment through you…which is now to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” But, even if they do commit murder, in God’s eyes, they are forgiven and free. There will be consequences (both in society and in relationships) but with God we still stand in His perfection of the LAW. That’s why it’s GRACE. Now, does He want me to do such things and is He condoning such actions, of course not. Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 says: “ 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” So, the point is not “getting away with sin because we’re under grace.” The point is, grace sets us free to NOT SIN! 11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2: 11-14 So, grace leads us to behavior that reflects who we are. And that comes out of our UNION with Him.

I know this is probably a lot more than you asked for…but, I hope it helps.

Laurie

Her response:

Hi Laurie,


Thanks so much for your reply....it is very helpful.
As I was telling you yesterday about my father in law you can see why my husband struggles to understand exactly what being under "grace" means. Your reply really helped him as well as me, because just like you were explaining yesterday it sometimes gets very confusing. The book "The Shack" really helped me deal with this issue of bad people being forgiven by God although it still is hard to understand at times.

Have a wonderful day,

Love Gertrude


So, there you have a little insight into one of the parts of being amongst people, journeying together with them.

Herb is here this week and we've got a full week to boot. So...more upates to come. Love to you all and a very Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

“It Goes On Forever...”


All three Waves (or should I say: the people in all three our Waves, team included) are doing really well… One of the things I like best about my ‘job’ is being involved in the lives of people, and just watching what Jesus is doing in them… and for them... and through them… It’s a ripple effect, isn't it???

Some of the folks in BGF who have not been able to be a part of the Wave this time round, have asked us: “So, what about us? Is there nothing for us?” Good question! And so we have developed individual and shorter bite size bits of the Wave and are calling it… you guessed it: ‘Ripples’! We’ll probably only start with these ‘Ripples’ in the New Year, since December seems to be a pretty hectic time of year here in Barbados. (Can you believe it? It’s almost Christmas! Where has the year gone…?)

I've been thinking about the ripple effect thing… Throw a few little pebbles onto the glassy surface of a dam… and immediately those ripples start to form and circle out… wider and wider until they just about cover the entire surface, creating all kinds of the most beautiful and amazing patterns. The effect one tiny pebble has on the surface of a large piece of water is rather amazing.

Here in BGF, the ripple effect has started… long before we have even thought of offering the “Ripples”… In fact, long before we folks from Atlanta had any idea that one day, our lives would be forever linked to the lives of the folks here in BGF… Because God has been the One who threw those little pebbles into the waters of our lives… He always has been a ‘Pebble Thrower’, hasn’t’ He? A ‘Creator of Ripples’… a Renewer of hearts and lives… that’s our Jesus! And we all get to participate with Him! And it’s exciting and amazing as we watch God tossing these pebbles into the waters of the lives here in BGF… and transformation happens… not because folks have received some new bit of information, but because God Himself, through His revelatory (fancy word huh?) relationship with us, has touched our lives… And then we all, through relationship, touches the lives of others… becoming little ‘Pebble Throwers’ ourselves… little ‘Creators of Ripples’ – after the image of the One who created us… and the Ripples go on…and on… forever…

'Little Creators of Ripples' ... fashioned in the image of our Father

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Special Sunday in Barbados



It’s early'ish in the morning. I have a nice cup of hazelnut-flavored coffee beside me. The hot coffee is in a mug bought in a tourist shop on the island. It has dolphins and starfish all around it and the words “Barbados” written across the bottom of the mug. Yes, I did succumb, for one moment, to being a tourist. Or maybe make that two moments!!

I find myself reflecting on the places in the world that I’ve spent time in, led mission trips to and visited teams on the mission field. I am compelled to say that Barbados is probably the most beautiful. It is small, so getting around is easy and we don’t have to deal with lots of traffic. The weather is beautifully sunny every day and, although there are heavy rain showers almost every day, they never last and only serve to freshen everything up and make it look even more green and tropical.

But what about why Laurie, Retha, Barry and myself are here? Is it just a nice spot in the tropics to while away the time?

Or is something meaningful, life changing and eternal taking place?




The answer, of course, is that we are most privileged to be living our lives with the folks of Barbados Grace Fellowship. They are hungry for God and are teachable. They love each other and us.On Sunday 8th November, we were asked to be responsible for morning church. (We will do this twice a month and also on Christmas morning). We took our theme from Mark Ch. 2:1-12. This is the account of the four men carrying their paralyzed friend on a stretcher and lowering him through a roof to bring him to Jesus.

Let me pause for a moment. Have you ever found yourself in a place where you have felt paralyzed, perhaps with fear or dread? Or your circumstances have been so difficult that you were unable to move forward or backward? Who were your “stretcher bearers”? Who were the dear folks who brought you to the feet of Jesus so that he could minister to you?

These were the questions that we asked on Sunday morning. We moved everyone into a large circle and asked that they would consider a time that someone had brought them into Jesus’ presence when they were unable to come of their own accord.

What followed was a wonderful time of sharing as people opened up about Stretcher Bearers had impacted their lives, broken through their circumstances and brought them to Jesus. We gave them cards and pens so that they could write notes of encouragement to others and so become “stretcher bearers” themselves.

We finished our time of sharing by recognizing that there were times in our lives when God himself was our Stretch Bearer: a time when He would allow no one else to carry us but himself. Perhaps a time when Jesus said. “Come to me.”

I absolutely love the way Matthew 11:28-30 is expressed in The Message.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

We stayed in our circle and shared communion together. Later, we were very encouraged by people’s responses to our rather different way of doing church.

Hopefully, you now have a little insight to what church was like last Sunday. We really enjoyed being able to contribute to the life of BGF in this way and are anticipating many more times of Sunday morning fellowship with our wonderful new friends.

For The Wave Team and BGF. LOL.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Glory and the Mess!

Well...it's been a while since I've been on here! So...I guess I owe you (LOL!). Let me explain something to all of you who follow our BLOG...we love talking about what's happening here and there is ALWAYS something to say. However, getting still or focused long enough to actually get it done, seems to be a huge struggle for all of us. It's not personal and it's certainly not because there's nothing to write about...it's just planning it into our schedules and remembering to do it. So, it is the team's desire to be a little more proactive in this area and to post an entry at least twice a week from here on out. So...please be looking for the updates and we'll try our best to keep up with it.

Now...let me tell you about my last couple of weeks...wild, but wonderful; exhausting and exhilarating; miraculous but messy. I still haven't captured the paradox for you, but in telling a few stories, hopefully it will help paint the picture.



Me Tteaching on the DTS
Almost three weeks ago I spent a week teaching on the local Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base here in Barbados. YWAM is the largest missionary organization in the world at present and is about to celebrate its 50th birthday. I spent nearly 7 years on staff with them based in Amsterdam and loved it in nearly every way. Since I've been living in Atlanta I've been still connected to the mission through teaching on various training schools they offer to people. So, this week I was teaching on the Discipleship Training School (DTS) which is the entry point for anyone wishing to participate long term in YWAM. I taught on the subject of "Dealing with the Past." The main focus was understanding how we come to believe what we do about ourselves, God and others based on our experiences in life. I taught on subjects like "Why Do We Do What We Do?"; Emotions and Beliefs; Forgiveness; and Identity. It was a powerful week and also very challenging for many of them as their "understanding" was shaken and challenged sometimes at the core. However, in the end, I had some amazing feedback about how many of them had come to see themselves totally different and as the true "beloved sons and daughters" of God that they are. Cool!


An amazing God-connection happened during the week on the DTS as well. One of the young gals on the staff of the school had her mom visit during class that week. They are from Barbados and "mom" (Jasmay) is a school teacher and local preacher. Towards the middle of the week she began telling me of what a divine appointment the week had been for her. She said, "I think this week was more for me than anyone else." As we chatted a bit I learned a little about her life and her experience in the church. In the end, we recognized clearly that this intersection of our lives was no coincidence. So, we're going to get together soon (for coffee of course!) and she has asked me to come speak at the church. In my heart is a desire to watch what Father has planned in our connecting, not just for us, but even for how BGF and this local fellowship might have a future relationship. Wouldn't that be spectacular?

As well as teaching that week I was also still with the WAVE groups in the evenings, meeting with the leadership of BGF and those with whom I'm mentoring. So...as you can imagine...it was a very full week. And, at the end of it, as we were having a Project Day with Wave #3, I jumped on a plane back to the USA in order to speak at a retreat in Minnesota and just catch up on life in Woodstock. It was a very full and fast week.

I spoke Sunday morning at Grace Life church (after only getting to bed around 2am so I was a little fuzzy) catching them up on life in Barbados and the wonderful privilege it has been so far. I shared that morning on the ever-pursuing love of Jesus, coming to us to convince us at every moment of His delight in us. It was a good morning. From there, it was people as much as I could fit in (along with a trip to the dentist to crown a broken tooth!). I was able to be with both of The Rides and my Wednesday night Grace group. So good to see everyone and hear about their journeys of late. In between I was shopping for all the stuff we "NEEDED" back here and preparing for the retreat in Minnesota. Like I said, crazy week, but oh so rich!



Me Teaching on the Retreat




The Wonderful Ladies of Open Arms COG


I landed in Minnesota to a pretty amazing snowfall. It didn't stick, but it was coming down. I liked that even though it was pretty dang cold to my Barbados adjusted thermostat. The theme of the retreat was "Amazing Grace!" Now I'm sure you must have know what a struggle it was for me to speak on that - LOL! I had such fun with these ladies right from the start (we played BUNKO the first night - and I was the champion - and it took so much SKILL - right!). I concentrated throughout the weekend on Grace is...Jesus! We looked at how He came to us to reveal life and grace to us, completely as a gift, totally because He wanted us free, and to give us a miraculous destiny in Him and through Him. All throughout the retreat I was overwhelmed at the preciousness of His presence with us and His revelation happening in the hearts of us all. What an amazing bunch of ladies these dear Saints are and I felt so fortunate to have those three days with them.



By the lake at the retreat center


Then began the long (and I do mean LONG) journey back to Barbados. I sat at the airport in Minneapolis for over 5 hours waiting for my plane to take off. Finally arrived in Atlanta around 12:15am (and of course it took them 45 minutes to get the luggage to us weary passengers) only to get in bed at 2:15am. Was up at 7am to make my final dentist appointment and get packed up for my return to Barbados. The flight from Atlanta made it early to Miami and I even had three seats to myself. However, after arriving in Miami I soon realized the plane to Barbados was not going to leave on time. And, it was again a long and frustrating wait, and again it was a 2am bedtime once actually getting back. And, we had the morning WAVE the next day so no sleeping in! But, despite the long trek I was thrilled to be back.


This past week has been so good, and once again, very full. It was GREAT to be back with the WAVE groups, catch up on what was happening in their lives, and just be together. Along with that I've met with individuals and heard more specifically what God has been up to in their journey, and it's nothing short of a miraculous mess. Yep, messy and miraculous all at once. Can you relate?

Often times we have a perception of the way life in Jesus is supposed to go. Surely it might be a bit of a struggle when we begin, after all we're only rookies...but, after a while, most certainly it will begin to look at least a little like we know what we're doing. However, I think that's deception at its best. Life (in Christ and on earth) was never supposed to be "together", tidy, and/or perfectly controlled. However, most of us, ok, well ALL of us, have at some time bought into the idea that if we just work at it hard enough and long enough it will get there at some point. So, we live with this elusive (and unobtainable) goal somewhere out in the future, and we spend our time and effort to just even just get one little bit closer, only to find the horizon is a lot further away than we had originally determined. And so we redouble our efforts and try again...and fail again...and try again...and fail again! It's a ridiculous and insidious cycle! But, it's NOT Life.

Yes, the journey can be a grand adventure and a grand mess all at the same time. That's what makes it amazing and Jesus the miracle worker. If it were as simple as us getting it all together and making "right" choices, we wouldn't have needed a Savior and we wouldn't have chosen independence from God. We would all be living in the Garden of Eden, naked and unashamed. But, that's not our reality. We are inheritors of THE LIE and and without the mystery of the Living Christ in us we would be bound to live by it forever. BUT GOD! Just at the right time...He came and brought Life...to us, in us and now through us...IN CHRIST. But, living out of that Life is a process (some call it the "P" word around here!). And, it is often messy. However, it's no surprise to God and He is completely able to deal with the mess, and believe it or not, He doesn't even need your help to do so. Spend some time with that thought for a while.


So, a new week begins here in Barbados, on the Wave, in my life and yours. I wonder what it will hold? I really don't know but more than ever I'm believing it's going to be GREAT! (I sound like Tony the Tiger!). So, relax, enjoy the moments that make your heart come alive, embrace the struggle that brings your self-sufficiency to naught, and most of all, let it all remind you of the ONE who thinks so highly of you that He calls you His Child! And I don't know about you, but the last time I was around a child, it was not without dirty hands and faces, toys strewn all about, and lots of spills and falls...but, the delight and laughter within it, couldn't make me wish for a clean and organized life...not one bit. Till next time...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Morning Reflections

It’s been a nice, quiet morning for me, and I'm really enjoying it. Laurie is in Atlanta for the week (freezing her little tootsies off, I'm told) and Barry and Sandi have gone off for a bit of much needed R&R. I've chosen to stay home – just to have a bit of time for reflection and quiet… Besides, the solar panel (for our hot water) people are supposed to come check out what’s wrong with our solar panels this morning…

We’ve been here in Barbados now for almost 7 weeks. The other day, as we were driving back into “Ridge View Estate”, I said to Barry and Sandi: “You know what? This is starting to feel like home now!” I'm starting to get the ’hang’ of things here - the roads (even if there are mostly no road signs); the climate; which shops you are ‘almost’ certain to find the things you need… And then the beauty… Will I ever get used to the beauty? I hope not!

But as beautiful as this island is, even more remarkable to me is the beauty in the people around me: the folks of BGF whom I have come to love and appreciate so much. Of one thing I am absolutely convinced: us being here with BGF at this time, is no coincidence! God has orchestrated the connection of 2 Bodies of Believers – one in Woodstock GA, and the other here on a little island in the Caribbean – and this coming together is glorious! I cannot tell you how glad I am to be a part of this ‘event’ that only God could have arranged!


'Conversations'

The Wave is going GREAT! We’ve been going now for almost 6 weeks, and although our “Wavers” are at times being challenged out of their minds, I'm am seeing God at work in and through each and every one of them every time we get together. I love the diversity of the groups! And I love the individuals who so uniquely contribute to the personality of each group!

This week we are completing the teaching on ‘Concept of God’. For some of our “Wavers” this has been quite a challenge. During the teaching and discussion times, things have been stirred up in them that many of them were not even aware of. As one of the ladies said this week (my paraphrase of course): “I'm so confused! I feel as if I am being dismantled from the inside, and it’s painful, and I don’t like it! And yet, I feel there is hope in this too. God is doing the dismantling – I know that!” And if God is doing the dismantling, He is also the one who will put us back together – in grace and truth! And for us, as facilitators on this Wave, it is a glorious relief to know that it’s not our ‘job’ to try ‘fix’ anybody… That it is God who does the tearing down and the building up… and all we get to do is stand in awe at the work of His hands in the life of His children. HOW COOL IS THAT?

Wave #1 working on the "Mask" project

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I stand in awe of You…

It’s 6:30 am. I'm sitting in my bed, computer on my lap, sipping my first cup of coffee… I NEVER wake up this early without my alarm, and yet, since I've been here ‘in paradise’, I've consistently been waking up before 6:00. Hmmmmm!!! This morning it was around 5:30, but I managed to ‘fake it’ till about 6:15 when the thoughts in my head and emotions in my heart that needed to be out down on paper just got too much…

It’s been exactly 3 weeks today since we've got off that plane from Atlanta. Trying to describe these 3 weeks is difficult… A song that we used to sing in YWAM comes to mind: “I stand… I stand in awe of You…” Because even though this island is beautiful and even though I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m actually here, it’s the people of BGF whom I have grown to know and love, that takes my breath away… Father is so obviously at work, and when I see His designs revealed through their eyes, and His heart expressed through their words, “I stand in awe of Him…” What an awesome privilege it is for me to be right here, right now…

Twenty three participants – all from BGF – are going through The Wave at the same time… and I keep thinking: I wonder how this is going to affect the entire church? It’s bound to! How can it not? Those of you who have been through The Ride ‘back home’ will know the impact these 6 months have had on you… This is exactly what keeps me coming back for more… seeing a risen and living Savior at work in the lives of ordinary people… seeing the transformation as each continue to discover for themselves the joy of relationship with Jesus, and the delight of being a part of a vibrant and safe community… WOW… Boy, do I love my job!!!

One of the most enjoyable and significant things for me to see and experience is the fact that everyone of the three groups is so uniquely different - every group has its own ‘personality’ you might say… and it’s wonderful to see that unique ‘personality’ emerge and develop. Running The Ride, or The Wave in this case, can never grow old… for this very reason! And I love to experience this and be part of it! BOY, DO I LOVE MY JOB!!!

A couple of days ago we had lunch at ‘The Ackee Tree’ - a very authentic (but inexpensive at the same time) local restaurant… YUMMY!!! (I never do understand why people gravitate to Mac Donald’s or Pizza Hut when they’re visiting different countries, rather than experience the local and so much more exciting places to eat!!!!) And then afterwards, we went for a dip in a cool, clear, blue ocean… The beaches are incredibly beautiful here… and the water heavenly! I absolutely love swimming (well ok, playing then) in the ocean… And just for the record: I'm turning into a regular little Indian… tanning comes way too easy for me!

This 6 month adventure has only just begun, and already the folks whom, three weeks ago, I have never even met have become like family to me. I am so thankful for being a part of what Father is doing… right here… right now! “I stand… I stand in awe of You…”
















View from the house where we had our 3rd Retreat! Awesome!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

More than Enough...

Wave #3 at First Gathering



Jeff working on his title page

Retha sharing with Wave #2

Working on journals at the retreat


It's about 10:20pm and I'm sitting in my bed with my computer and thinking I probably should be heading to sleep (since my "normal" waking time here is around 5-5:30am) but can't seem to get away from the desire to write about my present feelings...yes, feelings. I am feeling a lot at the moment, much of it coming from an overwhelming since of gratefulness and a desire to express it somehow to as many people as will take the time to hear. So, here goes, and if you're reading this, well, you get to enter into my weird and wonderful world for a moment or two.

Me just being ME (in a weird hat!)!

We've been here almost three weeks - man, it's going to be over before we know it. Time...please slow down for a bit, I don't want to experience this at the pace of NASCAR, but rather more like a snail. However, for me, that may be an impossibility. Anyway, I digress. Three weeks and already so much to be thankful for...and there's still six months to go.



I was on SKYPE earlier with Herb and David...they had just finished up with the Thursday night Ride group in Woodstock, GA. So, it was perfect timing to be able to see and say hello to all those involved there. How precious it is to be connected even from so far away. I began sharing about the classes we've had here this week and how wonderful it is to be here on this journey with these amazing people who've somehow found their way to this thing called The Wave. The more I shared, the more overwhelmed I felt at the privilege it is to be here, the wonder of participating in these dear Saints' lives, and the grace that is flowing at every twist and turn along the way. It really doesn't get much better. And yet, it will. That's the miracle!



Well, believe it or not, I literally fell asleep while writing this last night. I guess I really was tired - ha ha! Anyway, it's now just before 6am and I'm sitting with my coffee and listening to the sounds of the morning as the day begins to unfold. It really is beautiful here. But I tell you, the beauty of this place is far surpassed by the beauty of the people who live here and who are on this journey with us.

One dear lady came to "class" the other night straight from work, hot (even the Bajans are feeling the heat right now), tired, and stressed out about how much work didn't get done. She was feeling the pressure that many of us can relate to when we feel as if we are being measured at every level and always found wanting. I sat with her a few minutes outside and she said to me, "I'm out here asking Jesus to help me live in the moment." Ahhh...isn't that place we often find it hardest to live? By the end of the evening, the "stuff" and the "stress" was still waiting back at the office for her, but she was going back to it knowing the Truth a little more personally.

Another dear "Waver" shared with us in the beginning that he really didn't want to be a part of it. He had many reasons for this, all which were real in terms of his life and experience. But, he decided to come nonetheless. The weekend retreat was a real surprise for him and by the end of it, he was the best advertisement we could have had for what it's all about. And at class the first night, tired and weary though he was from a long day, he share with us even more of himself, and it was glorious.

These are just a couple of simple and non-dramatic examples of what it's like to be here doing what I'm doing. However, as I walk alongside these wonderful Sons and Daughters of God, and they with me, my life is being enriched and changed at every encounter.

Another aspect of this journey that most of you probably haven't even thought about is the miracle it has been and will continue to be for us to be here...financially. With the world economy in a heap of trouble, the US economy being one of the worst, my personal support being at the lowest it's been in years (maybe ever), and Barbados being one of the most expensive places on the planet to live, here we are, taken care of in every way. The generosity of the church, the gifts from people all over, and ultimately Father's mysterious means of pulling it all together, have been constantly a reminder to me that I am not in control and this is NOT about ME!

There's a song that has been a favorite of mine for a long time...it's simply called, "Enough." I love the lyrics and recently they have been playing over and over again in my mind. I think they express much of what I've been feeling through the first few weeks of this grand adventure. Here's just the first verse and the chorus...see if they don't ring True in your heart.



You are my supply
My breath of life
Still more awesome than I know.
You are my reward
Worth living for
Still more awesome than I know.


And all of you is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with your love
And all I have in you is more than enough



I can't say it any better than that...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sandi's Snippets



Today is a special day. Why should that be so? Not just because I find myself on the beautiful island of Barbados, although that would in itself lend to it being a special day. But we all know that after a while, our surroundings normalize and it can be easy to take things for granted. What makes this day special is that we have completed all three of our retreats; we've become friends with 23 new people and we did that by listening to their in depth stories. One by one, they told us about their lives, their joys, their heartaches, their achievements, their losses, and through it all, there was the "to be marveled at" overall story of how God has been in it all. The Master Storyteller has interwoven all the events of their lives and caused it all to work together for good. Just like God, isn't it?

We ate meals together, we laughed together, sometimes there were tears and often there was wonder. How did it happen?How is it that we are all in the same place at the same time?
We are running three Waves simultaneously: Monday night, Tuesday morning and Wednesday night and so we had three separate retreats. Retreat No. 1 was called Free To Be Me; No. 2 "That I May Receive"; No. 3 "Into The Mystery".

We said goodbye to Herb Sims, the pastor of Grace Life Church along with Whitney Houston yesterday. Today Samantha Morrow returns to Woodstock and that leaves Laurie, Retha, Barry and me in the house. We will be doing most of the teaching which will require time for preparation. And we will be coaching and mentoring. We plan to make sure that we have one day a week when we totally chill and enjoy our gorgeous surroundings.

Barbados Grace Fellowship have provided us with a very comfortable house which has a little plunge pool out back. They have rented a car for our use and are making sure that we have a food budget. We are so encouraged by how well they are taking care of us.

Tonight we have our first class with Wave No.1 and we are excited to anticipate a good time of teaching and dialogue. It is an immense privilege to witness the Holy Spirit at work in our midst.

Please continue to pray for us and, if you have access to Face Book, you can see more pictures that help tell our Barbados Story.

Sandi.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still Amazed...


Sorry I've not been able to write for a few days, but, it's not been in the schedule or the focus...but, this morning I'm feeling a little inspiration so here goes...


After the first retreat we almost immediately moved in the the second. This Wave is a smaller, co-ed group, and included a couple of people I didn't know too well. It was nice to not have such a large number as it made for longer conversations and a much more relaxed schedule. And, as you would imagine, we were not disappointed and in fact, wonderfully amazed!


These retreats are not easy to explain. Even those who are about to attend would tell you most times, "I had no idea what I was going into..." And this time was no different. One participant said after it was all over, "I did NOT want to come but I wouldn't have traded this for anything. I have known these people for years, but now I feel connected to them in a way I had no idea I could be." And so the story goes. At the end of the weekend we were all pretty tired...it had been several intense days in a row. But, we were all so content and in awe of what our time had been.


Tuesday morning we had our first regular meeting with the ladies Wave. We had a wonderful time of sharing and talking together about life in Jesus and the deception in which we often live and how that affects our relationship with God, ourselves, and others. As we sat together and I heard the hearts of these beautiful women share so openly, my heart welled up with thanksgiving and the tears flowed from my eyes. I'm still amazed that we are here and that I get to be a part of this truly miraculous journey.


We've had a little time to relax in between another Atlanta-ite (Whitney) arriving to be a part of the final retreat, still settling into the new home and surroundings and the many hours of deep conversation (most of you know how Herb's mind never stops!). Yesteday we finally had a full day off with no appointments, classes or meetings (apart from the "in the plunge pool" discussion on Galatians where Herb literally read from his Bible while standing in the pool-gotta love that picture!). We all got a bit fried at the beach (the sun is quite intense here) but enjoyed just "being" for a day. Today, Whitney, Sam and Retha are being treated to a day trip around the island by one of the ladies from the Wave (Vicky). So...all in all, life is good.


Tomorrow begins Wave #3 and retreate #3 in two weeks. We can't wait to see what this weekend will hold. I will come back after the finish to tell you all about it!! Till then...keep checking back for other posts...I'm encouraging the rest of the team to get on here and tell you of their experiences.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Retreat Numero Uno


Here are a few pictures of these lovely women from this past weekend! I hope you enjoy their faces as much as I did. 

The Wave #2
(left to right top: Debbie, Retha, Heather, Laurie, Emma, Linda 
bottom: me, Emily, Heather C, Sandy, Cathy, Nicole, Sandi G.)


Enjoying each others company

Sharing their Title Pages
(left to right: Heather C, Cathy)

More to come!


The Reality of the Impossible…

I’m sitting on the back veranda of my new home in Barbados…did I really say that? My new home??? Well, at least for the next 6+ months, this will be that for me. It sounds very strange…but it’s also unbelievably exciting.

It’s early in the morning and I’m awake far too early for about the 5th day in a row. I am adjusting: new bed, VERY early sunrise, sharing a room, etc. I will find my routine soon, I’m sure.

The Wave team (Barry & Sandi Grecu, Retha Badenhorst, & myself) arrived here last Saturday afternoon. We had about 2 days to begin settling into our new home and preparing for our first of three retreats for the 25 Saints who’ve said they wanted to participate in this miracle. Yes, believe me, it’s a miracle. There’s so many evidences of that I can barely begin to write them down, but here’s a few:
*Divine connection with Heather (church leader) 18 months ago
*The provision for a team of us to come here early this year for two weeks
*The passion and hunger that came out of that time for a “movement” to happen
amongst the
church
*The plans coming together in just 6 months for us to be here to introduce “The Wave” and
journey with them through it
*Literally miraculous provision for every detail
*25 people who want to know Jesus as LIFE itself and find it in community

We began Tuesday with 9 women (and the team plus Sammy Morrow who has joined us for these first 2 weeks). Our theme for this group is "Free to be Me!" and for each one of us, it will be amazing to watch us become more aware of just how free we really are. From the start we found ourselves enjoying the beauty of these ladies, inside and out. And as we began the journey of hearing each one of their stories, we couldn’t help but love them more! And, of course, we saw Jesus alive and well and living in each one of them and their journey so far!

Today, we do it all over again with another 7 men and women. The theme for this group is "That I May Receive." We will be excited to see just what Father has in store in drawing us to a place of receiving of His Life. Won't you pray with us for all that He desires for us? We are confident that He will be faithful to do more than we can even begin to imagine.

So...that's all for now...I'll be back again after the weekend to update you from here...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Till Next Time…

Return with me to Sunday morning in Barbados…we were up rather early to get everything packed and out of the guest house by 8am. As I cleaned out the refrigerator, made our last pot of coffee, and then finally hit the showers to dress for the last time on this trip, my heart was heavy with emotion. “I don’t want to leave,” my heart spoke. This is rather unusual for me when preparing to return home – usually, I’m more than ready.

As we drove to where we would share our last time of worship with the BGF saints, again I kept feeling the sadness of saying good-bye to the precious people who had entered my heart, never to leave. I kept telling myself that the likelihood of a return to this beautiful place was good; still, my heart did not stop struggling.

I was so proud of David up there leading worhip with our Tracy and the lovely Nicole and Linda and the handsome Ron of BGF. Just think about it, 18 months ago he was barely speaking English, and now his heart is being shared through his glorious gift to lead us into an experience of letting our hearts express their overflow of praise to our Father. It made me smile from ear to ear and soon, the tears began welling up in my eyes. “God, you are amazing, there’s no doubt about it. The evidence is all around me.”

Here’s the problem, I was going to need to pull it together because I was the speaker for the morning. Crying through a sermon is NEVER a good thing. People have to be able to understand you and it doesn’t help much to be all choked up. I knew I was in trouble the minute I turned on the mic.



As I looked out into the crowd, the incredible gift of being in that moment was just too much. Two weeks ago these people had been total strangers; now, they are as special to me as any friend I have. That’s not normal – no – it’s miraculous. And that thought overwhelmed me. I had no choice but to just forget about decorum and tell them what I thought of them – they are glorious, radiant and the most generous people I’ve ever come across (by now, there was no stopping the tears). I can still feel the uniqueness of those moments as I write about it; I experienced Life and it was no small thing.

As I finished speaking, the sadness reminded me again of the fact that in now less than 90 minutes I would have to hug everyone and say good-bye. I loved talking to people and hearing how God had shown them such wonderful things through our being there – but, I didn’t like those last hugs that meant I wouldn’t be seeing them again for a long while. I just kept saying these words as we parted that comforted my heart a bit…“Till next time!”

On the plane home I tried to sleep. I was exhausted in every way. But, as I closed my eyes in hopes of a nap, pictures and conversations of the previous two weeks filled my mind. And all I could do was worship. Following are some of the thoughts I had about the people with whom I spent some of the most memorable time of my life:

My team: Herb, Tracy, Ralph, Cynthia, Ken, Pauline, David, Barry and Sandi…each one of you have made this experience and my life all the richer. I have so many fond memories of our time together that it would take too much to write it all down. But, I want you all to know that I love you, respect you, and thank God for bringing us together for this adventure. I appreciate each one of you for your unique expression of Jesus to me and for the ways your presence revealed His grace and goodness. Thanks for the sacrifice of your time and absence from your families – I’m sure you would agree that it was worth it.

To the Saints BGF: Wow –what a glorious demonstration of the magnificence of Christ you are. Each one of you has served me in ways of which you’ll never know the impact, but it has been grand. Your generosity and joy overflows and we couldn’t have been any more spoiled. I wish I could take each one of you home with me and let the saints of Woodstock, GA get a glimpse of you in person. They too would be overwhelmed with the reality of God’s goodness through you. I can’t wait to see what further connection Father has planned for us. I can’t imagine it getting any better – but, I think it might! I love you all and pray for you for even greater revelation of the depths of our Jesus’ Life in you, and love for you.

So, for now I’ll sign off as I hold on to the special moments that even now linger in my memory.

Till next time…

We Love BGF!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Concept of God

It is my last full day on the island of Barbados. I decided after breakfast to go down to the beach right in front of our guest house. I had yet to take in that particular spot. So here I go, by myself, in search for Elizabeth a treasure from the sea. I walked back and forth allowing the waves to spill only onto my feet and ankles as I looked. The many shades of the turquoise ocean have yet to bore me. And while the loud roar of the waves has made some of our conversations difficult to hear, I still take a deep breath at the mightiness of the constant sound.

After walking a bit and finding a few treasures just the right size to pack in my suitcase, I sit down on a big rock. The water splashes once in a while over my feet enough to cool me. “You’ve carried me through it all….everything I have come through, You have seen me through it. I have learned to trust You, to rely on You and to need nothing more than You. Sometimes that can cause others to misunderstand me and think they don’t matter to me. Nothing is further from the truth….yet the reality of living life from a freedom of knowing that my significance, worth and value can only be realized as I look dead center on the sufficiency of the finished work on the Cross. Fill me with a fresh love.”

While sitting on that rock, looking out over the horizon and back again to the coming and going of the tide, I thought of my “picture of God” I had drawn back in the summer of ’99. I had believed the lie that God was One who played cruel tricks on His children and was playing one on me by yanking one ministry opportunity after another out of my reach. All of a sudden this one shell caught my attention. It was being carried in and then back out again with each new wave. I remembered what I had learned about the ocean and shells. The continual movement refines these shells, turning them into smooth stones. After many motions of the rough sand over them, back and forth through the ocean, eventually they are smoothed….much like me. The dark, difficult times of my life have been refining, conforming me to the work of the Father.

In this moment, I saw a beautiful picture of God: He has always been at work, preparing me and preparing others for me. Instead of yanking opportunities like a cruel trickster, He has been orchestrating something beautiful that only He could see. He loves me and He loves those I will minister to and He knows what is best. He knows when it is best. I can trust Him still and join Him in what He is already doing in my life. I don’t need to seek some thing, He will guide me to it. I don’t need to envy someone else’s opportunity of ministry; I am content where He has me. Trust, reliance and dependence: good choices I can make because of who I am and Whose I am.

Cynthia (Now that I am back home, you can find my blogs at: ragamuffintea.blogspot.com)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

You have GOT to be Kidding!

It has already been two weeks, and tomorrow we will be heading home. Although we can't fathom that 2 weeks have actually gone by, we do miss a lot of our world in Woodstock....

But.....get use to hearing the names Heather, Marie, Steve, Nicole, Linda, Sandy, Peter, Eckkart, Rocky, Jeff, Rolph, etc....as these people have become so much a part of the Grace Life Family, too! We are beginning to make plans to bring some people back to lead some BGF'ers through "The Ride" in order to let them experience it and to begin to be able to lead them on their own. We have had the pleasure and honor of just being able to be in conversation about our life in Christ and His in ours with these people. It is a place of agreement, of wonder, and of amazement! No distractions. Nothing to compete with them except the roar of the sea and there is a song that says the roar of the sea is the voice of God...so that surely doesn't count as a distraction!

Tomorrow morning Laurie will be giving the message at church about "The Mystery". We are all looking forward to it and then we will head to the airport!

Talk to you later,
Tracy

P.S. DON'T FORGET TO CHANGE YOUR CLOCK!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Arrogance…Ignorance…Providence?


“Dang!” “Freakin’ heck!” “What the stink?!” “Stupid Laurie!” “Man alive!” “Can you believe it?” “Good thing I don’t have a gun, or…!”

No, I haven’t gone completely mad…well, I guess the jury’s still out on that…but, I have just let you into my thoughts for a glimpse of what has been going on inside them since yesterday (and unfortunately on a somewhat regular basis).


As we’ve been here now close to two weeks, we’ve had the incredible privilege of being invited in to many of these dear Bajans’ stories. I don’t take that lightly. It really is a privilege. And, in hearing stories, you always get a glimpse of GRACE (being Jesus) in its grandest demonstration. But, unfortunately, you also sometimes get to hear about some incredibly painful journeys, and in entering into their story, you often will feel their struggle. Still, it’s miraculous; but sometimes, it just plain ticks me off. Yesterday was one of those times when the glorious met the ridiculous, and my thoughts have been tulmultuous ever since. The details of the story are unnecessary, but suffice to say, humans were involved and it wasn’t pretty.

Then, this morning, having slept only about 4 ½ hours, I awoke feeling that same “ticked offedness” I’d gone to bed with…not the way I usually enter a new day. So, I got my coffee (the nectar of God Himself) and headed out to what’s become my favorite place in Barbados – our balcony. As I sat, watched, listened, and breathed in the fresh (and thankfully cool – we had some rain early) morning air, I felt a sense of calm come over me. And a little later, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky, and I knew Father was speaking directly to me.

I know that I cannot change the world; I figured that out sometime ago. However, I sometimes still believe that if people would only listen to me, I could make it a better place for us all. So in my mind I pen letters to those who I think should be told that they are wrong, off the track, or just plain stupid. In my fantasies they receive the letter with open hearts, teachable spirits, and an immediate desire to heed my counsel. It’s glorious! And then I wake up to reality…and I realize that I’ve just become part of the problem.

That’s gotten me thinking…pondering…and even processing a bit about three words: Arrogance (offensive display of superiority or self-importance), ignorance (being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed), and providence (the foreseeing care and guidance of God). Each of these words holds within them an incredible description of the human journey.

We experience personally in our own actions, and those of others, the results of man’s attempt to live life separate of God. Sometimes, that’s just pure arrogance – we really believe we know how to manage our lives and in doing so, often neglect to care for others. Pretty darn arrogant! Sometimes, we really don’t know any better (we’re ignorant), but still, it affects others, and sometimes painfully so. We don’t mean to hurt people, but, we do. Ah, the paradoxes of life.

I’m much more gracious towards those who hurt me, or the people I love, out of ignorance. I can relate to “not having a clue” and how that can sometimes mean I say or do rather stupid things. But, it wasn’t intentional, so I more quickly move on. However, when I judge that someone (or myself) has acted out of an arrogant notion that we know better and you are “less than,” it’s a lot harder to let it go. And soon, I’m seated on God’s throne, pronouncing an eternal sentence of condemnation. I know, it’s really quite yucky, isn’t it?!!!

In the midst of all this mess, I sense inside me a movement of the Spirit towards another word to think about. Providence…not a commonly used word, really. I mean in some circles it comes out now and then, but it’s not really an “everyday’er” – if you know what I mean. But, over the years, I’ve really come to love this word (even though I often forget I’ve even heard before). It gives me rest to know that it’s a reality – the foreseeing care and guidance of God. But, what about when…?

There’s the quandry, the “buts” of life. How can God be being “providential” when people and circumstances are so ridiculously painful? That’s not caring! That’s not having foresight and offering guidance! Really? I wonder if we’ve missed it. I know I have. I want to do define providence as “God makes my life nice and pain free!” Now that’s a good definition. But what if God’s definition is entirely different and requires a heart of trust to see it for what it truly is? I’m not so sure I like where this is going…

The old children’s song, Jesus Loves Me, just came to mind.


“Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible (and the spirit within me) tells me so
Little ones (and big ones) to Him belong
They are weak (uh, oh!), BUT He is strong.

I’m thinking that providence might take me out of the picture in terms of my ability to affect anything (or really, anyone) that Jesus loves. Yes, my arrogance and ignorance can cause great pain in my relationships, but God has not turned away from me, or the person I’ve hurt, and said: “Well, that’s life, my dear, get over it, or fix it!” No, He’s right there in the middle of my pain, strong in my weakness (whether as the hurter or the hurtee) and He tells me He loves me, even as He walked me into (His divine guidance) this painful place. Ouch!

So, for me, that’s where my thoughts have left me…I think I like providence a lot more than the other two. I think I’ll bank my trust in Father’s ability to care for me, and those I love deeply, with much greater concern and understanding that even my best idea can conjure up. Hmmmmm…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Redirecting Grace


Okay, so I abandoned the team—it’s true. But I suffered for it.

After speaking at church on Sunday, I went from a humid 81 degrees and near chaos at the airport in Bridgetown (“How can I get a flight out?”), to 24 degrees and 5” of snow in Charlotte, N.C. The East Coast was in disarray as a large storm moved in, so we were diverted from a shut-down Atlanta to Charlotte, where I spent an all-too-brief night. After my flight landed, the airport closed.

Have you ever tried repeatedly to call an air carrier in the middle of the night when the weather is causing havoc? Make a note: they don’t answer, and you miss out on sleep.

So, from 9am until 7:30pm, I spent a lovely day at the airport on Monday. Do you know how long the same pastries sit in the viewing case at Starbucks? I do. Do you know how many times a soothing yet powerful voice interrupts your dozing to say, “Do not accept luggage from someone you don’t know”? I do.

Other than the skyrocketing gloat factor enjoyed by the team I left (We TOLD you to change your ticket and stay another week!), the good part of my leaving was talking with several people about the New Covenant. On the plane to Charlotte, and during long hours at the airport, we got deeply into it. They had wonderful and vital questions, and all of us were invigorated and encouraged when we parted: one person to Tennessee, one to Colorado, and several more to Missouri. We wouldn’t have met but for the redirecting grace of a storm.

My days in Barbados were filled with, well, warmth. The warm West Indies breeze gave us the perfect impetus to let go of the sometimes fleshly need of a planned or structured presentation, in favor of the Spirit’s leading. Our plan became: “Let’s get with the Bajan believers and see what happens.” And we did, over and over again.

From group meetings in our guesthouse to lunch in the center of town, from a trip around the island to a youth meeting in a local home, our desire to know God together opened and brought out our hearts for God. The visible transformation was amazing! In the safety of our union in Christ, we opened up and found delight with God and with each other. What might ordinarily have caused stress (What should we do at the meeting? How shall we arrange things? What do we want to accomplish?), in fact revived us. It was as if the water provided by the Spirit flowed between us, and we were delighted. Like kids.

As Jesus said it would be whenever His sons and daughters were together, we knew God, and that means we received Life. What a plan. On a rocky knob in the Caribbean, strangers quickly became friends, men became brothers and women became sisters. What we are already through Christ—a noble family—we could feel.

The one regret I have is that I didn’t tell my teammates what I thought of them. Oh, I told them some things—that I loved and respected and liked them—but I didn’t tell them more, and I could have.

Herb, you are delightful, to me and to everyone. You are a rare and refined man, content only to assist people to what’s most true—an appetite for God. What matters more?
Laurie, you are an invigorating joy—ask anyone, and they’ll tell you. You help people “get God” in ways no one else does, maybe because no one else can. He has seen to it that your life means life for us. You’ve got it, girl.
Cynthia, you are indispensible, always showing up and adding stability and strength when it suddenly feels like we’ve got only three wheels. How do you do that?
Tracy, I like you. You’re one who adds zest to life and seasoning to every meeting. You have a way of saying something that brilliantly cuts through the fog of arrogance or fleshly ignorance. We find our way because of you.
Ken, why didn’t we grow up together? What was God thinking? You are wonderfully perceptive, and I like watching as you offer yourself to people. You listen intently and wait. What a good man you are.
Pauline, I love the depth you add to people around you. You are fresh and vibrant, and what God has made of you is opening like a flower; you’re on display, and we notice.

I am richer by far.

As the team moves together through their final days in Barbados, I know they will encounter God because of each other and because of the Bajan believers. God has planned it this way, and so it is.

I hope to return.