Romans 11:36

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen."

Aug 25, 2008

Are you scared?

God moments, Weeks 6/7/8

So it’s been a while since I’ve written. My bad. Things just get busy, ya know?

Anyways, the God moments from Weeks 6/7/8 all center on the same phenomenon (because there’s no better way to describe it here in Costa Rica): church.

And when I say “church,” I mean what we mean in the States when we say it: church services. Specifically, the church services of two Evangelical Methodist Churches here in Costa Rica. One is in La Guaria and the other is in Llano Grande, but they’re both Christ-centered phenomena.

These two churches have been two of the main highlights of my time here in Costa Rica. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the fruits that are borne from the Costa Rica church, and they’re amplified tenfold every Sunday/Thursday/___day that there’s a church service in La Guaria and/or Llano Grande (don’t get me wrong, this distinction could probably be placed on many of the E.M. Churches here in C.R., but these are the two that have had the greatest impact on me).

Why have these churches been influential in my life? Well, there are many reasons, but, most importantly, the church is the gathering point for the community’s life in Christ.

To get to these churches can often be a long, hard, walking trek for the congregation. But it doesn’t deter them. As they come near the churches, they may get their shoes soaking wet or doused in mud, because the roads aren’t in the greatest of conditions. But they don’t seem to mind. And, once the congregations arrive at the churches, the buildings themselves are certainly nothing to gawk at. The choices are a flat slab of concrete with metal posts and a tin roof (no walls included), or a long, narrow, metal garage (literally). The members of the church can sit on peeling wooden pews with metal legs that may not be balanced—thereby causing some rocking to occur during the low points of the pastor’s sermon—or they can sit in plastic picnic chairs (two stacked on top of each other if there’s a potential for breakage). The number of members that arrive to enjoy the spectacle of church varies, but the size of the congregations usually range anywhere from 50-150.

Yet, in the midst of all these differences, one constant remains: the reason that everyone gathers in those churches is because they need to hear about Jesus. And, at certain times during the week, people from the neighborhood gather in these places to talk about Jesus. And it just so happens that these places are called churches, but that’s of minimal significance. What matters is Jesus. Shoot, he’s the whole reason we’re alive. The Costa Ricans seem to understand that very well.

So how do they thank Jesus for that life? Well, they dance, they sing, they clap, they shout for joy, they play instruments and they pray. No, no, I’m not talking about wild craziness during church services. I’m talking about the same reactions that people have when their favorite NFL team scores a touchdown. You know, hugging people you wouldn’t normally hug, high-fiving people you’ve never seen in your life, and talking to people who just don’t really look like you, but happen to be cheering for the same team as you. Yet at these churches, they’re celebrating life. They’re celebrating Jesus. They’re celebrating something far greater than any of them can even imagine.

For those of you who aren’t big on sensationalism in faith, well, these churches have seminary-trained pastors giving the sermons. Two weeks ago, the pastor walked through a passage in Hebrews 6, separating it into three parts and giving a three-part sermon full of the Bible and life applications. This week, the pastor started with a passage from 1 Corinthians about not forgetting the power of Jesus crucified on the cross, and he then went on to redefine how everyone views crosses that are plastered on churches, buildings, monuments, paintings, jewelry, clothing, etc., throughout the world. He probably quoted John Wesley about 10 times. These are well-written messages given by faithfully trained pastors. Great messages. Great people.

Anyways, the point I want to get to is that these services have served as springboards for my work and my spiritual life here. I’m not talking about getting all psyched up by a service and then riding that excitement downhill all week while I wait for it to come again. It’s simply that every time I attend church, even when I take absolutely no expectations into the service, I am touched. I am touched by the passion. I am touched by the message. I am touched by the worship. I am touched by the people who lay their hands on me and pray for me. Because they do that here. They know that the church is a place to heal people—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—and they’re willing to do everything they can to help their congregation be healed at each and every church service. That’s why they have so many services. Because just one day per week won’t suffice for the amount of problems that the congregation faces. This, to me, is the definition of a beautiful church. They’re real with each other, they support each other, they love each other. All because of one man.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. The reason why churches exist here. Jesus.

And they’ll tell you that. With absolutely no hesitation.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the Word of Truth, the Gospel that has come to you. All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” -Colossians 1:3-6

Aug 18, 2008

Irish Hiatus

Again, my apologies for such an absence from my blog (because I’m sure so many of you missed me).

Took a two-week family trip to Ireland that the Pops had planned forever and a day ago. ‘Twas grand.

I’ll return to action by the end of the week.

Much love,

Aug 1, 2008

Sometimes the fence is hard to see

Funny moments, Week 5:

(1) Running for your life: good times with Costa Rican sayings

In Costa Rica, rather than say “robbing the cradle” when an older man dates a younger woman, they say “jumping the fence” (in Spanish, “brincando la cerca”). Why?

Because the young woman’s father will not be happy with said older man and will probably chase the man off his property. But, as the Costa Ricans tell it, the father is charging at the older man with a machete in his hand. So, in order to save his life from the crazed father, the man must run for his life and get off the property as quickly as possible. How will he do that?

By jumping the fence.

(2) Susan the Sweet

I had the pleasure of spending the night at the house of one of my construction co-workers, Roberto (he also happens to be the one who told me about brincando la cerca). I rode to his house on a bike, while it was raining, and I was wearing my glasses. So when I showed up to the house, it was impossible to see out of my extremely watery, foggy glasses.

Many of you know that my vision is less than stellar without my glasses/contacts (or absolutely horrendous, however you feel like describing my -8.50 prescription), and so as I was walking through the doors of his house and cleaning my glasses on my t-shirt, I couldn’t see a thing.

Yet that didn’t stop Roberto’s two young children, Kendal (6) and Susan (2), from greeting me warmly with a plethora of hellos, how are yous, and gigantic hugs. Then they started yelling at me to look at the butterfly on the wall. Trying to be polite to the kids, while still cleaning my glasses, I start scouring the wall for the butterfly, telling them that I can’t see very well. The butterfly turned out to be a piece of artwork that Roberto’s wife had done, and I started staring at it from 2 inches away.

Then I feel a tap on my leg. It was Susan, having just returned from her bedroom in order to give me a gift.

And, with outstretched arms, she was proudly displaying her toy binoculars, and encouraging me to take them. “So you can see the butterfly!” she excitedly proclaims.

So there I was, looking through an old pair of toy binoculars, still unable to see anything and still inches from the wall. The adults in the room (there were four of us) were laughing hysterically.

What a sweet little girl. As you can see . . .

God speaks

God moment, Week 5

This past week a team from Lake Placid, Florida joined me in Puerto Viejo. They had some incredible spiritual leaders with them.

On Monday night, three members of the Lake Placid team prayed for one of the Puerto Viejo hotel employees. The employee’s name is Saidy, and she has a young two-year-old daughter who has a health problem with a valve in her esophagus—the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, I do believe. After the prayer was over, Saidy was sweating profusely and said that she felt a fire come down upon her while the three team members were praying for her. So what did she say right after that?

“I’m bringing my daughter here tomorrow night so you can pray for her, too.”

The three Lake Placid team members were Roberto, Maria, and Bobby D. Roberto and Maria are married and pastor a church in Sebring, Florida; Bobby D is highly involved in a youth outreach ministry, Youth for Christ. The three of them are very in tune with the Spirit and love to be prayer warriors for whoever needs prayer. So, of course, they were thrilled to have Saidy bring her daughter in for prayer.

The next night, Saidy brought her daughter, Carla, and her husband, Carlos (Carla was born on Carlos’s birthday, hence the name similarity), to our hotel. It was a blessing from God to see Carlos there with Saidy and Carla, as many men in this country are notorious for leaving their wife/girlfriend after they have a baby.

Roberto and Maria took the lead of our prayer time (since they both speak Spanish fluently), and started to explain to the team from Lake Placid how critical it was for all of us to have faith that Carla could be healed by our prayer. Because look at what Jesus said to the woman in the crowd who grabbed his cloak, “Your faith has healed you” (;&version=31;). Then they asked Saidy and Carlos if they had faith that Carla can be healed by God. They answered with a resounding yes.

Then the prayers began. While I have no great healing story to share (not saying that she hasn’t been healed, she just hasn’t been back to a doctor yet ;-), Maria looked at Carlos and asked him if he had been walking faithfully with the Lord, and she wanted to know if he needed to be reconciled to God. Carlos said that he had been straying from the path and that he needed to get closer to God. But, he wasn’t too thrilled about the whole reconciliation with God part.

This is where my learning moment came: rather than just give up and assume that it wasn’t time for Carlos, Maria and Roberto kept pressing him. They weren’t manipulative or rude or overbearing or over-Christian or anything, they simply kept reiterating the importance of Christ in our lives, and the help that God would give to Carlos as he raised his little girl, Carla. And they kept talking to him.

At one point Roberto said that Carla is in need of a strong Christian man to raise her (speaking all in Spanish, of course). As soon as he was done saying that, Bobby D (who has no knowledge of Spanish) said in English that Carla is in need of a strong Christian man to raise her. Roberto and Maria freaked out, and told Carlos what Bobby D just said.

“He seriously doesn’t understand Spanish?” Carlos asked in disbelief.

“Nope, he has no idea what we’ve been talking about,” they answered.

That was enough convincing for Carlos, and he asked to receive our prayers so that he may be reconciled in his relationship with the Lord.

God works in wonderful and powerful ways, and I was blessed to witness such an unfolding of events. I’ve always felt that God speaks to me most clearly when he lines up way too many coincidences in a row to simply call them coincidences. That night, when Roberto and Bobby D shared what was on their hearts, they were clearly sharing what was on God’s heart.

Thanks God, for teaching me about the power of prayer and the need to be bold in our faith. Amen.