Um, hey.

It’s been awhile.

However, I’m back. And on a different site. So go check out the new site and subscribe there, if you wish to come back and read my thunks regarding life, love, and cheesecake.

I will be deleting this site probably in the next week or so, but all my previous posts are hosted on the new site.

Thanks for your previous support, and I hope to see you around on the new blog!

Sincerely Derek,



The World Traveler’s Recap

This is a waterfall in the vicinity of Mahadaga. One of our field trips. :)

Well, I’m back. And I’m really not sure how to intro this letter other than to just jump into it.

First off, I ended up journaling just about every day for both trips, which I found to be exceptionally useful when thinking back on each trip. And no, I’m not going to post the journals because there just too much and it would overwhelm your brains since most of you have very little context around what happened. But I did my best to pick out the important and interesting things and compile them for you. :)

South Africa:

The first thing I noticed in my journals was my abject fear of sharing the gospel. As you all know, the PURPOSE of this trip was evangelism. And I was scared silly that I’d forget something, not be able to explain something, or forget the key Bible verses. That kind of thing. That’s not really normal for me. I mean, it was normal in that I’ve always been scared of sharing the gospel, but I’m otherwise rarely intimidated to that level by relational/social situations.

It turned out to be super easy. I still haven’t personally “prayed the prayer” with anyone, but it turned out that it didn’t matter to me. I was kinda thinking previous to this trip that it would be really cool to actually lead someone to Christ, almost like a spiritual badge of sorts. That was probably the wrong attitude, considering the person that’s doing the pointing toward Christ isn’t actually the one doing the “leading”. So I didn’t get to pray with anyone, but I did share the gospel with a whole bunch of people, and it’s not nearly as hard as I was making it out to be, especially with the EvangeCube.

The second thing I noticed in my journals was the mention of what turned into the acronym of the trip: “TIA”. Stands for “This Is Africa”.

Remember how I had said in my previous letter that nearly nothing went as planned? Yeah. That’s because “This Is Africa”. There were a lot of things that didn’t happen simply because it was Africa and we weren’t as connected as we thought we were. And in the great scheme of things, we didn’t know anything.

For instance, we didn’t end up seeing our main contact in Africa until the end of our last full day in Hluhluwe. I’m still not sure why he couldn’t be around during our trip, but he did pretty much just throw us into Africa without a clue or a workable game plan. We thought we had lodging 6 months out, but none was secured until about a week before we got there, because our contact didn’t take care of that. We thought we were going to have translators picked out ahead of time so we could go door to door in the community, but nope, our contact didn’t do that either. The only thing he did do is get some pastors lined up for us to speak to about getting a church planting movement together, which was good, but that didn’t work out nearly the way we hoped it would. Most of the churches we spoke to didn’t end up getting involved in what we were doing because everyone was busy every day.

However, it didn’t end up mattering. The day that we talked to the church leaders, they weren’t available to go out with us to share the gospel in the community as translators because they had a meeting to attend or something. So we were stuck with no translators and no plan of action. However, it was market day, and of course, everyone in the area is out to sell/buy things. So after lunch, we just decided to split up into several small groups and preach the gospel to whoever we could find that spoke English.

Turned out to be a LOT of people that knew English. The local language is Zulu, but English is taught at most schools now as well, so that turned out great for us. We recruited a good number of people that day by just talking to random people in the market, and we gathered them all the next day at a building nearby for discipleship and further teaching.

Those people we talked to at the market became our base group that really kicked off the rest of the trip. Those people that came the next day brought family members and friends, who brought more family members and friends. A few of them knew English really well and were able to translate for us. There was one exceptional young man, Sizwe, who not only was able to translate really well, but was able to share the gospel with passion and sincerity like none of us could. He became our primary translator, both for the language and the culture. He became a good friend. I’m excited about what we’ll hear in future communication with him.

And it wasn’t all preaching all the time. We had a good amount of playtime too, what with touring London on our way through, visiting two different beaches while we were in South Africa (toes in the Indian Ocean, baby!) and going on a safari, to boot! Add in relationship building with the nationals, participating in a few football (soccer) circles and countless other little fun things, it was such a worthwhile trip. Got to see the world and Jesus too. The whole schedule ended up nearly completely thrown out the window, but God made it work. And it was really neat to see that so plainly displayed.

Burkina Faso was quite a bit different.

I’m not sure really where to start with this, but let me just start off with the fact that I really felt like a foreigner on this trip. “But,” you ask, “why is that so strange? Did you NOT feel like you were a foreigner among the people of Hluhluwe, South Africa?” Actually, no. In South Africa, most people had some understanding of English, and if they were in their late 20s and under, they had very good English (albeit with a pretty thick accent). So when people spoke Zulu or Afrikaans, it just felt like in Lancaster when Mexicans or Amish are conversing amongst themselves. There was no pressure for us to learn any Zulu. But like South Africa was a colony of England, Burkina Faso was a colony of France. Thus, everybody speaks French in Burkina Faso, but no English. That took a good bit to get used to, and I am actually now very inspired to learn French, though that’s a bunny trail tidbit of trivia.

So yes. Language barrier. That was the most difficult thing to work with/get used to, but by the end of the trip I wasn’t uncomfortable with it anymore. Actually, most of the trip’s goal in the mind of Matt Walsh, one of our church’s long-term missionaries in Mahadaga, was to simply get us into the culture and discover what it was like. Not only that, but also to see what they do, why they do it, and what it’s like. And we thought it was a work trip. :)

And it was. We worked at the CSPS, the SIM-run medical center in Mahadaga, a really small village in the middle of nowhere. We had to take a 8 hour bus ride from the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, because there’s no other transportation available to Mahadaga. The CSPS needed an entire electrical system overhaul, requiring changing/adding countless lights, fans, switches and outlets. And rewiring just about everything. And by golly, our group of 10 completed that and then some, which surprised a few people. We were also able to work on a few projects at the SIM station that have been on the missionaries’ lists for awhile but have just never gotten done. So both we and the missionaries were very happy with what we were able to accomplish in our three weeks there.

But that wasn’t the “meat” of the trip, for us. Matt had several activities for the team in order to stretch us and really throw us into the local culture. One of the major activities was through the SIM-run handicap center. There are physical trainers that ride out on motorbikes every day and check up or train with people in the neighboring communities. And each one of us went with one of them for a day at least once during the trip, usually two people a day. That was really interesting (and really fun) because on those rides, there’s no getting away from seeing how people live, and what kind of difficulties people with disabilities have in such situations. Actually, there’s a huge stigma against disabled people in Burkina Faso, because a lot of people disregard disabled people as even human. Epilepsy really freaks them out, because a seizure can look an awful lot like demon-possesion. Dale Johnson, another missionary stationed at Mahadaga, explained that fathers/mothers of disabled children won’t even count them in the family. Ask them how many people are in their family, and they will not include the disabled person, even if it’s lying in a corner across the room. So yeah, suffice it to say that the work that the handicap center’s work is very much needed in Mahadaga.

Oh yeah, those PTs that we rode with? They were locals and spoke almost no English. Again, the whole foreigner thing stuck out like a sore thumb.

We saw a lot of other things as well, such as the local fields, market, and a few of us assisted in making our own box drums at the local woodworker’s place. So cool. We also took several hikes to the cliffs behind the station, and various waterfalls around there. Went on a few scorpion hunts (they evidently light up like small nuclear explosions when exposed to a black light), and visited an enormous baobab tree (big enough to construct an actual treehouse in its branches). It was fun, it was stretching, and I feel like I might go back at some point, because the work that those missionaries are doing is incredible, and genius. If you’re interested in hearing more about some of the work they do (and are working towards), feel free to call me up or just ask me the next time we see each other, because it’s a bit extensive for this already painfully long letter.

In short, I worked, I learned, I had fun. And was inspired.

Feel free to ask me in person for more detail on my trip, because there’s way more to everything than what I wrote down in this letter. But it’s at least a taste for those that are only mildly peckish.

Thanks one last time for everyone’s support and interest in my summer, and for your prayers. I learned even more this summer just how much prayer matters. One of the big lessons of my trips. So thank you all for helping me and joining me on this adventure.



A couple other things before I finish this out. These are little resources in addition to the letter that you all might be interested in.

  • I did find Mahadaga on Google Maps, and boy was THAT difficult. But I have made my own little map showing various places around Mahadaga that you all might find interesting. It will likely be more interesting once I post pictures in/of those places, and I will probably be adding more to the map in the next day or so, but feel free to check it out in the meantime here.
  • Also, I will be posting pictures on Facebook and Flickr, but they aren’t currently up. However, check in tomorrow and I hope to have them up by midday. For those of you who either aren’t connected with me on Facebook or not on Facebook altogether, here’s the link to my Flickr.
  • And finally, if you want to read up on past updates from me this summer regarding my trips, this page links to all previous updates.

I’m back! ish…

I have returned from South Africa, and I can safely say it was an incredibly beneficial time for me, the team, and the people we interacted with in Hluhluwe. Nearly nothing went as planned, but that was exactly the way God wanted it, and it turned out well.

There’s a lot to tell you but since I just flew in yesterday evening, I don’t have much time in which to write something up, so I will write a recap when I return from Burkina Faso in three weeks. I have to leave tomorrow at 0230 or something ridiculous like that, so I’ve been working on catching up on life and packing today.
Thank you all for your prayers during the trip to SA, and I hope you will continue to do so during the next three weeks.
Just like I wasn’t able to communicate in SA, I likely won’t be able to communicate in BF either, so be prepared to hear nothing until I get back.
Thanks for the support, everyone!

I’m leaving!

Today I’m embarking on a journey that I’m confident will change my life. I want to thank all of you again who have supported me in this venture, and I can’t wait to tell you all how it goes.

A couple prayer requests:

•Pray that going through security/customs/whatever else at the airport goes as smoothly as possible for the entire team, in Philly, London, and Jo-berg.

•Pray that if I or anyone else on the team happened to forget anything important/stupidly important, that there would either be an easy solution or that there would be wisdom given in figuring out how to deal with it.

•Pray for our training over the next few days, so that we can be attractive and effective as ambassadors of God.

•Pray that not only the people we talk to will grow spiritually, but that we as ambassadors will grow in areas we didn’t expect.

•Pray that I will be able to remember to write down the really important things that happened, whether exciting or mundane, and that I would recognize the important stuff when it happens.

•This isn’t a need, but go ahead and pray that there would be some kind of internet connectivity, so I can communicate both to you all and to my family at home while I’m there.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Again, thank you, and I hope to talk to you soon! If not, I will talk to you next Friday!


JAF and SA update!

Beautiful, ain't it?
I know you all have been waiting for this update with bated breath! And I also know that I’m really late in getting this out to you. What with the holiday and everything, I haven’t had much time to sit down for awhile to write an update. But here it is.

So first of all, thank you all for the prayers last week. The week went very well. I was able to continue serving in spite of my cold, and to my knowledge I didn’t get anybody sick. Adam continued to do well, and my camper had the best week yet! So thank you for that.

JAF accomplished.

Now on to South Africa and Burkina Faso.

South Africa is coming up in a short 5 DAYS! I can’t believe it. And I still feel unprepared for what I’m about to jump into, which is a lot of evangelism. I’m sure it’s one of those things that I’ll get way better at as I’m doing it, but it’s still unnerving because I’ve never done it before. So feel free to pray for calm nerves throughout this entire trip. I’ll be much more effective that way, I think. :)

In another note on prayer requests, one of the trip leaders, Tom, may have pancreatitis and therefore will probably be unable to go. Pray that he would either be healed from whatever his affliction is, or that the trip will somehow go just as smoothly without his attendance, as sad as that would be. He would normally leave tomorrow to start training with the nationals there before we fly over.

Also, here is a prayer calendar that you all may feel free to follow when wondering what to pray for on any given day. I will also try to post updates on the blog as often as possible with prayer requests and whatnot, but I really won’t know for sure what kind of connection I’ll have to the outside world until I get there.

I don’t have anything on my mind concerning Burkina Faso right now, so I think I’ll leave off at that for now! Thanks again to everyone for your continued support!


P.S. If you want to read up on past updates, click here.

JAF Update: Prayer Request

Right now I’m still at Joni and Friends; this is week 2. This week is always the most valuable week to me, mainly because of who my camper is. He likes to run around and battle with Nerf swords and is into a lot of fantasy stuff, so it’s a lot of fun, but also very physically taxing. In addition to that, the week can be really mentally/emotionally tiring sometimes because of his disability. I’ve had him for the past three years, and we’ve worked really well together. And even though the week can knock me out, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I know how much it means to him and how much it means to his mom, and that means a lot to me, that I can make that kind of a difference. However, I’ve been thrown a bit of a curveball.

Over the weekend, I started getting what I know now to be a cold. A cold isn’t that big of a deal; usually I work through colds anyway. But I need to be up and energetic all week, and at work I don’t usually need to be a ninja, protecting the dark secrets of the Kokarika Forest. :) So I would definitely appreciate your prayers for me. What I’m asking for is not necessarily that God heals me (although that would be nice), but that God would sustain me when I need sustained. That I would have the energy to be “on” all week. That I’m a good enough actor that my camper doesn’t see that I’m drained. This week is about him, and I want this to continue to be the best week of his year. This is what makes Joni and Friends worth it to me, and I don’t want this cold to beat me.

One thing that makes this week easier is the STM that helping me, Adam. This is actually his first year as an STM, though his family has been coming as STMs for about 10 years. But he’s doing a fantastic job; he really cares about our camper. And even already, on the second day of camp, we’re starting to be able to read each other and trade off on different things when we see the other person’s getting down. So I’m incredibly pleased at how well he’s doing and how selfless he is. But again, it’s a bit of a strenuous job, and he’s zonked after a full day as much as I am. So pray for him and his ability to endure, as well as mine, because without him, I would have very little hope of a fully successful week.

So to recap, I would implore you all to pray for my and Adam’s stamina, and mine especially in light of my cold. Pray that we would have the energy to be over and beyond what is expected, and pray that this week would be my camper’s best week yet.

Today was a great success, by the way. Adam and I apparently tired out our camper well enough that he’s now zonked for the night. He had eaten before camp dinner was served, and while Adam and I ate, he promptly fell asleep on a nearby couch. About an hour later, he woke up and wanted to go to his room to sleep for the night, so I walked him to his room. The report from his mother is that he’s definitely passed out in bed, so we’re free for the night! I shall probably celebrate by going to bed early. :) So feel free to praise God for that!

Thanks everyone for your support! I would appreciate if you would commit to praying by commenting and letting me know.


Missions Trips ’11 Update

So, for those of you that have been expecting an update on my missions trips, I bet you thought I completely forgot about you. And that’s completely understandable. However, I’ve had a lot on my plate the past few weeks, and I hadn’t had much update-worthy stuff going on before that. So I just found a spot to breathe, and so I’m now writing this to you all.

First let me give you an update on what all’s happening this summer. Obviously if you’re on this list, you know that I’m going to South Africa on July 11 to preach the gospel to the natives (along with a few dozen other people) and help train the current Christian natives in discipling new converts.

Also on my plate for the summer, which I briefly mentioned in my fundraising letter but didn’t elucidate too heavily on was my participation in Joni and Friends Family Retreat, and my second trip to Africa, this time to Burkina Faso. I’ll start off with Joni and Friends.

Joni and Friends, if you aren’t familiar with the organization, is dedicated to aiding individuals affected by disability, whether it be physical or mental. You can look at their website here: Their Family Retreats have the same goal in mind, except it’s a tad different than what you might expect. When someone has a disability, it’s not just their life that is completely different. The family containing the child or parent with the disability is also drastically affected, because the the disabled person needs so much special care. The siblings often tend to get neglected (not intentionally) simply the disabled person needs more attention. And the parents have so much more responsibility than before, which is a big drain on their energy and marriage. There’s a reason that marriages affected by disability have such a high failure rate. So it’s not just the disabled person whose life is completely different. It’s the whole family.

Joni and Friends Family Retreat’s goal is to give the entire family a week of respite and recharging. People like myself come in as Short Term Missionaries (STMs) and are assigned to someone who has a disability (and sometimes other children in the family), and pretty hang out with them for the week. It’s really challenging sometimes, but it’s SO GOOD. The reward of seeing everybody be able to emotionally and physically unwind for the week is so amazing that it’s really quite hard to describe. There are a lot of families that live the entire year with the goal of Joni and Friends in view, and it’s simply an amazing time.

So that’s the summary of what JAF Family Retreat is. I’m currently doing that for two weeks, starting June 19.

After that, I’ll be home for the week of 4th of July, and then I’ll leave for South Africa on July 11. I have one more major meeting for that, which I’m going to have to Skype in on from Spruce Lake Retreat during JAF, so that’ll be interesting to coordinate, but the people running the camp are really understanding and are working with me on that. So also in preparation for the S. Africa trip, I’ve been working on memorizing my testimony and several important Bible verses used when talking about the Gospel, verses confirming the deity of Christ, the truth of the resurrection, the fact that we’re sinners, etc. So that’s a little challenging, considering the incredible lack of Bible memorization I’ve done in the past few years. But it’s going well, and I think I’ll be adequately prepared by the time I leave.

The other thing we will be using in evangelizing to the people in S. Africa is called the EvangiCube. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s actually pretty cool. It’s a cube with a bunch of pictures on it that narrate the gospel message, and you sort of flip through it to get to each picture. It’s really, really hard to explain without actually showing it to you in person, but you can probably look it up online and see what I mean. But anyway, we flip through it, while explaining what each picture represents. We will each, of course, also have a translator to translate what we’re saying. That will be a challenge to get used to. But I’m sure it will all work out.

Okay, so that’s South Africa! Now, to Burkina Faso.

My church, Grace Point Church, has missionaries currently living/working in Burkina Faso, and a team from my church is going over to help them out with general upgrades to their electrical/plumbing system, and basically whatever else they want us to do. So, once I get back to the States from S. Africa on the 21st, I’m going to be home for three days until I head out on the 24th. It’s gonna be a bit crazy, but fortunately my dad is also going on the trip to Burkina Faso, so hopefully he’ll be my brains for when I can’t think when I get back. :)

By the way, for those of you who are wondering why I’m not just staying over in Africa between trips, lemme ‘splain. I thought of the idea as well, and thought it was a good one. Then I remembered I’ve never flown or been overseas before, let alone by myself, and I think that after S. Africa, my brain is simply going to be too fried to try to get where I need to be by myself. So I’m not going to attempt it. So there.

So anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, well, that’s pretty much the update on my summer so far. Helping us prepare by praying with us is always a huge need and is very much appreciated. Pray for the trip to go smoothly and safely, and that everything will get packed that needs to be packed. If you feel a desire to give monetarily, I would be very much appreciative of that, as well. I am actually all paid up for all of the trips, but I had to put forward most of that money myself (which I was quite happy to do, but my account was not). :) And there are also other expenses like luggage, extra batteries for my electronics so hopefully I can take lots of pictures and update from Africa without needing frequent power sources, sunscreen, bug spray, emergency meds, shots, and other miscellaneous stuff. All of which don’t cost much by themselves, but all together, they tend to add up pretty quickly. So if you feel led to give in that way, feel free to mail me money. :) Unfortunately, it will not be tax-deductible, but I would give you a big hug, if you wish!

So that’s that for right now. I’ll try to keep in touch about this as much as I can, we’ll see how it works out! :)


My Plausible Solution

Listening or thinking?

So for those of you jumping in on this blog post, this is a continuation of my last post. So to sum up, I essentially mocked (well, not really but kinda) the use of the question “What does my heart sense God is saying to me?” I said what I said about it because nobody in the Bible ever had to ask that question. If God wanted to say something to someone, he said it, and the person receiving the message didn’t have a doubt about what God said, or that it was even of God. It’s very cut and dry. Just go read the last post.

Okay, now that you’re up to speed, I also said that I think there’s actual worth in the question, though not in a way that most people look at it. Most people mean or understand that question as an actual listening for the voice of God, or looking for an idea impressed on their mind, or SOMETHING at all involving a possible tie to God, and assuming it is God giving them a revelation.

And now that I’ve thought more on it, I think that I was stretching it when I said I think there’s worth in the question. Instead, I’d like to offer an alternate (and easier) solution to this quandary. And I think that this solution is what actually happens most times when people think they are listening for the voice of God.

So there’s this thing called a conscience. One also possesses a brain, and theoretically some amount of wisdom. Also the Bible. Why in the world would God give us these things if we were merely supposed to listen for God to tell us what to do? Why would God give us the capability to solve problems if the only problem solver should be God?

Just so you know, those questions are rhetorical.

Look, we have a moral compass, called a conscience. This isn’t the Holy Spirit, this is a (almost) built-in feature of the human. Atheists have a conscience; one doesn’t need to be a Christian to have one. Yes, Christians tend to keep their consciences in better shape than atheists, but that’s because we have a reason to. The conscience is a feature of our ability to understand that sin even exists, which came into existence starting with Adam and Eve. So we have a conscience, which is from God, but not God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, in my opinion.

We have a brain (mind, rather), which is great for using to solve predicaments and problems. I think of this as the objective part of our spiritual self. We can analyze a situation and know what is the best thing to do. Wisdom is acquired over the course of one’s life, and not an inherent part of us. Thus we can grow in wisdom and further our capability to think, which can be used to advance our spiritual walk with God. Again, this is made by God, but not God himself.

Finally, there’s the Bible. The Bible is the handbook of the Christian. The Bible is full of wisdom and insight, and holds much of the history of Jews and Christians, giving us historical accounts to look back on and learn from. There are important principles for Christians to follow, and they are all right there in the Bible. This is wisdom and knowledge preserved and handed down from God, so that we can learn and develop as Christians. This is from God, but not God himself.

You bring these things together and you have a powerful set of tools to use in divining the best way to go. The trick is to be able to trust ourselves, and be as honest with ourselves as we can. And you don’t have to trust just yourself, there happen to be other Christians in the world to bounce things off of. I don’t think God gave us all of this so that we can ignore it and just ask him for all the answers.

When I got into my teens and later, my parents gave me more and more freedom. They allowed me to start making more of my own choices. I usually had the option of getting advice from them. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I had to make my own choices, making up my own answers. Sometimes I failed, sometimes it worked. But I certainly became more mature quickly when I started taking responsibility for my own choices, because suddenly, I had to think for myself. My parents instilled in me the knowledge of the basics, but I didn’t take those lessons to heart until I put them in action in a previously unencountered situation. Figuring out how to use what I know is the fastest way for me to learn something, because I can’t just suck off of Mom and Dad’s expertise anymore. Yes, I get their advice, but I’m the one who ultimately chooses what to d0. And that’s the best way to mature and grow, in my opinion.

I think it’s the same with God. God gives us the knowledge in the Bible. We get to draw on the history of the Bible to study the stories of different people who made certain decisions that ended in certain consequences. These accounts can sometimes relate directly to a situation we may be in, but not often. We have to deduce and decide for ourselves what is most prudent, and sometimes we may be wrong, sometimes we may be right. But then we now are putting what we know into practice, and our faith becomes ours instead of being the faith described in the Bible. I think we learn the most when we fail. I certainly do.

I simply think that it makes more sense for God to have us decide what to do using the tools he provided us with, rather than provide us with powerful tools and have us sidestep them.

Now, what I am not suggesting is that God never speaks anymore. I just think he doesn’t actually speak to us as often as people would like to think.

It also depends on what people think about when they talk about God speaking to them. God can “speak” through the Bible, meaning that God provided the Bible for us as His word, which contains the truth of God. However, there is a difference between God “speaking” through the Bible as in the conveyance of moral truths and God actually using particular passages of the Bible to speak directly to the reader. And that’s actually likely going to be another blog post yet. Involving misusage of certain verses in Jeremiah that talk about God knowing the plans he has for you. But again, another blog post.


So I wrote most of this post a week ago, and I’ve tried to proofread it a couple times but had too many other things going on in terms of missions trip preparation (and taking care of the girlfriend :) ) to really set aside time to do that. So I’m not entirely sure if I stayed exactly on topic or even ended up on the same conclusion that I started with, but I had promised this post to you a week ago and never got it to you. So I figured I should, in whatever state it may be in. Feel free to critique it, smash it to bits with your razor-sharp logic, or feed it to a friend who would think this post is heresy, and let me know how it went. Or even post it on your Facebook wall and make fun of me. Seriously, this is me partially reasoning out loud so that I can cement thoughts in my head and get opinions on it. So tell me what you think. Even if it’s a “That’s stupid and you’re wrong.” Or a “I really dig it, man. Totally groovy,” even though that pretty much tells me nothing. If there’s a concept that I started but never seemed to get around to finishing, or if I was just too plain confusing about something, ask me to elucidate. So yeah. Anything. Go for it.

My Unpopular Opinion

So for one of my missions trips, I received a big ‘ol package of preparation material and such. I haven’t really thoroughly explored it until recently, and when I did, I noticed a prayer journal they encourage you to use to “ignite” your prayer life. So I opened it up and started looking through it.

Week One, Day One- Time With God

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Okay, cool. Good verse. Talks about being honest and real when you’re praying to God, and not to be showing off or whatever for the people around you, because this is contrasting to the hypocrites mentioned in the previous verse. Then I keep going.

Jesus didn’t mean that we must go into a room and shut the door. He did not do that when He prayed. But He did find ways to be alone with God, and that’s what He is telling us to do today.

Oh. Really? That’s what the Bible’s saying right there? Ummm, so what about in Matthew 6:5, where Jesus says to not be like the hypocrites, who love to pray to be seen by men? Is the solution really to just be alone with God? This passage isn’t about necessity of praying when you’re alone, it’s about the perspective one needs to have when engaging in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, whether in a group setting or by yourself. But prayer is about God, not about you. That’s what the verse is saying.

So I skip down to the journal part of the devotion, and the first question goes like this:

What does my heart sense God is saying to me?

When I see this question, I picture myself when I was younger, closing my eyes and concentrating as hard as I could to try to hear what God was saying. I would try to keep my mind as blank as possible, warding off any possible distracting thoughts, and I would curse Satan when he wouldn’t let me hear what God was trying to tell me. I eventually figured out there was something wrong with that.

My beef is with the idea of needing to ask the question. If God is saying something, your heart doesn’t need to be uber spiritual at the time. You don’t need to be prostrate and fervently praying before God to be able to “sense” God saying something to you.

Exhibit A: Numbers 22. Balaam and his donkey. If you recall the story, Balaam was pretty much blind to God. But God had something to say to him anyway. And God made sure that Balaam heard it and followed it.

Exhibit B: The book of Jonah. This time Jonah was vehemently opposed to doing what God said, but God got through to him anyway.

And take into account every true prophet in the Bible. They didn’t give a message saying, “This is what I sensed God was saying to my heart.” They would know beyond a shadow of a DOUBT what God was saying, and they didn’t need to even ask the QUESTION! God just said what needed to be said, and nobody had any question about whether it was God or not. Why would it be different for us?

I do think there’s a good reason why that question is so popular though, and I may blog on that next (I’ll give you a hint, I think it actually is productive, but not in the way people mean it or take it). However, right now I have Bible verses and a testimony to memorize, and I need to train my evangicube skills. So I need to go do that. But I’m doing prelim forming of the next blog post in my head already, so expect that sometime in the next week. It’ll also likely be a long one.

So yeah. Discussion is definitely encouraged; in writing this rather strongly weighted opinion, I don’t want to discourage other perspectives, so discuss away!

(Btw, here’s the next blog post in the series.)

Believe it or not…

So you know that thing I had talked about in my previous post that I said may or may not happen that you may or may not hear about?

Yeah, I think I’m gonna tell you about it now. Because it’s happening.

My good friend, Emily LeFever, and I are now courting as of yesterday. Or dating. Whatever you want to call it. But not dating the way the world sees it.

Dating in the world’s eyes is essentially the illusion of a deep relationship with a someone because of the high level of romantic intimacy that couples dive into right off the bat. This leads to getting attached to someone for the wrong reasons, e.g. being with them because they make you feel good, or because it gives you security. And a lot of times, dating is used as an end in and of itself. In other words, there are a lot of people who date because they like dating, or are just dating with no clear purpose in mind. This just feels wrong to me.

Because of the immediate romantic/emotional intimacy that happens really fast in such a dating relationship, it leaves out a lot of opportunity to actually get to know the other person. Both parties are trying to impress the other person, not figure out who the heck they’re dating. Infatuation tends to be blinding, a mask to cover issues in a relationship.

Essentially, what I’m saying is that dating in the world tends to be more about fun than anything.

What Emily and I have agreed upon is a relationship with a purpose, a goal. That goal is to find out if marriage is a possibility. And this stage of our relationship will end in either marriage or not marriage. The idea is to find out about as much of the other person (and ourselves) as we can, while romance grows appropriately around that. The goal is to guard our hearts, guard each other’s hearts, and grow in God as we discover who we are together.

We’ve also decided to not make it “Facebook official” yet, mainly because we’ll get 40 thousand notifications (each) from people commenting on our relationship status saying, “OMG, congratulations!!! You two are so cute together! You guys should get married and have babies together!!!!” And we’re not really keen on that, considering the nature of the relationship is to find out who we are, not jump into a bunch of peer accelerated romance. Perhaps we’ll put it up in the future, we’re not sure yet.

But I at least wanted you all to know about it, because I’m pretty excited about this new season in life. :)