Saturday, October 26, 2013

Planning the Future

I love when God intervenes in my plans for bible study, and this week was one of those weeks.  We were discussing this week what happens when God's plan differs from our own.  I always try to come up with some kind of activity that works with the lesson, so I decided to pair up the kids and have them work together to create something without communicating.  I picked paper airplanes, which turned out fantastic.  Each pair was asked to make a paper airplane by making one fold and then passing it to their partner for the next fold.  They couldn't share what their plan was, and some pairs worked better than others.

My first partner got very frustrated when I made a fold that wasn't in his plan, and actually raised his voice to tell me that I wasn't doing it right.  I laughed out loud as he made the point that I was planning to make later in the discussion.  When God makes a fold that isn't in our plan, we usually get frustrated.  I told the kids beforehand that they were not allowed to unfold what their partner did, and it forced them to adapt to the unplanned fold of their airplane.

Our lives are like the paper airplanes we built.  We build our lives with God, but when our plan differs from God's, we can get frustrated or we can try to work together by following God's lead.  Something we forget is that God is the master airplane builder.  God knows how to build the perfect airplane, but our cooperation is required.

Romans 12:2 states "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s [plan] is—his good, pleasing and perfect [plan]. (NIV)

God does have a good, pleasing, and perfect plan that is sometimes not what we have planned.  I read a story in a devotional recently about a woman named Linda.  Her story was about her plan to become a medical missionary - a good plan that would probably be pleasing to God.  Instead, when she was fourteen, she acquired bacterial meningitis which put her in the hospital for a large portion of her childhood including an entire year at one point.  This was obviously not her plan, but instead of staying frustrated, she trusted God and God's light radiated from her during her hospitalization.  She tells the story with wisdom, saying that her mission field as she intended was the hospital, but she served God as a patient, not a doctor.

This was hard for the kids to wrap their minds around, as many of them have indicated that they'd like to help kids someday who have been in their situation.  I reminded them that they can do that right here.  They can serve God as a young person in the way that they want to serve God in the future.  Laura Story sings a song that has been so inspirational for me recently.  If you sometimes feel that God has abandoned you, I hope that this can give you a new perspective.  The chorus is below along with the YouTube video.  I hope that its message is as powerful for you as it is for me. :)

What if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Books, Literally!

This past month has been great!  The kids are back in the school routine, and we are busy every evening with a number of activities.  My fall project is to rejuvenate our library and get the kids in there to check out and read more books.  I haven't been working on this project alone, and as a team, we have made significant progress!  After cleaning our collection and doing some organizing, a group of Methodist Nomads came to do some projects on campus, including painting our library.  The hunter green walls got a brighter upgrade to a light yellow, and we received new couches, chairs, and a conference table.  There are a few pictures below of the shelves I have organized and the ones I haven't finished yet.

Complete Fiction Section

Incomplete Nonfiction Section

While the physical appearance and organization is necessary, we also needed a technological update and some increased usage.  In the past month, the kids have had an opportunity each week to come visit the library and check out books.  This is definitely one asset that we had not been taking advantage of, and I'm so glad it was such an easy problem to solve.  The computer system has been upgraded with the current residents' names and next week begins our inventory! :O  We had an entire cart of books that have been recently donated but had not been tagged.  This took more work than I realized, but here is the final result.

Newly tagged books!

Of course, I couldn't spend my spare time with books and not let all those literary analogies influence the rest of my life.  So, this week our bible study had a bookworm twist.  We talked about the dark times in our lives, and on a roll of toilet paper, marked the years in which some negative events had occurred.  Then, we rolled out the paper to represent the average years we have to live.  We compared the first 8-16 years that we've experienced to the first chapter of a book.  Sometimes, the first chapter doesn't get us excited.  Maybe there's a lot of information that we're learning but we're a little bored.  I asked the kids what happens if they keep reading, and most said the books get better.  Some, however, said they tended to stop reading if they didn't like the beginning.  We decided that we all have that choice.  We've seen the first chapter, but we have no idea what the rest of life holds.  We have to keep living life to find out how our story continues.  

I took this quote from a book that I've been reading: "Your life will not be defined by this dark night of the soul.  Never does a single chapter of any book tell the whole story.”

We then stepped back and looked at the marks, the pain, in our pasts.  And, we talked about what God does with our own failures, and mistakes we have made.  We tore that part off and looked at a white slate.  We recognized that we are still going to have marks, times of pain, and times of disobedience towards God, but if we believe and have faith like Abraham, God will see us through the fire.

One year into my service, I still have so much to learn, and I'm grateful for the experiences God gives me every day.  Life is a beautiful adventure; go get it!