Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gracias

Everything is finished. All my articles, UK News, my readings. What should I do with my free time? Watch the World Series, of course. Hmm, never really thought I'd say that. Then again, I never thought the Cardinals would be in the World Series. Yes, I'm a hater.

I want to thank everyone who is praying for me to grow closer to the Lord. I know He is listening because of the things He is drawing me to do. It's been a while since I've really been in His word and studied it. But recently, the draw is undeniable. He is removing things, people and feelings that have held me back. And it's funny when those desires seem to lose their luster. Suddenly, things aren't framed with a white picket fence anymore--and you don't care. You can let go (literally) of things that once seemed impossible to lose. Then again, they don't seem to care about losing you either. I guess that's life.

But the hunger He has placed in me to read and know Him more in order to glorify Him more is a desire I've not had for some time--a few months, at least. But I look at people like my friend Kelly Ann. How beautiful this girl! How encouraging! I'm not sure I've ever encountered someone so much like me and someone I look up to as much as her. I know she prays for me; I know God hears and blesses her intercessions. When I feel God tenderly calling me, I know she's probably there giving Him a nudge. ;) Haha. So, thanks, love. You are greatly appreciated.

Also, on a lighter note. My car is still recovering from the lightening bolt that struck it a few weeks ago. The alarm is not going off randomly and waking the neighborhood up. Whew. I was tired of blaming it on my neighbor.

The semester is almost finished. Here I come.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Erinical Update

Well friends, it's cold again. Cold outside. Colder in my house.

I sleep in a full winter wardrobe. But I'm not complaining. As much as this house feels like the igloo that it is, I love to make myself a fort of pillows and get lost somewhere in the middle. Also, I like the frostbite. ;)

Life has been great because we have a great God. Bible study went well tonight. We studied Psalm 51 and how even though David knew, acknowledged and confessed his sin, he still had faith to know that the God who heals lepers and can restore them to their place in society could spiritually do that to him. It was an encouragement for me, and I hope for the hearers also. I have really been learning a lot about God and it's surprising how excited it can make me. Praises to the One who breaks our legs (not literally, sicko) so that He can carry us to where He wants us to be. Props to Sarah Richey for bringing out the sheep-sheppard example. Highly appropriate, friend.

God has been blessing me and I just wanted to lift up my cup of salvation in the presence of His people (Ps. 116). All that I need He provides.

Just for general knowledge, the First Annual AFSP (Adult Friends Sleepover Party) was a hit! Who knew that middle-aged women could oink like that! Yes, we definitely played pigs in a blanket and had the time of our lives. I was more than impressed with the 48-to-49-year-old-crowd's ability to hang with a bunch of 20-somethings. Trust me, they put us to shame at the whole candy cigarette thing (I thought I was going to have to drive Mama and Lucy to confession after their stove-lighting incident).

So, I'm graduating in May. So let it be. I'm ready for wherever God takes me. Asheville, NC, Lexington, KY, Bella Union, Peru. Bring it. Oh, it's been brought. Peace homies.

**Addition: As I was looking through some of my posts (loser, do something better with your time) I found this paragraph from one year ago that's almost an exact replica of my Sept. 22 post, only perhaps slightly more elegant: "May we never be like the one in James who looks at himself in the mirror and then forgets what he looks like when he walks away. Let us see our infirmaties and commit to changing them. The perscription, then, is this: Notice who God is--His mercies and grace; in light of this, ask Him to show you your shortcomings; but rather than dwell on them, change them." Ironic. Some things never change. :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Question

Lately I've been reading 1 Samuel. When God appoints Saul to be king over Israel, He says He's only doing it because the Israelites want Him too, even though it's a bad idea. Later, it says He regrets making Saul king. My question is this: Why did (does, perhaps) God do something He knew He would regret? Just like the people in Noah's day--he regretted them too. What's the deal?

Friday, September 22, 2006

What now?

"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror, for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was." James 1:23, 24

James, along with Michael Jackson, talks about the man in the mirror. O how I have disappointed my God! For the moment that I leave the mirror, I have amnesia, well, more like voluntary amnesia, and make a mockery of all He is, has given, has done, etc. I wish I could hide myself in a cave where I couldn't let others see what a mess I often make of myself. But He doesn't call us to live in caves, right? Just like my last post said, He calls us to suck it up and do better next time. Doing better requires remembering what kind of person we are.

How do I remember? I can't remember myself, my first love! I hate heart ache and it eats at me now. Where can I go but to the Lord?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Long Time No See

So it's been awhile. Peru blogged me out a little, but I'm ready to jump back in. Of course, I choose to do this right when school is starting to get busy (and serious). Great timing as always.

I just got back from a trip to Bowling Green where I saw Sarah and Chase Sears. Man, it was like Christmas in September. Seeing Sarah was like getting a Barbie Big Wheels (or in my case a purple bicycle). Getting to hang out with her (and wrestle with her) was the most relaxing and refreshing thing God could have ever given me. I love that girl. I forget how much she has my heart until I see her. But she has it, and I can't wait for 2008 when L.A. spits them back to the East. Chase preached a great sermon, as always, and getting reacquainted with both their families was so renewing for my run-down-on-routine spirit.

To say I'm run-down would be an understatement. I feel more like I'm in that big hole that runs all the way to China and I'm almost to Beijing. Ready for a new scene, new adventures -- and an animal. But don't pull out the party hats for this pity party yet, I know I'm just one among many with these same sentiments. It happens about this time every year. But this year is different. I'll graduate, wait for God to direct my next (possibly big) move and everything I've slaved over this darn keyboard for will manifest itself into something worthwhile. Cool.

Maybe you saw the prayer concern sheet being passed around Porter Sunday School this morning. It went something like this with a little variation: "Name--Erin Thomas; Concern--attitude and mouth." This is the best thing ever! I'm sure some people thought, "Wow, what jerks wrote that?" or "Man, Erin really is a nut job." Well, it wasn't a mean joke, but a real gesture by some very good friends. I asked them to do it because I know that without God's strength and the intercession of those who love me, I can never stop being a jerk who rebels against God by doing things that displease Him.

Even though people hate John Mayer, one group of which I am not a member, one of his songs really shows how I feel a lot of times. "My stupid mouth/It got me in trouble/I said too much again.../Oh, it's another social casualty/Score one more for me/How could I forget?/Mama said "think before speaking"/No filter in my head/Oh, what's a boy to do/I guess he better find one soon." And not to get overspiritual here, but I do have a filter and it's called the Holy Spirit; He should be directing the ways of my tongue, but I overtake Him too often. Today, Chase spoke about how those who aren't children of God act in a way that is contrary to the nature of God and rebel against Him constantly. By continuously having negative things to say to someone --one in particular -- and "slipping" cuss words, what does this mean? I am not questioning my stance as a child of God, but how much do these attitudes reflect the character of God? In short, they don't.

Ok, so I've acknowledged the sin, confessed it to the Father, but this next step, the application of Chase's and others' teachings, is where the true test comes, the main one being, how much do I love God? Do I love Him enough to give up those things I rely on in bad situations (i.e. punching the closest thing around and/or lettin' a few ones drop)? Do I trust Him enough to let Him control my feelings about people and not create scenarios I think would be good and wait for Him to conform His plans to mine? Do I adore His Son enough to stop insulting Him every time my disobedience says His death meant nothing to me and profess myself as being in a higher position than the One who sits at the right hand of God?

Heavy stuff, yeah? True, but that's the neat thing about God. He can reveal all these hard truths to you, and while sometimes we get so caught up in contemplating them, "feeling them out" and even being sad because fall so short of them, we forget that He is a joyful God who wants us to use these truths to strengthen our satisfaction in Him by making Him more glorified in our lives (right, Jonathon?). Yeah, I have extreme attitude problems and treat those I love the most like the ones I like the least , but God doesn't leave it at that. He gives me access to the strongest tower and refuge. Hold me accountable, friends. When I come across negative or ungodly, let me know (in a loving way or else I'll break your face...Ha!). Really though, if you read this and God lays it on your heart to lift me up, I'd really appreciate all the help I can get.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Wrap up

Yes, it's been a while. Many things have happened and God has begun to make the final touches on the summer. Porter team II left today after an amazing week of seeing God work in very evident, glorifying ways. How beautiful was this week! And how beautiful is my friend who I will miss more than perhaps anyone I've ever known. Even now I cry to think that it may be a long time before I get to see Evelyn and her wonderful, beautiful face. The girl who God gave to me to strengthen me, encourage me, slap me around when I needed it and hold me tighter than anyone I've ever known. How beautiful my friend, how beautiful. It may seem silly, but pray that God sustains me as I miss her so much. I can only imagine how God will continue to use her pure, reliant heart. I love you Evy! (By the way, I proved this when I got on a motorbike with some random man and rode at absurd speeds to try to get you your backpack...)

I don't know if I can accurately convey the beauty of God's design in our adopted valley. Oh how beautiful our great Orchestrator! How beautiful His kindness and compassion and justice! To let me meet and know a friend I will never let go of; to allow me to be a part of His harvest in the towns of Bella Union, Otapara and Huanca; to allow me to proclaim His name to those who desperately seek and only find falsehoods! Oh how humbled am I to be chosen by such a merciful Father who took me from unbelief and skepticism and a life that didn't glorify Him though I claimed to be His child, and led to me a life of obedience and a desire to see His name magnified to the nations! The name at which every tongue shall bow and every knee confess--for this same God I give my life! Emotions are high only because joy is higher. Through rough cirsumstances and trials and fights and all else, God has sustained me and raised me up, and for this I offer thanks and joy and hope the Spirit will testify of this on my behalf. To the One who pleads with Our Father daily for forgiveness of my sins and purity and strength, to Him be all praise and honor and obedience.

Senor Leonidus Quiroz is a 60-something year old man who God has called to serve Him in very real ways. Besides being a genius and a renaisance man, Senor Quiroz is a new believer along with his son Juan Felipe. He has gone from a man looking to run church as a business with strict rules to a man who God softened overnight into believing that only if 2 or 3 are gathered, God is in the midst. (I guess now Mama should apropriately break out into the song "He's in the midst.") He had a gathering for all the new and seasoned believers to meet yesterday so they could begin to form groups. How amazing to see God already engineering things!

We saw two people come to Christ this week, one of whom previously was very skeptical and critical of us. You who are reading this prayed for her though you may not have known because she was one of the few who were spearheading the resistance against us. Yet when presented with the truth in sincerity by some members of Porter II, she and her husband gladly accepted and are enthusiastic about beginning Bible studies, etc. She will be good at this because she is known and she is also a teacher at the elementary school.

Two men get baptized yesterday in a watering trough. The joy, the understanding, the simplicity of the situation was too much for a complicated mind like mine to grasp until right now. As new believers and "verterans" gathered together at the meeting at Senor Quiroz's house, we literally were able to see the beginnings of a new church family. People of every age came together to meet and fellowship and encourage and make contacts. How refreshing and such a priviledge!

We have been doing Bible studies with Rosaura and Teresa, two women affiliated with the hostal. It is clear that they really have an understanding of how to be a Christian and I can only pray that the lessons we've done have made an impact on how Jesus wants them to live their lives.

The last English class will be on Saturday. I dread it because I know it will be so sad. I've seen these kids four times a week for almost two months and it's going to be very tough to leave. They are so smart and willing to learn and I can only hope that future teams will concentrate on them and build them up. How amazing to think that perhaps they will remember me for their whole lives; I know I will remember them.

It is truly bittersweet. So many things have happened. I've had the Devil called out of me at a Pentecostal church (that was a little creepy and disappointing); I've been able to be associated with an amazing AweStar team in Otapara, where young and old are being called in dramatically real ways to join the Kingdom of God; I've seen the most unlikely accept Christ and want to be a part of groups that know Him better. I have made it through homesickness, anger, resentment, fear and countless other emotions, all to find that God never changes and that He is faithful no matter the circumstances (or attitude on my part). Such wonderful people He has given to me: Evelyn, Paola, Dana, Manuel, Claudia, Emma and her family, Rosaura, all the children, Omar, the Quirozes, plus all of my American friends doing the same work as I am. What a blessing! I will never be the same. From the beginning when Jane and Larry left Evelyn and I in Bella Union by ourselves until now when I am getting honors like seeing people genuinely come to Christ and churches beginning to form, God has remained faithful and strong, ready to hold me, give me high fives, and tell me He loves me and is proud of me. But how proud I am to be His!

We leave here in three days and it will truly be bittersweet. Know that every prayer lifted up in these two months, every thought known to God, every sweet praise lifted up to Him has been counted as righteousness and has graced His hears. He has answered your prayers in obvious and subtle and even still invisible ways. You all have been in Peru this summer and God will reward your faithfulness to intercede for me and to love me. Look at what God has done! Remember the things you have prayed for, the things you have pleaded with God about, the times you may have cried or been excited. This is Peru 2006. My love and my twinkie Evelyn, my sweet girl Dana, my downhome homey Paola--the translators who got me this far and worked by my side doing God's work; the teams from Porter who took time and effort and sweat to work for the Kingdom and do amazing jobs. There are too many details to name, but perhaps it is summed up in this: Love is the most excellent way. It must be sincere and we must put others above ourselves. Humility is necessary to be effective. God is faithful even when we are not. Jesus gives us moment-by-moment forgiveness by pleading with our Father. So many things learned and hopefully God has been so glorified.

Thanks to all those who spent the summer praying and pleading for me. The time here is almost spent and I will see you all soon. God bless you my friends. I love you.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Where in the World am I?

OK So, things here are amazing. God has perfect timing and I have lacking words. Did I tell We found evangelical churches in both Bella Union AND Acrai and we have worked our behinds off meeting people and studying with them. This morning, we even led a lady to Christ after she cooked us breakfast. Her son is coming to the English classes; AND in the English class on Monday we shared the gospel in a very blunt way (with the image and dignity of God being first). God has taught me that I have skeptical and unbelieving heart. I am too rational. Can these people really be saved without knowing so many things about the Bible and things related. Won't they probably just fall by the wayside like many? So skeptical I am. I have said all along that if God didn't send me back with the names of those who came to know Him, it was ok. But in Nazca, God showed me that it wasn't. Everything is His timing, but if I don't ask for the souls of these people of these towns, He might not give them. SO I changed my attitude and repented for being selfish. I DO want them to be saved, I DO want them to live daily lives for Christ. So I prayed for these things, and God has delievered in ways I could never imagine. We went to the evangelical church in BU on Sunday and met a missionary from Peru who is working in this town and in Acari. He is discipling a man and we have gone to meet families every night and day since. He came to the English class and spoke.

There is a restaurant in Acari called Restaurante Karina. Well, Julia told me ppl from there called looking for me. SO, we went with Miguel and Rafael to meet them. It was a young guy who is the pastor of the evangelical church in Acari. He was so solid. He even preached on Romans 9. Crazy. We have visited him in Acari twice and I think he is going to Otapara with us when the team comes. Evangelism is these guys' main theme. AND we visited a family who lives like 4 miles away and without electricity. The woman had just returned form Lima where she had explained to the pastor that it was hard to live in BU and be a Christian. But the pastor told her not to worry that God was going to send her someone to help her and to encourage her, and we came the next day! SHUT UP! There are so many stories like this in only a few days. I can only imagine how God will explode this place in a month. Oh, we are a part of something very big here. I am only wondering how Satan will attack us. Pero, no importa porque Cristo es el victor, ¿si? I even spoke to the church in Spanish--very good Spanish that God gave to me. I don't even know how to say what I said! God is goin' nuts here. We still have to get on our faces like Elijah did after he called fire from heaven. He had just seen--and took part in--something amazing. But what did he do afterward? He put his head between his knees and looked for God's provision 7 times. In the same way, we must continue to pour ourselves out and petition Him.
Your prayers are being answered people. God is hearing your petitions and opening up the storehouses of heaven and allowing the blessings to shower Bella Union to Huanca. We are taking part in the harvest here. You will surely be rewarded for your participation in this. God is great to allow us to participate, yes? True. I will write with more details later. Thanks for everything and continue to petition and praise our Lord for the splendor of His holiness. Amen.

Where in the World am I?

OK So, things here are amazing. God has perfect timing and I have lacking words. Did I tell We found evangelical churches in both Bella Union AND Acrai and we have worked our behinds off meeting people and studying with them. This morning, we even led a lady to Christ after she cooked us breakfast. Her son is coming to the English classes; AND in the English class on Monday we shared the gospel in a very blunt way (with the image and dignity of God being first). God has taught me that I have skeptical and unbelieving heart. I am too rational. Can these people really be saved without knowing so many things about the Bible and things related. Won't they probably just fall by the wayside like many? So skeptical I am. I have said all along that if God didn't send me back with the names of those who came to know Him, it was ok. But in Nazca, God showed me that it wasn't. Everything is His timing, but if I don't ask for the souls of these people of these towns, He might not give them. SO I changed my attitude and repented for being selfish. I DO want them to be saved, I DO want them to live daily lives for Christ. So I prayed for these things, and God has delievered in ways I could never imagine. We went to the evangelical church in BU on Sunday and met a missionary from Peru who is working in this town and in Acari. He is discipling a man and we have gone to meet families every night and day since. He came to the English class and spoke.

There is a restaurant in Acari called Restaurante Karina. Well, Julia told me ppl from there called looking for me. SO, we went with Miguel and Rafael to meet them. It was a young guy who is the pastor of the evangelical church in Acari. He was so solid. He even preached on Romans 9. Crazy. We have visited him in Acari twice and I think he is going to Otapara with us when the team comes. Evangelism is these guys' main theme. AND we visited a family who lives like 4 miles away and without electricity. The woman had just returned form Lima where she had explained to the pastor that it was hard to live in BU and be a Christian. But the pastor told her not to worry that God was going to send her someone to help her and to encourage her, and we came the next day! SHUT UP! There are so many stories like this in only a few days. I can only imagine how God will explode this place in a month. Oh, we are a part of something very big here. I am only wondering how Satan will attack us. Pero, no importa porque Cristo es el victor, ¿si? I even spoke to the church in Spanish--very good Spanish that God gave to me. I don't even know how to say what I said! God is goin' nuts here. We still have to get on our faces like Elijah did after he called fire from heaven. He had just seen--and took part in--something amazing. But what did he do afterward? He put his head between his knees and looked for God's provision 7 times. In the same way, we must continue to pour ourselves out and petition Him.
Your prayers are being answered people. God is hearing your petitions and opening up the storehouses of heaven and allowing the blessings to shower Bella Union to Huanca. We are taking part in the harvest here. You will surely be rewarded for your participation in this. God is great to allow us to participate, yes? True. I will write with more details later. Thanks for everything and continue to petition and praise our Lord for the splendor of His holiness. Amen.