Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all.

We'll see you on tour shortly...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No Failure in Obedience

Last Monday ended Partnership Drive for team 14:22, and I can confidently say that that last night of calling our supporters is the one I will not soon forget. It was really only one conversation that I had which sets the night apart for me. I was talking to this guy who I could tell just wanted to get off the phone and go back to whatever it was he was doing. So I said, "Well, before I let you go, is there anything that we could be praying for you for as a ministry"?

"::Long Pause::...Really?"

"Yeah. We pray together as teams before we start work, and we would love to pray for you".

He thought for a minute and then, through his cracking voice, he said, "If you guys could pray for my wife...she's really sick". I could tell he was trying not to cry and that he was really uncomfortable so I just said that we would definitely be doing that and I closed the conversation. As soon as I hung up the phone though, it was as if I could feel the Holy Spirit pulling at my heart strings, "Gretch...why didn't you pray with him THEN? I gave you the perfect opportunity".

At first I just didn't want to pay attention to that. Yeah sure, I didn't think to pray for him over the phone because I was so taken off guard by the guy trying not to cry. But, alas, the moment had passed and now it was too late. I wasn't going to beat myself up about it because there's nothing I can do.

"You can call him back Gretch".

I'm ashamed to admit that If God were there right in front of me at that moment, this would have been my reaction, "You've got to be kidding me Lord! I am going to look like an idiot and a very annoying person if I call him back right now and interrupt him again! Plus, what am I going to say? 'Hey, I know I just talked to you but....can I pray for you over the phone?' I don't think so!"

And that's when I realized that regardless of what the outcome was, the Lord was clearly laying it on my heart to call back. I needed to decide (quickly) whether or not I was going to obey him or deliberately ignore that conviction?

I called him back...and this is how the conversation went:
"Hi Kevin (I changed his name). This is Gretchen from CTI again. I'm so sorry to call you back like this but...I just felt like maybe you...can I...Can I just pray for your wife right now over the phone?"

"uhhmmm (choking up)..."

"If you are uncomfortable I understand, but I would love to do this for you".

"I don't think so right now. But thank you so much..."

"Alright, well, you have a good night. And Merry Christmas Kevin!"

"You too. Bye" didn't go as great as I would hope. I felt like an idiot when I hung up. But now when I think about it, I'm pretty sure that even though I didn't get to pray for Kevin right then, he was still moved in some way by the fact that I called him back. Besides, maybe this whole scene wasn't about him needing prayer as much as it was about me obeying the voice of the Lord. I pray constantly that the Lord would tune my heart to his, and that He would give me wisdom in His ways, and mold me into a woman of great faith. Did I think all of that would just show up in my character one day? I hope not!

Being tested is hard work, but the great thing is you will never fail when you obey. Even if the outcome isn't as monumental as you expect, the victory is the mere fact that you did what you believe the Lord asked you to do. There's no failure in that.

*Luke 12:48

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Time Is Here

It's that time of year again. The time where Jack Frost loves to come out and touch our outer extremities, and where pine needles clog up our vacuum cleaners.

And it's also the time where we stop and remember our Saviors birth. I'm very guilty of logging that fact into the back of my mind, and recalling it whenever need be, in order to prove that I really do know the true spirit of Christmas. Funny, that reminds me of a well told story. Jesus was born in a stinky manger found in a dirty, stinky stable outside of Bethelehem. Why? Well, there was no room for him in the inn. I can remember thinking when I was a kid that I'd never be as mean as that mean old innkeeper. Who does he think he is, keeping Mary and baby Jesus out in that place when they could have a good room in an inn?

Then the correlation hits me. This last week, at our CTI Christmas party, Chris Reed shared with us a message that had meant a lot to him. And really all I'm doing is translating the message in my own words. The Bible is the Living Word of God, and it can teach us at any time, and this story reminded me this week of the fact that I am very much like the innkeeper. Christ is too often pushed into the corners of my life because I have a great "business" going on in the rest of me that can't be replaced with anything else, or at least I believe the lie that the business is good.

I want to wish you all an incredibly Merry Christmas, as I have told all the various answering machines that I had the pleasure of talking to during our Annual Campaign partnership drive these last two weeks. And I want to encourage you to remember the parts of Christmas. Christ-mas. "Mas" in Spanish means "more". So, therefore, this word means "Christ more" or "more Christ". At least it means that in my head. Let's put Christ where he belongs, in the center. Not in the stables.

So have yourselves Merry Little Christmases, one and all. For He, who was very God of very God, decided to love us enough to put Himself into tiny, frail, human form. Then He loved us enough to teach us how to live as humans, and then, He provided for us the Way that we could LIVE as children of God. Now that sacrifice is cause enough for joy throughout eternity. Let's show that joy now. To our family, friends, and all who we meet in this awesome season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not Mine Anyway

Music.  I love music.  This shouldn't be surprising since I am in CTI for a year, but have you ever just gotten blessed or challenged by a song?  Thanks to a friend I was introduced to a new artist JJ Heller.  I have been listening to her songs and I absolutely love the messages.  Well this morning I was listening to her song called "Not Mine Anyway".  As I let the words absorb into my thoughts I was reminded that I can't do a thing without God.  He's given so many blessings and gifts to each of us yet, there is nothing that we have that isn't already His.  The last line "it's not mine anyway" is such a great reminder that although we may "give more away" what we have to give is meant to be given away.  So I ask myself, What AM I giving away?  I pray that what I'm giving is the best thing I have to offer - God's faithful, never-changing love for us.  Just like JJ said "My name is written on your hands".  Now that's a love that must be given away because it's not mine anyway.

"Not Mine Anyway" by JJ Heller
I don't know what to say
No words could ever be enough
I stand up because you hold me here
Because you brought me here tonight

I could not ever try so hard
I could buy a place in your heart
But here I am
My name written on your hands
Because you paid the debt I owe

Without you we all fall down
Without you we all fall

You make life worth living
You make me wanna start giving
More and more away to you
It's not mine anyway

Monday, December 08, 2008

Give Me Your Eyes

If you have had the pleasure of seeing one of our concerts, (when I say pleasure I AM assuming things because I hate to think that seeing one of our concerts would be anything less than pleasurable) then you may have noticed that we often do a song called Give Me Your Eyes. I like that song but sometimes I have to admit, I do not pay attention to the words that we're singing. "All those people going somewhere, why have I never cared? Give me your eyes for just once second, give me your eyes so I can see everything that I've been missing...." But every once in a while I have a moment when lyrics totally click and I see a real life application of what I've been singing the past four months. Today I had one of those moments:

I was sitting in the team room, listening to all the prayer requests that were gathered the night before during our partnership drive/phoneAthon/annual campaign, and I suddenly felt very overwhelmed. See, during our partnership drive, when we are calling past ministry supporters to see if they would like to continue with their financial support, we also take some time and ask if they have anything specific they would like us to pray for. And then, the next day, before we start working again, we come together as a ministry and pray for them. It's a really great ministry that I think blesses people in unexpected ways.

Ok, so I'm listening to all of these prayer requests and they are breaking my heart. There are people all across the country struggling with health, dealing with death, fighting financially, sending kids off to college, praying for parents to be saved...anything you can think of, someone in this country is dealing with it right now at this very moment.
That's when it hit me: the Lord is answering OUR prayer as a ministry...and we need to respond faithfully.

Carrie stands up on stage every concert and before we sing Give Me Your Eyes, she talks about how the song has become a prayer for our team: how we all wantto see the things we usually miss; to see people that we typically do not. I think this is one way the Lord is answering that prayer.

In response to all of this, I just want to pray for all the people we have talked to in the last couple days...right now (I hope that's ok):

Heavenly Father,
Lord I lift up all these people to you. God, we have had short conversations with them, but know them well. You know their deepest thoughts and their greatest needs. Lord I pray that you would pour into their lives in ways that are undeniable. I pray that you would heal the sick, comfort the mourning, give courage to the weak. Jesus, I pray that you would be near in this time of financial hardship throughout this country. You are greater than all of our difficulties God. Thank you.
God I thank you for the opportunity that you have given us, as CTI 14:22, to talk with people; to pray with people. Thank you that you are good. Thank you that you want our trust so that we can see how faithful you are Lord.
God I praise you! I praise you.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Every time we do tour debriefing I'm reminded of so many ways the Lord is ministering TO us as wellas through us. I guess that's a good thing right....since that's the whole point to debriefing.

We just got back from 5 weeks of driving from Willmar to Seattle and everywhere in between. We played in prisons, detention centers, recovery houses, colleges, and churches. And we met HUNDREDS of wonderful people. The north west is full of generosity. We had the joy of staying with amazing people everywhere we went. Praise the Lord!

One lady that Sara and I got to stay with was Lana. She was....ahhh, I can't even explain it, she was just incredible. She kept talking about how impressed she was with us and how their church was so blessed to have us there, but she had no idea how much of a blessing SHE was to US. I had the opportunity to talk with her for a few hours on the last night we stayed with her and she shared with me a lot of her story. She has suffered the loss of a 7 month old son, a broken relationship with her mother, two abusive marriages and the death of the one man who ever really loved her well. She told me how she grew up in a very traditional Catholic church and dealt with resentment toward God for years and years. But...through all her trials the Lord led her to His peace and His safety and His faithfulness.

You should see her light up when she talks about her savior. She starts to tear up every time she mentions His name. It's beautiful, it really is.

Lana has many many stories of how the Lord used her to minister to people at the most unexpected times. One time she was in Wal-Mart, in the check out line behind a mother who had a severely autistic child in her cart. The child was fussing and making a scene, causing everyone around them to look at the mother with disgust and resentment, as if to say, "can't you control your child? You're impossible!" The mother looked back at Lana and apologized profusely, "I'm so sorry...I really am sorry, this is so embarrassing".

This apology was completely unnecessary for Lana, "Honey," she said, "don't you apologize. This is the child God gave you, and he is precious. You do the best you can, and you love him well ok". And then she laid hands on the mother and prayed for her and her son. With tear-filled eyes the mother responded, "NO one has ever done that for me before. Thank you".

It was so humbling to hear that story because in my heart I knew that I currently do not have the courage or faithfulness that Lana has to do even that one simple thing. And I realized that there is so much good that can be done in this life if we are intentional with it. I want the Lord to be able to use me in every situation. I want to be obedient to Him and not worry about what people might say or think.

It's not that I need to necessarily have a plan for every second of my day, I think it's more just being available to God.