In which encouragement is a dish best served on facebook.

Discouragement is an awful thing.

This week, the devil tripped me up. I feel like a chump, even now, for letting it affect me so badly. But I have to write about it because I was reminded of God's goodness, and am compelled to pass on that goodness if I can.

The thought entered my brain this week: "You're only here until June. What can you do for God in only 8 more months? That's not enough time to do anything. Just give it up."

Of course, when I get discouraged, I do it like I do everything. I figure if you're going to do something, do it all the way; take it to the extreme. Its like when I find a food I like. Thats the only food I want to eat (danielle patiently suffers through it) until the thought of that food makes me gag. When we got our apartment here, I discovered that I liked little sandwiches with ham, red-peppers, mayo, and mustard. Its actually a good lunch. But when you eat one of these little sandwiches every day for 3 weeks, suddenly the idea just grosses you out.

Anyhow, back to the point...I got discouraged. And I took it to the extreme. I would barely sleep, and that affected my work, our lives at home (I retreat into myself and stop responding), everything.

But then something cool happened. God, full of grace and mercy, gave me scripture. The Body of Christ did what it is supposed to do. And I was reminded of God's goodness. His faithfulness. His lovingkindness. And His sovereignty.

Corynne shared on facebook:
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread."
Psalm 37:22-25

Danielle shared on facebook:
"Then he said: 'I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."
Dave also told me this on facebook:
Think about all the 1 week mission trips that happen, where God does crazy things. You're on the equivalent of 30 1 week mission trips. God will do good things. (I had to paraphrase this one, because I seem to have lost the conversation).

I watched this message preached by Britt Merrick:
When my heart is overwhelmed.

Now, granted, the last one is a bit more intense than just a little bit of discouragement, but still the points God made through him reminded me...

Scripture is our greatest help. We often view it as our weapon, which it is (the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword, able to pierce, dividing bone from marrow..), but also, its a help to our spirits. In scripture, we find all things pertaining to life and Godliness. We find comfort. The psalmist (ps 119) said: "My soul faints for your salvation, but I hope in Your Word." He also said, "I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word." We find assurances of God's faithfulness, giving us hope!
Romans 8: 37-39: Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I was told that many in our fellowship at home are getting discouraged for one reason or another. Here's what you do.
  1. Seek to know the God that made you; in Him, you will find hope. Psalm 43: Why are you cast down, o my soul? Hope in God. For I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
  2. Earnestly seek to rest in the salvation that God has given us; our salvation IS our rest. Hebrews 4:1: Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to come short of it.
  3. Know that God is the lifter of your Head. It is God's world, not ours. God is sovereign, and He is mighty to save. When David was being hunted by his own son, Absalom, he wrote Psalm 43:3: But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
Our strength is not found within ourselves. Our strength is in God. He is made perfect, even in our weakness. When we have discouragement, difficulties, whatever, we place our hope in God, and HE will surround us with HIS goodness. HE will uphold us in HIS hand. When did we ever uphold ourselves? No, every breath is by HIS mercy and we are given over to HIM.

So, if you are discouraged, look to the promises God has made. Do not turn inward and worry and wonder how you will solve your problem. You are man born of woman, who is but a few days and full of trouble (job 14), but God is from everlasting. With God there is no variation, nor shadow of turning. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. And as James tells us:

God gives more grace.

In which I realize something totally obvious.

We've been in Santander 3 weeks now. We have a grocery store. A knife for cutting food. A pan with a wonky handle. And most importantly, we have made some friends.

Before we came, I spent a lot of time trying to find out what God was doing here. Danielle reminded me often (it took a while to sink in) to let God worry about that--it isn't my responsibility to make sure He's working. However, through a series of fortunate accidents, we met John Hill, from Chicago. He and his team run a discipleship program here for 18-25 year old folks. They learn the Word, they learn ministry, and they're given an opportunity to serve. Pretty cool.

When we first showed up here, Jeff, John's counterpart, picked us up and he and his wife helped us along. It was a blessing. After we left their home that night, Danielle mentioned that they're just people, living life as God gives it.

That got me thinking.

I've realized something I think I should have realized long ago. Or maybe I knew it, but didn't realize I knew it. Or its something I knew but didn't understand; like how an airplane can stay up in the air, or slinkies. At home, we were already missionaries. We didn't have to go to Spain to be missionaries.

I know, I know. All three of you readers are saying, "well, duh." Think about this though. If you're a believer in Christ, and you're serving people, you're a missionary. Its simply living your life to Glorify God by blessing and serving others. Thats it.

We've watched Jeff and Carolyn for a few hours. Their kids go to school, they eat spaghetti, they have phones and have to argue with the bank just like the rest of us. "but oh! They've been sent to Spain!!" So what! You've been sent wherever you've been sent. Use the time! Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time!

Live sharing Jesus.

We met the pastor of the church here (for the life of me, I can't remember what its called). He surprised us on sunday when he came up and started speaking english. With a british accent. We are having lunch with him and his wife next week. I let slip that we are eager to find out why on earth God brought us here. Pray for him and for us, for wisdom and for faith that God will lead us.

Pray for Danielle as she goes to school to teach. And pray for me as I continue to work with my team in north Carolina, that I would be a light to them while I still can.

In which God is bigger than us:

After we spent a few days in Belgium, we opted to blow paris off and head straight for Spain. We were eager to get started; find a flat, find a grocery store, find a church, find ministry, who knows...So we did. We got here on Wednesday 23 Sept. Immediately in for changed plans and missed rides and who knows what else. A few minutes deliberation and we decided upon a hotel that turned out to be a hostel with a broken lock on the terrace door.

It was a rough start on Thursday. We looked all around for neighborhoods and where we would and would not feel "safe" living. But neither of us had a clue how to go about finding a flat. But, God answered that prayer. We were picked up on Friday by an American couple that have been here as missionaries for 15 years.They showed us the ins and outs, educated us all kinds and fed us lunch.

we found a flat on Saturday, so we had sunday all free. We attended the church that the missionaries attend and afterward were invited to lunch, and to a baptism. This was the best 6 hours since we left home. The worshipping, the baptism of a new creation in Christ, the unity, goodness, kindness, and love that goes beyond all language and nationality boundaries; only God can do that. Amazing. Truly.

The food has been, surprisingly, not very exciting. A lot of potatoes, hams, breads, etc. Not much in the way of veggies or fruit. I can't wait until we move into our flat (God willing, tonight or tomorrow morning), so we can get down to the business of life.

Language is a tough thing. You can know the words to say, but negotiating a social contract of friendship or calling to arrange a meeting for a flat is fraught with social and cultural dances and agreements that we simply don't know. So, in addition to learning new vocabulary, pronounciation, verbs, tenses, articles, prepositions, etc, we are trying our best to learn the social aspects of each encounter. People have been patient, which is good, but please Lord, give us more than our own ability to learn.

I'm really excited to see what God does here.

In which long hours become shorter than you might expect.

Well, we're here. Brussels. But I'm already ahead of myself.

Welcome to my online home. I'm glad you came. Step in while I unbutton my sweater in favor of a sportier, zip-up one. Oh, right. can't forget the house shoes.

We finished up getting ready to head to Belgium and Spain at about 3:21 am, and left the house at about 3:45am. Doug, let me just tell you again what an awesome guy you are. There I said it.

The flight over was surprising, to say the least. I highly recommend Jet Airways. They treat you like royalty even though you could only afford seats in steerage.

We spent about a half hour trying to find out where our luggage went, turns out American Airlines ended up not putting it on the flight from JFK to Brussels, but no worries. God is in control, even in silly little things like where you're going to find a pair of socks since all yours are 4000 miles away on a rainy airfield. We were given 100 Euros (hereafter referred to as E, i.e., E100) to get started, and were able to turn that into pants, a sweater, lunch, coffee. Excellent.

We spent dinner in a tavern across from our hotel, we met a man there who traveled to 'Frisco' about ten years ago and wants to go back. I hope we run into him again. The people here are very sweet and patient with the idiot who didn't realize that Belgians speak french. I like them so far.

Tomorrow, to Bruges.

In which we are described.

We're Jason and Danielle. We live in Spain. Danielle teaches english and Jason saves the internet.