Saturday, July 31, 2010

Teach me to Love as You Do

I was thinking today how sometimes it hurts so much when your love for somebody is rejected.  It makes me so sad to see people push my love away, not knowing how much I care about them...not understanding how deeply I care...rather somehow misinterpreting something I've said or done as anything but love.

Then, I thought how that must be for God love so deeply and yet be rejected when I don't understand His love and feel like He's hurting me, instead of loving me...thinking He's being cruel and unjust when He is really doing what He knows is best for me...when in reality, He is loving me with a love deeper than anything I have ever imagined.

I'm sure glad I'm not God. I'm pretty sure I'd have withdrawn and quit loving a long time ago. Teach me to love as you do, Father...even when rejected, even when misunderstood, even when it hurts. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quito Trip Update

Dear Praying Friends,

I arrived home late Saturday evening, July 17th, and immediately hit the ground running. My youngest daughter, Rachel, left on her own mission trip the following Saturday (and is currently serving in Mexico). I also had to prepare to teach our women’s Sunday School class this past Sunday. I feel like I am just now having a chance to catch my breath and process all that God did during my week in Quito.

It is hard to briefly summarize the trip, as any of you who have ever been on a mission trip can attest to, I’m sure. I will do my best, however. One thing that was an over-riding factor throughout the trip was seeing how God showed up and answered our prayers every time we called upon Him…and how quickly our team did call upon Him for our every need.

Johanna, our team member from Columbia flew through customs without even being asked to show her documentation…all while we were praying. (For more on that story, read the first day’s entry on our team blog— We arrived at the school to do VBS, on the first day, and were told we couldn’t do it. We prayed and within five minutes were setting up for VBS…also described in more detail on the blog. One of our team members got very sick and we thought might have to go to the hospital. We prayed and the next morning was up before any of us and ready to go work in the garden. Another team member couldn’t find her passport, the night before we were to return back to Texas. We prayed and within a few minutes the passport was found. These are just a few of the many times we turned to Him and saw Him answer, as only He can do.

I was so excited when we attended the Dios el Fiel church on Sunday because in preparing the music for VBS, I had learned enough Spanish to understand a lot of what the pastor was saying. He spoke about the fact that no problem is too big for God. He is grande (great), fuerte (strong), poderoso (powerful) and magnifico (magnificent). He is Lord of all and there is nothing He cannot do. We need to keep our focus on Him. This seemed to be a theme for me throughout the week.

God specifically touched my heart through the children and women to whom we ministered, as well as through the beauty of His creation in Ecuador. We ministered to children at a school—Amor y Esparanza—as well as children along the streets of Quito.

Many people make a living selling goods along the streets. While doing so, their children sit (or play) right along the curbs and medians or these busy streets. We even saw children as young as five or six selling goods too. It is a heartbreaking sight to see. One of our missions was to distribute sack lunches—consisting of a sandwich, milk, and tract—to these children and to tell them “Jesus te ama” (Jesus loves you). It was very likely that was the only meal they got that day.
Amor y Esparanza is in the most poverty stricken area of Quito. It is a private, Christian school for children whose parents could not otherwise afford a good education for their children. Some come from Christian families, but most are there simply to get a good education. These children were a true example of loving unconditionally. They sure knew how to love and also how to receive love. They are so needy and craving for love. They soaked in every ounce of love we had to offer them…both ours and the love of Jesus.

Wow! Did they know how to worship! I was not prepared for children who sang and worshipped like they did. I was in charge of the music and expected to teach them. Instead, they taught me. These precious children—girls and boys of all ages—would wrap their arms around each other, raise their hands, or bow their heads in prayer, without any cue or instruction from us, as they sang their hearts out to the Lord in praise and worship. It was one of the most touching moments, as I fought back the tears every single day.

On the day we presented the message of salvation, this little girl, Genesis, shared with her group leader that she had heard about Jesus dying on the cross ever since she was a little girl. However, she finally understood what it meant for her…for the first time. Genesis is now a child of God. Her mother was weeping as she was thanking me on the last day…great, uncontrollable, tears of joy.

I had the opportunity to work with the moms one day. Johanna, who speaks fluent Spanish (being from Columbia), shared her testimony and then we helped them make tote bags. Though, I could communicate very little with words, the women really connected through smiles, touch and love…just as their children had. Again, I feel I was blessed far more than I blessed them when they were leaving and began thanking me…not only for helping them but for working with their children.

This woman was a mom and also on staff at the school. God prompted my heart to really reach out to her everyday, letting her know how much we appreciated being able to serve at the school. She was always smiling, yet was heavy on my heart everyday. She wept on the last day as I thanked her (through a translator) for allowing us to come and then thanked me for all we had done. I found out later that day—back at the dorms—that on our first day, she had received a phone call and had asked one of our team members to pray for restoration of her family. Please continue to pray for her. I don’t know her name…God does.

I mentioned near the beginning of this letter that God touched my heart through His creation. Many of you know how much I love the mountains of Colorado and am always ready to return there as soon as I get back to Texas. I fell in love with the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, much the same. And yes, I am ready to go back!

One of our final days in Quito, I went to the roof of the dorms for my quiet time. As I watched the sun rising, with the majestic mountains towering over the city, God really spoke to me and I wrote the following prayer.
How refreshing it is to start my morning outdoors, relishing in the beauty you have created. Even in the midst of this city, filled with barking dogs, honking horns, all too close airplanes landing and departing, and the never-ending sirens, your majestic mountains rise amidst the low clouds and beaming sun. What a great reminder that you ARE grande, fuerte, poderoso and magnifico! You are greater than the poverty, more powerful than the corruption; stronger than the crime. You are magnificent and Lord of ALL! You are the creator of the universe-of these mountains and of every man, woman and child living here…and you love them dearly.

Whether I am in Quito, Ecuador or Fort Worth, TX, God is still God. He is still grande, fuerte, poderoso, and magnifico. He is still fiel (faithful). And He is still God in each of your lives as well. I pray you will join me in expecting the unexpected in your own life, as you pursue the mission God has for you…wherever you are.

Thank you for all your prayers and your support. I could not have gone on this incredible journey without each of you. You were a vital part.

Debbie Guinn

PS Yes, that was me, hanging upside down from a zip line, over the cloud forest…and yes, it was intentional.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oh How Natural It Is

This is an article I wrote in January 2009 that is the basis for the class I taught this morning.  It is Part 3 of a three part series, entitled Understanding the Father's Love.  Click on the links, within the article, to read Parts 1 and 2.  

Our Response
Oh How Natural It Is
©By Debbie Guinn 
"We love because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

Last January—January 6, 2008, to be exact—our pastor preached a sermon that has continued to make an impact on my life, even today.  This sermon, titled “Resolutions to Remember” was not your ordinary new year’s resolution pep talk.  It was taken from Matthew 22:34-40 and he challenged us with two resolutions that we not only should make but also showed us how those were resolutions that we could keep all year long…and longer. 

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the greatest commandment in the law is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Our number one resolution should be to love God with all of who we are…with every single fiber of our being.  Our pastor explained how we often try to put God as our top priority, placing family, friends, careers, etc. in a priority list under Him.  However, that doesn’t work because we often end up separating God out from those other things.  He explained that loving God should be our defining priority—like the center of a wheel—with all of the other things in our lives stemming out from Him (like spokes).  When loving Him is our defining priority, it will influence every other relationship and commitment we have in our life.

Jesus goes on in Matthew 22:39 to say that the second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Many people have used this verse to say that Jesus is telling us we need to love ourselves before we can love others.  However, that isn’t what Jesus is saying.  He was talking to the Pharisees who had no problem loving themselves; they thought quite highly of themselves already.  Jesus is saying that we are to love others in the exact same way that we love ourselves…to elevate others to the same level we value ourselves. 

Notice that verse 40 says “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Think about that for a minute.  If I steal, bear false witness (lie), commit adultery, dishonor my parents, covet, etc., my attitude is in a place that says I am of more value than you.  Do you see how all these commandments are summed up under this one?  The Pharisees had created hundreds of laws but all of the God given laws go back to these two commandments right here.

I am constantly amazed at God’s perfect timing.  I have longed to finish the series I started back in June on Understanding the Father’s Love.  Month after month, I have sat down and tried to write this third segment but God has redirected me to another topic.  Today, however, I see how perfect His timing is as I remember just how much He taught me in this very area one year ago today when He convicted and challenged me in my own heart to respond to His love for me by loving in return.

Understanding my Father’s love has been a step by step process for me…one where each step has built on the other. Since it has been so long since I’ve written on this subject, I do want to do just a brief review of what I’ve talked about already.  The first step for me was to fully understand that father/child relationship with my Father…to see myself as a Daddy’s girl.  To read more about this, check out the June article, Daddy’s Girl.  Once, I clearly established that relationship, I began to understand more of the width and length, height and depth of Christ’s love. As I did, I found that I was able to trust God more and more with my life…finding that His love for me was perfect and perfect love does indeed cast out all fear.  My July article, Freedom from Fear, talked about the incredible freedom from fear that I have found as I have learned to trust His perfect love for me.

That brings us to this article.  As I began experiencing freedom from fear, that freedom went far beyond the basic fears of something terrible happening to one of my children, financial ruin, etc.  I also found myself free from other fears such as the fear to love.  I opened my heart to God’s love, trusting in His perfect love, and discovered I was no longer afraid to love…to love not only God but others as well.  So, how could understanding my Father’s love for me enable me to love others without fear?

I didn’t exactly jump from understanding God’s love for me to being able to love others.  It began with loving Him, first and foremost.  Loving God actually came somewhat easily once I understood just how much He loved me.  It really isn’t hard to love those we know truly love us; it just seems to come naturally once that trust is developed.  When we know we are loved by a parent, spouse, or friend, our natural response is to love them in return.  It is the same with God.  The more I comprehended just how deeply God loved me, the more in love with Him I became.

Last January 6th, I made a commitment to God to make loving Him my defining priority. That sermon made so much sense to me.  I had tried for years to make Him my top priority and always failed because I never knew how to find time for all the other important things in life without setting Him aside.  When I heard that simple concept of making Him the defining priority, rather than the top priority, it all made sense.  My constant prayer this year has been that loving Him would be at the center, influencing every single thing that I do.

As I began to really focus on loving God, I noticed a connection between loving Him and being loved by Him.  I so wanted to love Him with every ounce of my being, not because I was commanded to but because the more I understood how much He loved me, the more I wanted to love Him in return.  It was just this natural sense of wanting—a yearning with all that was within me—to love Him in return.  I didn’t need a command to make me love Him…I longed to love Him.  1 John 4:19—“ We love because he loved us first.”—took on new meaning for me.

I am able to love, not only God but others as well, because He loved me first.  It is His love for me that enables me to love.  1 John 4:7-8 begins with a command to love one another.  However, it explains that love comes from God. I must first know God and be born of Him in order to love; I cannot love, if I do not know God because God IS love. As I learn to accept, receive and trust His love then I am free to love in return…and oh how wonderful that freedom is!

It doesn’t end there, though. 1 John 4:11-12 says “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”.  The word we get “complete” from in the Greek means "to bring to an end by completing or perfecting; to add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full.”  It is in loving others that God’s love comes full circle so to speak.  All emptiness and longing to be loved is made full—is perfected and made complete—when I love others out of His love for me.

I am able to love because He loved me first. The more I understand God’s unfathomable love for me, the more I find it impossible to keep that love to myself. I am free to love and long to love God with all of my heart, soul and mind and to love others as myself. As I do so, the deep longing that I’ve always had to be loved is being filled to overflowing with the most perfect love imaginable…the love of my Father.

I challenge you to make loving the Lord your God with all or who you are your defining priority this year…your Number One Resolution. My second challenge is that loving your neighbor as yourself—placing the same value on others as you do yourself—will be your Number Two Resolution. If you can’t do those two things, then I pray that you will ask the Father to help you understand his love for you. (My two previous articles on Understanding the Father’s Love—Daddy’s Girl and Freedom from Fear—might help.)

May you Press in to Him in 2009!

Healing my Wounded Heart

God is ever faithful and He is at work, healing my own wounded heart.  I was to teach in my Sunday School class today...teach about our Response to our Father's love.  What should our response be to His amazing love?  Quite simply loving in return...loving Him and loving others. 

I didn't want to teach.  I didn't feel what I knew was in that understanding His love sets us free to love because we can trust our Father to only allow people in our lives who are ultimately for our good and His glory. But I prepared my lesson, out of obedience to my Father, who does love me, and is faithful to only allow what is good for me.  It may not always feel good at the moment but it is good and He knows that.  

As I prepared and as I taught, a little part of me began healing as my precious Father taught me those powerful truths once again.  Thank you Father for the process you are taking me through of healing my wounded heart.  I know this is all part of a much bigger work you are doing in me...much deeper things you want to teach me...much greater plans you have for my life.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Seeking Him for Unanswered Questions

This past month has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Four weeks ago today, I was getting on a plane for Colorado, where I spent eight wonderful days in the Rocky Mountains with my daughter, Rachel, and some wonderful friends. After ten furious days filled with unpacking, laundry, repacking, doctor appointments, team meetings, teaching my women's Sunday School class, and celebrating my daughter's birthday, I boarded the plane once again...this time, heading for the mountains and mission field of Quito Ecuador, for eight days.

I feel like I should be writing a prayer update to my supporters--or at the least, updating my Facebook--letting people know how the mission trip went. Instead, I sit here, unable to do much more than cry out to my Father, God...searching for answers as to what it is that He is wanting to do in my heart.

The trip was amazing in many ways. I fell in love with so many of the children we worked with at Amor y Exparanza... 

as well as the majestic mountains which surround the city...a reminder that God is still God over this city full of poverty, crime and devastation.

I was in charge of the music for VBS and I have never experienced children worship like I did in Quito. I wanted to weep every single day as I watched those children embrace each other, lifting their hands, bowing to their knees in prayer, as they sang "Tu Fidelidad" (You are Faithful).

We saw God work in so many ways, answering on our behalf, as soon as we turned to Him in prayer.  (You can read more about the many answered prayers on our Quito 2010 blog.)

At the same time, my heart was struggling in ways I could not express...ways I had not anticipated.  A theme God had given me several months prior to this mission trip was "expect the unexpected from unexpected people."  I had shortened that to "expect the unexpected."  I must say I saw many unexpected things happen during this trip...much of it coming from unexpected people.  For example, I never expected those children to bless me like they did through their worship.  Oh, I expected to be blessed by them...just not to the extent I was through the way they worshiped in song.

However, when God gave me that phrase, I thought it meant only good things.  I never dreamed He was preparing me to face pain in areas where I least expected it and from people whom I least expected it....and I certainly never expected it to happen on a mission trip.  You see, as I headed to Quito, I was--in reality--expecting the expected from expected people.  I was expecting good from good people...whether it be those I came into contact with as I ministered at the school, did our work project, at the airport, or other places we went.  I was not expecting heartache and pain...other than that of seeing the suffering in Ecuador.  So, when it hit, I was not prepared; I was not expecting it...and certainly not from the sources from which it came.

I realize, however, that it is only a continuation of something God has been trying to teach me for the past several months...something I am desperately trying to learn...yet something I am still clueless as to what it is.  I feel there is a battle raging within where a part of me wants to withdraw from the world and never write or speak again. In fact, I never want to open my mouth and utter a single word.  I'd rather retreat into my shell as the quiet, withdrawn person I used to be because I feel that is what others perfer.  Yet, I know God wants to teach me through everything that has gone on--not only this past week, but the past several months.  I know that He loves me too much to allow anything into my life that isn't ultimately for my good and His glory. Therefore, all of what has taken place is somehow a part of His plan and I will seek His face until He reveals it to me...however long it takes.

And so, I am pressing hard in to Him today...thankful that very few people ever read this blog...that it is a safe place where I can share my heart, along with what little I can right now about my trip.  I need time to process things and then i will share more with others when I am able..