My Life Verse

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Always

Always is a song that I have come to really like since my trip to Ghana. It is by Kristian Stanfill. The first time I was introduced to this song was at Ghana Team Meetings prior to my trip. I will never forget when we were in NY at a different airport because our plane was delayed due to weather conditions and we were singing the lyrics "Oh my God, He will not delay". haha. Anyways, here are the lyrics and the video from youtube. I hope you are blessed by it just as much as I am!

My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Troubles surround me, chaos abounding
My soul will rest in You
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
From You Lord, from You Lord

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always, always






Remember today and each day that God is with you always and He is there to help you with whatever it is that you are going through. We serve such a good God!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

When God brought Africa to me...



*I know this blog is quite long in length, so I understand if you don't read it all. If you choose not to read it all, I suggest you at least watch the 4th, 5th, and last video. You will be blessed.



Last week, God brought Africa to me when a friend invited me to hear an Africa Children's Choir sing at Marnatha Chapel. Little did I know, I would love it so much that I would go back to hear it again...and again!  It was nothing short of amazing. I felt like such a creeper, showing up at various churches that I don't normally attend and watching them perform. haha. I will do my best to describe all the emotions I felt, and the impact the people of Africa have on me, but sometimes it's simply unexplainable. I know God has something in store for me that entails Africa in the future. I dream of starting an Orphanage out there one day. A place where people who say "I would love to go to Africa some day" can actually go and experience the culture and joy. Along my journey to and from Africa twice,  I've encountered at least a handful of people who have said such a thing  and triggered this idea in my mind. The people there are amazing, but most of all, I love their hearts for the Lord- which are genuine, true, and God-centered. Times like this really cause me to ponder more about God's future plans for me and Africa. I really think that my deep desire to dance and worship with them must mean something. There is just something about those Africans that catches my heart every time. I want to be around them. I can't stop smiling and stay in their presence as long as possible.I love their accents, too. My favorite part of being in Africa was the praise and worship music as well as the dancing. Recently, the Lord blessed me with another opportunity to enjoy Africa..this time without physically going there! :) He always knows what we need most, and loves to spoil us! A dose of Africa in the states is just what I needed. Thank you, God! 

Before I show you a glimpse of this choir via videos, I would like to clarify something. I know many of you may think I'm crazy. Why would Katie talk so highly of Africa and the people in Africa when she struggled so much both times she went to Africa? I can understand why you'd feel this way and I apologize for giving you this perception. Even though it was challenging for me and I didn't quite do so well being so far from family and friends, the fact is that the people remain the same in this culture. So genuine, so loving, so welcoming, so joyful. They have nothing, yet they love Jesus with everything they do have and thank Him even in the midst of troubles. Now that's Biblical! "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:23 I also can see where you'd get that perspective because when I'm in Africa, I miss home. When I'm home, I miss Africa. And all of you get to hear about it. It must be confusing! 

However, each time I've returned home, it has taken less and less time for me to be open to the idea of returning to Africa. There's just a special place in my heart for Africa and it's indescribable. Maybe one day, when my dream is fulfilled, you can come and visit the Orphanage the Lord provides for me to open in Africa and experience firsthand what I am talking about.  :) I know I am called to go back and do more, but I believe there is more equipping and preparation that needs to happen before I go back to Africa. I believe God has big plans in store for me that involve Africa. And I believe that while I'm waiting for God's perfect timing for my return to Africa, along will come that special someone who will join forces with me as I pursue my dream.

Here are some video clips and photos from the Watoto Africa Children's Choir, from Uganda:



(Down in Africa- The opening song of the Watoto African Children's Choir at Maranatha Chapel, 2011)


(Hallelujah Watoto Style- so much fun!)



(SHINE- This is one of my favorite songs)


(Lord, I Need You- This is my FAVORITE song and video!)





(I Am Not Forgotten- Another fun one!)



After watching the Watoto Children's Choir sing three times, I walked away with some new friends: Paula, Hellen, and Moses. 

The first time I saw Watoto perform, I kept going back to the merchandise table to this same woman. Her name is Paula. She is beautiful and was very sweet to me. She oversees the Tour 50 for Watoto Children's Choir. She was kind enough to get sweet Hellen, my next friend, from backstage, so that I could meet her. At the second show, I was purchasing a necklace, and I asked her if she remembered me. She said she kept thinking "I know this face" but she wasn't sure and was going to ask me. I told her Teacher Katie, and she said Oh, yessss. :) At the third show, she recognized me immediately and was delighted to see me and receive this photo that I printed and gave to her. When sweet Hellen and I walked up to her, she said "I see somebody found Teacher Katie" :)


 
After the first show, Paula was kind enough to go and get a little girl named Hellen for me from backstage so that I could meet her. Helen spoke on stage saying that she had been with Watoto for only 1 year and she is 8 years old. Helen said that she would like to be a Teacher. This melted my heart, of course, and I wanted to meet her and encourage this precious girl on her journey to becoming a Teacher. I had given Helen's chaperon a piece of paper with Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" on it and a note from me: To: Helen Love: Katie from America (Teacher) You can do it! After the second show, I asked Helen if she recognized me and she shook her head no. Then I told her, I'm Teacher Katie, and she smiled and remembered. The third show, she was joyful yet again and especially so when I gave her this photo of us. She was so excited to go show "Auntie Paula" as we walked into the sanctuary to find her. I can still picture the moment I gave this photo to Hellen and the immense joy in her face and the glow in her eyes. She lit up. It was so precious. I wanted to take her home or travel with them. I really hope to connect with her again one day.

 
The third friend I made is named Moses. He is 13 years old. At the second show (left), I went to the sponsorship table during my lingering. I noticed someone was sponsoring sweet Hellen. I was thankful. Having been touched by these children and people in Watoto, I wanted to support someone. I asked the woman if everybody in Watoto 50 tour had been sponsored. She informed me that she only had one child left who had not yet been sponsored by somebody. His name is Moses. I looked over his card, read it, and thought, I must sponsor him! God will provide the money I need each month for him. So, after doing the transaction and filling out the paperwork, the woman went to get Moses so that I could meet him! (At this time, I didn't know I would be back to the night show that same day) At the evening show (right) he recognized me and you can see the joy in his face as we reunited. I told him I would write to him. I told him that I gave Hellen a photo but I asked that we take a photo with my camera so that I could send him one when he returns to Uganda.

The following is a video of Hellen and Moses during the show. I apologize that it is sideways. The important part is the words they are saying. The evening shows are different than the morning, so after I sponsored Moses in the morning, I learned that he also had a speaking part that evening and was excited to catch it on video! 



During the show, I cried a lot. I can't even describe why to be honest. I just think God created a big piece of my heart for Africa. And when He brings moments like this where I get to be in the presence of people who are from Africa, along with all of the above I described that I love, I can't help but cry. I cry to know many people are suffering out there. I cry knowing that God has something big in store for me that involves this beautiful country and these beautiful people. I cry because part of my heart is created for Africa. I am called to go. "For you did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last." John 15:14 For Christians, it's like when you find your calling and God's perfect will for you and you are in it the center of it. When you find what God has created you for, and you are in any sort of nearness to it, it's simply amazing. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me as He is clearly preparing me for it now.

I know to some of you this may seem strange. You might think to yourself, So, this Katie girl, she goes to Africa, gets homesick even with a group of people and comes home after two weeks. Goes back to a different part of Africa, stays longer, gets homesick again, comes back sooner than planned, and still wants to go back. She's crazy! What does she even like about it? It sure seems to me like she's miserable. Well, you're right. It probably looks that way on the outside, but on the inside my heart is burning for Africa. I long to go back, no matter how many challenging things I face every time that I am there. This time though, since having returned, I know that I cannot go back alone unless it is for a short time to the Orphanage I lived at last summer. I need a friend or a life partner to return with me. And I believe God is bringing him to me soon. I just can't get enough of Africa.

So, what's next? Good question. A trip to Israel to see and walk through the places that Jesus walked and talked. I am in a season of solidifying my faith in God and getting to know Jesus more. I believe Israel will be a great conclusion to this significant season by giving me the opportunity to physically be where this man I am pursuing lived and walked thousands of years ago. It does not mean my relationship with God or pursuit of Him will end, just that my season of really solidifying my faith through studying the Word like never before, praying, and strengthening my relationship will end. I will have a better grip of my faith and who Jesus is and why I choose to pursue Him at that point. And although I do not know where in Africa I will go next, or even when, I do know that I made some new friends from Uganda and I would love to go visit the Watoto Village in Kampala, Uganda someday.


HEY!


*Some extra videos from youtube I found of songs that I didn't record are featured below for those who enjoy the videos :)





Friday, December 9, 2011

The Fruit of Silence

Begin with Silence was the name of one of my devotionals yesterday. It came from the devotional book titled "Take My Heart, Oh God" by Sarah Young, which entail Riches from the Greatest Christian Women Writers of All Times. Each day, Sarah begins with a quote from someone and today's quote was from Mother Teresa. It brought me back to the words I had seen walking one day with a friend. I took pictures because I thought it was so neat that someone wrote these sweet things to brighten someone's day and I never posted them. So, here they are:


The Fruit of Silence is Prayer.




The Fruit of Prayer is Faith.


The Fruit of Faith is Love.





The Fruit of Love is Service.


The Fruit of Service  is Peace.



"The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is SILENCE." Mother Teresa

Directly from the devotional:

Tending to the needs of the sick, the suffering, and the dying, Mother Teresa shared the light of Christ with the world. She practiced five simple steps in her life, steps that led to peace. Each step builds upon the previous step, and so step one is vital- the need for us to find a place of silence in order to commune with God.

Silence allows us to open our hearts to God, who longs for us to turn to him. This followed by prayer, where we share our concerns with God. Prayer leads to faith, which wells up our hearts as confident trust in our Savior. The reassurance allows us to embrace others with kindness and to serve them. That kind of service brings peace. Like falling back onto a scrumptious featherbed, God's peace enfolds us to bring us in silence back to him, to begin the cycle again.

"The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32:17


If you have Peace, give some to someone who nees it!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Day of Thankfulness






Happy Belated Thanksgiving!! :) Thanksgiving is A Day of Thankfulness. A day to be with family and friends. A day to eat lots of food. A day of giving thanks.

*I began this blog on Thanksgiving morning, attempting to count my blessings and recognize what and who I am thankful for, yet my day did not go as I had expected and this blog was incomplete Thanksgiving Day.

I have to admit and confess: I was quite the opposite of thankful on the day of Thanksgiving and those to follow.  I am embarrassed to admit this, however it is the truth. My family can testify that I was not being myself, I was "out of it", quiet, and irritated. And, why was this? Good question! Looking back, I believe it was because I was "in a rut", focused on myself, and worried about many things. I allowed my self-centerdness to affect how thankful I was on A Day of Thanks. Wow! This is not an easy thing to admit, but I know I could not have been the only one who wasn't thankful on thanksgiving, or who was irritated somehow, focusing on myself. How could it be that we are given one day a year to be thankful and I blew it. That leads me to something I can be thankful for...God's grace and a new start, everyday. It took me a few days to "snap out of it" as some may call, but I believe that it took me some time to "Strengthen myself in the Lord" and be humbled in the process as I recognized my selfishness and chose to change my attitude so that it aligned with Christ's. The day following Thanksgiving, I did my best to be Christ-like as I spent time in God's word at a nearby Starbucks. God urged me to read Philippians 2, which states as follows:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but to each of you to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset/ attitude as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Philippians 2:14-15

*The entire chapter 2 of Philippians is very good and if you're looking for a short read in general, the entire book of Philippians is only 4 chapters, but it is very profound!

And so, here is the post that I began on the Day of Thanks...

What if today you only have what you were thankful for yesterday? 

A friend recently shared this with me and I thought to myself...some days I might have nothing if this were true. Other days I'd have a lot. And when I sit down and reflect on how thankful I really am, I find out I'm not a very thankful person. I don't know about you, but I am first of all thankful for one day every year to be reminded to be thankful.

The Bible talks being thankful in many different places, yet somehow, I still manage to forget to be thankful everyday. What about you? Do you start your day off with thanksgiving? Let's be reminded of the following Scriptures and do the best we can to become more thankful people. Why should we only be thankful one day each year? According to the quote above, we'd have nothing except for the day after Thanksgiving.

The Bible defines THANK(FUL)(FULNESS)(S)(GIVING) as to express gratitude or appreciation

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." Psalm 95:2

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

""The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said..." 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3

*Here is where I left off and I pick up again...

After reflecting on this Day of Thanks I realize that everyday is an opportunity to be thankful. I have actually been much more thankful since Sunday, when I strengthened myself in the Lord and acted on His word. I am currently reading the Jesus Calling Devotional book by Sarah Young and the past week or so has been about thankfulness. She writes from God's perspective writing to us. Here are some words that she shared in her devotional that stuck out to me...

Every time you thank Me, you acknowledge that I am your Lord and Provider. This is the proper stance for a child of God: receiving with thanksgiving.

Let thankfulness rule in your heart. As you thank Me for blessings in your life, a marvelous thing happens. It is as if scales fall off your eyes, enabling you to see more and more of My glorious riches.

A life of praise and thankfulness becomes a life filled with miracles. Instead of trying to be in control, you focus on Me and what I am doing. This is the power of praise: centering your entire being in Me. This is how I created you to live, for I made you in My own image. Enjoy abundant life by overflowing with praise and thankfulness.

Walk with Me along the high road of thanksgiving, and you will find all the delights I have made ready to you.

To protect your thankfulness, you must remember that you reside in a fallen world, where blessings and sorrows intermingle freely. Neglecting the practice of giving thanks has darkened their minds. How precious are My children who remember to thank Me at all times. They can walk through the darkest days with Joy in their hearts because they know that the Light of My Presence is still shining on them.

Thank Me frequently as you journey though today. This practice makes it possible to pray without ceasing, as the apostle Paul taught. If you are serious about learning to pray continually, the best approach is to thank Me in every situation. These thankful prayers will provide a solid foundation on which you can build all your other prayers. Moreover, a grateful attitude makes it easier for you to communicate with me.

When your mind is occupied with thanking Me, you have no time for worrying or complaining. If you practice thankfulness consistently, negative thought patterns will gradually grow weaker and weaker. Draw near to Me with a grateful heart, and My Presence will fill you with Joy and Peace.

Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience- at times, blind obedience. To people who don't know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships.

Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see it from My perspective.

May you understand that even in the midst of pursuing Him, there are times you may not feel thankful. I mean, look at me, someone pursuing Him with all she has, and is not thankful on the most thankful day of the year. This has to show you that I'm not perfect, Christians aren't perfect. But we can learn from our experiences and for me this thanksgiving it was that I need to be thankful daily, not just one day every year. I encourage you to be thankful more often. We have so much to be thankful for, it's not that hard if you look around. Just begin professing it and watch how God transforms you through the process.