Well this post has been long overdue, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get it out to everyone! I started writing a draft of it, because I knew it was going to be lengthy, but ended up canning it and decided I would just start from scratch.
So where to begin…
The first and most prominent action we’ve taken as a team is to pray over EVERYTHING and to go to that first before anything else. We’ve prayed over a malfunctioning freezer which miraculously started holding a seal and freezing temperature. We’ve prayed over burns, scrapes, tiredness, and scratchy voices, all of which have been healed through a Spirit given strength, though most of us are only getting 5-7 hours of sleep a night. It’s weird typing this out because I sound like one of those “crazy Christians” that I often meet with a cynical attitude, with the unspoken mindset that seems to suggest “God doesn’t do those things anymore.” But the humbling reality is that prayer changes everything.
Last week, we had torrential downpours all weekend before our first group. We checked the weather for the week and everyday had forecasts for thunderstorms. We couldn’t afford to take on 7 indoor jobs along with all of the outside jobs we already lined up for the groups and it was just looking like it was going to be a rough week to say the least. But every day, we would pray and it wouldn’t rain for the whole workday. The worksite I’ve spent a lot of my time (and all of last week) at is actually 3 plots of land side by side with folks living in a trailer-house on each plot. They are all related and our construction team decided it would be awesome to fix each of the houses, with three different crews working on them simultaneously. We started with the roofs which has been no easy task; and it is so crucial for it to not rain so we can continue to protect the residents from the elements. One day Roy, the resident on the first plot and Ronnie on the second both came out at separate times, both watching the weather on their televisions at separate times and warning each crew that tarps should be ready to go up… because it’s going to rain. The radar put the front headed right towards us and it looked ugly. But the coolest thing happened… as we prayed and lifted up our residents, Roy and Ronnie came out a little later, after the skies had been so blue all day, and reported that the front just totally dissipated. Today, there was a heavy rain at the church. So we prayed and were concerned about the crews still out at the worksites and for the residents. We talked to the crews as they came back, we asked if the rain was rough and they said “what rain?” Each worksite is within a 15 minute drive or less, and somehow, none of them experienced any rain, and the groups finished their work.
Worship has been the same way. Every night, instead of our emotions or own physical limitations inhibiting worship, God has strengthened us, eased us and just totally taken control every night. It is absolutely incredible what prayer can do. I’ve given sermons I never thought I was capable of, said things that I knew were not my own and I just smile, knowing God is using me for His will, everyday. In the words of our friend and worship director Jake, “God’s been flexing his muscle.”
Though these weeks have not come without challenges.
For example, it’s tough maintaining a level of excitement over certain tasks that are becoming mundane. So with that in mind these verses below have been a huge conviction, and I’ve now taken them on as a challenge, a challenge that I should be obedient too:
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.
Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. Philippians 2:12-18 (NLT)
I wanted to give the whole context of the section, because really the whole letter of Philippians is incredible, especially Chapter 2 (go read it now if you haven’t!). But the bolded sentences above are a huge conviction for me and what I’ve been really trying to grasp and meditate on. When I’m tired, which is pretty much most of the time here, I get naturally less caring, a little more aggressive and overall a lowered tolerance for the little things that go astray. So complaining Cody easily slips out and dances his jig of negativity until finally I take a nap or go to prayer and just surrender it all to Christ. Doing both has certainly worked the best.
However, next to conviction, I have discovered incredible encouragement from the Word while I’ve been here as well. I let one of the students borrow my ESV bible last week before I bought two more bibles at a christian bookstore store in Gulfport this past weekend (I am currently toting around 3 translations: ESV, NLT, and the Message, along with the NIV on my phone and a hardcopy on the way… so 4 haha I love it!). She ended up giving it back and slipping in a postcard with this verse on it, and it will likely now take the spot as my favorite bible verses and motto by which I live by:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
I could go on for hours as to what these verses mean to me, so I hope you might also find conviction and encouragement from them. Disciplining myself to get into the Word daily so I can speak of that Word daily has been a huge stepping stone for me here. I must not be disqualified for the prize, because the race just seems too beautiful to give up.
Life has just been awesome. Tiring but awesome, and God has been so good. Rather, he’s always been good, I just have failed to see that in the past. Don’t ever forget, prayer changes everything.
So as always, here’s somethings we’ll be lifting up here:
+ continued great weather
+ my friend Mike’s son, Micah, who is dealing with tourette’s syndrome and struggling with some really difficult tics
+ one of our staff has a cousin diagnosed with brain cancer and a short time estimated to live
+ a continual surrender everyday, that we as a team, would keep giving Him all the glory, every day.
I love you all, thanks for taking the time to read this. We are currently in our second week with our last workday with this week’s groups today! I’ll be sure to try and post another blog on saturday with some pictures and perhaps not so lengthy. See you on the sabbath. If you need some new tunes, check out a new section of the blog I started below:)
Because each group and each member of our staff brings in their own musical influences, I thought I’d start a little “must listen” area of the blog that I might try and keep up with.
Go Download/Spotify this:
+ Artist: Will Reagan & United Pursuit
Album: Live At the Banks House
If you’re down with folksy worship music in a house, reminiscent of John Denver in a crowd, with incredibly inspiring lyrics then you’re in for a treat. If you do not like any of that, give it a try anyway. Thanks to our incredible first group from Boulder, Colorado (Go Buffs!), this album is now on repeat on most of our computers or phones daily. If you want to stick with just one or two songs, snag The Climb and Set a Fire. Reagan’s songs are pretty long but totally worth the full listen. This blog title is taken from a verse in The Climb.
+ Artist: Cory Asbury
Song: So Good to Me
This song is a Next Step Ministries anthem and a really popular song amongst the groups. Super catchy and easy to pickup. It’s one of those songs you don’t mind getting stuck in your head. In fact, you want it to be.
+ Artist: Hillsong Live
Song: Cornerstone (Live)
Although the full album is not out yet, you can grab the single now!