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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Damn Christianese Part 2

I asked myself today: What would you want to do if there were no limitations or set backs, only options?

This is what I wrote in my journal:

I want to be in the city, in the thick of it. I want to be a friend to my neighbors and be a catalyst in their lives. I want to make neighbors out of the homeless, the people I pass on the day to day; build community. I want to have a home that feeds, shelters, comforts, brings laughter and peace, incites rest, mentors, inspires, and acts as a launching pad.

Directly after my heart spilled effortlessly onto the page I wrote, "But I wonder, is it too normal Lord?"

Too normal?! Instantly I was reminded of how normal Jesus' life was. He didn't come as the conquering King flowered in glory, He came as a man; son of a carpenter. He came in the simplest and most humble of entries that anyone could come into this world. Structurally, His life wasn't exotic. We tend to imagine His life as more glamorous and abnormal, but that's mostly because we are thinking of the bizarre miracles He performed and of His controversial teachings; things which accounted for only 3 years of His life. Nonetheless they were signs and wonders done within the context of a normal life, an intentional life dedicated to purpose. Think about it.

And this is why I hate what Christianese has done because it takes a good thing and makes it less than; to think that because you're not in the jungle somewhere with a Bible and a backpack that you aren't living to your utmost for Him. I don't believe it and I still find its hooks in my life!

It can't be said enough that stewardship is the highest calling. It is the first and constant calling that man has been given since Genesis; a continuous theme in the Bible. How you steward your life is between you and God, something that is not to be measured or compared against any other life. If someone wants to go trekking through the jungle to reach some unheard of tribe with the gospel, let them; but if you want to go and be a teacher in your community, a foster parent, a barista, whatever- then you need to let yourself.

Trust me, there is nothing glamorous about what people label as "the mission field" other than the airs and sheen we apply.

Too normal??? How can we say such a thing? The very definition of normal means "conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected." And Jesus Himself came to set what would be the new-normal, the new standard.

Normal doesn't imply the absence of greatness, rather it sets the stage for it. So embrace your life, normal though it may be, and steward it well with intention and dedication to purpose. And as always, damn Christianese.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Damn Christianese

We have got to change the way we talk. People get hung up on words like "damn", "shit" and "hell" but they don't stutter or pause to think of the destructive nature that lies within their Christianese.

For years I went around frivolously using the words "missionary", "mission-field", "missions", and "ministry." I was proud when I was finally in line to be cast under their definition and I was heartbroken when I saw the aftermath of their use.

"Names are an important key to what a society values. Anthropologists recognize naming as 'one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception.'" (David S. Slawson) The problem with these names and titles we, as a Christian society, have created is that they are an attempt to define and describe the work and life of the bearer and segregates it all (the bearer and his life and work) into a category of value. In other words, 'The "missionary's" work is valuable, but the baker's is not as valuable...at least not in the Kingdom or the church.'

We, as a Church, may believe that everyone is a "missionary" and every area of life a potential "mission-field", but that's not what we are communicating. The titles are still exclusive, the lands are still exotic, the work still glamorous.

I wrestled with this facade because I got to the land that had been dubbed "the mission-field" and I found myself left with a universal duty to live intentionally. That was all I could do and that's all I did do; I tried to lead a normal life with intention. The only difference, I felt, that separated me from the intentional baker was my location. But I eventually realized that there was more that separated me from the baker and it was what I called myself and what I allowed myself to be called; a passivity that left bakers, teachers, waitresses, fishermen, construction workers, and so many others feeling less valuable to the cause we call the Kingdom.

And here in lies the word's greatest weakness: They can't define the work and life of the bearer. Only, and I mean only, the bearer can do that.

"What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet" (William Shakespeare). It is the aroma of the flower that sets it apart, not the name that we give it. It is valuable because of what it is at its core, because of its essence, not because of its title or name.

"Missionary" cannot define what you do or who you are. "Missions" and "Ministry" are not verbs. And "Mission-field" is a land as mythical as Narnia. However 'words may have meaning but names have power.' And these names have the power to divide, degrade, impair and damage not only the hearer, but the bearer; potentially puffing him up with a pride that only rends him useless.

Who are YOU? What are YOU bringing to the table? How has God created YOU? What are YOU passionate about? How has God made YOU to love YOUR neighbor? C.S. Lewis said, "Each person is created to see a different facet of God's beauty- someting no one else can see in quite the same way." How are you displaying that beauty in your life?

"Missionary" was a name Jesus never used; Christian was sufficient. Brother was sufficient. Friend was sufficient. Names which invited, comforted, and empowered both the hearer and the bearer. So damn this Christianese. Damn it to hell, where this destructive language was surely first conspired. Imagine the triumph that must be felt when a son of God (this includes women) settles for a cheap infected title that leaves his brothers and sisters damaged, divided and defeated.

You may have been trying to be a rose your whole life, "only" to find that you are a daisy. I implore you, focus on the aroma of your life and leave the naming to Adam.

 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me

I've been posting some semi serious posts lately so I'm going to change it up a bit with 10 things you probably didn't know about me.

  1. I prefer oven pizza you cook in your own home than pizza you order. I think it tastes heaps better.
  2. I say the word "about" like a Canadian because when I was a teenager I thought how they said it was cool so for about a year I intentionally said "aboot" and now I say it involuntarily.
  3. I sing out of the left side of my face, when I get really into it, because I have little to no feeling on the right side of my chin/cheek due to getting my wisdom teeth out.
  4. The person I wanted to be like when I was growing up was Lara Croft.
  5. My favorite smell in the world is when you can smell fire in the distance.
  6. I love going into antique shops and cool thrift stores.
  7. All growing up I had a secret desire to want to be a butcher. For some reason they fascinated me and I thought it would be fun to handle all that meat.
  8. I love alley ways. There is something beautiful about them to me that catch my eye every time I see one.
  9. I can play the harmonica. I taught myself this year.
  10. I hate raw parsley. I discovered this in Australia when it was put in just about everything. There have always been foods I wasn't crazy about but this is the first food that I absolutely despise and I will pick it out of whatever it is in.
 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Enough

Fairytales inspire me. Frankly, any story with a bit of heroism inspires and motivates me, as I'm willing to bet it does to us all. But I look at the needs around me, I look at my efforts, and the spring of defeat inside me wells up because I know that I could give everything I've got and it still wouldn't be enough.

Do you lack clean water? I could give every ounce of water that I would consume, to my detriment, and there would still be people dying of thirst. Do you lack freedom? I could give mine away, but I would only be saving a few. Do you lack health? I only have so many organs, so much to give, and there will still be people in pain and in need.

You can give it all and it not be enough.

Humanitarianism can be an addiction. It feels good to help people. Once you've started in that kind of work it's hard to quit. I think it's hard to quit, not because it is difficult to ignore the needs of others but, because we can develop a need within ourselves that is nearly impossible to ignore. That need? -Worth.

We want to matter. And you know what? That's okay! I think that's a godly, God-given desire; to want to be more than. But where's our motivation? What's driving us? What's the addiction?

I look at these past years of my life and it was a consuming quest to be worthy. Worthy to be called, worthy to be used, worthy to be in the places I was, worthy to be supported, worthy to be trusted, to be followed, to be an influence...But when I look at the moments and the stories in my possession I find Him there redeeming, building, and transforming. He has made everything that I've done good. He made it enough.

I was sitting next to a drunken woman on the street trying to figure out how to help her. He said it was enough to be present and behold her. I was in the red light districts surrounded by men hungry for sex and women hungry for escape trying to figure out how to make a difference and how to make it stop. He said it was enough to pray. I was in the slums looking at children fearing their abuse, trying to figure out a way to get them out. He said it was enough to hold them and love on them. I was in a cafe with a bunch of people off the street trying to figure out what I should say and He said it was enough to listen.

So long as I'm driven by a need to matter, my giving and my gift in return will be dead and hollow. It will never be enough. Needs will never end and success teetered on needs will never be secure.

How then do we live? I believe the only way to live, in light of this, is to live open and faithfully. We can't be the answer to every need but there is a need that you were made to answer. To posture ourselves in such a way that we are open to receive and faithful to answer, to answer not out of selfish desire but out of selfless and unconditional love for Him and for others, is the position in which we can see success through His eyes.

We don't have to prove anything to Him. We don't have to earn anything with Him. We don't have to perform the role of the hero because He is the hero. He's our hero. And He makes even the smallest of offerings enough.

 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Blog?! Why?

Yes, no more "Stephanie & YWAM". Some where along the line, that blog became a weighty newsletter; one on which that I felt I could not voice my true feelings.

If there were 3 shades of blog subjects there would be the black, white and the gray. The black you don't EVER talk about, the gray's too dirty and misleading and so you stick to the white- the pure, untainted, optimistic side. Well that's not reality. It's not my reality and it certainly wasn't the reality of the world I've been living in for the past 2 years.

So this is me, exposing the gray in and around Stephanie Gray. This is my attempt to reclaim my blog and thereby reclaim a part of myself- being transparent.

I'm tossing off this fanciful title "MISSIONARY" which attempts to whitewash my journey.

I want to be the Stephanie Gray that God envisioned. I want to be who He created me to be in all its vast array of colors.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Direction

Today is August 1st, marking the end of my sabbatical and the beginning of something new. July was decided to be my month off where I was forbidden to work, research about work, research for work, research...at all, and forbidden to worry. I was on rest arrest. At first it was hard, harder than I'd like to admit, but the difficulty only affirmed its necessity. I can't say that I'm cured of my Martha-like mannerisms, but I can say that I've calmed down enough to enjoy my current calling at His feet and that I'm starting to understand what that means. I would say that I'm working it out, but it's more like He's working it out. Sometimes it's hard to know whether we are being fashioned into Paradise or whether Paradise is being fashioned into us....food for thought.

Here's an example of how He's working things out: While I was on vacation with my mom and sister I got a call about a job, when I wasn't even looking for one yet, and it's the best job I could've asked for. I get to nanny for my two baby cousins Grayson and Jackson. So go ahead and cross that off the list before I even get to making one! God is so good.

So what are your plans? It's that question everyone hates, but everyone loves asking; we just can't help ourselves.

Well here's my biggest goal for this season: To learn what it means and how to have a No Worries Lifestyle; to truly live Philippians 4:6-7 which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I'm going to work, I'm going to volunteer, I'm going to get involved, I'm going to pray about what's next, I'm going to create things, but in all things I will not worry about it. I know He'll reveal it in good time, even if I'm not yet looking for it.

The Scripture God has given me for this season is Isaiah 30:15- "...In returning and rest shall you be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength." This is my direction. The covering and the foundation for everything I do in this season. Feel free to keep me in check and in your prayers.

Blessings! And remember...no worries.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Home Again

Being home has been such a blessing. I'm torn between whether my feelings are mostly affected by culture shock, honeymoon phase, and/or just the sheer joy of being home. Whatever the case may be, I'm loving being back.

The only hard part about being home is myself. Before I left Australia God told me that He wasn't going to give me any answers about what was next until I rested. He knows me all too well because if I did know what was next, I'd already be working on it. And so the month of July is my Sabbatical, after which I'll get a job, begin volunteering, and begin working on what's next.

It has done nothing but suprise and shock me how hard resting has proven to be. Within the first week back in the States I had already found a project and found myself working anxiously away when God convicted me about what I was doing and urged me to stop. You would laugh if you saw how hard it was for me to stop working to watch a comedy; I'm sure I looked slightly constapated. I've turned out to be a modern day Martha who made herself busy doing what she thought she ought to be doing while Mary was peacefully occupied being where she was meant to be. As I watched that comedy and wrestled my anxious mind to a standstill, God showed me that He loves me just as much when I'm working hard for Him as He does when I'm relaxing and laughing; what He cares about is whether I'm doing so obediently. This has shown itself to be a harder concept for my mind and my will to grasp, but my heart feels its power.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved rest." - Psalm 127:1-2

 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blessings

You have no idea how many blog posts I have tried to write in attempts to somehow surmise my time in Australia; I was determined to try and conjure up something before I left the country, but I just couldn't come up with anything that suited because I don't yet know the bigger story. You know maybe Australia isn't a novel but rather a book of short stories. It may be years before I ever understand what the underlying theme and purpose has been or I may never receive that revelation. What I do know is that there was a purpose, there were many purposes, and that I planted every seed that was entrusted to me for that land; I finished.

"Rest" is the key word for the time being. God has told me that He's not going to give me any answers about what's next until I rest (He knows me all too well). Since being in America, I've just been so overwhelmed by God's love and care for me. I recently heard someone preach on Genesis 2 where it talks about God making Eve from Adam's rib and how it was necessary for Adam to rest in order for God to extract what He needed to create the "thing" that would meet Adam's need. So I'm not going to resist as if I know what's best for myself.

Psalms 23:1-2 says, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures..." It's not, 'He lets me...' It's not, 'He advises...' It's, "He makes me..." He knows what's best for His sheep and He ensures that they are cared for. If I would have left Australia when I first wanted I would have come back to America confused, possibly bitter, and grieving; my timing would have brought on total stress and unrest, but because I left on His timing, I can now enjoy the blessings and return in peace and thanksgiving- I can rest. The sparing and caring hand of God, in my life, is so evident. He truly cares for us. He truly cares for me and He is going all out to bless me. Why? Because He loves me and love is all about the extravagance and the waste.

I recently was blessed by my sister who took me to see the Cirque Du Soleil show "O". As soon as the curtains opened I started to cry because I just felt so blessed; it was an incredible analogy to me for the way that God loves. What makes Cirque Du Soleil so great? I think it's the extravagance of it all. So many things are unnecessary. Is it necessary for there to be so many people doing so many incredible things at once, so much so that you don't know who to watch? Is it necessary to have elaborate sets with near impossible stunts and acrobatics? The answer to both of them is, "No. It's not necessary." Could you pull off a good show without all the extra and for much cheaper? Sure you could, but it's the extravagance that makes it great. It's the waste and the elaborate detail that makes it unlike any other and what leaves you in awe. This is the way our God loves. There's no limit. Could He do it simply and it still be enough? Yes, but He chooses to lavish and overflow in divine and perfect waste.

So what does any of this have to do with Australia? Well, I'm not sure how much it has to do with it but I know that the mountain top gives us better perspective on the valley. Just because I can clearly see and feel His extravagance now, doesn't mean that it was missing in the valley. It just means that now I get to look back and be even more blessed with the perspective I previously lacked. Blessings upon blessings.

I want to thank everyone that prayed for me, that supported me, that encouraged me and was a friend to me during this time. It would be a long list if I were to name everyone and an incomplete one at that. Blessings are like boomerangs, when you know how to throw them, they come right back to you. Thank you for throwing them my way!

 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Perspective for the Storm

When we've been hurt by something, it totally alters our perspective. Open up a psychology book and it will tell you that your brain operates to facilitate this; our memory filter is directly linked to our emotions, therefore when we are angry our mind pulls from the memories linked to that emotion and when we are elated our mind pulls memories from the happy folder. But hope, faith, confidence and trust go against the flow; they are the salmon in the rivers of our minds, they push against the currents. It is as if these salmon push through the rivers of our minds to get to that place where they, and only they, can unlock the folders and the cabinents of memories that can correct the flow.

I remember in Thailand I was so overwhelmed with the weight and the heaviness of being surrounded by such darkness that I couldn't imagine being there another day, much less the remainder of our outreach and it was unfathomable to ever imagine coming back to that place; I could've left Thailand and never looked back...at that time. After I came home and I was able to process through all of my feelings and experiences, I was able to shift the flow of emotions that was inhibiting my perspective. Once I had perspective, I gained so much hope, faith, confidence and trust...all the things that I lacked while I was there, and I was able to look at Thailand and say with a pure heart that I would do it again.

Living overseas is hard and it has brought on a lot of pain and hurt at times, but the challenge I am facing now is to fight the flow and keep sending salmon of hope, faith, confidence, and trust to push against the currents of my mind and emotions. A part of me, would like to stop fighting for some things; to stop fighting for a life overseas, to stop pushing down desires for a home and a family, and to let comfort be my compass. I need to be reminded, I need some time home to once again process and regain a healthy and healed perspective and that's exactly what God's giving me.

I don't know where you're at, but I encourage you that behind every storm cloud is a blue sky. I've often wondered why people live in places like Kansas that are damned with violent twisters and tornados; but it's their home and why let 1 season totally distort your scope of the beauty you know surpasses any storm? Don't loose sight of the beauty just because of the storm.

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Finishing

Back in January I made a decision to quit and leave the base here in Adelaide, but it felt far too much like quitting and that feeling gave way to other doubts. So I took a day, went to Port Adelaide, and spent the day in prayer hoping to leave with my answer of whether I should stay or go. I didn't get my answer that day, in fact I left that place more confused than when I came. God gave me 2 physical pictures that made no sense to me, at the time, until He gave me the interpretation about 2 weeks ago.


The first picture happened while I was at a coffee shop there in Port. I had been there for some time journaling, praying, and reading the Bible. I went to go take one of the last sips of my coffee when I felt the Lord say, "Leave it there. It's not yours to finish." I thought to myself, "I paid for that drink. I'm gonna finish it." But as I lifted the glass to my lips I felt a stern "No!" in my spirit. So I put the glass down and left the coffee shop with an unfinished coffee still on the table. Confused.

After that I walked around Port for a bit and then felt that I should go to the lighthouse to wait for my answer from God. I waited...and waited...I think I stayed at that lighthouse for around 4 hours and...nothing. I wanted to stay until I got what I came for, but it was getting late and Port Adelaide is not the safest place to be after dark so I left feeling defeated without an answer.

I journaled the 2 down in hopes that God would bring clarity and He did...4 months later. April 25 I woke up and in my time with God I journaled, "I'm going to praise you as if I've already found the lighthouse." and my mind flashed back to that day in Port; I had forgotten about it. Later that day God told me that my time in Adelaide was over and that it's not mine to go to London.

Just like the coffee, London is not mine to finish. And just like the lighthouse, I could stay and push for pride's sake but it's just not wise and, despite my determination, I know what I need to do. I may want to finish what I think I've paid for with sacrifice and time, but God's drawn a different line in the sand marking where I finish and it's coming up soon. On June 12th my time with YWAM Southlands Adelaide will come to a close.

In January I was quitting, but this time around God's told me when to finish and when that plane lifts off the ground I will have finished.

Thank you for your support...but I'm not done yet.

 

Monday, April 23, 2012

For Him, For her

This woman that I've met at DUO on Saturdays keeps telling me that I'm wonderful. I told her, "I'm not wonderful, I just know Someone Who is." She sees me the same way I see her; she doesn't see the worst of me, she sees the best of me and I don't look at her and think of the kind of mother that she was, I look at her and see her for the beautiful and gentle woman that she is; even if I knew the full extent of her past, that wouldn't change how much I love and adore this woman.

On Saturdays I feel like everything that is good in me comes to life, Jesus really takes over. I don't say that to toot my own horn because if you knew how I wrestled during the week you'd be able to acknowledge the miracle that Saturdays are, as I do. This woman is going through a really hard time and is really asking some big God questions about why bad things happen; she's lost her trust in God by way of pain. As she opened up to me tonight I realized the great responsibility that is being entrusted to me by her sharing these things with me. I realized that I really am going to have to be Jesus for her. She doubts the goodness of God, but thinks that I'm wonderful... And she doesn't believe that God is trustworthy, therefore I'm going to have to be trustworthy in the gap for her. People are meant to know Him by looking at us....yikes!

I want to be like Jesus in every way and tonight really just opened my eyes to the pressure that exists to follow through and not just want it, but be Him. This woman needs to know that He's good and I'm the simile.

"It's not just about me." I've heard that phrase so much, we all have, but I look at my weeks and I don't live like it's about her; I don't live, making sure that I'm doing what I need to do so that she'll see Jesus on Saturday... I tell you what though, I'll make sure from now on. Because at the end of the day it's not just about her either, it's about Him and I can't misrepresent Him.

So I'll wake and I'll live for Him cause she needs to see Him and I need to please Him.

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Approach


"Why don't you go to the cross?" I thought during worship this morning, but instead of physically approaching the "Holy of Holies" I approached in my heart and in worship. Some moments later I saw a little girl, maybe only a few years old, come up from the back of the crowd, went up to the cross, kissed the nail that was placed at the feet, and then she turned around and looked at all of us...at me and then she began to clap to the music.

A child could approach without shame, fear or thought; where was I? I can tell you where I was not; I was not at the foot of the cross kissing His feet.

Approach.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Die To Self

"God I just want to live again!" I screamed through the ink on the page of my journal and softly but strongly I heard the reply, "Then first you have to die."

Death #1

Looking at the time I had left in Adelaide and the pack of seeds I had left to use, I decided to staff the DTS. My intention for months has been that I would go home in May and it was understood, when I signed on to staff, that I would miss the last month of the DTS but meet them in London. Challenges from people around me started coming directed at me laying down and sacrificing my trip home in May; I thought they must be crazy until I realized my unwillingness to lay it down was the very reason why I probably needed to do it. Further examination led me to realize that I would be the only one benefiting from my trip in May, but the it would really affect the students negatively. Death #1: Trip in May

Death #2

Sometimes I get to do what I want to do and say no to the things I don't. I had a nice teaser session of this when I was able to turn down doing the Certificate 4 in Missions course, here on the base, because my visa did not require me to take it and nothing in me wanted to do it. Freedom short lived. 'I have bad news. Your visa states that you can only work in one place for 6 months and then you have to move' (tempting) 'or you can study in the same place for 4 more months. So I'm sorry but you have to take the course.' I'm still trying to figure out in what universe YWAM is considered work since I don't receive a paycheck, but pay to volunteer.....but in order to finish what God wants me to finish - Death #2: Certificate 4 in Missions course.

Death #3

What was God going to ask me to do next? I was almost fearful of what He would ask me to do and I was completely unwilling to ask Him about it because I was completely unwilling to hear it. Things were coming up around the base, people being asked to pray about certain things and all the while fear is building up in my heart that God was going to ask me to be an answer to things that I felt were beyond my ability or desire to handle. But that's not God. Weeks went by and I found that things were getting harder; almost unbearable. In God's perfect timing, one of my leaders of YWAM in New Zealand came to the base and we got to talk and I got to process all that happened with the base falling apart in Auckland. This man gave me some questions to take to God and I gave God a question of my own, "What's been hindering me Lord?" "Jealousy. You are jealous for New Zealand, for what you could've had and hope to have... How can I take you to the promised land I have for you if you are still clinging to your own?" Death #3 New Zealand. I was publically released from my commitment to Auckland by this man and to symbolize my release, I gave him the shells from New Zealand that I have always kept in my wallet and asked him to take them back home.

Death #4???

It's been a couple of months since I heard God tell me that in order to live I needed to die and in between these 3 deaths, there have been so many little daily deaths that have needed to take place. I don't know how much more God is going to show me that I need to throw on the altar, but what I do know is that after the altar comes the bronze laver where we are washed and we are able to enter into the inner court with confidence. "It's Friday but Sunday's coming."

I don't know where you're at, if you're at an altar yourself, but I would encourage you that death is only the beginning; that there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning; that there's a laver up ahead and the altar is only one part of the tabernacle, hold on for the Holy of Holies...I know I am.

 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

DUO

One of the new major ministries we are doing now is called, "DUO" which stands for "Do Unto Others." We've partnered with the Salvation Army to put on something for those in need every Saturday that is unlike anything else currently operating in the city.

Homeless shelters are almost non-existent in Australia. The closest thing to a warm bed these people have access to is at the detox center which requires them to be intoxicated in order for them to be admitted for the night. We start at 5pm with a sit down, home-cooked, meal. This is a time where they get to catch up with old friends, friends that we are working to become as well. At 8pm everything shifts; the xbox and playstations are brought out, the free clothes shop is set up, the rest area made available, the coffee shop opened, and the live music starts and we remain with them until 5 am.

Being with them through the night says far more than we could ever verbalize. It says that we care about them enough to stay awake so that they can have a place to sleep; that we love

My main roles are to 1st be with them and 2nd to communicate. I'm always trying to communicate love, value and belonging in which ever way presents itself. I really enjoy getting to use music in this way; whether it be singing worship songs that are clearly communicating God's love for them or whether it be playing a song they've requested...it's all saying something and every week I can see more and more that they are getting the message.

I met one lady and had a long and deep conversation with her way back in December before DUO even started and we were still going to the park to just pass out food. About a month ago at around 4 am she came around again and she's been coming back at random times. Last week she came when we opened for the first time because she said she wanted to be able to spend some time with me. I gave her a hug when I saw her and she said, "You have such nice hugs. When you hug me it's like you really mean it." If she only knew how much I do.

There's another lady who has been coming pretty consistently for the past month. She travels over an hour to get there every Saturday. From the beginning she's made us go deep; talking about forgiveness, why God let's bad things happen and really just opening up. Last week I went for it and shared the gospel with her. And let me just tell you that we serve a God that would send someone across the world to be with someone who needed to hear that they are worth the trip. If God told me that He brought me to Australia to communicate His love to her, I'd say that makes more sense than all the other reasons I try to conjure up.

 

They say that openness begets openness and DUO is teaching me that sacrifice begets change. Please keep these two ladies, who will remain nameless, in your prayers and all of DUO. I look forward to the future stories that I'll get to share with you. Thanks for sending me here to be apart of this.

 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Release of "Home of Hope & Dreams"

Today marks a truly special day. Today is the day that my song "Home of Hope & Dreams" has been released. If you click on the tab above this post; you can buy the song and read all about the project surrounding the orphanage in Uganda.

This song marks the first of many. It marks the first bridge that I get to help build between us and the broken world. It marks the first time one of my songs for justice gets a chance to do more than just raise awareness. This marks a huge point in my life as a missionary, as a musician, and as a person who never imagined something like this happening.

It was just a year ago that God gave me this dream to use music to fight injustice in this way and now He's brought it all together. I'm truly blessed.

 

Please share the song and help it spread so that more people can get involved in helping The Home of Hope and Dreams" in Uganda.

Thanks for all your support in helping make this happen!

 

Blessings,

Stephanie Gray

 

Friday, March 2, 2012

4 One

You know those days that you wake up with an optimistically calm intuition that the day is going to be hard? It's not that you are dooming the day, you just know those days when you need to pray a little harder in the morning.

Today was one of those days. I made up my own little gospel hymn that I chanted like a soul-filled mantra every time I felt that knot of frustration rising up in my throat singing, "I ain't gonna let petty things, drag me down."

Today was a hard day. I had to fight to stay focused on God rather than getting wrapped up in frustration. The enemy had many traps laid out for me today, but something happened that made tip-toeing around traps all day worth it.

Tonight, I went along with a friend to a youth group to hear him share his testimony. The service began, ended, and afterwards they retreated to the front for snacks. I sat with this group of middle school girls and God made it very clear, from the get go, that I was there for this one little girl named, "Jess." She shared that just this past week, on holiday, she began to feel that she was supposed to be a missionary but hadn't even shared it with her parents yet. This girl is 11 years old and she had big questions and doubts especially about being a woman in missions. This girl also shared with me later about a dream she had that had been impressed on her the whole day. She said that she thinks dreams are the only way that she can hear God.

I got to encourage the heaven into that girl. I saw so much of myself and could relate so much to her experiences that it was undoubtedly a divine appointment. By the end of our talk, she was wiping the tears away from her eyes and I was able to pray with her.

What a privilege it is to speak into someone's life, especially a young kid's life. What an honor to be able to speak words of truth and affirmation; to be able to see that God had you at a specific place, at a specific time, to minister His love and truth to a specific person. It's always worth it for one. It's always worth it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dreams Aren't Just For Sleeping

 Many times I say things like, "...what I want to do." or "...what I feel God's called me to longterm." and "...my dream." without it ever occurring to me that people may not have been following me for very long and may not know what it is I'm talking about. So get ready for a pretty cool story, in my opinion, as I "fill you in" on what all this is.

Before I can really take you forward, I need to take you back a bit. When I was 15 years old I heard God call me to the mission field and with that came this idea that stuck in my head about me traveling the nations, singing (which I did not do at the time), playing the guitar (which I didn't own nor know how to play at the time) and speaking in front of thousands of people (which I also was not accustomed to). [Those of you who know me are either laughing or smiling at this point in the story.] Well something else happened on that trip that I would regret if I did not tell you because it at the core of who I am and what I do; God set me free, "ironically" during a missions camp in Ukraine themed "Svuabodney Palut" = "Free to Fly", I was set free from all the fear that had previously prohibited me from worshipping God the way I had always wanted to in my heart- through expression and through the arts. It would take me years before I realized that I was set free so that I might set others free.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009: I'm a college student in a Bible College getting my degree in missions when God starts to put all this stuff about human trafficking and slavery in my face and the guilt just keeps amounting. The heap of guilt and heaviness got so heavy that one night I collapsed on the floor weeping under the oppression of all the faces of the women and children I had neglected for so long. As I wept, I remembered back to that idea I had 4 years before and I almost felt relieved, seeing a way out from under this pile of guilt, and I said, "God this is not my mission field." Never have I felt the finger of God hit my soul nor heard His voice so strong as when He said, "It is now." My response was the only kind you can give under such circumstances, "Okay. I'm all in." 

So fast forward another year: God tells me that I was to finish Bible School and go on the mission field; next thing I know I'm in New Zealand on a Justice Discipleship Training School for 6 months. One day on our school our leaders rolled out a big sheet of paper and told us to write our dreams down. The idea I had since I was 15 was just the bread and here I was needing to write down the sandwich; so I wrote down the only thing I had, something I was too hesitant to transfer onto something that could be seen or touched, but God made me write it down any way and this is what came out: 

"Combine justice, music, art, and missions. Go live with people, learn their stories and their needs. Find out what specific need can be met to bring about change. Then return home and make music and art telling people's stories, raising awareness and selling it to raise funds to meet the need presented by the people. 100% of the profits go to meeting their needs. Then when their needs begin to be met, go back and help them tell their stories through the arts and turn that into something that can be sold; thus providing them with an income. But more than that it gives them pride, joy and dignity, as well as, working as a great tool for healing. My role would shift from being the story teller to the story facilitator." 

When I read what had just effortlessly fell out of me onto paper, I realized that God had taken an idea almost 5 years old and made it into a beautiful dream that highlighted my passions, identity, and dreams from the past; on that paper lied all my restored hopes and dreams. It didn't take much convincing or discussion to realize that my heart and this dream were already intimately connected. I looked at what I would need to learn, things I would need to do, and I made goals for the next 7 years to serve as a rough map to help motivate myself to make this happen. 

The first big step in that was coming here to Adelaide to help pioneer a music ministry, which has since evolved into a bigger and better step in the direction of my dream than it orginally looked to be. What's happening now is that I've been given full authority, by the leadership here, to pursue and develop this dream; that first step being using my songs to support already existing ministries. 

Busking for Change!

My first project is going to be helping to raise funds for an orphanage in Uganda that one of our staff here has been heavily involved in the making of. I have written a song and am doing research on how to market it and sell it effectively as well as legally how that all works. Thanks to my parents, they blessed me with a recording mic that I have been learning and experimenting with since I received it. All in all, what I'm telling you is that I'm doing it! It's not just an idea that is floating in my head or a dream in my heart; it's a dream that is transposing into my life. 

Another part of this is the art that I've been doing called, "30 Day Justice Drawing Challenge." This is something that I made after doing a 30 Day Drawing Challenge I found on the internet. Everyday has a different justice issue with a link that gives people a place to draw inspiration from and also grow in awareness about the issue. Mixed into the challenge are days where people have to draw concepts of justice like, "restoration, freedom, generosity, etc." in order to not weigh them down but to really challenge people to hope. The whole point of the Justice Drawing Challenge is to raise awareness for both the author and the audience. I've been doing this myself for the past week or so and I, myself, have been growing. 

Everytime I post a drawing about justice or write a song, I feel incredible. It is in this line of work that everything about me makes sense, that all my passions are in sync and my heart is truly at its best. This is just the beginning. The best is yet to come. Dreams aren't just for sleeping, they're for living.

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blessings in the Blackberries

 My car broke down this week which is pretty upsetting considering that I only just recently have been able to drive it. But I'm believing that God is going to fix it because it was Him that gave me the car after all. In faith, I've been walking half a mile to where my car broke down to see if it will start. Today as I was on my way to go test it, I saw a big blackberry bush and I was overcome with excitement. I couldn't help but say, "Oh thank You God, thank You God." over and over again. As I walked to my car I knew that even if it didn't turn on that I'd still have blackberries. 

I love blackberries. For me, it is one of the flavors intrinsic to summer. Just the sight of them makes me flashback to when I was a kid. My Grandma and I would always go on walks after dinner, when I would spend the night, and along the dirt road sometimes we would find blackberry bushes. It was as if we had stumbled upon a candy store. We'd pick them, talk, laugh, and eat all the while and then when we got back to the house, I went to sleep knowing that I'd be woken up by the smell of blackberry muffins. I also hold so many fond memories with my mom and I picking blackberries and her making all kinds of goodies with them. In my heart, blackberries are gold. 

As I jiggled the key in the ignition over and over, praying for it to start, all of these memories and more were flashing through my mind. So I got out of the car and said, "Still I will praise You." I went to the trunk of my car to try and find something to put the blackberries in and wouldn't you know it that the drug dealer who stole my car left behind a reusable shopping bag?! Well there ya go! Blessings in the storms. 

I went on and began picking my blessings, making sure that I got every one. You see so many times we are so focused on what we want or what we need that we miss out on the most precious blessings that God has for us. At first I was so diligent about picking every single one but then I'd see bigger ones a few steps away and so I'd go and get those. Then I'd look back over where I had come from and from that angle I could see more big ones that I didn't see before. So I was constantly going back and forth back and forth; sometimes getting so sidetracked with what was next to me that I missed what was in front of me. Sometimes so occupied with the ones within reach that I missed the jackpots amidst the thorns. 

I had to leave a lot of blackberries behind because the sun was going down and I didn't want to get back to the base too late. So I got back, washed them, and tried one...they were SO SWEET that I grabbed the bag, more people, and went back to pick more blessings. 

I'm going to keep going to my car everyday to see if my car has been healed and if not...well there's always blackberries. 

 

Prayer. Rooms. Thoughts. Encouragement

New prayer room design for this week

 The prayer week was a huge success, not that you can go too wrong with prayer, but people really responded to the pray wall and it was successful in encouraging everyone on the base. I found myself, every morning if I could, stopping by the prayer room on my way to breakfast to see what people wrote. It was so good that I had to think something up to keep it going, to keep the culture of encouragement running. So what I've come up with are these telegrams that people will write on and place in people's boxes. Look forward to seeing how it goes. It's really my heart to leave behind a culture of prayer on this base and to hopefully inspire people to think outside the box.

 I must say the role of prayer and worship has really challenged me in my prayer life. It's funny how half the time I'm praying, I don't even realize it. What I'm finding is that I talk to God during the day a lot more than I realize and in different ways too. VBS has kind of indoctrinated this image into our minds as to what the posture of prayer looks like, but our talks with God take on just as many different forms as our talks with people do; we text, we email, we Facebook, Skype, call, visit, and some still mail ;). But think about all the different ways you communicate with God; your thoughts, writing, talking, singing....there's got to be more! If He's the God of communication, the same God that spoke the universe into being, then surely there must be more ways to communicate with Him than on bended knee with hands folded and eyes closed. 

Paul says all the time in his letters that he never ceases to pray...., that he always prays.... And I always wondered, "How in the heck is that possible?!" But I think that half the time our mind is not conscious of our soul's conversations with its Maker. Think about when you are crying; you may not be praying allowed in words, but you are communicating with God. And what about when you are angry and maybe even sinning? Do you not also think that that is communicating to God; praying in some way? Prayers are not always reverent and holy, friends. If prayer is just talking to God then we talk to Him a lot more than we realize. I'm reading a book called "Unceasing Worship" and his point is that we are always worshipping something, sometimes it's God, sometimes it's ourselves, sometimes it's the world, but we never stop. I think we, in a sense, are always praying and that it's just a matter of what we are saying in thoughts, deeds and words throughout the day. 

Funnily enough that's not at all what I intended to blog about but hey that's good so I'll leave it at that for now. Cheers! (not the drinking "cheers"; they say it a lot here in Australia lol...then again maybe they do mean the drinking cheers....I don't know. We don't speak the same language all the time.)

 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Prayer Week Design

 This week coming up we are doing a week of prayer to cover our staff team for the new year of work, life, and ministry ahead with a real focus on encouragement.

For the week there are 19 cardboard frames on the wall, all unique and different, for our 19 staff. Everyday there's a different task for the one praying with different directions on things to write in the person's frame. At the end of the week, these frames will be given to each staff member to remind them of what God was speaking about them during this week.

One thing that God has really been speaking to me about is creativity's relationship to inspiration. If you look at the things that are trending right now, such as pintrest, instagram, twitter, etc, you will see that people are searching for inspiration; we want to believe that we have things worth sharing and spreading, we just need a little spark sometimes. So if we, who are in positions of influence, can angle our creativity to inspire then imagine the magnificence that would unfold as a result. I think it's time to get more creative in how we do things because it's not tradition that puts us to sleep, it's monotony. 

If you would like to recreate this in your own home, church, small group, or work place; GO FOR IT!

 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holdfast

Last week I was at the beach where I was facing some of the biggest waves I have ever seen much less been in the water with. I was attempting to boogie board, wanting to ride the same massive waves the surfers were getting. The water was strong and although I could see the waves, I could not get to them. I looked to my right and I saw the same size waves, much closer to the shoreline, but right in the middle of a massive riptide with waves closing in from every direction. God spoke to me in this moment showing me that I could fight for the waves that I knew would be better for me in the long run or I could go for the waves that were closer but far more dangerous. I'd like to say that I fought through, caught the biggest wave imaginable and had the best ride, but I gave up because I couldn't push through this one wall of waves; the waves kept crashing and pushing me back, making me loose whatever progress I had gained. When I quit I tried to just let the waves push me in, but what I didn't realize was that while I was fighting to get to the big waves in front of me, I was keeping myself from getting sucked into the riptide. I ended up getting caught in the very riptide that I had decided not to settle for. Thank God I've had enough experience in the water to know how to escape those types of places and I managed to get out of the riptide safely. 

I failed to see, at the time, that what God was showing in the water was a glimpse of what was happening in my own life. Much like I was fighting to get to the big waves, I've been fighting to get to my dreams here in this place. I had my eyes set on what I wanted, what I knew God had for me, and I've been fighting against everything, including myself at times, to get to that. And much like my frustration with not making it in the water, I felt the same frustration with fighting against the currents I've been facing in Australia. Recently I began to hit a wall that kept dragging me down and so last weekend I made a decision to quit and leave the base here in Adelaide. And just like that I got sucked into a riptide of my will; no progress can be made in this place unless you know how to get out. So I prayed and the word God gave me was "holdfast." A holdfast is much like an anchor, it's something that secures one thing to another, a clamping, a strong grip; and God told me that His words are to be my holdfast. An anchor is no permanent thing, it goes up and down, but it holds you in the place that you are meant to be at the time you're meant to be there. When I decided to quit, I made the call to pull up anchor when it was not my place; His words have been to "not worry about where the finish line is but to keep going" and I decided that it was time to sail to other shores. Fighting for what I knew was better kept me from getting sucked into the riptides but when I stopped fighting I succumbed to its pull. The only way out of a riptide like that is prayer. Thankfully I'm out safely now and I've recanted my decision to quit and am holding fast to God's words here in Adelaide for however long He will have me here. 

When I thought later about that day at the beach I realized that I was trying to get to those waves the wrong way entirely. There was a point in the water where the surfers stopped walking in the water and they laid on their boards and paddled out to the waves, riding on top of the waves that would otherwise push them back. I couldn't get past that wall in the water because I kept trying to walk to the waves, facing them head on, rather than rising above them. 

I'm not exactly sure what "rising above them" means for me practically, but I'm learning that it's not the desire to quit that defines our mission but it's perseverance that defines our legacy. So long as His words are my holdfast I can't be sucked into riptides or get pushed back to shore; His anchor is my assurance to reaching the waves I long for.

 

I hope that some of you may be encouraged to not give up, to make His words your holdfast and to persevere and rise above the waves that are pushing you back so that you can hold onto your dreams and God-given desires. I share these experiences, yes because I want to be open and honest, but more so for the opportunity to encourage you; we are all different people in different places but our struggles are, at their core, the same. Be encouraged brothers and sisters, He is for us.

 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012

  • I believe that this will be a year of new things
  • I believe that this will be a year of blessings and fulfilled promises
  • I believe that this year will hold higher levels and deeper roots
  • I believe that this year will be a year of expansion and growth
  • I believe that this will be a year of victories and dreams becoming reality
  • I believe that this year will transform, renew, restore, revolutionize and challenge
  • I believe that this year will be a year of beautiful beginnings and sober ends. 
I really believe that this year will be measured by the basket we give to the Lord; however much we give Him is how much He will fill. If we bring small baskets, He will fill our small baskets; but if we bring as many large baskets as we can, I believe He will fill them. I believe the Lord is going to begin asking us, "How much do you want?" 

I believe....help me with my unbelief.