Porch of Eternity

This past week at Immanuel Baptist Love Week/VBS, I saw people of all ages, races, and spiritual backgrounds come together to share one message–the Gospel. And it went great, stories can be told about all the unique people we met in all the different places that we were dispersed. Leading up to Love Week, I had been thinking about Radical by David Platt. Here’s the excerpt that you’ve probably seen before, but take a moment to look at it again.

“You and I, we have an average of about seventy or eighty years on this earth. During these years we are bombarded with the temporary.
Make money. Get stuff. Be comfortable. Live well. Have fun.
In the middle of it all, we get blinded to the eternal. But it’s there.
You and I stand on the porch of eternity.
Both of us will soon stand before God to give an account for our stewardship of the time, the resources, the gifts, and ultimately the gospel He has entrusted to us.
When that day comes, I am convinced we will not wish we had given more of ourselves to living for the things of this world. We will not wish we had made more money, acquired more stuff, lived more comfortably, taken more vacations, watched more television, pursued great retirement, or been more successful in the eyes of this world.
Instead we will wish we had given more of ourselves to living for the day when every nation, tribe, people, and language will bow around the throne and sing the praises of the Savior who delights in radical obedience and the God who deserves eternal worship.”
-David Platt, Radical

This whole passage by Platt has the potential to change your life. But if nothing else, I hope you caught the part about how we are “standing on the porch of eternity.” Because I missed that line the first time I read this book. I mean, can you just imagine that real quick? We think of porch and we picture our home, or we picture an open door, but having the word “eternity” makes it a mystery to me.

So these last few weeks, I’ve been trying to imagine the porch of eternity. On Sunday morning, I sat down for a second on the front steps of the church alongside some of IBC’s youngest members. We talked, we laughed, we watched the morning. And for a split second, the church traffic slowed down and I snapped this quick picture.Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset
Just a few days later, I am reflecting on the week and it’s all coming together. I think back to that Sunday morning. I imagined all the streets in San Angelo that we had just walked through and all the porches that we stood on as we shared our stories of faith. Then I imagined all the streets in the world that WE have YET to walk through. And all of the sudden the “porch of eternity” wasn’t so hard to picture.

Because there we were on the porch of this church, a place that God is using to equip people for when they go out into their community and into the world.  My imaginative mind insists on making the connection between the porches on which we shared our faith and the porch to the rest of our existence. And somehow, I still don’t know if that all makes sense to the rest of the world, but it’s a thought that I can’t escape.

Bottom-line, I am so grateful for this church and these people. And I am once again moved by what is happening both inside and outside of these church doors, and well beyond this porch.

God intended for us to be storytellers, ambassadors of His Word. So join me on whatever porch you are picturing right now and let’s tell our stories, there are thousands of people WAITING to hear.

-Ceci

“We have decided that there are worse things than dying. Staying alive for no real purpose or passion.”  -Jeremy Courtney

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to sarah.


As I am typing this, I am also wondering how I am going to take this Shellac stuff off my nails, all while still considering that perhaps I have fallen victim to the “let’s get our nails done” trance that you seem to be in all the time.

Because in a moment of severe confusion, I thought to myself, “maybe I should just get my nails done again, and avoid the time-consuming dread of peeling the gel off myself”.
Wait what.

I blame you for this.


That summer day in 2012, in the back corner of your first Taco Tuesday (Rosa’s Cafe) visit, God formed a friendship that would endure what seemed like a lifetime of emotions in the following years. We have to remind ourselves that we are a mere 23 and 22 in order to realize that we haven’t even lived one-third of the normal life-expectancy for a human on our side of the world.

I am gonna break it to you now, I didn’t get you a graduation present. And I can’t even promise that I’ll make it to the ceremony on time, because let’s face it. That’s the kind of people that we are. Right?

We live in the moment and we forget that the rest of the world runs on a clock.
We crave & chase God, because WE GET to.
We dream big, because our parents raised us that way.
We make huge mistakes and we forget to pray, and Jesus promised to love us the same.
We bake lemon squares in round cake pans, and we don’t let people tell us it’s wrong.
We push each other over the edge, and then we reach down to pick the other back up.
We have what I like to call “Jimmy V Days” the kind where we laugh, we think, and we cry all in a span of about 12 hours. Coach Valvano would say that we had a “heck of a day”.

And don’t talk to us about death, because you just changed our entire thought-process for the rest of the day. The end of one’s life on earth is huge, even when we don’t know the first thing about the person. We look forward to that time ourselves.

And because Ann Voskamp says everything better…there’s this.

You drove me crazy. You drove me to God. You drove me to love.

You did drive me crazy when you let your Braum’s cups collection grow to a record breaking 15 total, or when you decided it would be a good idea to wear all my clean socks, or when you broke our garage door TWICE, or when you threw my lint roller onto the roof of our house and laughed about it, or when you put my biscuit on the tallest cabinet in our house, or the time you tackled me on-campus and put grass in my hair and backpack, and I can’t forget the time that you sprayed 409 in my hair, just because. I’m forgetting half of them, those will have to do. Oh wait, remember the time we had a mustache drawing contest on each others face’s in front of all of our friends. Don’t forget that I won that battle.

But you know what, you drove me to God, when you trusted me to tell me about your life. You drove me to God during all of our conversations about the Holy Spirit, sin, and God’s unending grace, or when we shared the Gospel with that young girl in Taiwan. And during my moments of vulnerability; when I was selfish, you let me know. When I was envious, you brought me back to ground zero. When I was doubting, you reminded me. During our times of silence, as hard as those were, each time brought me to a new understanding of God’s unwavering ability to forgive us and His desire for us to forgive others.

Lastly, you really did drive me to love. That used to be something I shied away from, it was even a word that I could hardly say to people. What a difference your friendship has made in that. I watched you love B and I watched you be vulnerable. I watched you take risks in your relationship. And with every turn, right or wrong, I learned something new about God’s love for us. He made our friendship imperfect and He showed us Love through the trials that have left scars. God wants us to really love people. He wants us to take the risk of opening our hearts, even when we know that sometimes, loving people will cause us to hurt at different times and for different reasons.

And all of this has left us– two very restless humans, in search of some serious opportunities to tell the world about Jesus. And since life is but a vapor, then I am glad that we could spend about .04% of our vapor-like lives in a house with no back yard, easy access to Pak a Sak, and the darn grass that never did grow quite as green as our neighbors’.

So go run wild, live free, love strong, and BE GREAT, Sarah.

And for anyone who thinks that this post is a bit dramatic…let it ALWAYS be known that Ceci & Sarah were never anything but 100% alive and dramatic.

-Ceci

Ps- clean out your pizza from our fridge, I think I saw a black olive move yesterday.

 

Eric’s Story. 

From the Summer of 2011

The unlikely events that led up to the time that I got on a city bus in Rwanda, and rode to a coffee shop in downtown Kigali to meet a stranger/author who survived the Rwandan genocide because he climbed up into a tree for a few days. And how God made it all possible.

Africa, was the continent that took up most of my wall space when I was a senior in high school. The poster was more an inconvenience than anything. I didn’t go well with everything that I had up, and it took an unfair amount of space in comparison to everything else.

Next thing I know, I am pulling the poster off the wall to use as a map to give my parents an approximate location of where I would be traveling to. They were surprised, they didn’t even know that I had applied for anything, and certainly didn’t expect that I would get a scholarship to fund it.

I was 19 and completely unaware of what I was really doing.

I bought a mosquito net, got a few vaccines, and prepared for a month. I boarded a plane to a country that I didn’t even know existed until that year. Sometime during my prep I walked into a bookstore in San Angelo and I stumbled on a book called, “My Father, Maker of the Trees.” It was a story of survival, spiritual rebirth, and redemption from a man in Rwanda. I wrote the following shortly after I finished the book.

Eric’s Story

“I used to look at a tree and see this awkward plant coming from the depths of the earth. That changed when I read Eric’s story. He survived the genocide of 1994 because he stayed in a tree for 15 days. His family was literally ripped from his own hands. Out of desperation, he prayed. He had heard mention of God, but he wasn’t sure that he believed. God revealed himself to Eric in the following days. He felt like giving up, he felt like climbing down to let the Hutus find him. But in those moments he felt His presence so strongly, that he could not deny Him and he knew–he couldn’t give up. Eric embraced his suffering and looked to God for endurance. Eric, age 16, was one of 3 family members that survived.”

In a moment of courage, I emailed the address listed in the back of the book. Eric, himself emailed back. And in an even bigger moment of courage, I scheduled a meeting on a free day, and I got on a bus (using broken Kinyarwandan and hand signals) in downtown Rwanda and I met Eric Irivuzumugabe.

I asked about his life, he talked about his family and his non-profit organization that was serving orphans of genocide. He was as humble as I expected him to be. His faith was growing stronger and he wanted me to know about his healing community and Restoration Church. I can only smile when I think about that time, God blessed me and inspired me. Inside that little coffee shop that afternoon, the story came together and I saw how God changed Eric’s life, I saw hope and healing in a place where wounds were still visible. I saw forgiveness like I had never seen before when I heard Eric talk about the people who killed his family. He had no malice for them and he believed that his life had been spared in part to offer a message of forgiveness to others.

And this is all still hard to believe sometimes. I am completely in awe of the immeasurably more that God is doing.

So every April, I think about this story, because people in Rwanda are entering a time of remembrance. Some mourn and some hide their scars. Some hold their loved ones a little tighter and some long to see their loved ones again. Regardless, everyone remembers.

Short history:
[Starting on April 7, 1994, approximately 1,074,017 people died in the 100 days that followed. And I am hesitant to type the number, because a number represents an amount and in no way justifies the life that was taken from every single individual that was involved.]

And to ease the mood, here’s the infamous poster and my picture with Eric. 🙂
-Ceci

poster and eric

Jesus Conquered Sin

These next words have been wading around in my head for days, weeks, almost a month. Why?

Because sin is hard to navigate.
We don’t want to think about it.
We don’t want to talk to about it.
We don’t want to face to it. Yet it is looking at us in the face, day after day.

Not a lot of things in life scare me more than sin. It makes me nervous; it makes me want to crawl inside myself.

Maybe John Green should have written, “that’s the thing about sin, it demands to be felt.” Do you not see it on billboards, advertisements, movies, music, people…ourselves?

We walk out of church on Sundays with a guarantee that satan is waiting outside. Waiting to attack and to make us feel and look like fools. Picture yourself getting up from your pew, walking outside, and putting the shackles on. Sometimes that is what life actually feels like. Some days we grow weary and we forget to do the small things. And when the small things start getting away from us, we start forgetting to do the big things. By now we’ve reached a level of neglect that we’re ashamed of.

It is hard to look forward when you only see that sin is slowly making its way into parts of your life that you once considered pure.

All those thoughts, make them stop.

It’s been a Lenten season to remember. This time of year was different, it spurred all those words. I had conversations, I saw situations… it all lead to seeing “sin” a little differently than before. When you see that someone else’s sin has the potential of becoming so very public, you begin to think about your own shortcomings. Not in a “comparison of sin” kind of way, rather a humbling, knees-hit-the-ground scenario.  It opened my eyes and challenged me to think about grace again. It challenged me to think about our fight.

Let us not walk around with our heads down in defeat. Jesus came here on a rescue mission to save us all from ourselves. Do not be so afraid of the sin around us and within us that we ignore it. He didn’t give us freedom from our struggles, NO — He gave us freedom “to struggle,” He gave us the resources to continue the race, to continue the fight. So when we walk out of church on Sunday, kick off the shackles and be prepared for when someone or something in your life tries to sneak them back on. And when you begin to grow weary because of all the sin that is present around you… remember that we’ve been given the privilege to keep fighting. We have been given the gift of eternal life, Jesus did the hard work and we are here to cultivate the good seeds.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us… – 2 Corinthians 5:21

So DO grow weary, my friends. Struggle well. We are fortunate to have a God that is worth fighting for. Do not forget that God has already won the battle. We’re on the winning team, so start acting like it.

Francis Chan would say, “be proud that you look tired, take all the comments pertaining to your weariness and let it be a compliment, because that means that you are fighting or working for something.”

Picture this, courtesy of Ben Stuart, Passion 2015 Houston:

“The setting is a battlefield, and there are two types of soldiers. Some are calm, serene, peaceful while the others are agitated, bothered, struggling.

The difference: some are dead and some are alive. Don’t be the calm and comfortable soldier, be the one that refuses to be content, be the one that is ALIVE. Don’t be dead to sin, the soldier that is alive is the one that continues to fight. Your struggle is one of your greatest assurances that you are ALIVE.”

And remember that we weren’t meant to fight alone. Realize that in the analogy above, the soldiers aren’t alone, they have fighters all around them. You have Jesus and you have the people that He’s given you on earth. “There’s hope in our hells when we become like Jesus to each other.” – Ann Voskamp

Let us all walk together this Easter and rejoice that Jesus was able and willing to pay the wages of sin for us.

-Ceci

I Need To Tell You About The Most Dangerous Man I’ve Ever Met.

Story by a student at Tarleton. Dare to be dangerous. -Ceci

Bring Me Word of Your Unfailing Love

Three years ago, my life was altered irreparably by a single question.

You know those people you meet, who claim they believe in God, but then you ask them about grace or scripture and they’ve got nothing in response? That was me. 17 years old, a freshman in college, and not a thing to show for my “faith” except a barely used Bible app and a deep-seeded fear of Christians (thanks to some bad experiences in youth groups).

It was really a miracle that I ever showed my face at Paradigm – a college worship experience at my university, Tarleton – or even attended more than once. But the thing that kept me coming back, despite all my cynicism toward organized religion, was the speaker who drove several hours every week to be there.

That man, if you haven’t guessed yet, was Jon Randles.

jon2

From the moment I met Randles…

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The People of the Cross.

Brothers, Husbands, Sons, Servants…

21 souls willing to take up the Cross, willing to proclaim the Name, willing to die for their Savior.

When I read the articles, I almost forget that this is real. It really happened, just across the Ocean. When I think about it, the noise is almost deafening. It’s been a few days since, and our mind wants to forget about it, but our heart still mourns.

I walk around today on the verge of giving in to the thoughts of evil in the world, almost forgetting that God’s hand was placed on each of these men, their families, and their friends.

Just look at the pictures again. The background.

egyptians-beheading_650x400_71424047531

ISIS (ISIL), do you not know that an Ocean is a sign of hope for us.

  • An ocean represents the grace that God has available for us. “Where sin abounds, grace was all the more present. (Romans 5:20)” In those moments of sacrificial death, grace was present because Jesus was present.
  • An ocean represents the calmness that we can have, even in despair. Keep your eyes open. Don’t close them in on the people in black. No — look past the evil and imagine how the water is moving back and forth in a way that symbolizes both the raging power of God and His gentle grasp on the hands of those who are on their knees.
  • An ocean represents the seemingly endless miles of infinite & unconditional love that God has for his people.

And so we wait for Him to come, and we do not wait alone. God waits with us.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

-Ceci

[thanks SR for contributing to Ocean comparisons via text, you rock]

He wanted you to Remember…

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When Joshua and the Israelites made it to the other side of the Jordan, he asked them (per the Lord’s instruction) to each pick up a stone. They were instructed to keep up with the stone until they made it to the land that was promised to them.

“When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” – Joshua 4:1-3

You wonder why God would ask them all to pick a stone. Seems almost too simple.

During our bible study last week I asked my sister why she brought home a rock from Uganda last March. Of course she thought it was a trick question. (I don’t know why she thinks I’m always quizzing her.)

After playful frustration and wrong answers, she finally said, “I did it so I could REMEMBER.”

There it is. The lesson God was teaching Joshua and his leaders. He instructed them to pick up a stone from the ‘middle’ of the Jordan so that they would never forget.
Just like the Israelites often forgot all the good things that God had done for them. God knew that we would forget all the grace and blessing that’s He’s put in our lives.

He granted them the miracle of getting them across the Jordan safely, and then He made sure that they would never forget it.

“When your children ask, What do these stones mean? You will let them know…” Joshua 4:21-22

Imagine if we constantly carried our stone with us, sharing with people the Good News and shining our light for Christ everywhere we went.
Imagine being like those 12 leaders crossing the Jordan, feeling so grateful and committed to telling of God’s goodness for generations to come.

Pick up you stone today, carry it with you, so that when things go wrong, you can look at it and REMEMBER that ‘all good things come from above.’ (James 1:17)

And when your children ask you why you carry around a stone, you can tell them…

“HE wanted us to remember…”

-Ceci