Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011.

It's New Year's Eve, and suffice it to say this has been one of the most interesting years of my life. It's been a really LONG time since I've been this happy to see a year end. 

Professionally, this has been one of the best years I've ever had. I have been amazed countless times at the great things God is doing through Del Sol Church, Youth for Christ El Paso, and The Encounter Movement. I have seen God transform people in amazing ways, I've seen Him lead people to great generosity with their time and money, and I've seen grace in action more than ever before. I've seen the absolute pain, horror, and devastation that sin causes, but I've also seen how God's grace and forgiveness is stronger.

I've also seen how God can heal and restore, and that's been indescribably beautiful to see. I know that what God has done is just the tip of the iceberg, and I am so excited to see the greater things that He will do next year. When it comes to ministry in El Paso, I truly believe 2012 will be a year of blessing, prosperity, and breakthroughs like we have never seen before. I feel tremendously humbled and privileged to be a part of that. 

Personally, 2011 was one of the worst years I've ever had. I started out the year struggling with a depression that was affecting my life in a bad way. I wrote about that here. I went through months of counseling and finally experienced God's deliverance from that. Then I enjoyed a short time of good circumstances during the spring - and then came summer. 

At the beginning of summer I got hit with a bad case of bronchitis. That was terrible, and I hope it never happens again. I also met a very lovely young lady and we began to kindle a relationship. It was very nice, very innocent and pure, and a lot of fun. She's a very wise, Godly young woman and I was excited at the potential for a long-term relationship. By the end of summer, she had to leave to go back and finish her last year of college.

We talked about what would happen next, and agreed that it would be best to wait until after she graduated to look into the possibility of a serious relationship. Shortly after that, she met another guy at school and they began a relationship. So as difficult as it was, I prayed for them, blessed them, and left that all in God's hand. I don't understand what happened, I don't know why things turned out the way they did, and I don't know if I'll ever have closure about that. I probably will after awhile, but it sure doesn't feel like it right now. 

Around the same time, I also found out about a sinful situation some people I love were involved in and because of the circumstances, had to immediately intervene. That turned out to be pretty messy and I'm still helping them through the restoration process with that.

By this time, it was fall and I was getting pretty worn down by life. I hoped things would be a little calmer in life, but boy was I wrong! On Thanksgiving morning, I was heading to the parade Downtown and got rear ended by a lady in a big truck driving full-speed on the freeway. After waiting on the side of the freeway for  nearly an hour, help arrived. The ambulance took one of the girls to the hospital and the rest of us went on our own and spent most of the day in the hospital. Since then we've been dealing with a long, painful, slow recovery from our injuries.

A little while after that I was asked to intervene in another messy, sinful situation. That was really painful to get involved in, and I'm also still involved in helping in that restoration process.

Then came Christmastime. One of my brothers wasn't able to make it home, making this the second year in a row my family was incomplete at Christmas. We made it through Christmas and ended up having a blessed time, and then a couple days after that I began to get sick. Turns out I have strep throat. I went to the clinic, got a couple shots, and passed out from the pain. After awhile, I was able to go home and since then I've been trying to heal up. As of today, I'm still feeling pretty lousy. 

So can see it's been a very difficult year for me. I have experienced physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain like I never thought I would. And you can see why I'm glad this year is over. 

But - I'm optimistic and hopeful about 2012. Hardly anything has changed. Seems like things have gotten worse, actually - yet I believe next year will be a good year. Today, Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, posted this on twitter: "The difficulty of the trial you survived indicates the depth of blessing that's ahead. God tests you to promote you."

I fully agree with that. I believe that everything I've been through will be a launch pad for greater things. Why? Because God is good. Not everything that happens is good - but God is good. 

Psalm 107:1 NIV says: "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever". Even through all the pain I've had, I can still confidently tell you that's true! God is good.

In John 10:10 CEV, Jesus said "The thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest". I LOVE that Scripture. I know that stupid satan tried to destroy me in 2011, but he failed like he always will. More importantly, I know that Jesus wants me to have life in its fullest, in Him.

So my goal for 2012: live life to the fullest by living it in Him. 2012 will be a great year because in good and bad - I will be living it with my Lord Jesus. And He is enough for me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Gifts That Make A Difference

Still looking for some Christmas gifts? Don't know what to get for someone? Why not give a gift that will last longer than a gift card, a fruitcake, or clothes? Here are some GREAT organizations to buy a gift from:

- International Justice Mission. This is my FAVORITE organization of all. If you're reading this, you will never be owned by someone else. You will never be property. Sad to say, not everyone in the world has the same freedom. You can buy the gift of freedom for someone in our world. Check out IJM by clicking here.

- charity: water. My next favorite organization. Did you know almost 1 billion people in our world don't have access to clean water? That to turn on a kitchen faucet and have clean water come out would be a miracle to nearly 1 BILLION people on earth? And did you know that just $20 provides clean water for one person for 20 years? Give the gift of water. You can buy gifts here or donate in someone else's name here.

- Compassion International. This is a phenomenal organization that is hugely respected across the world. You can help Compassion release children from poverty in Jesus' Name. There are so many ways to do that, you'll just have to go here to see all the gift options.

- World Vision. A few years ago I gave my three brothers a goat for Christmas. Yes, really - a goat. Somewhere in a developing nation, a family received a goat, which provides milk and cheese for food, manure for crops, and wool for clothes. There are lot of other giving options here.

- The A21 campaign. Last but certainly not least is A21 - an organization working to abolish justice in the 21st century. You can write a Christmas card to a survivor of human trafficking, or give a financial donation that will be used to fight human trafficking through legal fees, as well as costs related to healthcare and housing for victims. Check out A21 here.

I hope this Christmas you'll consider giving a gift that will make a difference.