We have been blessed with a wonderful new addition to our family. Samuel Carter Safford is my grandson. Yes, it is hard for me to believe that I am an grandfather - I am too young to be a grandfather!!
Needless to say, he is a joy for my wife and I. We get to see him regularly and are enjoying watching him grow.
I was thinking this morning of our relationship to our Heavenly Father, and I was reminded of something that Sam did a little while ago.
As most of you know - I travel a lot. I get to go to other countries and serve with amazing people. I get to see some unbelievable places, and I get to eat a variety of foods. AND, as I return, I get to bring things home with me from these cultures and share them with my family.
In April, I returned home with a drum for Sam. I was excited about giving it to him, and was looking forward to his response as he received such a "cool" gift. Again, in June, I returned with some "Chiky" cookies for Sam, and again I was excited to see how he responded.
His response was a lesson to me. I thought he would take the drum and play with it. I thought he would get all excited about the cookies and want to eat them. However, both times, he looked at my gift and reached beyond them to be with me. He wanted me - not my stuff! He missed relationship with me while I was gone, and longed to be with me again.
Yes, Sam is young - he will learn - the stuff is so much cooler than I am. But in the meantime, I will enjoy his enthusiasm to see me.
His response made me think about God. Remember when we first accepted the good news of the gospel. God's wrath for my sin was poured out on His Son, and I was given Christ's righteousness in place of my sinful heart. God did this so I could have a relationship with Him. That's amazing!! And when I was first introduced to it, the greatest gift God gave me was Himself. That was all that I wanted. That was all that I needed. God was/is sufficient.
But as years go by, it seems that I get enamored with the gifts that God can provide and forget that He is the greatest gift of all. I even go so far as to pursue things that are contrary to Him and His nature and I seek to find satisfaction in them. Oh, foolish person that I am, what greater gift is there than to be called a son of God.
God help me to see you again as I did at first. Help me to find my pleasure and satisfaction in you and you alone. Help me, as Sam has taught me, to pursue you first and enjoy your gifts as they were intended - a reflection of your love for me.
I was listening to the radio as I traveled to Cedarville, Ohio this week, and the Powerball Jackpot has risen to 1.4 billion dollars. By the drawing on Wednesday, I expect the total prize to be $1.5 billion. If one were to win, the actual payout (after taxes) will be somewhere around $500,000,000. That is some amazing prize. What would you do with that kind of money?
If you have talked with anyone at all about this drawing, the question rises, "what would you do with that kind of money?" From vacation houses to paying off debt, from taking care of family and friends to buying an island, the answers differ from person to person. What doesn't seem to differ is the enthusiasm that accompanies the idea of being a millionaire - or a MULTI-MILLIONAIRE!! Here is a thought for us as believers...
Almost everyone would agree that if they won that kind of money, they would take care of family and friends. They would give them as much as they can to help them out. They would pay their bills, set them up financially for life, or at least make sure they were sufficiently blessed. Even those who do not know Christ as Savior share this philanthropic ideal.
Isn't what we have in Christ far more valuable than $1.5 Billion?
Money is passing, pleasure is passing, ease in this life is passing... EVERYTHING in this life is passing. Living with God is eternal! Being part of His family, sharing in the eternal inheritance, spending time with Jesus in Heaven is ETERNAL! Why is it that we have such a difficult time sharing something that is infinitely more valuable than money and possessions? Why are we not making sure that the gift that we have been given in Jesus Christ - that, by the way, does not diminish as it is shared with others (like money does) - is not made available for everyone we come in contact with? Is it possible that we have lost the vision for the value of His Grace given to us?
It happened on the way home one day. Dee and I were driving past David King's house, and he was outside working on his flower beds. It was a hot day, very hot. David was obviously experiencing the heat as his face and shirt were drenched in sweat.
We asked him what he was doing.
"Working in the flower beds." was his reply. And then came a question that I have not stopped thinking about since he asked. Not because of the question, but rather the prompt answer that came to mind. David said, "I cannot keep these weeds from growing in my garden. How do you guys take care of your weeds?"
Without thinking (which is not uncommon for me) I answered, "We don't. We just started calling them flowers."
This statement has rolled around in my mind for the past few weeks. As I mowed the lawn the last 3 times, I kept thinking about how true this statement is in other areas of our lives.
When I begin to call things by other names, my response to them changes.
Many years ago, I was making breakfast for my children, and I asked them if they wanted "french toast". My oldest daughter said, "I don't want toast". To which I replied, "not toast, Brooke, french toast - it's different." We went back and forth for a while, and eventually the light went on for me. She wasn't going to get it, so I asked her if she wanted, "glibberglobber" for breakfast. She said, "yes", and I made her french toast. To this day, we have glibberglobber, not french toast. Same thing - just called something different.
The reason this thought is really impacting to me is because of the use of terms that are critical. My daughter not knowing what something is called and being willing to try something "new" isn't a big deal. However, when I begin calling "sin" something other than it is, I start to make it easier to swallow, or at the very least, less offensive to me.
"Gossip" is a sin, "talking with others about someone" isn't quite as bad, and "sharing information that might be useful for someone to know" is almost defendable. All three involve the same activity, but calling something a "sin" makes it so much more difficult to justify.
Sin is behaving any way that is contrary to the nature of God. He has made clear - using precise words - what sin is. We are all guilty of sin, but think that if we just lessen the degree of the explanation of our sins, then we will be less guilty.
That's like calling a dandelion a "rose". Just because I change the wording doesn't make it any more like a rose than it was when I called it a dandelion.
The truth is, when I begin to call weeds, "weeds", I know exactly what needs to be extracted from my garden. And when I look at God's word to see what "sin" actually is, I realize what God needs to extract in my life as well.
The good news of the gospel is that God has provided a way through Jesus Christ for our lives to be "sinless" because of His righteousness that he offers us through His shed blood. But this only happens when I see the sin in my life that is so offensive to a Holy God!
God help me call the "failures", the "weaknesses", the "mess-ups" in my life what they really are - SIN, and then bring them to my Holy Father who offers forgiveness, grace and mercy.
Today is our second full day of ministry at the camp, and we
have a bunch of things planned for today.
We started the day the usual way – breakfast followed by
devotions, today we talked about the life of Joseph.We were challenged to see the difficulties of
life through the lens of the sovereignty of God like Joseph did.We talked about obedience, especially in the
area of forgiveness, as Joseph modeled with his brothers in Genesis 50 after
the death of his father.
After devotions, Matt and Sam headed to the chapel like they
did yesterday (interestingly enough, Matt talked with the kids about Joseph
today), and the rest of the team went to work digging ditches and
painting.Well, except for Jenny and
Leslie who took a shopping trip with Jose Luis to get supplies for chocolate
chip cookies – yeah, they are making them for the kids tomorrow!We worked all morning until it was time to
swim.Then we had a blast playing in the
pool with the kids.
Today, I actually joined the kids in the pool, so I was
throwing kids around, dunking a few, tossing a few into the pool…you know, the normal activity of being in a
pool.I picked up Genesis (one of the
girl counselors) and carried her to the edge of the pool.I asked the kids, “si or no”, and they
excitedly all answered, “SI”.No, I didn’t
throw her in, but I was thinking about it!!I told the kids that I would throw the counselors in tomorrow… they
thought that was hilarious.
After lunch, we took the kids outside and took some pictures,
then we lined them all up.The counselors
and the team were standing on the balcony above where the kids were, and they
tossed water balloons at the kids.We
had scheduled a balloon toss game, so that was the introduction – the kids
loved it.Then we played the balloon
toss game. They loved it.At the end of
the game, we decided to let the kids have an all out balloon war – or at least
that was what I thought we had decided.Instead, there was a coup in the group, and while I was telling the kids
what to do, Sam was telling them that when I counted to 3, everyone was
supposed to throw the balloons at me.I
liked this group before this, but now, I am not so sure…Seriously, the kids loved the opportunity to
get me back for throwing them in the pool.It was a blast.
The evening consisted of the “discovering your heart” time again,
and the kids really responded to the lessons that were presented.We were able to hug on them and encourage
them.The ladies actually broke into
groups, and Lian said she talked with her group about what they did with their
dolls when they were younger.She said
she really wasn’t sure what that was all about, but they had a great time
talking.Sometimes we don’t know exactly
how we are going to connect with the kids, but if that opens the door – talking
about dolls it is…
After dinner we made our way to the woods for a
campfire.The counselors presented the
kids with songs and challenges to live a different life.They asked them if they would be interested
in receiving Christ, or committing their lives to Him, and many of the kids
raised their hands and the counselors went around and prayed with the
kids.It was a wonderful and tangible
time to see God work in the lives of the kids.
Our day closed with our evening wrap up.Sam shared his testimony and his story of
coming to AMG.Phil shared ice cream. We
really enjoyed that.Amy was wrestling
with the thought of leaving and wondering if her work here was fruitful.Phil reminded her that her time here is
critical for the ministry of AMG, and she needs to take home the things that
she has seen here so that others might know what God is doing and so they can
get involved as well.The fact that now
the team can pray more knowledgeably about the ministry of AMG Guatemala, Camp Canaan and the Matochos
center is critical for the success of each of these ministries.
Tomorrow is our last full day of camp, so the emotions will
be running high.We have a lot of
interesting things planned for the kids, so I pray that we have the time and
the energy to do all that we want to.Which leads me to the fact that it is almost bedtime now…good night.
our first full day of camp, and we have a busy schedule planned.We began the day with people doing personal
devotions in various places, and then we joined up for breakfast.After eating, we met together to discuss the
life of Abraham.We were impressed by
his faith that gave him the confidence to know that even though God called him
to sacrifice his only child, he knew that God could (and would) raise him from
the dead.What a great man of faith.
devotions, Matt and Sam headed off to teach during the morning session with the
kids, while the rest of the group broke into 2 squads – painting crew and hole
digging crew.Both teams got to work and
for the next 2 ½ hours painted and dug –
they did a lot of work.
we broke to join the kids as they were heading to the pool to go swimming.It is so neat to see these kids, who don’t
have access to a swimming pool, jumping in the water, holding their breath
under water, playing water games, etc.They act just like the kids back home.Of course, our group is right there with them, playing games and
swimming together.They are having a
ended and we played games (basketball and futbol) until lunch.Then we ate lunch and we had our activity and
craft time.The girls did the craft
first – so the boys played futbol and threw cherries at each other.Jose Luis and hisson, Chipito, were right in the thick of the
cherry fight.They had cherry marks all
over their clothes.It is hilarious to
see a 56 year old man playing with the kids – allowing them to throw cherries
at him too!They were having a
the girls finished their craft (a picture frame holder that they painted and
then received a “Polaroid” type picture to put in it), and it was the guys
turn.What was funny was the difference
of the behaviors of the girls.They were
not playing futbol.They were not running
around throwing things at each other.They were sitting on the basketball court and the soccer field and
coloring with sidewalk chalk and making bracelets with rubber bands.It was much more peaceful than the boys!
cleaning up the craft/game time, and we were told the kids were going to two
different places (boys in the chapel, girls in the salon), for a “discovering
your heart” time.The girls from the
group went to the salon, and Sam and I went to the chapel.Both groups were talking about protecting
their hearts and learning how to love one another better.The final activity of the group was very
amazing to watch.They told the boys and
girls that they needed to hug each other and tell each other what strengths
they see in each other.The boys were
crying, hugging each other, encouraging one another – to the point that when we
broke for prayer, one of the boys was sobbing loudly.It was very moving – these kids do not
receive this kind of love at home.They are
encouraged to be hard, unemotional people.It is “necessary” for their survival.The team was impacted deeply as we watched the kids love each other, and
as we participated as well – hugging each child and telling them that God loves
them, and we love them too.
back our housing area and sat around as a team.One person asked about embarrassing stories, so a few of us told some embarrassing
things that have happened.Without giving
you any more information, you must ask Amy about her towel experience…definitely one of the best “embarrassing
moment” stories I have ever heard!!
it was dinner time and we ate with the children.Then we had a little “free time” in the salon
(basically an all purpose room where they eat, have meetings, play games, etc.)
and we made up some crazy games to pass the time.Most of the games didn’t even make any sense –
like the boys running into the girls circle and jumping up and down like a
bunch of monkeys.The girls would crash
the boys monkey circle and we would all just laugh.One kid asked Sam what the rules to this game
was – Sam asked me, and of course I did not have an answer – we were just having
was followed by a movie about David and Goliath.The kids sat on the ground and watched the
movie.After it ended Layda (one of the
male counselors) gave a challenge and then prayed with the kids.
ended with our wrap up time.Each person
shared the highlights and the difficulties for the day.I was thrilled to listen to the group share
the ways God is stretching them, encouraging them, using them.It has been a wonderful day.
more of the same – another day to serve God and see what He is going to do.
Today is our first full day at the camp, and you can tell
that the team is excited about the kids coming today.
We began the day with breakfast followed by our devotional
time in Hebrews.We are walking through
the 11th chapter this week and looking at heroes of faith in the Old
Testament.I am amazed at the people
that were chosen for this chapter, and the things that were highlighted about
their lives.We talked about what it
means to live a life of faith.
After this the adults had a meeting with Orpha and we talked
about the plans for the week.The
teenagers were helping the counselors in preparation for the arrival of the
kids.As the morning wore on, the
anticipation grew for the arrival of the kids.
At one point we all headed off to the basketball court to
practice some of the songs/dancing that we would be doing with the kids.Everyone found their way on to the court and
were dancing the motions that the counselors were teaching us.It was fun, but very funny to watch.
Eventually the kids arrived, and the next 8 hours was filled
with all kinds of interactions.The team
did a great job connecting with the kids by playing basketball, futbol,
swimming, individual games, talking, sharing, etc.We had lunch and dinner at different parts of
the “salon”, because we cannot eat their food, but we still had the opportunity
to interact with them after they ate.
Some highlights of the day was watching the kids get off the
bus – cheering as they saw the counselors and the team.We helped the kids get their luggage and head
off to their cabins.The teenage girls
shared their testimonies in the evening worship time and I pray that God uses that
in the lives of the kids.
The team had a great wrap up time as the kids headed off to
their cabins for their own wrap up time.We prayed together, and then we headed off to bed…Or, not.As I am writing this, the teen girls are doing their devotional work for
tomorrow (together) – we are studying the life of Abraham.The men are playing Rummy.The
ladies – probably asleep already as it is 10:00.This really is a great team, and I am excited
about what God will do as they continue to serve the workers and the children
here at Camp Canaan.
Enough for now – no, I am not joining the Rummy game… I
stepped in a mud pit during the soccer game, so I need to get cleaned up.It’s about time…Tomorrow is more of the same, and yet a new
day all together – I am looking forward to what God does.
Sunday morning at Seteca, a seminary here in Guatemala, and
the team is up bright and early ready for a 2 hour ride to Matochos.Phil and Sam arrive and tell us that although
McDonalds was supposed to open at 6, that really means 6:30-6:45, so they could
not bring breakfast.Flex, flex, flex…
that’s what we tell teams, so we loaded up our luggage in the vehicle and
headed toward Matochos.We stopped at
McDonalds around 7:15, ate breakfast, and loaded back up for the rest of the
When we arrived in Matochos, we went to the school and
visited with Miraflor.We introduced
ourselves and then stood around and talked for a little bit. Phil alerted us to the fact that the preacher
of the church was called away, so we would be doing the morning service.Pastor Matt spoke, Rudee, Lian and Leslie
gave testimonies/challenges to the people as well.Allie and Jenny went with the children and
did a Sunday school lesson with them.They all did a great job.
After church, we went to Villa Laura to return some chairs,
and visit the local church.We met with
some of the people there and prayed with them.We met Obed, the director at Villa Laura, and he showed us around this
facility that was 15 minutes from Matochos.Villa Laura has 150 students.It
is just a small school, but important in reaching some of the families in this
area with the gospel.
Eventually we headed back to Matochos for lunch (a chicken
soup meal).After lunch, Rudee and Lian
had the opportunity to meet with their sponsored child – Thailia ( which is
interesting since Rudee is from Thailand!).What an interesting “coincidence”.I really enjoyed watching them talk and meet for the first time.Rudee and Lian gave her gifts and hugged her
and her mother.Then they all prayed
together with Phil and Sam.It was
From there we headed back to the city to make our way to
Camp Canaan.We arrived shortly after 5,
and unloaded and got ready for dinner.The kids arrive tomorrow, so we just sat around, talked, shared, and
enjoyed our time with Jose Luis and Orpha.
We wrapped the day up with some instruction for the week, a
challenge to live as Christ would with the children/workers and with other team
members, and then some highlights of the day.Some shared about relationships they began/continued, some shared about
things that God had showed them today.Rudee mentioned the lesson she learned as she thought about how conscious
she is being about the water she is drinking, the food she is eating, the
necessary behaviors in the restroom (not allowed to flush toilet paper), and
how that correlates to the spiritual alertness she should be experiencing every
day as well.We were challenged to be as
spiritually alert with our walk with God as we are being with our physical
It was a great day.The kids arrive tomorrow around 10-11, so we will be preparing the camp
for their arrival in the morning.It is
after 12:30 back home, so I guess I ought to be getting to bed soon.