Remain… Abide… Belong…

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Words of Jesus found in John 15:4

The above passage has been a repetitive theme and word to me over the last few months! Actually the resounding word has been REMAIN!

It is not the natural practice or response of sinful humanity, to remain or abide in much other than our egotistical selves; creating our own little worlds of comfort and safety. For me, as many know, I was struggling much at the end of last year, and had plans to return to San Diego, to see what country of Latin America God would call me and Abogar to next. Contrary to popular belief, it is not from a personal desire to travel that I travel so much, but rather obedience to God, who so often directs me to be on the move for His glory and purposes. I would actually rather just have a quiet, simple, American-dream type of life. Give me the white picket fence, the 2.5 children (It’s the average but not truly a reality, and most know that I actually want 12! Heheheee!!), a nice comfortable home, a loving wife, and an eight to five job.

So, it has come as a great surprise to me how often and directly God has been telling me to “Remain!” over these past few months! First, He has reminded me that nothing good can come from me, the branch, if I am not connected to Him, The Vine. So I have been growing even more in remaining in Him, remaining in what He thinks of me, how He sees me, and what He says of my being and identity here on earth! It is such a relief that God, perfect Father God, though seeing my multitude of sins and shortcomings daily, smiles down up me and calls me His beloved! Here I shall remain! I can trust Him and His love and declarations over me, as His beloved child.

Secondly, I have been called to “Remain!” here in Guatemala! While some think I complain a lot about Guatemala, I actually love the people here and want to see God’s glory, presence, and love manifested in the lives of the precious children that He calls me and Abogar to fight for! I am very proud of improvements, God-movements, and several changes that Guatemalans have made, and are making. While I do have innumerable horror stories and heart-wrenching realities that I see and try to be God’s love and light into, the reality is that we live in a very broken and dark world, that needs for us to remain present with God’s love and light; offering the hope, love, joy, and peace immeasurable and incomparable that can only come from God!

Thirdly, several have suggested that I should change organizations… join with World Vision, Compassion, or some other organization. (This is not to confuse those who have suggested that God may invite me to partner in another organization while continuing to also lead Abogar forward.) Seeking counsel is wisdom, but you can also receive too much counsel, and then need greater discernment and wisdom to be able to determine what God is trying to speak to you in the midst of the ocean of voices that can unknowingly work to drown out His voice. Fortunately, He has spoken very clearly to me that I am called, for such a time as this, to remain in Abogar; being obedient and leading it forward for His glory. He keeps telling me, “It’s not your’s but I have asked you to lead it for Me… Will you remain and be obedient?” He wins! I choose to remain.

That actually causes me to remember a very powerful story that I once heard. I have no clue of who the author is, but will be honest that it is not my creation, though I am sure that I share it slightly edited from it’s original version…

A man who was deeply in love with the Lord was approached by God Himself one day. God showed the man a ginormous rock and told him that He wanted for the man to push the rock! So the man went to the rock and started pushing, and pushing hard, but the rock would not budge. He pushed for minutes, that turned into hours, that turned into months, that turned into years! Each day he faithfully got up and obediently pushed against the rock, tearfully, painfully, but obediently. After several years of pushing against the rock, one day the man cried out to God asking why he could not move the rock. God replied to the man, reminding him that never once had God asked for him to move the rock, but rather just push the rock. The man, very confused and a little hurt because he did not understand why God would call him to do something so useless, asked God why He had told him to push the rock. God said, “Look at your body.” The man looked down and realized that it had not been useless what God had called him to. The man’s body had rippling, bulging muscles, and was in the best shape it had ever been before. What he saw as useless, remaining each day at the side of a huge rock, pushing it, was actually God’s way of strengthening the man to prepare him for something even greater!

When life and ministry seem like pushing against a rock that will not budge, I remember this story and it helps me to remain faithful and obedient to His call. He is preparing me for something even greater, and I will trust whatever it is that He has for me!

Finally, the word REMAIN for me has signified that I need to learn to abide and belong more in friendships, community, and places of rest. Much of my life I have been the one to initiate relationships, as well as to maintain them. I have, over the last several years, become tired of this reality in my life, and have honestly felt very alone and abandoned by many. It has seldom truly felt like I was wanted, needed, or belonged, because I so often have been the one to initiate for things to happen in friendships. However, God has told me that I need to remain in the place of being an initiator, remain committed to seeking out genuine community, and to remain faithful to growing in my ability and commitment to rest!

I am remaining in the Vine, in Guatemala, in Abogar, in friendships, community, and rest. How about you? Are you remaining where God wants you, no matter where that may be? It could mean pushing a rock, remaining in a foreign country, remaining in hard situations that don’t seem to make much sense, or remaining committed to seeking God, even when He seems silent and distant! I remain, I abide, I belong… exactly where God calls me to be. How about you?!

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