It’s hot: Thoughts on finding joy through everything.

Does anyone ever get in one of those moods where one thing is tough and it seems like everything is tougher and you begin to complain about things? I have been in one of those moods lately. I live here in Memphis, home of great barbecue and incredible humidity. Now I am not much of a complainer and I try to have a positive outlook on things for the majority of the time. I do from time to time but  most of the time I catch myself and don’t let my complaining make it past a few complaints. But the other day it started off as innocent, I complained that it was so hot due to the humidity. And things began to roll downhill from there. I just started getting frustrated quicker and I got in a little bit of a funk. Just a complaining funk. Somethings would be small and not very big issues like why is it not pay day yet? or why do these people not know how to drive? And others would be bigger issues such as why is it so hard to pick a curriculum that is good for my students and will grow them? My head was not connected to my heart. In my mind I knew I shouldn’t be complaining but the outflow of my heart continued to complain. I was at a point where I had to ask myself “Thad, why is your heart so downtrodden?” I traced it back to the root of the problem through some reflection and it got back to me complaining to someone that it was hot. *Sidenote: Temperature was 98 today with a 109 heat index.*

Today as I was entering into my time with the Lord. I kept getting this “Read Acts 16:16-25” in my head. So after I prayed this morning I opened up my Bible to the 16th chapter of Acts and started reading. It was about Paul and Silas and how they cast a demon out of a little girl and the owners of that girl were angered. They drug Paul and Silas to the town’s marketplace and beat them with rods. But the story does not end there. In Verse 25 it says

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God  and the prisoners were listening to them.”

Then it hit me. I am complaining about the heat and these guys got beat with rods and thrown into prison and they still worshiped God. They sang praises to God hours after they were beaten senseless by wooden rods that were tied together. There was so much conviction in that moment. I was complaining about everything because I had complained about the heat on a warm Memphis summer day. But these guys blessed the Lord and worshiped even though they were in prison and were in terrible physical shape just hours after they had the tar beaten out of them by people who did not care for them.

Here I am. A blessed person because I was born in America, raised by great parents, went to an awesome school, and now have a great job. And I being so privileged am sitting here complaining about the heat. When I have friends in Nicaragua who work in a dump for everything. They are surrounded by wild dogs and trillions of flies and they live off of the dump. They claw for everything that they have and yet they do not complain but are joyful. I am in no shape to complain.

Today I am thankful for a God who convicts me when I get to caught up in the American lifestyle and the blessings that have been bestowed upon our country. Thankful for a God who fights for me through grace to have joy even through trials. Today I didn’t find the cure all for complaints or excuses. But today I found another aspect of God that I am truly thankful for. Conviction. Today I found joy through my complaints because I have a God that loves me so much that he won’t let me just look at me.

If you are in this place were you are struggling to find joy because of __________ situation. I encourage you to talk to someone about it. But most of all look toward God and position yourself under the waterfall that is grace and let it cascade over you. Be honest with God about where you are and then wait under that waterfall of grace and the Lord will renew you.

Still learning how to swim in this deep ocean called faith,

Thad Ernst

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State of my heart

About 2 and a half months ago, I moved from everything that I have ever known in Oklahoma to Memphis. I was a week out of college and I picked up my life as I knew it and put it into the unknown. In other terms I jumped off the diving board and into the deep end. It was extremely hard to leave everything I knew to move here and become a youth minister. But 2 and a half months in, I can say without a doubt that God has put me exactly where I am supposed to be. I have found joy in the cross and in the man that is Jesus. I used to say that he was my source of life and that he was my best friend, but now I truly believe it.

A couple of weeks ago I got the experience of going to a country, Nicaragua, that so quickly became a huge part of my daily life. Never have I been a part of a trip that God just punched me so hard. God broke my heart for what breaks his. God showed me some of the most desolate conditions but he showed me beauty and joy beyond my wildest imaginations. I was there for 10 days and I am sure that I will blog about it a more in future posts but the place that has been on my heart since I returned back is a place called La Cruz, the Cross in english. I believe that it was a divine thing that this was called La Cruz because this is a place that has been so heavy on my heart since the first time that I laid eyes on it.

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Yes, that is a dump. When I first got there I thought there is no way that this place could be real. It looked like something out of an apocalyptic movie. There was smoke and mounds of trash everywhere. I stepped off of the bus and there were so many flies that trillions is the only word I know that will sort of describe them. But this is where the people of La Cruz work. For every pound of plastic they sell to companies they make 3-4 Cordobas (which is about 12-14 cents). Not only do they work here this is where they find their clothing, food, and other things that they live on. Jesus opened my eyes and said “Thad these are my children just as you are.” My heart immediately broke for these people. My heart has been heavy since I returned from this place that has now taken on such a holy place in my life. I live such a privileged because I was born in the United States. But my Father in Heaven has been teaching me that since encountering this place and becoming aware of its existence that I can make a difference even if I am not there. That prayers can be a huge impact. If you don’t know what to pray for, just pray that the people of La Cruz that they would be blessed daily.

It is amazing that one place can change that state of your heart. For Moses it was a burning bush, For David it was Adullam, But for me it was the Dump in Esteli, Nicaragua. The place called La Cruz. A place that will forever be burned into my mind.

God will move in mighty ways if we stop and take a look. We may miss it if we are only concerned about ourselves. But God will move even if we do not take time to realize it.

SO LOOK UP!

Thad Ernst