Spiritual Lessons Learned from Playdough

Play-doh Can

Play-Doh. It’s okay to admit it. The brightly colored lump of flour, water, and salt was the joy of many a child growing up. I can remember spending hours playing with the dough, molding it, forming, stretching it out, balling it up, rolling it around, creating animals, people and plants. Yet, while I spent hours with the dough, I never realized the impact it would have on my spiritual life as I grew older. Now, when I pick up the yellow can with the colored lid and pull out the lump of endless joy, I am reminded how God is working in our lives to mold to shape us. It’s quite simple actually: just 3 simple conclusions I’ve learned from the simple child’s toy.

Be moldable.

Both the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah make the connection of God’s people being clay in God’s hands (Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6). We are all a work in progress. As the potter shapes the pot, so are we being shaped in the hands of the Master Craftsman. We must allow ourselves to be molded in the shape that God intends for us. It is silly to think of a pot telling the potter, “I don’t want to look like that! Ouch! That hurts. Make me like that other pot on the shelf!” Yet, too often we tell God the same thing about our lives. Like the soft lump of Playdough that a child so loves to craft and mold, we must allow ourselves to be moldable in the hands of a God who wants to make us into His prized possession, His perfect masterpiece (Eph. 2:10).

Protect your heart.

When I was little, I didn’t like others playing with my Playdough. That may sound selfish, but I had good reason: when the Playdough was in my care, I responsibly used it. I didn’t want it to get dirty or lose any small piece of the clay. In the hands of another, I could not trust that my Playdough would maintain its original integrity. As Christians, we must not allow ourselves to be flippantly used by any that comes along. The only one who we can trust to maintain our original integrity and responsibly treat us ultimate respect is our Heavenly Father. Like the Playdough, we cannot choose our ultimate destiny in being shaped. Whatever circumstances come our way, we are shaped and molded by what we come in contact with. Unlike the Playdough, we can choose who we are shaped by (Joshua 24:15; Romans 12:1-2).

Keep it covered.

If you have had any experience with Playdough, you know that if you leave the lid off the container for any time, the dough will become rock solid, unable to be enjoyed by the curious artist. You must keep it covered, keep the lid on, so the dough will still be moldable and pliable. The same is true of our lives. We must cover ourselves with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 61:10). By being clothed with the garments of God, we are kept pure. The Holy Spirit surrounds us and constantly ministers to us. As we clothe ourselves with robes of righteousness, our characters are molded and transformed. We are kept fresh and alive by Jesus Christ.

You’re never too old to enjoy Playdough. Take the time to play with some, remember how God is shaping you to be the servant He needs you to be.

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Final Moments

Well friend, this post is well over due (and I apologize for that fact). This past week after Costa Rica has been a blur getting back into the swing of things. So without further ado…

SABBATH MARCH 24, 2012

This was our last full day with our people in Costa Rica. We faced the day with mixed emotions. Glad that we had come this far and sad that we would have to say good-bye later in the day.

We ate breakfast around 8 and headed out on the vans that would take us to the sites at 9.

This Sabbath was a bit different from the other two. This day, the sites consolidated. Those that had been meeting in tents and open places went to the closest church building (except for those who were close to Sixaola in the tent. See Rain (Reign) Down from March 13).

I was assigned to the local church in Cahuita. It was a nice break to walk for 5 minutes down the road to the church rather than riding for upwards of one and half hours in a van full of people. The Eastlands from the Laguria site, the Armijos from Hone Creek, and Daniel and Arisbe from Cahuita, were all there.

We walked to the church around 9:30 and arrived while they were having Sabbath school. The adults were all inside the church and the kids gathered in the fellowship hall and split into groups divided by age.

They moved into the church service around 10:30 and everyone came inside the church for prayer and praise. The place was packed because of the 3 different sites that were gathering there.

During the church service, they called all the international evangelists to the front to give them thanks for the work they had done in Costa Rica. Each elder from their sites, respectively, gave a little speech detailing the speakers and children’s ministry personal had impacted the lives of those at their sites.

Back row: Daniel Quinones, Arisbe Jaquez; Front row: Mrs. Eastland, Raiden Eastland, Mrs. Armijo, & Amanda Armijo.

After more singing and prayer, Daniel got up to speak.

This was the first time I had heard Daniel speak to his church. He was very, very, very, very excited (and that’s not over doing it). He got the people involved, having them call back responses and asking questions. His message for the morning was about the reality of heaven. It was a nice note to end the series of meetings on: the hope that if we would not see each other again on this earth, we would meet in heaven.

While the sermon continued on, the kids had left and gone back over to the fellowship hall for their church service. Arisbe was leading out, telling stories and singing with all 50 of the kids. They worked on crafts as well.

Once church broke up, a group headed down to the ocean front for a baptism and lots of group photos.

That was followed by potluck and socializing with each other. Kids were running all over the place with huge grins and many were asking for pictures.

After about an hour of that people began to say their good-bye’s and head home. Like I’ve said before, this was a bittersweet moment.

Once just about everyone had left, and we had gotten all the pictures people wanted, we headed back to the hotel to change and relax from the tiring 2 and a half weeks we had just been through. A trip to the beach came shortly after and we spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the beauty of God’s creation in Costa Rica.

Around 4, everyone had returned from their sites and we met on the beach for the baptisms of Ismael and Olivia from our group.

We stayed there at the beach for a while after to enjoy the sunset (which was pretty cloudy) and play in the surf. Everyone seemed glad that our time in Costa Rica was drawing to an end.

That night, we packed and relaxed at the hotel pool.

SUNDAY MARCH 25, 2012

Sunday we ate our last breakfast at Roberto’s and loaded up in a bus around 10 to embark on a 4 hour bus ride to San Jose. It was nice to the see the scenery that we had previously seen in darkness, in the light of day.

In San Jose, we stayed at the Adventist University there.

We played basketball and soccer with the students there (which was pretty fun) and others got their fast food fix at the mall that was near by.

The night brought rest for the early morning the next day.

MONDAY MARCH 26, 2012

Alarms sounded as the 4 o’clock hour struck and we awoke to load the vans that would take us to the airport. We got to the airport around 5:30 and got everyone in the group checked-in by 7:45 for our 8:30 flight. After boarding the plane, we sat on the tarmac for about 20 minutes as maintenance fixed a leaking coffee maker on the plane. Once that had been taken care of, we took off with our sites set on Dallas, Texas.

After our 4 hour lay-over in Dallas, we took off again on the last leg of our journey. We were Albuquerque bound.

A short hour and a half flight later, we were walking out of the terminal in Albuquerque greeted by a large group of family and friends smiling and shouting, excited that we were home. It felt good to be home.

And we are now only continuing our journey, bringing back the experiences and lessons we learned in Costa Rica back home to apply them to our home lives.

Thank you, friend, for hanging with us on our journey to Costa Rica and back. Thank you for the prayers and support. Many lives were changed on this trip.

Until next time.

-Michael

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Dirt Roads and Kindled Fires

FRIDAY MARCH 23, 2012

For many, Friday was the first day that it really sunk in that we are going to be flying back to the U.S. on Monday. It’s bittersweet. It will be good to get back home but sad to leave these people behind that we have grown so close to.

Friday followed the usual routine. We worship back a half hour to noon so that Mr. Reeve could go pick up our t-shirts and be back in time to give them to us.

Daniel present the sermon for the day talking about the unpardonable sin. He did an excellent job and kept it interesting.

We also had an a capella song service right before Daniel’s talk to bring a little bit of home down to Costa Rica with us.

After worship, Mr. Reeve passed out the t-shirts and gathered for a group photo.

In the event that you want to see the design in better definition, check out my previous post from March 14 Jesus Saves.

After lunch, Daniel and I were able to go back to the national park for perhaps the last time (we will have to see what today brings). We went the deepest I have been in the park with the hopes of seeing snakes and lizards, but we ran out of time and had to turn back. Although, along the way Daniel was able to catch a blue morpho butterfly that he has been searching for all this time. I’ll put up a picture soon.

The time came to leave for our sites and for the last time we entered the van that would take us all to our different sites.

For this evening I was assigned to go along with Justin Longshore and Anissa Romero to their site in Suretka.

From them to get to their site, they first ride in the crowded van to a bridge over a river. There they transfer to a smaller car along with Naomi and Ivette (Where Two or Three Are Gathered). After dropping Naomi and Ivette off at their site in Volio, they continue on for about 15 miles on a beat up dirty, dusty  road that gets super muddy when it rains (like it did this night).

We were taken to the church elder’s home for a dinner of bread and jam. Then a short walk to church in the drizzling rain. But our spirits weren’t down.

The church building is a copy of the Puerto Viejo, Bribri, and Paraiso churches. They all look very similar.

Inside the church, about 7 to 10 people had gathered there. We walked inside and they almost immediately started the meeting.

Right before the sermon, the kids took off with Anissa to a room behind the church to do their program.

Justin got up to speak. But there is something different about this picture and the other sites. Justin doesn’t speak with a translator. He preaches the word of God in Spanish. This is an incredible challenge since he is not fluent in the language.

It is the same for Anissa. She is not fluent in Spanish either but still is able to talk to the kids in their native language.

It is incredible to see how these two people stood up to adversity and faced their challenges head on. They could have said, “No, we can’t do this” but instead they rolled with the punches and relied on a power greater than their own to be able to communicate with the people in Suertka.

I can tell that the meetings that were happening in Suertka are kindling a fire in the people’s hearts. It may not be a big one, but it is definitely there.

Today is Sabbath and we are looking forward to the baptisms that are going to happen today. The series of meetings have come fruition and all our hard work is paying off. Many of our own team members have seen a change in there lives. Christ is more evident in my life and lives of those around me.

Please continue to pray for us as we venture out on our last day with the people at our sites.

Until next time.