Monday, November 25, 2013

I am weakness

I recently read a quote in Jesus Calling, a daily devotional book, that really encouraged me. It said, “I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me.” Throughout this whole year, I’ve seen again and again just how many weaknesses I have. There aren’t many sins listed in the Bible that I don’t struggle with. I struggle daily with greed, jealousy, anger, sexual sin, drunkenness, gluttony, all kinds of idolatory, selfishness, gossip, prideful thoughts, judgmental thoughts, hateful thoughts, and many others that would take too long to list. I also routinely battle doubts, anxieties, fears, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of depression, feelings of guilt, and even feelings of guilt when I don’t feel guilty but feel like I should. Aside from all these things, I can also be pretty hypocritical at times. I don’t naturally enjoy sharing the gospel, or serving the homeless, or putting others first, or even going to church. There have been many times when I've stolen, lied, or cheated when I knew I could get away with it or when I knew it would make me look better. It's much easier for me to be inappropriate around non-believers than it is to share about how much Jesus loves them. I naturally just live to please myself and do what makes me feel good. I make my life all about me. I used to think I was a good person, but the closer I've grown to God, the more I've realized that I'm not a good person. Not even close. Even when it looks as if I’m doing good things, my motives are a lot of times more for selfish reasons than motivated by love. Like it says in Isaiah 64:6, even our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Recently, I have been feeling just like the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 when he says that he is the worst of sinners.


As I’ve been realizing just how much of a broken person I am, it's been very easy to get down and discouraged. I’m starting to see just how helpless I am apart from Christ. When I control my life, I literally can't do anything of eternal value (John 15:5). Thankfully, God has also encouraged me through this process of humbling. I've been reminded that my salvation is not at all based on my performance as a Christian, but totally, 100% on God’s grace. That is such an awesome thought! With this in mind, I've told myself to worry less about doing things for God, and instead, to focus on being with God. Spending time with him in prayer, spending time reading the Bible, spending time thinking about God's character. And then trust that He will work in my heart and change me from the inside out. This is the good news of the gospel: that God has done for us what we could never do. No amount of church attendance, prayer, giving of my money and time, mission trips, or good deeds will ever get me even one step closer to Christ. All that is needed is to trust that Jesus' sacrifice is enough and to have faith in Him. Once we realize this, and this is only by the help of God's grace, do we become like the man in the parable of the hidden treasure in the field. Once he found the treasure, he joyfully sold everything he had to buy the field because he realized that nothing else mattered, not comfort, not success, not money, not anything.


My prayer is that God will open my eyes so that I will treasure a relationship with Him so much that everything thing else in life will just fade in comparison.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trip Recap

      Because of the Kenyan elections on Monday, we decided it would be smart to fly out a week early and avoid any possible post-election violence. So here is a recap of the trip. I will divide it into three sections just in case you want to pick and choose which sections you read. The first section will be about what we did, then how God worked in my heart, and finally I’ll write about some random stuff.
      The whole goal of our trip was to bless and encourage Martin and his ministry in whatever way possible, and to also be obedient to whatever else we felt God calling us to do. We spent a week building a water tank for an orphan school in the village which was kinda fun. It got to be pretty brutal at times with the heat and nowhere to go for shade, but it was so great to see the kids’ excitement every day when we showed up. We also helped out at a sports/kids camp for a week. This was pretty unorganized, but it ended up working out well because the kids were super content and didn’t really seem to care what we did. We ended up playing games, doing some exercise drills, and also reading some Bible stories. Jay, Chris, and I would joke that we had to watch out for becoming prideful because all the kids treated us like celebritie. Lastly, we spent a lot of time going around and visiting Martin’s house churches in Kenya and Uganda. This part of the trip was definitely my favorite as I love being able to (or at least trying to) encourage others. So we got to spend a lot of time sharing meals with the churches, praying over them, and speaking verses and words of encouragement into their lives. I always felt like I was more encouraged than they were when I left because I was so amazed by their faith and their contentment in the midst of their struggles and poverty. We also got to treat Martin to a night at a lodge in Sipi Falls in Uganda which was super refreshing for all of us!
      I felt like God did a lot of work in my heart this past month, but I would say the two main things he reminded me of were his grace and my dependency on him. There were a lot of struggles for me during the trip, most of which were very small things, but God really used them to show me (in a loving way) what a schmuck I can be at times. And through this, he really brought me to the realization that I never have and never will do anything  to earn my salvation, but that it is only by his grace that I’m saved. As I started to realize this, I was just overwhelmed with joy and peace because I couldn’t understand why in the heck God would ever choose me to follow him. I struggle with so many things and fail in so many areas, yet he chose to show his grace and mercy to me! It just rocks my mind. Some of my struggles on the trip included not having control over most situations like being able to run, eat, or even go to the bathroom whenever I wanted, feeling unsafe at times, and just feeling helpless to make any difference in the world after seeing so much poverty and pain. God used this to remind me again of my complete dependency and need for him every single day. I felt like I was also reminded of John 15:5 which really simplifies following Christ in saying that all we need to do is remain in Christ and will we bear fruit for his kingdom. That’s definitely encouraging!

Some quick random notes:

-         -The village we stayed at had an elevation of 6,200 feet which made running pretty brutal this past month. We even spent two days at a village in Uganda which was at just over 10,000 feet. Both of my runs there were close to the most miserable of my life.

-         -We had two layovers in Dubai, one on the way out and one on the way back. Both times we tried to go up the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, but both times we failed. We had reservations at the bar on the 122nd floor at midnight on Monday, but sadly we did not meet the dress code so we were turned away. Even though it was disappointing, it was so fun to walk around Dubai. It’s definitely the most unique city I’ve ever been to. 

-         -I realized I am intensely claustrophobic. Taxi rides in Kenya consist of packing as many people as possible into a small 15 passenger van. The most we ever had was 24 at one point. We also had a 3 hour ride with 22 people. During that ride I was crunched into the back and my legs fell asleep within the first 2 minutes. It was also extremely hot and it smelled, so it was only by God’s grace that I didn’t have a panic attack.

-         -After a month of not having any sugar in my food, I had a pretty intense sugar craving when I got back to the States. So when I got to the airport in New York last night my dinner consisted of a chocolate chip cookie, a sugar cookie, a snickers bar, and a chocolate covered brownie. I’m so thankful that God gave us taste buds!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


After lots of prayer and some clear direction from the Lord, I've decided that I will be going to Kenya from February 5th to March 12th! I will be going with one of my closest friends, Jay Quick, and one of Jay's friends, Chris, who is from Colorado. We will be going to serve and support our brother and friend Martin Wangila. It sounds like we will be running a sports camp for teenagers, building a water filter system for his village, and going around to his house churches in Uganda to strengthen and encourage them. At first, to be completely honest, I wasn't thrilled about the idea of going back to Africa, but I have gradually grown more excited as the Lord continues to confirm that this is where He wants me to go for now. I'm a little worried about what the daily living conditions will be like, but as I learned in Zambia, God definitely does give the grace needed to get through everyday.

One thing the Lord has really brought to my attention recently is my selfishness. On Christmas day I was reading through 1 Corinthians 10, and when I came across verse 24 which says, "No one should seek their own good, but the good of others," I felt deeply convicted. Since that day I've been praying that the Lord will show me my selfishness, and boy has He ever. Even though I might not always act selfishly, I've realized that I am super selfish when it comes to my thought life.  I'm sure that nearly 90% of my thoughts are about seeking my own good, while only 10% of them are about seeking for the good of others. Since God has revealed this to me I've been trying to be more intentional about thinking of myself less often, and as I've tried to do this I've realized just how deeply this selfish thinking is ingrained in me as it is extremely difficult for me not to think about myself. This will definitely be a long process, but I can take hope that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Lastly, I just started reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan last week and I absolutely love it! Francis is my favorite author and speaker. He does such a great job of seeking out biblical truths and speaking them out of a heart of love, honesty, and humility. Even though he can be very convicting at times, I never seem to feel discouraged but always come away feeling inspired. My favorite part of the book so far is when Francis talks about John 16:7 which says, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." Francis talks about just how crazy this verse is because Jesus is pretty much saying that it is better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus out walking around with us. This blows my mind. If it was up to me, I would probably choose to kick it with Jesus everyday rather than to have the Holy Spirit. I guess this shows that I still have a lot to learn about the power of the Holy Spirit.

I'll be writing another update after the Kenya trip to let you all know how it goes. Thanks to all of you for the support and prayer!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stress Fracture

                  So I figured I should resurrect the old blog for a quick update on my life. I have back in the States for about 4 months now and God has been working in my heart just as much as He was while I was in Africa. When I got back in July I felt very out of shape running-wise and that seemed to continue throughout the whole summer. Through August and September I slowly got back to into shape and was even able to run a decent race in the TC 10 mile on October 7th. I was finally getting excited about running again and was starting to think that I had finally found a good balance of running in my life. But then on October 17th, only a few days before the Mankato Half Marathon, I was running on the treadmill when I fell down in pain. I could barely walk the rest of the day and ended up going to the doctor finding out that I have a stress fracture in my fourth metatarsal. I would love to tell you that I have been extremely positive during this time because I have so much faith that God will work this together for good, but to be honest, I can’t. There have been times of positivity; times where I have had complete confidence in God’s love and His perfect plan. These times usually occur when I am in the Word, in prayer, or even just thinking about things of God throughout the day. But I have found that whenever I take my eyes off God, even if it’s just for a moment, my flesh takes over and steers me off into feelings of self-pity, anger, and discouragement. I feel embarrassed to admit that this injury has been hard on me, especially considering there are so many people with much worse problems than a foot injury. But the reality is, it has been a struggle and God has really used this to show me a lot of heart issues I have that He still needs to work on.
                  I’ve had a lot of extra time on my hands thanks to this injury, so I have been trying to be very intentional about spending it with the Lord instead of getting lost in ESPN, Facebook, or Youtube. Throughout this time, God has been revealing a lot of things to me, but He has mainly focused on two areas. The first is that God must increase in my life and I must decrease (John 3:30). If I’m being honest, there are many times I do stuff with the motivation that Dan Greeno will be glorified alongside God being glorified. The Lord has really been showing me that as much as I think it’s about me, it really isn’t. This has been a very humbling, difficult thing to go through, and I have so much farther to grow in this area that it’s not even funny. Secondly, God has been showing me just how much I love the world. In 1 John chapter 2 it talks about how we should not love the things of this world, because if we do, the love of God is not in us. This passage has given me fits the last couple weeks as I have realized how much I can idolize the good things in life that God has given me (friends, food, running, sports, entertainment) over God himself.
                          I have just been so thankful for the amazing people that God has put into my life to help me get through my daily struggles. I’m sure some of my friends are sick of talking to me with all of the negativity I’ve been struggling with, but God seems to be giving them the enough grace to love me unconditionally. It has been a battle every single day for me to put my hope in God rather than the things of this world, but God has been giving me the grace to get through it. I am so glad that I can cling to God’s promises knowing that He will meet all of my needs (Philippians 4:19), and that I will not miss out on any good thing when I live for the Lord (Psalm 84:11).
                On a lighter note, with the extra 2 hours a day of free time, I’ve had a lot more time to clean my teeth. I’ve always had soft enamel which makes me susceptible to cavities, but I just recently set the goal of trying to be cavity free for the rest of my life. Since my injury, I haven’t missed a day of fluoride or flossing, and I’ve brushed twice every day. So I’m pretty pumped for my next dentist’s appointment! Also, my hair is currently at 10 months of growth. Although I'd love to make it a year, it's getting pretty annoying so I might have to cut it soon. I've found that you definitely can't get away with not showering in the morning like you can with short hair.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Final Blog: Top 3's!

So we finished up our Cpx program yesterday. It is definitely good to be done, but I'm also kinda sad having to leave so many close friends that I've made over the last couple months. All of these new friends really affirmed what I felt God speaking to me before the trip which was Matthew 19:29- "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." So as I wrap up the trip I figure I would give a few of my top 3's on some random favorites and non-favorites!

Top 3 things I got to see:
3. Victoria Falls in Zambia. This probably would have been higher up on the list if it had not been so cold. The waterfall made it so that there was a constant rain in the park which made it a little less fun.
2. Chobe Game Park in Botswana. One of my friends and I hitchhiked to Botswana during one of our weekends in Zambia to go get an African safari experience. We pretty much saw every African animal except a lion which was pretty cool.
1. Table Mountain in Cape Town. This is the main tourist attraction in Cape Town and I was worried that I wouldn't get to climb it because it is right in the middle of rainy season down here. Thankfully, God heard my prayers and gave us some really nice weather and I was able to climb it with three good friends. Another added bonus was that we got to see a really nice sunset!

Top 3 foods I've missed:
3. Dairy Queen ice cream. The ice cream is very different here so I'm pumped to go get a few Blizzards when I get back.
2. Panera Bread. They don't have bagels down here, so I've really been looking forward to going to Panera and beefing up my rewards card when I get home.
1. Brats. I have no clue why I miss brats so much since they probably aren't even in my top 10 favorite foods, but I've been craving them hardcore for the past three months so they earn the top spot.

Top 3 favorite things about Africa:
3. Slow pace of life. It's crazy how much slower everything is out here. It can be frustrating at times, but I've really come to appreciate it lately.
2. Seeing oceans and mountains everyday. We are surrounded by mountains and it's only a 3 mile run to both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. I'm definitely gonna miss this when I get back to MN.
1. Warm weather. It's in the middle of winter but it still gets up to 60 degrees everyday. I would not mind at all if I never saw snow again. I can kind of be a Scrooge when it comes to winter.

Top 3 things I won't miss about Africa:
3. Feeling weird for only knowing one language. EVERYONE here seems to know at least two languages, most people actually know three or four. It made me wish I woulda tried harder in my Spanish classes in college.
2. Not having heat or AC. No houses have heat or air-conditioning here, so in the summer it can be brutal to try and sleep in the heat. And in the winter I feel like I am constantly just a few degrees too cold and there is nowhere to go to warm up.
1. The wind. I will never think it is windy again when I get back to MN. It is extremely windy here nearly everyday. So windy that I honestly feel like I'm going to fall over at times on my runs. It is pretty ridiculous.

Top 3 things I have learned from CPx:
3. The importance of living in Christian community. I have very much enjoyed living with lots of people who are all trying to follow Christ wholeheartedly. It makes it a lot easier to stay motivated when you are surround by like-minded people.
2. The importance of 1-on-1 discipleship relationships. I've had two people discipling me while I've been out here and it has been great for my growth. They have done a great job of keeping me accountable on a weekly basis. I look forward to finding similar relationships back in the Twin Cities.
1. It is more about trust than clarity. So many people here seem to be uncertain about their future, yet they are so at peace about it that it blows my mind. From the people I've talked to, they've said that they don't have clarity for the future very often but they know God does so that keeps them at peace.  This is something I'm horrible at, but hopefully I'll keep getting better.

Top 3 things I learned about God's character:
3. God hates pride. This has probably taken me a lot longer to fully realize than most people, but I feel like God really spoke to me about a lot of pride issues in my life. Also I came to realize just how much humbling yourself before God is talked about in Scripture. This is something I'll need to work on as well.
2. God truly wants everything from us. Over this past year I have felt God picking out parts of my life one-by-one asking if I could give that up for Him. And every single time I think that this will be the last thing God will want from me. But it finally hit me in Zambia that God REALLY does want all of me. This was a depressing thought for me at first since I had this feeling that God was just leading me into a life of no fun. This probably would still be a depressing thought for me if my realization for the #1 thing hadn't grown on this trip
1. God's love. I have been so numb to this statement for years. Thankfully, I feel like God really started showing me how much He loves me. He doesn't want my life to suck, or for me to be depressed doing something I don't want to do for the rest of my life. But He truly wants the best for me! And that sometimes means it will include doing things I don't want to do, but ultimately, He wants me to live a life full of joy that brings glory to Him. I feel like I should have understood this long ago, but I guess it took God bringing me all the way out to Africa to teach me this.

So I guess that's it. It has definitely been a life-changing 5 months for me, but I'm super glad to get back and see everyone again. I will also be very happy to get new running shoes as my current pair will have 1,730 miles by the end of tomorrow. I will be getting back to the States later this week but probably won't make it down to the cities until the July 7-9 weekend. Thanks so much to everyone who has been praying for me and to everyone who actually reads this thing. I appreciate you all so much.

God bless!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wiped out...

My energy level has been on empty for nearly the whole time I have been in Zambia. It takes me back to my H.S. wrestling days because I feel exactly like I did when I was cutting weight. Upon first glance, there is honestly no reason why I should be feeling this tired. I honestly just lay in my tent for all of our non-ministry time. And that is in addition to the 10 hours of sleep I get every night. So I'll usually spend over half the day laying down in my tent just wondering how on earth I could possibly feel this tired. The good thing is, this time will usually turn into prayers for strength and energy which really makes me rely on God throughout the whole day. Some initial reasons that I had for my tiredness were that I have had a very different diet while I've been out here- lots of rice, oats, and veggies instead of lots of meat, sugar, and cereal. Another reason was that maybe being out in the sun all day walking from village to village was really killing me. But after talking with some people I have come to the conclusion that my tiredness is stemming from spiritual warfare. Sounds kinda weird, but it's honestly true. With lots of ancestor worship and witchcraft going on out here, it really opens up the spirit world. And since we are spreading the Gospel, I guess we are an easy target for them to attack. On the weekends, when we come into town, my energy levels come back to normal when I don't even need them. But right when I get to the village I literally feel my energy drop and then feel like I need to take a nap. I was actually so tired that I took a complete week off from running last week, something I haven't done in years, and it still didn't seem to help at all. Thankfully, God's grace has been sufficient, but it has been really frustrating at times.

So I noticed that my left heel has really been hurting on my runs lately. Since I rarely get injured (thank the Lord), I figured it had to be my shoes that were causing the pain. They had been looking a little beat up and I hadn't switched shoes since I had been to Africa yet. After adding up my shoe mileage I realized that I have 1,482 miles on my current pair which is about 3x the amount that you are supposed to put on a pair. Oops. Hopefully I can limp through these last 23 days without having them fall apart.

For everyone who knows that animals and I don't get along very well, I'm sure you will appreciate this story. Our team of 7 people was visiting a pre-school in one of the villages this past week. When we were standing around outside just waiting around I noticed there was a bird flying towards me. It wasn't very close yet but I noticed how it seemed to be coming right at me. As I continued watching it just kept getting closer and closer. Finally, I realized that this bird was coming right for me! So at the last second I did the most awkward twist/scream/duck in hopes that the bird wouldn't hit me. Thankfully it didn't hit my face but it did hit my head. I couldn't believe why a bird would just fly into my head. Afterwards, my hip was sore for the next day because of the weird twist I had to pull to get out of the way. Maybe it's just my long hair?

We have one more week in the villages and then we will be getting back to Cape Town on June 12. Even though I'm super excited to get back to a bed and a shower, I will miss a lot of the people that I've met out here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hippos, Crocs, and Scorpions?

Well the good news is that I'm still alive, but as you can tell by the title of the blog, I haven't exactly felt the safest I ever have in my life out here. Last week, a man was actually killed by a hippo in the village right next to ours. Thankfully, we have a village guard that fights off hippos if they get too close to where we are staying. There have been a few crocodile sightings in the river from the place where we usually draw water. But I usually try to stay as far away from the river as possible, so I haven't been too worried about them. A couple people on our team have found scorpions in their tent! So every night before bed, I have been doing a thorough 10 minute tent check. Thank the Lord I haven't found any scorpions, but I have found a few decent-sized spiders. Lastly, there are some pretty vicious dogs in all of the villages which tend to make all of my runs pretty non-relaxing. All this to say, I have felt like God is trying to teach me to trust Him in all of the little things. Even things as small as being worried about the animals I might encounter on a day-to-day basis. I have found myself praying more about the little things in life. It's sometimes easy for me to forget that God not only has control over the big issues in our lives, but also over the little, miniscule details that, on occasion, we don't even notice.

I have found that the easiest way to draw a big crowd in the villages is to do some push-ups or pull-ups. Every time I do a set I try to find a secret place to do them, but by the end, I have 10+ kids huddled around watching me. Then once I'm done, they all try and copy what I was doing. At first, it was kind of awkward and annoying, but I've been trying to have a good attitude about it and have been trying to have some fun with it.

I have been working with one other guy on our team, Nicholas, and we have been focusing mainly on one village that is 4 kilometers from ours. We have found three guys that we have really good relationships with, and with those guys we are spending a lot of time with them and just pouring into their lives. We will continue spending time with them in hopes that, by the time we leave, they will be able to start sharing the gospel with other people around the villages.

These past couple weeks, God has really been revealing a lot of pride issues in my life that I didn't even know I had. It's been really humbling. He has been focusing on breaking down the idea that I can be self-sufficient. I have realized that, just like every human, I have a lot of weaknesses and brokeness and that no matter how much I think I've got it all figured out, I actually never do. He has really showed me how much I need Him every single day, even on the days that I don't think I do. My brother gave me a verse a couple weeks ago, and I have been clinging onto it ever since. It is Psalm 66:10-12 which says, "For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."