Let’s be Real

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A couple weeks ago, my husband asked if I would speak during the message portion of a prayer and worship night. My initial reaction was a big loud “HECK NO!”, followed by a million excuses for why I’m the last person he should ask to speak.

I mean, c’mon, nobody wants to hear a story that doesn’t have a happy ending yet… That was the first lie.

Besides, God and I aren’t really that tight right now. Lie #2.

I can’t say anything meaningful while I’m still battling with my own doubt. Lie #3.

I don’t have any spiritual insight worth hearing. Lie #4.

I don’t want to burden others with my own suffering. Lie #5.

Need I continue? You get the picture.

My husband challenged me to pray about it, and as I sought for an answer, the Spirit lead me to 2 Timothy 3: 14-15

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

and then I turned back to 2 Timothy 2:13 and read outloud,

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful still.”

Even though I feel like my faith has been rocked, that I failed God as soon the road got tough, I KNOW IN WHOM I BELIEVE. My God has a relationship with me, and He has never once let me go.

And for that reason alone, I share with you now what I shared with them on that anointed Saturday night.

If you’ve got 30 minutes, sit down, grab your Bible and some coffee, and listen HERE.

While I do apologize for the blubbering and for the poor recording quality, I will not apologize for being REAL.

May God receive all the glory.

 

 

Total Physical Response

Although I’m a native English speaker, I’m gaining a lot from attending our English workshops. For the very beginners, we always start off by teaching them basic commands by using the Total Physical Response (TPR) method. They hear a word. We do the action. They repeat the action.

Some of them get it right away, observing, listening, watching, and connecting the different verbs for the actions dictated.

When it’s time to practice, they eagerly listen, awaiting instruction, and only doing what the instruction commands them to do.

Some, however, were overwhelmed at the overall task. Unable to compartmentalize yet desiring to participate, they jumped in, looking left and right to copy their peers, entirely clueless– not listening or watching the pre-instructions as carefully as they ought to.

Still, they plow forward, forming poor learning habits thus building a bad foundation for learning English.

The ones who had quickly caught on -who you’d think would be smarter- only encouraged their behavior by helping the slower ones, shouting the action in their own language instead of letting them learn own their own, at their own pace, and in a way that could build a better foundation for the next level…

Yes, they’re all beginners, coming from backgrounds most likely involving extremely traumatic events… therefore I really shouldn’t be analyzing them so critically.

Plus, I went through the same struggles with the languages that I’ve had to learn. I’m definitely not cocky when it comes to the topic of language acquisition.

However, this analysis was about more than just their participation. For, as I watched both groups either succeed or stumble, I was able to draw a correlation between this activity and my own personal walk with God.

Total.

Physical.

Response.

Not Partial Physical Response, or Halfway Physical Response, or Undecided Physical Repsonse…

Total Physical Response.

If I really want to know Christ, to know the way He wants to use me, I must follow the commands He gives with Total Physical Response.

But before I can act, I need to listen in order to gain an understanding of His instructions– His WORD is my foundation– and then ask the Holy Spirit to transform my mind, my heart, and then my actions according to the Words He is giving me.

To SIT, when He says sit. To STAND, when He says stand. To Walk, when He says walk. To JUMP, when He says JUMP.

To SING, when He says sing.

To GO, when He says go.

To PRAY, when He says pray.

And in His timing. Waiting patiently to hear from Him. Revelation precedes response, not the other way around… Do I want to plow ahead without His instruction? Why wait? What am I trying to build?

Ah yes.

FAITH. 

How badly do I want to know Him? Serve Him? Love Him?


TOTALLY. COMPLETELY. UNDIVIDEDLY.

With everything I am and with everything I have. No shame. No fear. Looking neither right or left to see what others are doing, but with my eyes set on the Lord, heeding His instruction alone.

I will strive to give Him my very best in Total Physical Response of what He has done for me, by His grace and for His glory.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart… “
-Colossians 3:23 

In-Tune

Our summer English workshop is well on its way… those who have come so far show great enthusiasm and commitment, really desiring to learn English. For that reason, they’re learning quickly and I’ve seen many already benefiting a lot from the lessons.

I’m so proud of our students.

My role has been to more or less provide entertainment for kids who aren’t taking part of the big group lesson. The first week I had my hands full with crying babies, who were probably more distraught than calmed as I attempted to soothe them in a foreign language.

Lately, however, the only child in my care has been a precious girl named Saliha.

Saliha has a charming spirit, and whenever she enters the room she immediately gives a hug to anyone and everyone. She definitely has her favorites, but that doesn’t stop her from making sure everyone receives her love. 

Saliha’s favorite thing to do is to sing.

Or clap.
Or dance.
Or all three!

It doesn’t matter: music and rhythm capture her soul.

Maybe that’s why we connect so well– we both have gifts of love that are given and received through music and touch.

Anyways, the other day we were playing in the back of the room with some blocks when suddenly, she put her finger up to her lips and shushed me, then motioned with her hands for me to pray.

Confused, I looked over my shoulder and saw that my friend was leading a prayer. 

Saliha doesn’t understand English. 

Saliha doesn’t really even speak. The girl I’ve been describing has a physical disability affecting her mental and motor skills.

Her spirit, however, is obviously in-tune.

Saliha’s entire back was turned– I mean, there was no way that Saliha could’ve known to stop and pray…

if not moved in accordance by the Holy Spirit.

Seriously, every single time I am gifted with a day spent loving and being loved by Saliha, aside from my “touch cup” being filled,  I am additionally reminded of God’s utmost care for His children.

How He loves us and delights over us with singing…

He sings over His creation, who were designed to respond with a song back to Him.

So many times in the Bible does God instruct His people to praise Him with a song- regardless of whatever state we’re in and with whatever skill we have.

Saliha does exactly that.
  
I like to imagine that when Saliha hums, the Holy Spirit inside of her is interceding, making her one of earth’s most exalted worship leaders in the sight of the Lord.

Her life is an example for so many people, and I myself am learning a lot from her. Especially about connecting intimately with God.

He has a specific song for each of us.

Am I listening? Am I in-tune, like Saliha, to know when the spirit is moving even when my back is turned?

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” 
-Zephaniah 3:17

Confessions

There have been so many times when the words of one of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp, line-up completely with the state of my heart and recent reflections of how God is restoring my life. Today was one of those times; her outward transparency paralleled my inward insecurities to a raw extreme.

I find her transparency inspiring, and the boldness she has to publicly confess the flesh -the real- deeply refreshing. She confesses the things we as Christians feel like we ought to have ironed out by now but indeed still have difficulty grasping.

Quite honestly, I think that the simplest aspects of God’s love are often the most challenging to accept, especially when constant self-examination continues to expose the ugly, making our sin seem like a giant stain that will never wash-out.

And it won’t, not on our own.

That’s why we need Jesus. That’s why we need his church. To support and pray and practice forgiveness: both receiving it and giving it. To live out our relationship with the Lord in a way that challenges and refines the body, sharing lessons and confessions that lead us closer to the life God intends for us.

Ann’s confession did just that, for my sister’s struggle with the theory of grace mirrors my own. A struggle that has been holding me back from true love.

Because she said it so beautifully, I’ve decided to insert her words as my own confession. In doing so, I’m acknowledging my humanness and incapability to grasp such a holy concept, but at the same time re-committing my thoughts to be filled with the truth God has gifted to me.

For whoever reads this, I pray a revelation of receptive truth and acceptance.

_____

I struggle with grace.

I struggle to comprehend that I am fully loved by God no matter how much I fail.  That’s the place I go when I let too much cover up the truth of God in my life.

Because I know myself. I know all my weaknesses and failures. I know what I’ve done and what I regret and what I’ve been saved from. I know all the ways I continue to fail on a daily basis.

And if I’m disappointed in myself — then how is God not disappointed in me? How does He look at me with unfailing love and hope that I’ll do better tomorrow but won’t love me any less if I don’t?

It doesn’t make sense.  And sometimes it just feels easier to cover these insecurities up and pretend they’re not there instead of exposing them to the light.

Over the last few weeks God has shown His love to me in a hundred different ways, just small simple things.  There have been moments when I’ve almost felt like it was too much. More than I deserved. Confirmation that He is weaving together plans and purposes and a future I couldn’t have imagined.

And I’ve felt Him say to me in the deepest part of my heart, the part I sometimes let get too covered up, “You are so much harder on yourself than I am.”

I am. I’m hard on myself. I get caught up in the comparison game and feel like everyone is loving better, living more purposefully, doing more significant things and, essentially, blooming so much better than me.

I give other people the benefit of the doubt, but I never give myself that same grace. And that’s what God has been whispering over me.

Grace. 

He has never once looked at me, shook his head and said, “Wow. What a failure. I should have gotten someone else to do that.” That’s not how He works.

I don’t know if any of us have the capability or the comprehension to ever fully grasp the love of God. It’s too big. But I know that the only way we’ll ever grow and become what He has called us to be is when we expose ourselves to the light.  That’s where we bloom.

That’s where we have the fragrance that tells the world

who we belong to,

what He has done for us,

and that we are covered in ridiculous amounts of grace by the light of His truth.

Baptized in Boldness

The truth of the matter is, when you encounter Christ, you will never be the same.

Take the apostle Peter, for instance. Before he put his faith in Jesus, his track record was not one to be advertised: unstable, unschooled, and a liar- he denied his relationship with the Lord not once, but three times. What shame he must have felt when he saw the man he loved yet also betrayed hanging on the cross.

But then, after spending time with his resurrected Lord, his life was drastically transformed. He saw everything prophesied to be true; it was just as Jesus had said! Being confident in the facts he witnessed firsthand enthused his faith to spread the news of God’s kingdom through the same power that rose Jesus from the dead.

From then on, Peter’s track record takes a dramatic turn for the better. His character became one of dynamic courage, boldness and humility, insight, ability, and authority- all in the name of Jesus. He was a changed man. Forgiven, restored, and baptized with the Spirit.

Peter’s life transformation can be read about by anyone who opens the Bible’s pages. His bold proclamations early into his ministry stand to encourage and strengthen followers today to receive the power promised by God to witness what He has done.

Need more encouragement?

The other day I was having coffee with a woman who has been seeking refuge in T**key for a little over a year. As we were chatting, she told me she was a Christian. One of her most prized possessions is a Bible she received as a gift for her 1 year anniversary of being here. With tears in her eyes, she recalls this memory, and how blessed she is for how Lord keeps providing for her, always giving her more than she asks for.

Her 365th day started like the 364 days before it. Uncertain. Lonely. Hard.  And then she was given a bible- a love letter from God- it was gold to her.

I was left speechless by her story, so she continued sharing… she continued encouraging.
Her speech moved me.

“It’s not always easy. But I daily put my life in God’s hands. When looking for places to live in the city [a nearly impossible feat] a landlord said he’d knock down the rent by half if I denied my faith in Jesus. You know what I told him? I cannot do that. I cannot hide the light in me. You see, Jesus tells me to my light shine before men, that they may see my good deeds and praise my Father in heaven.”

In that instant, bearing the lowest respected traits to middle eastern society– an African refugee, a woman, and a Christian– she quoted scripture to a complete stranger, and a man at that. Simple as pie.

It’s because she knew that ‘greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world’ (1Jn 4:4). It’s because like Peter, she had encountered Christ’s redeeming love, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and has testimony of Him actively alive in her own life.

I don’t know her full story or what her life was like before Christ, but it’s evident that He rules her life, giving her ability to be a beacon of light, boldly spewing truth when given the window to do so.

We can’t read about her in the Bible, although I’m sure that if she had lived back then, her story would be found in Hebrew’s hall of fame…

“And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
-Acts 1:8

Back to the Source

I look up to my big sister. I always have, always will. I’m one of her biggest fans and she’s one of mine.

Both of us are living overseas. We’ve both chosen to live radically with the convictions of pursuing a lifestyle beyond the ‘American Dream.’ It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, but it’s completely 100% rewarding. As we’ve similarly discovered, it’s also 100% draining– or it can be, that is, if we foolishly forget to bring God.

I know that sounds strange: forget to bring God. Is that even possible?
I’m afraid it is.

I wake up and spend an hour with God and then ride a bus and get to a building and climb six flights of stairs to a room full of people whose circumstances are physically expending and psychologically damaging. They’re also spiritually searching.

With my purest intentions and sincerest empathy, I break for their needs. I provide whatever aid and resources are available. I trade my energy for their temporary contentment. It doesn’t solve the main issue from which all their problems result- believe me, I pray for world peace every day- but it shows them there are people who genuinely CARE. I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record, but relationship, knowing you aren’t forgotten, is sometimes more healing than an expensive doctor’s visit (though that is definitely needed as well).

Okay, back to the point– forgetting to bring God. It happens somewhere between the bus stop and the six flights of stairs. I enter the war zone and see the needs and I want to do everything for everyone. Instead of acting to serve God, I act to serve the people. Instead of living plugged into the outlet of the promised joy of the Lord as my strength, I put on a self-powered smile that only lasts as long as its battery life.

As expected, my battery dies.

My sister recently challenged me with her renewed understanding of this promised available joy. She testified to the truth of God’s promise to be our strength and source of kingdom energy by trusting and asking in faith. Low and behold, she received.

I chose to follow her example…. my big sis is the best:)

With energy and joy rewired into its endless Supplier, my Monday (regardless of being one of the CRAZIEST) was one of the BEST I’ve had yet. It was amazing.

The truth is, things happen when you pray. My morning prayer, which I will wear forever on my heart, went something like this:

Jesus, you have washed me through and through with the truth of your Word. It has penetrated my flesh and I have seen myself as you see me. Because of this, I know that all I am, I need to remain grafted in you. There is nothing the branch can do unless it abides in the vine; likewise, I know apart from you I can do nothing. If I try anything on my own I only fail. My own strength, my own ideas, my own energy is useless. I burn out. It’s all for squat. But if I abide in you, your Words, your Truth, your Power, and your Glory is shown through me. Your purpose is redeemed, for you are a redeeming God. I have seen you work wonders. When I’m nearly about to give up or move forward, your faithfulness is displayed despite my state of broken belief. Over and over again. I know I can trust you. With everything. All you require is that I remain in you, walking justly and humbly in-tune with your will. You promise that if I ask for whatever I wish it will be done, because by this the Father is glorified. So, I ask that you break every chain. Chains of worthlessness, of bitterness, of blindness, of lies. With the women I speak with today- rise up your army of truth within my soul. Guide my words to point to you. Give me confidence to proclaim and boldness to speak hope with an overflow of compassion. Not for my fame, but for Jesus’ name. Your grace compels me. Your all-powerful, all-glorious display of grace. There’s nothing like it; there’s no one like you and no act greater than the love displayed through the cross. As the Father has loved you, so you love me. Although I will never completely comprehend your love, I want to know more of it. I never want to leave it. Help me to abide in your love, just as you abide in the Father’s love, even to your death. Thank you that your resurrected and victorious joy is in me. Thank you that by this joy I am made complete. Your life lived speaks to everything I ever need or want. My reason for existence. Be my everything today, and every day. Forgive my forgetfulness. Lord, how I need you. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Prone to Wander

Today our team devoted the day to prayer. We met together briefly for a time of worship and instruction to guide our day, but then we each split off to find our own places of solitude. The sun was shining. I ached to spend this time with the Lord outside in His creation. However, not being as familiar with the asian side of the city, I asked a teammate if I could follow her to the park she was headed.

We pulled on our boots and stepped out into the sun.

With the command to not speak once we left the building, we placed a couple of feet between us and walked in paralleled silence. I had no idea where we were going. Staying in-step with her strides, I tried to gage where we were headed. I stopped when we arrived at a smaller, different park that I thought was the one, but she lead me forward. Ah. I groaned inwardly. Where are we going? Is this  park worth it?

Prior to meeting up with the team, my morning had been somewhat of a distracting and unsettling one; not the desired start when one is heading into a day of prayer. With these pre-existing anxious thoughts, my worry platter piled higher. Why is this stressing me out? Maybe I should just turn around. I’ll head to a park I already know.  But then I’m wasting time. But then I’ll miss what the unknown park might be like… I heard it was spacious and full of plants and that there was a “waterfall”… But will it really be where I want to be?

But, but, but. So many buts!

I wanted to envision what the park area would look like. Seriously though, why was I making it such a big deal? Not to mention, why did I feel like I had to make a plan or a layout as to the order or the agenda concerning my surroundings for prayer?

Prayer is simply being with my Father. It doesn’t matter where I am. I know this. But still (another but), I wanted to make sure I would have no distractions and freedom to worship how I wanted.

I kept walking. Each step distancing me from being able to choose other options.

My anxious heartbeat heightening as I fought my urge to turn back and resisted the temptation to ask questions of where we were going. It was cold. Really cold. My face started burning from the wind. The lighter jacket I put on that morning was useless.

I prayed for warmth.

I kept walking.

We came to a crosswalk. My guide was going to walk a little more before entering the park. I still couldn’t see it, but she pointed, gave me a rough direction and assured me I wouldn’t miss it. I asked once more for her to repeat, unsure and hesitant to go off on my own. Then I climbed up a hill.

The higher I went, the more warmth I felt.

I finally arrived at the park. Immediately, I spotted my prayer station, off to the side and into the woods, the city’s outline revealed in the patches between tree trunks. I made it.

The higher altitude inspired a higher perspective of my own self.

Super discontent about my attitude that day, I searched my heart, picking out the anxious thorns that had burrowed, digging to the root of the issues.

Life is scary. Much like not knowing where my teammate was leading me, it’s scary to not know where I’m being led in life and to not have anything spelled out. For nothing to make sense. To pass by places or people I thought were it. I would have stopped at the small park if my teammate hadn’t pulled me forward to the bigger and better. Throwing off my own agenda, there’s no choice but to blindly follow.

It’s not like I’m making any big decisions anytime soon– I’m committed to being here for these 2 years. Yet like most human beings, I prefer to dream up my own life’s timeline; intact with stable relationships and being near to the people I care about and doing what I’m passionate about. However, my plans always come with mountains of worry due to the fact that I can’t trust my imperfect self. I know who I am and that I’m more flesh than spirit. I put unrealistic expectations on myself. On others. Been there, done that. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. I’m a selfish being, hands down.

My plans will only end up with me in a breathless, tangled mess.

It is when I am in His will- in His presence- where I am undone. Yes, I’m full of dirt and grunge and sin, but all He sees is a child, covered and washed pure by the blood of His Son. His judgement on me is one of forgiveness, grace, love, acceptance, and delight. This is the One whom I can trust. This is who I WANT to be tangled up in. When I dwell on who He is and what has done, there isn’t room nor time to worry about the future. Anxieties melt away in sight of His perfect, healing peace.

Even though I had doubts and nearly turned back on multiple occasions, I’m so thankful that I kept following my teammate to this park. My day with the Lord turned out to be a smothering of kisses; He wowed me with promise after promise. I could hardly breathe, not because of anxiety, but because of His love.

If I let Him, He’ll lead me into the most beautiful tangled mess of His goodness. I don’t know every detail and often will walk blindly, but I do know that His plan is perfect and that He knows my every need. Every thought before I think it- He knows!

I’m on the path of His way everlasting; there is no reason to worry. I know who I am in Him, and I know I can trust in the One who has never, and will never, lead me astray. My life is not going to look like I want it to; it’s going to be better. It’s going to be God’s agenda.