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.

 

 

Stuck by the Psalms

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It’s humbling when I realize I cannot move past a Psalm I have read countless times before, a Psalm that I had even memorized in elementary school and quoted from time to time. How do I brush over the very words I know I must confess but lack the initial desire to do so? I sat with my bible in my lap, staring at the page. Finally, frustrated by my stubborn mindset, I forced my lips open with a desperate whisper: “Spirit, please, soften my heart.”

Then, I read it yet again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit

Although I read it without emotion, this time it punctured my heart with a conviction I could not ignore and knew had to be addressed. It was time to admit my childish attitude and surrender the selfish discontentment I had been focusing on for far too long. A poisonous perspective that had pulled me further into a world of impatience and waste. Did I really want to stay here any longer? No. I want to want to get out. But how?

As soon as I had a slight change of heart, the Lord mercifully brought my wandering mind into His truth, hinting that this is the prayer I need to be praying and the prayer I need an army to be praying over me.

How did I stray in the first place? I didn’t wait.

So many times in scripture it says to wait for the Lord.

And I do. Except for the times when I’m unsatisfied with the current scenerio and begin wishing for a better plan, grumbling and complaining about how where I’m at is not where I want to be. Then, without knowing it, my distaste for God’s will quickly turns into ungrateful distrust which only leads into a downhill depression.

People tell me to be thankful for hardships, that they are a test of faith. But by that time the negativity takes control and I’m tempted to respond back to their unwanted advice with “Well, I’ve already learned a lot in this season and I’m ready for what’s next. I’m so over this.”

Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.

If God didn’t want me where he has me, I wouldn’t be here. But I’m still here. He has the key to the master plan, not me.

Even though I think I’m done, apparently I’m not. When my current situation appears inconvenient and complicated, that’s merely a signal for me to go deeper into seeking God’s transforming grace and to walk by the faith He has gifted me with.

So that’s what I was trying to do when Psalm 51 broke down my wall of rebellion, reminding me of my ugly sin, my dire need to be in communion with God, that I am nothing without Jesus, and that the joy I possess is not on accord of me or my surroundings, but abounds from the life eternal I have with the One who loved me first: the One who I will live my whole life loving.

In this world it’s definitely a fight to the finish, and I know there will be many occasions where my flesh will fail again… but HE GIVES MORE GRACE. He who makes new. He who sustains. He, my Joy.

Empty to be Filled

One can be doing wonderful things even when they’re empty.

This mash-up of emotions is truly a real condition, and unfortunately, it happens to be inhabiting my current state of being.

While I acknowledge a lack of joy and an increase of feverish exhaustion, and although I routinely face discouragement of impossible hardened hearts, I push forward with bravery and faith. For I believe 100% in the purpose for every single ounce of energy I pour out. To the point of emptiness.

How? How do I continue to pour into lives when I have nothing left? Because I’m choosing to love with love I don’t create. This love doesn’t depend on me, nor do I have to be in top form to receive it. Before I even asked for it, this love was mine to accept and to give.

Often I give from an overflow of this abundant love, having no caution for the lengths I go to serve. It’s easy. Effortless. Doesn’t seem like there’s any other way to live.

Other days I don’t want to give at all. For I fear that if I give, I shall have nothing left. It takes discipline, encouragement, and complete trust of the Father’s love. I survive only by depending– dependence of prayer.

Last Monday was one of these days. I found myself praying my way through the day. Humbled before my King Jesus, and with every breath, admitting my weakness and humanity, telling him that I have no strength to love today. That it has to be him. I’m empty. Open heavens storehouses. Replenish my supply.

I made it through the day, rosy cheeks, shaky legs, overheated and overwhelmed. The Lord used me to bring varieties of joy, hope, and peace to a people he greatly loves. This is an honor, a privilege, to make a living by being a vessel of Truth. But did I feel filled by this fact? No, still empty.

Through this season of emptiness, God is stretching me to exert myself beyond my limits. Although I don’t particularly like feeling this way, I’m realizing the beauty in it all. For, despite my weakness, God’s glory prevails. I’m doing nothing on my own accord, but relying 100% on Him whose name is being made known. Minute by minute, I have to consciously pray for help, for energy, for joy, for words. The things that usually come effortlessly are pressingly my top needs.

Even though I’m still empty and currently waiting to be filled, I’m seeing how this feeling of emptiness and yearning to be filled was created within a limited mindset of selfish, fleshly emotions. For the way God is filling me is much different than my human understanding of how I would expect to be filled. Instead of a confidence in myself and the tools I have available, I’m filled with the confidence of Christ in me and his surpassing greatness. My awe for His daily provision is growing and thus my lips are bringing forth praises boasting in God’s power and sovereignty.

It’s the firsthand knowledge of His glory that is filling me.

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Cutting through Iron

While attempting to have a quiet time this morning, it was all I could do to not pull my hair out at the noisy construction that is still going on across the street.

Ever since that fateful day of November 30th, the day a bulldozer demolished the entire apartment complex next door, we have not lived in peace. They’re building from scratch, starting at the foundation and working their way up… A project that seems to be taking an eternity!!!

I eagerly look forward to rainy days and holidays, knowing that only then will there be a pause in the racket-causing-activity…

IRON(no pun intended)ically, the passage I was reading this morning happened to be about cutting through iron. A screeching sound I am altogether familiar with and am subjected to 24/7.

As I read, some perspective truth rang high above the noise…

Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So He subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. 

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. 
He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, 
for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Psalm 107:10-16

As I took in the Word along with the noise, it suddenly became all too real. Construction is necessary and Jesus was more than just a carpenter; he was an iron-cutter. THE Iron-Cutter.

He came to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed… to set the captives free. (Isaiah 61)

To break the choking chains of gender-based violence, unjust stereotyping, abandoned babies in third world countries, separated families, and homelessness.

Rape in the workplace, religious traps, fear of revengeful pursuers, and war.

Poverty, substance abuse, eating disorders, and shame.

Running from murderous threats and prejudiced law enforcement.

Ignorance and apathy.

Idolatry of Self, of intellect, and of science.

We are detained and entangled because of our sin. Stumbling in the deepest, darkest, broken-down apartments, our sin takes us captive, chaining us to the condemned, cockroach infested pits.

Our only escape is our Carpenter– the Construction worker of all times and before all times.

To cry out to Him is to be saved.

He cuts through the iron shackles, breaks down prison gates, and sets His people free.

It is a deed that was done one time by one man for all men, but it is a constant undergoing of construction.

Daily are people being set free. Daily are iron bars being cut through, and once the chains are broken, the project begins. Truth sparks transformation, overseeing every stick of dynamite explosion that rebuilds lives. The old is destroyed and a new foundation is set, hence more hammering and sawing and construction in order for the Holy to take residence.

The Carpenter is at work. Both here, and above. 

… I go to prepare a place for you, if I go, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

As one who has been freed, there is a lot of work to do before He comes back. Millions of people are yet enslaved, crying out for freedom.

So every day I hear iron being cut through, so every day I go.

Reminded that my unshackled hands are tools to be used, carrying the most important blueprint: news of the Ultimate Iron-Cutter. 

Hope

You know the song “This Little Light of Mine”? Of course you do.

I’ve probably sung it a million times, and I’m almost positive it was one of the first songs I ever learned. From my five year old lungs to an esteemed choral stage to an echoing lobby at the UN to a carpet on a wooden floor of a corner room with windows overlooking the Bosphorus. I’m still singing it today; the song has proved timeless. Maybe because the light sung about is an eternal one, and He shines on even when I’ve burned out. When I’m tipped over, trails of tears melting into puddles of wax, seeking route for escape from these kindled wounds and threatening timbers… When fires blaze painful scars fresh and hurting, the smoke too thick to breath,  

He breathes into me.

  

Walls crumbling, creating darkness around me. My light blows out, but His light yet shines.

For when I’m smothered by the world, there is One who smothers me more, with a heat so intense that it sends sparks to my very soul.

It’s a flame that gives anyone who has it a reason to rejoice. Once upon a time there was a church in Rome, it’s people were being thrown to the lions… And they were rejoicing! How to rejoice when you see your life ending by being torn limb to limb?

 

Because we have hope.

 

Because we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, 

 

HOPE.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1-5) The only consuming fire that mattered to this little church was the one they feared most, the glory of the Lord. Even to the very end they burned brightly for his glory and in his hope. Suffering humbles. When storm winds blow the best thing for me to do is bow low; it gets me out of the way for God to do his thing… Being on my knees forces me to look up. Only when I am small- do I see how big God is, do I remember his heroic acts. My own scars are nothing compared to the scars that saved me, of he who bore them who covered me in grace and opportunity. “By his stripes we are healed.” Even death proved no obstacle for truth to prevail… So until he comes again-  

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

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.

The Gift

To state it frankly: I’m quite sure that I frequently miss out on recognizing God’s gifts.

It could be because I’m not looking–
my foot pressing hard on the pedal, driving past life on the fast track; starspeed ahead.

It could be because I’m not thankful–
living in the worries, dismissing blessings as inconveniences; selfish.

Or it could be because of poor timing–
one blink of the eye, one turn of the head, and boom! Gift missed.

A gift that would have caused shivers to run up and down my arms.
A gift that would remind me I am not forgotten.
A gift that would inspire me to write a blog.

I know I’ve missed a zillion of these moments.

But I also know that my busy, ungrateful, fleshly being does not stop God from continuing to give.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

He left all His glory and splendor so that we can abide in Him and He in us.
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 

 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 

How much more proof do I need?

For by grace you have been saved through faith; not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
Even my faith He has gifted to me!

Yes, I am a firm believer that my God loves to give good gifts to His children.
It’s indeed a historical fact: regardless of what I do, my God loves to love me.

He loves to delight over me in singing- gifting me with his Power and Joy.
He loves to draw near to me- gifting me with his Spirit and Comfort.

And because He made me, He knows me inside and out.
He knows what makes me tick.
He knows what makes my heart beat a littler faster.

Because of this, He also knows how to show-off and impress me.
Now, allow me impress you with the story…

When I first arrived in Istanbul, people told me to be on the lookout for dolphins.
Dolphins in Istanbul? Istanbul is divided by the Bosphorus Strait, so in over to get from one side of the city to the other, we take ferries across it multiple times each day.

Because of my frequent crossings, it makes sense to think that I should have sighted dolphins by now, right? Much to my disappointment, literally everybody I know has seen them, EXCEPT ME.

I’d nearly given up all hope, yet not entirely.

The other day, I made my way up to the top deck of the ferry, just like I had hundreds of times before. However, as I found my seat, I flippantly thought to myself “maybe today is the day”…

Barging across the blue Bosphorus never gets old. I closed my eyes, breathing in the salty sprays that were carried by the winds tangling through my hair.

Then, it was almost like a command: “Kimmy, open your eyes or you’ll miss the dolphins!”

The very instant I opened my eyes, two dolphins, side-by-side, quickly leaped through a wave and then even more quickly, they disappeared.

Perfect timing.

Amazed and astonished, I looked around; did anyone else see that??? By the apathetic faces around me, I realized that nobody had.

Those dolphins were meant for me.

I closed my eyes again, receiving his love, sending a prayer of thanks into the sunbeams hitting my face.

Smiling.
Knowing.

God didn’t let me miss out on this gift.

A gift that caused shivers to run up and down my arms.
A gift that reminded me I am not forgotten.
A gift that inspired this blog.