"The greatest thing in the world a person should discover is not something to do but someone to be. True leadership is discovering who we are supposed to be. Leadership is becoming oneself for the benefit of others.
I just finished reading Christopher Yuan's Out of a Far Country. This book is a direct testimony of Christopher Yuan and his mother, Angela Yuan's journey. Christopher lived a homosexual lifestyle starting from the age of 16 years old into his mid-twenties. It is a powerful read for anyone in this day and age, but most specifically for homosexual individuals as well as parents who may not know how to respond to their child living in that particular lifestyle.
I know this is always such a controversial subject, but that is why I recommend this book. It comes from someone who has lived through it all.
Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear. I plead discipline over my life so that I may not be disqualified after I have preached to others.
One of the many important things the Lord has impressed on me lately is about friendships.
There are a great many things I fail at every day: keeping up the cleaning, working out consistently, eating the right foods, reading, singing, etc.
I'm beginning to realize that if I keep neglecting my friendships and family, I have failed in one of the most significant of all aspects of life. Everything listed above is no where near the worth of people. It is so painful to reap the consequences of my lack of action over the years, but God knows what we need. I am just praying He teaches me to be more disciplined in this area of life.
Lord, remind us that people only come second to You. That is an extremely significant priority; help us remember each others' worth.
"Consider what happens when all of us begin to look at our professions and areas of expertise not merely as means to an income or to career paths in our own context but as platforms for proclaiming the gospel in contexts around the world. Consider what happens when the church is not only sending traditional missionaries around the world but also businessmen and businesswomen, teachers and students, doctors and politicians, engineers and technicians who are living out the gospel in contexts where a traditional missionary could never go." -David Platt
I FINALLY finished reading Radical... and the above paragraph was my favorite part from the last chapter of the book. This year has really helped me solidify more than ever that I am called to be a missionary, but in an unconventional way. I tried to go into ministry by way of attempting to train at a variety of ministry schools. I found the results to be much like what happens when you put positive sides of two magnets together.
A while back I once mentioned to a friend that whatever I end up doing I would want to be able to speak the name of Jesus Christ within that context. His first response was, "Why?"
To be honest, this question somewhat jarred me. In my harmonious ways, I tend to not speak my mind about something without the initial assumption that the person I am talking with will agree with me (I am trying to grow out of this). Obviously, that wasn't the case and I was much less prepared to give him a quality response.
At least a year and a half later that question has still been tumbling around in my head. Now, more than ever, that question has become deeply relevant. I have yet to reach a solid conclusion.
On one hand, my auto-response is: well, He is LORD! I cannot be restrained from proclaiming the reality of Sovereign God. I will not be censored from speaking the Truth!
Or is it just because it is easier and more comforting to have that direct acceptance of my faith?
Recently, I found myself seeing another perspective. I had previously posted a blog about a message by Lynette Lewis. This woman is a role model I feel so connected to because her calling is this weird hybrid of reaching the secular corporate world and the Christian world simultaneously. She brought up a prayer she once prayed before holding a workshop for Tyco Industries. In it, she reminded the Lord that He has called her to a secular workplace and she was not allowed to speak the name of God or quote scriptures in her workshop the way she freely could at church engagements. So instead she prayed that the Holy Spirit would speak beyond her limitation; move and breathe new life into the people she was training that day.
Whatever conclusion I end up with, I should never put God in a box. Even with music I struggle. As I have seen numerous Christian colleagues from undergrad go into the music industry and write songs that are not aimed to the Christian industry, it causes me to rock back and forth like a ship on deep waters. What is the overflow of my heart? Shouldn't that be what pours into my songs? Is it wrong to write songs only about human love? Is it ridiculous to always only sing about God's Love? Do these questions even matter to God? How does He want us to use our gifts?
I hope this has spurred on a lot of thoughts in your mind. Please share them with me. I welcome some help in resolving this!
Throughout the day yesterday I could sense the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart to spend some time devoted to the Lord. In my fleshly nature, I ignored it and kept staring at whatever screen I was staring at at the time. By the time I finished running, showering, and eating dinner it was already past nine o'clock.
I have to blog! I thought.
And then it struck me- I have been so adamant about blogging daily. Posting something- anything- was required before I close my eyes for the night. How have I so successfully made that a requirement and not prayer? Why isn't it my daily goal to spend time in the presence of God?
Here is what I meditated on last night:
"...But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." -2 Timothy 2:9b-13
I love how Paul writes about being obedient for the wealthy/elect. Being burdened for the wealthy is something I have carried long before God broke my heart for the poor. It always seemed wrong, though, since the church always talks about the poor and needy. It's nice to have Paul's affirmation. With what we have, we could do so much. I would love to inspire capitalism to be of greater use for all... for the sake of the gospel and in a way that doesn't make the rich man poor, but also doesn't keep the poor man impoverished.
Does that sound too ideal? Perhaps. But if I can study in college how others have already done it than it is obviously attainable.
As I tell you the other way the Lord burdened me, I have to confess something: my heart has been calloused. All these years surrounded by Christian hipsters has made me pretty insensitive to the needs of Africa. I know that sounds silly, but my entire college career was surrounded by everyone and their moms who went to Africa or are going to aid Africa in some way shape or form. Even my internship was with a non-profit who supports local leaders in Uganda and Kenya to help end extreme poverty. (The internship/organization was/is great, for the record!)
Frankly, I got tired of it! My thoughts have been: what about the rest of the world? There are so many other nations with corruption, war, poverty, trafficking, starvation, water problems, AIDS, genocide, and the like! How come Africa gets all the attention?
I know Africa is the poorest continent in the world and that is probably why everyone jumped on the bandwagon. This is just me explaining my hardness toward hipsters and decades of commercials on television with the sad, sad music and somber voice asking you to give them your money. Anyway...
I listened to a radio show this morning that interviewed Kimberly Smith. She is the author of Passport Through Darkness. (FB users)
Kimberly told her story about starting Make Way Partners with her husband, Milton. Hearing about her journeys in Sudan, her marriage and personal struggle, and her heart for these children pierced through the callous in mine. This blog post describes many Sudanese children, the struggles of local orphanages, and the normalcy of child sex trafficking. Do be sure to read its entirety here.
Father, keep our hearts tender toward the things that make You cry. See if there is any offensive way in us, reveal it to us, and correct us, Lord. You are the Lord, our Great Teacher. In Jesus' name, amen.
There is so much I could probably write about identity. Instead, I am posting Amber Brooks' "Heavenly Places." It says everything I could hope to communicate better than I would articulate. If I was only allowed to listen to or sing one song for the rest of my life, this would probably be it- it is my constant prayer and perfect reminder of who God is and who I am to Him.
"Too long have we been waiting for another to begin! The time for waiting is past!... Should such men as we fear? Before the whole world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God... and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ." -C.T. Studd (1860-1931)
"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearer. -1 Timothy 4:13-16
These verses have been really strengthening to chew on today. It sets my perspective on the right things. More than anything I am excited! I am excited to read this passage and then examine my life and the words prophesied over me and see how I am living out some of those prophecies or heading toward the fulfillment of others.
I know not everyone practices prophecy/spiritual gifts/the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Christian church today. If you're reading this and you are one who doesn't practice those things, can I ask why? Why leave out one-third of the Holy Trinity? Why leave out the gift Jesus left behind as he went to the cross and resurrected?
I know I don't have the largest fan base for this blog, but for the few that do read this: I want to challenge you to explore where the Holy Spirit is discussed in scripture and what the Spirit's purpose is. Ha, this is a challenge I should be issuing to myself! So I will. After all, the quoted passage above warns us to watch our doctrine closely....
I should google why the human brain seems to slow down when the temperature is really hot. That is what I have been battling all day. Much like life, the weather lately does not seem to know how to segue into a new season. One day it's snowing, the next day it pours down rain, and the next it's 80˚F!
Not that I'm complaining or anything... (though I kind of was just now). I have been waiting for this weather for the last several months. I only wish there was time for 70˚ weather to showcase itself for the sake of our bodies to adjust.
Okay, sorry. I am totally boring cyber space with my rant about the weather. It is hard to think of much else today. So I will find a way to tie the weather, and a couple tweets, into this blog. Here goes:
Earlier today, I saw a friend's tweet which said, "maybe we were meant to exist in the rain." I can just look at the way nature has been these last few weeks and prove that such a concept does not make sense! Sure, there are seasons of rain, but we do not remain there. What is the purpose of rain?
This time last week or two weeks ago, every single day was full of rain pouring down from the sky. From Sunday to Saturday, every day was gloomy and cold. Then what happened? The new week came. Suddenly, the sun was shining. Almost as suddenly as the sun came out, every flower and tree bud blossomed and caused the neighborhood to light up with color.
The rain-however cold, wet and endless it seems at times- is necessary for growth. Rain is essential to a flower's purpose. In the same way, facing a season of confusion or complication may seem endless, but it is not meant to harm you; nor is it a season that remains. It wouldn't be called a season if change never took place.
The way I see it is like this: rain feeds a plant. During "rainy seasons" in my life, I cannot help but seek the Lord for counsel and strength. He feeds me with wisdom, knowledge, and confidence to remain in Him. I soak in the rain for nourishment, though clouds, thunder and lightning surround. When the storming stops and the sun shines through the clouds, I am found ready. There is no difficulty in expanding from a bud to a blossom because everything I needed for this new season was already poured into me during the season prior.
He is always preparing you for more. He is always strengthening you for another season. Don't stand still in this one thinking no other season will come. Cherish the rain. Seek out the purpose for the rain.
It is pretty astounding how the Lord takes care of the earth! But Beloved, He takes care of us even more.
I figured another friend's tweet for the end might be appropriate as well:
"God wouldn't let something come your way unless He trusted you enough to take victory over it. #Heisforyou"
He will never give you something the two of you cannot handle together. There is always a purpose to rain, it is not the end of your story.
"Never in my life did I imagine that one day I would be washing windows," my friend expressed from the other room.
As my newly manicured hands sponged and squeegeed the unending french panes in the upstairs hallway, I considered this statement for a second and could not agree more. There I stood, a college graduate, cleaning windows in an affluent middle class neighborhood much like the one I was raised in.
It felt good at first- working with my hands instead of staring at a screen. There is something about physical labor that is so much more gratifying than any other form of work.
As the sun took its journey down to the west, the feeling of accomplishment quickly transformed into exhaustion. Struggling to remain patient with a slower worker and the never ending amount of work to be done became the battle inside my mind. I had just come to a balance in my attitude when the home owner arrived. "The screens on the front of the house were put back inside out. The way they are supposed to go on is really obvious."
That was it.
Balance: tipped. New attitude: angry and offended.
Excuse me? I thought. The excuses overflowed in my brain with offense. That he would speak to me like that when I did not have the responsibility of re-placing the screens- the sluggard did. How dare he talk down to me like that? Like I am less than him. As if I come from somewhere lesser when I actually come from a city with higher nationwide rankings and prestige!
We are not that different, he and I ... and that is probably what made it even harder to serve him. I took a step back from these thoughts full of offense with the reality: pride is quickly revealed in moments of service.
I wanted to wave my wealth at him and my credentials. I wanted so badly for him to see who I am; where I come from. My true identity...
Is that what I hold on to as my identity? How sad that I still cling to such things when I know the Truth.
"But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
It doesn't matter whether we are "equals" in anything. If I am not a servant, I have no greatness. If I cannot put him first, I will not be first.
Pride makes such a good shield for my heart until I realize it is a destructive tool made by the opposing forces. Sigh. So much to learn. So much re-learning to do.
There is no better place to recognize the existence of a man's soul than when you come face-to-face with him again at his own wake. In approaching the coffin to pay respects, it is impossible to ignore the internal recognition that the person you know is no longer there. It is just his "shell," if you will. A temporary holding place. A vessel.
Though it may sound morbid, I find myself awkwardly joyful through most occasions of this nature. It has everything to do with the fact that I am not afraid of death. I am not afraid of the death of my beloved family. Death is dead for us, don't you see? Death is dead! Is it not called a "wake" for a reason?
For those who worship the One Lord, Jesus Christ, who conquered death for our sake, death cannot swallow us. We go from temporary life to eternal life. The only thing I really find myself mourning over in this present day is the distance we feel from our loved ones. It is temporary, yet such a far distance. In addition, I think of Home. My heavenly home. My real home. Thinking about another leaving this earth and all of its complexities and issues behind makes me wonder about the relief he must feel now. No more pain, no more sorrow, No more politics, no more poverty. No more money, no more material. Just Love. Pure, unadulterated Love.
"I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin was sung during the ceremony. It was then that the tears came pouring over my cheeks. I couldn't hold them in once I caught a vision of him living out the lyrics "And I will rise when He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain. I will rise on eagle's wings. Before my God fall on my knees and rise, I will rise."
I am so filled with gratitude when I think about my family. I think about how intolerant my parents are of even the slightest compromise of the Truth. I think about my last birthday when my uncle called and declared blessings over my life. I think about my late grandmother who (among many great things), as a widow, poured her retirement funds to build a church and school in an Indian village. I think about this weekend's funeral and the constant acknowledgement of how faithful he was to the work of the LORD in his everyday life. On the front of the program, 2 Timothy 4:7 is quoted, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." I love how confidently that can be said of my family- immediate or distant. What a legacy.
I do not write this to pour salt on any wounds if this is not the legacy of your family. I know all families have imperfections, mine included. I think the point I ultimately want to make is this: as individuals, we each have a level of influence. We are or will be someone's mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, niece, nephew, or cousin. We can choose to let that role slide by as though it is insignificant. Or, we can recognize it for its worth and use it to pour a wealth of goodness into our bloodline. Pour out into your family. Create depth to shallow waters. Leave a godly legacy.
"No reserve, no retreat, no regrets." In loving memory of "TC" (1931-2011)
I was not one to grow up singing hymns in church, but I have definitely come to appreciate them and their depth. Read this nice and slow. Enjoy the God it describes:
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In his arms he'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there. -What A Friend We Have in Jesus
As mentioned previously, this inductive Bible study has been so refreshing to my spirit. It is hilarious how perfect God's timing is in the subject matter. Even when I have slacked off this week, God knew in advance and used what I should have studied on Monday to speak to me today. I have caught up on three out of the five daily studies for the week and am curious how the last two will conclude the lessons so far.
I'll be honest, I backtracked in some ways this week. When I wasn't doing stuff for my family and my own life, I would usually revert to facebook, twitter, television, or a movie. It has been an amazingly difficult fight to discipline my mind on anything less instant. I haven't been reading as much or getting in the Word, and obviously I fell behind on my Bible study activities.
And everyday, there was a craving. Hunger. As if my spirit was craving a real meal, but I decided to fill up on cheetos and twinkies instead. That kind of stuff never fulfills the craving because it doesn't contain the vitamins and nutrients your body is actually asking for. It is one and the same with the world's media vs. God's presence. I would even dare to say that watching a preacher via video podcast is not the same as being in your prayer closet.
There is a level of focus that all this media/social networking is shooting down in our brains. I want my old brain back. As a child, I could sit on the couch in our living room for an entire afternoon and finish a novel. Now, I pick one up, read a page or two until I feel antsy.
The intro to this week's lesson said this:
Take Heed to Your Spirit... Let No One Deal Treacherously "Take heed to your spirit." What a needful exhortation! We are so busy, so occupied with life that life in itself is difficult. Words, words, words–we hear so much, say so much in this day of constant communication with our cellular equipment that we don't take time to be still, to shut off the noise of the world and take heed to our spirit, to make sure our spirit is in perfect alignment with Gods Spirit. Are we hearing God? Believing God? Or are we so out of tune with God that, like Israel, we dispute His love for us when in reality it is we who don't love God as we should? As you saw, Malachi opens with Israel claiming that God doesn't love them, isn't demonstrating His love as He should. When in reality, as we see when we read on, it was them. They did not love God as they should. What would life and our relationships with others look like if we loved God supremely? If our relationship with Him governed all of life?
Oh man, up until 3 minutes ago I seriously forgot about blogging today.
Life is getting busier, thank God. At the same time, I am so glad it is gradual. Heaven knows I would be a wreck if I suddenly just jumped into a normal life again. God is so merciful and understanding too. He knows how to bring us out of the wilderness slowly to test the strength we gained in the tough times. There's still a conscious correcting that having time allows into a thought process when old ways want to come back.
I just thought back to a tweet I posted earlier today that maybe I should clarify to my friends (if they actually read this). I retweeted a quote by Van Morrison which said, "Music is spiritual, the music business is not." To which I added, "It's official, I'm over Nashville. Hello 2 the rest of my life!" So here it is:
Dear professional or aspiring musicians/vocalists/songwriters/producers/engineers/publishers/etc.,
I love that you love what you do. I love all of your creativity and ability to be vulnerable through music. I don't hate Nashville. In fact I have often missed it. However, I am joyful in the security of knowing that Nashville is not for me. I spent a substantial number of years there and enjoyed every bit of it. The world is just far too big for me to stick with my past. It always has been. And life only moves forward, never backward. Though I tried to return, the attempts literally felt like swimming upstream. Alas, my heart is healed from the pain of letting go, but a new excitement has taken place. I do believe that joy has always been in me buried deep as I always love new adventures. But this time I just wouldn't let it manifest in my heart since my head was telling me to take control and hold on tight to what was; what ground I had already covered and the roots already placed. This is me officially saying we are through. Unless God so surprisingly brings us together again in the years ahead, this is my adieu. So you see, my dear Nashvillians, it's not you, it's me. :)
All I want to post today is a song. This song has been stuck in my head for days. I find it peculiar that this song came to mind at random one day because I literally haven't heard it for years. Singing the chorus over and over again lately has been good in a subconscious sort of ways. It is amazing how our brains store media we've taken in over the years. It has been interesting to start taking note of what songs start coming out of my mouth at random moments.
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." -Martin Luther King Jr.
Again a big surprise at the subject that is overflowing every news outlet and social media network: Osama bin Laden is dead. Wow, ten years in the making. I feel strange at being relieved. I am glad to feel that much safer, yet it is sad that another life has left the earth. As MLK Jr.'s quote sums up, an eye for an eye doesn't satisfy. Justice isn't mine to give. I am not the one to repay. In my ideal mind, I would rejoice at a changed life. If only bin Laden turned from his ways...
As relieved as our country feels, I pray for the families of our troops and the troops themselves. I don't want them to be surprised by the probability that US forces won't pull back and come home right away. Who knows what lies ahead.
The biggest realization hit me last night as I watched President Obama announce bin Laden's death: what timing! First of all, Obama is probably thrilled considering the decline in his popularity since coming into office plus the coming election in 2012 not too far off. Secondly, we're at our financial peak. Maybe (I don't actually know how this works) our nation will finally be able to relax military spending even to a small degree... that's probably a really hopeful thought, but a girl can hope! Lastly, I just thought this was cute. A friend posted this on her Facebook status today: "Once upon a time, the commoner girl marries the prince and the the bad guy dies. And they all lived happily ever after." In one weekend, a fairy tale became real life!
Anyway, this has certainly raised spirits, hopefully it will raise our economy back to life too. Lord have mercy on us.
So yesterday I said , "Well, maybe tomorrow I'll talk about how I am all talk and no action."
Here is what is really going to happen. I am going to tell you how I am NOT "all talk and no action." The Lord really impressed a handful of important things upon me through two sermons today.
The first covered 1 Timothy 1. It brought me such peace about a lot of things God has spoken to me this past year:
-Look at your circumstances as a place that God has allowed you to be for the time being. -Look at your circumstances as an opportunity to glorify God. -Stop looking at what you don't have and start looking at Who you do have. -Most of us don't get past ourselves to see what God's doing. What a pathetic way to live our lives! -Which are you more aware of, your problems or the fact that God's Spirit is within us? -Is there any room in your house/your life that Jesus is not allowed into? Like guests, we tell Christ to make Himself at home in our lives, but don't actually mean it. -God says,"There is one thing I want to strengthen in you; that is your innermost being."
This has been a year- the only year in my life- that I cannot explain myself to people. When people have inquired into what I am doing now there is nothing visible- no job, no internship, no big 10-year plan, no new mission trip or leadership opportunity. All they see is a confused young adult with a shrug on her shoulders and a lot of time on her hands to spend with family and travel.
But let me tell you loud and clear: being obedient is never a waste of time; even of an entire year.
Now I can't give myself a whole lot of credit on the obedience factor. For the first several months, I had no sense of understanding that God was calling me to a year of stillness. I fought it like crazy! At the same time, I just knew along the way that every pursuit I went after was not where I was supposed to be. By saying no to everything, I landed where I was supposed to be. Insecure, unbelieving, out of control, and extremely anxious... perfectly raw, humiliated, dependent, and moldable.
In hindsight I can tell you that none of this was a mistake, not for a second. As my pastor preached this morning: you may look at the outer shell of my life and see nothing. But the Lord? He see everything, inside and out. Such a seemingly anti-climactic way of being transformed, but He knew what I needed. He hit every bullet point of what I needed. If I were to list how many things have been fulfilled and strengthened in my life from one year of stillness, I would be writing for days.
So what am I doing now? I'm being prepared.
The other sermon I watched today was from my former and favorite church, Bethel World Outreach Center. Lynette Lewis is a woman who does not know I exist but I hold her in high regard. The way she leads, speaks, and what her heart breaks for is so in line with my personality and interests. Haha, the first time I heard her speak at a conference, I pointed at her and said to a friend, "HER. I want to be like her."
Everyone, guy or girl, should listen to her sermon. It is all about raising your standards and expectations for life and what the Lord has in store for us if we would just take the next step forward. Hearing her stories of keeping faith while feeling inadequate was extremely encouraging. To admit that is extremely vulnerable for a leader, but that is why she is so effective.
Ahh, I am so pumped up! So thankful for the Lord that I am being made ready for more.
God knows, and reminds us in His Word, that if we want to be in possession of more we must first be wise with little.