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Archive for the ‘looking back at past experiences..’ Category

Today represents both the birth of one grandma and the death of my other grandma.

My Grandmother Reva actually received the best birthday gift possible 53 years ago, a son.  However, 10 years ago, my father was unable to celebrate, when his birthday bore the responsibility to care for his wife whose mother had passed away the very same day.

So today my mother created a tribute album for her mother, my Grandmother Marjie.  My grandmother continues to be the person I attribute much of my character to.   Before Christ, she was the person I aspired to reflect the image of most.

Legacies are tricky to me.  I know it sounds harsh.  But, to me, legacies most often times are the boasting of a person’s name and achievements.  I have written on legacy before, and know that I desire to leave the legacy of “home matters;” the difference is, that legacy does not need to be attached to my name.  Rather, it is one that parallels the refuge of God’s wingspan as an eagle protecting His children.  It is a legacy that recognizes the purpose and ability God has established in me.

Another reaction to today’s contrast of events also seems to lack compassion, but has been reflected on in prayer and is worthy of sharing in transparency.  The simple task of memorializing a person’s death, considering anniversaries is not something I planned on partaking in, until my mother’s tribute was sent to me.

My grandmother passed when I was 14, a freshman in high school.  The moment I had freedom in driving, I began to spend more time speaking with her at her burial ground than I did speaking with my parents at the house.  It was about a year and a half later that I received the Lord in my life, and that stopped.

Until the moment I walked into the Family at North Coast Church, my grandmother was the guardian angel looking after me.  I had not known the Holy Spirit, and so she was the nudge I followed.  It was her life I emulated.

But that stopped. And I believe, rightfully so.

I respect the Jewish tradition of leaving rocks on the tombs of loved ones deceased.  But with Christ, I see freedom of souls.  The body buried in the ground no longer traps my grandmother, so why visit her there?

Within the last hour I was given a new perspective.  Thank You, Holy Spirit!

As the title suggests, today marks the day of my grandmothers birth.  Today, nearly 80 years ago, breath entered her lungs and she cried for the very first time.  She was embraced by two parents and entered life with a name attributed to her by her parents.  The celebration of birth, of life.

BUT it also is the day of my grandmother’s death.  Different lady, different bloodline.  Today marks the day her spirit entered into eternal life in the presence of Christ and His everlasting people.

I wrestled in the beginning of grief, years ago, whether my grandmother truly lived a selfless life of service for the betterment of people or as an act of serving Christ in them.  I gave up, recognizing that God had not given me the ability to understand.  So I faithfully set it aside and pursued His character, His life, reflected in my own living.

That was until just this hour.  Now, there is a peace in me assuring that she has life, eternal life, in God’s presence.

I am very grateful for the life Paul lived as an example of a man, surrendered before the purposes of God’s placement in His life.  I am very grateful to have read the burnout and struggles Mother Teresa experienced with her own faith as she served the lowest of the low in the Indian caste system.  I am very grateful to have lived over a decade under the leadership of my grandmother and seeing her humbleness in service: both in providing and receiving.

Their legacies point to the glory of God.  In their confessed weaknesses, His strength was made known.

Honestly, this was far from the hardest part of my day today.  Stephen, the man who God has placed as my partner in ministry, led me in worship tonight.  Especially in our wavering, we will continue to lift our voices:

“I love you, Lord:”

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear

Lord, as we consider the lives of those who continue to breath, and those who have left this earth, may we see their goodness as the blessings of gifts and experiences You poured out onto them, and worked through them.  May everything we see as good lead us to praise Your name.   May our sorrow in grief lead us to lean into Your comfort, into Your counsel.  Thank You for being present and for continuing to teach me, even 10 years later to view this day in a new perspective.  This day is incapable of overcoming me, rather it is a day You continue to reign over.  Thank You Lord, that I cannot fall.  I’ve stumbled, but Your strength has provided rest when I am too tired to consider anything more.  I carry on to lift Your name, sovereign King of all.

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This summer I was able to play chauffeur for a brother in Christ who served Christ’s children through the non-profit of my church.

I found myself exposed to Christian and secular rap/hip-hop, and since his departure have continued to digest the intensity of expressed thought and feeling through the poetry.

On a drive we were not intentionally quiet for any partcilar purpose–that I was aware of–I caught on to a lyric “and this will be my legacy,” and asked him, “what will be your legacy?”  I asked with a concept, a predisposition, but wanted to clarify that my prayers, my words of encouragement, my actions had been supportive of his call, in the right way, right direction.   I wanted to know if he was expressing his true self, or if like me, everyone had the wrong idea.

This morning, this morning I know I want to leave the legacy of:

Home matters.

Strange thing is, I never felt safe at home.  How should I know how to run a home? I don’t have a husband or children of my own.  Why should I have the audacity to tell parents to spend intentional time at home with their kids, away from electronics, and to tune into what their child needs, supply proof that their needs are being met, and patiently, gently show that they are safe in your arms, with your compassionate love..

Tonight I have been invited into the home of a dear friend, to join family dinner at a scheduled–predictable and consistent–time.  She sent me the text of “6:30” nothing more to it, and I found myself screaming “Yes! She knows how to love her children.”

Why? Well, I’m in an intensive Trust-Based Relational Intervention workshop this week and have been addressing issues and treatment for families of foster/adoptive children from hard places, post-placement.

Dr. Karyn Purvis makes it so clear, a child’s sense of safety does not depend on your perception, your knowledge that there is plenty of food, no shortage of water, that their bed is their own and no one will intrude, that your hugs can be firm but controlled…that you offer them safety.  Rather, it has to be “felt safety.”

I don’t recall much from my childhood, and most of the stories I can quickly tell may be one or two sentences, with very little adjectives, that have been brought on by others telling me of my past experiences or self-analysis of pictures from the time.

I had reasons, I did.  But in an exercise labeled “Ouch” where one partner wore gloves of velcro and touched the face and arms of the other, I relayed to the class that it felt “soothing.”  Does that make sense to you?  It sure shouldn’t, and yet it means so much.

I’m understimulated because I still, to some extent, don’t feel safe with touch.  Through the past decade of my life (at least), I have learned to cope…predominately in ways I am not proud of.

I inflicted the pain and discomfort on myself that I felt from others, so that I had control.  I attempted to calm myself in ways that did not overlap with a sense of touch that I associated as bad, but that were actually worse (looking back).

Why am I sharing this?

I don’t want us walking around in fear for our own safety, nor for the unknown boundaries others in our lives may have or require.  But I have been living with perameters for some time now, and the journey of discovery where they are, when they were built, and how to safely remove layers of bricks at a time, or maybe it is one brick at a time, is a difficult one.  I wish we all had someone we really truly felt safe with, a community of someones to walk along side us through.

But really, that is where and when Jesus came into my life.  So I am grateful and will continue to lean on Him as I explore this new chaos of my reflective life, to not allow it to shape the way I interact with kids in my future life.

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I have called this the mightiest washing I have experienced since baptism.

For a week I laid in bed, fearing the return of the intestinal infection I fought for nearly two years.  My body wasn’t a temple of God, it became the physical presence of my enemy.

It has nearly been a year now, since God taught me the freedom in not fearing death.  I see persecution as a reality of being a Christian.

 Jesus warned us of the initial “birth pains” as His Truth becomes known across borders.  He said, “then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers” (Matthew 24:9).

I know martyrdom to be a selfless sacrifice: the laying down of one’s physical life in complete devotion to honoring the name of God.  No prideful matter.  Martyrdom is not something I aspire to experience, but know that if God calls me to the front-lines, I am willing, as I have already laid my life down at the altar of Christ.

But there I was: unable to eat, canceling meetings, missing classes, letting a knocked door go unanswered, laying in bed.  I feared illness.  How is it one does not fear death, and yet fears sickness? Still unfathomable to me, but it was my reality.

On the forth day, I sent the honest truth to a friend.  “How are you feeling today?” she asked, to which I wrote, “honestly this puts me back to fearing the 2 year sickness I thought I was over.” Back to, really? I don’t want to go back to anything.  No regrets.  And yet, here I was putting myself back into one of the worst feelings I have ever felt.

The fifth day, I ate. I woke up and sat up.  God invited me to see the sun and delivered a beautiful sky.  As I sat with Him in the park, thunder clouds rolled in.

Meditating on Psalm 119, I received my first warning of the coming storm.  My adoring Father, I reach up to You as Your child.  The rain drop landed on my prayer journal, and I heard a still voice, “Stay. I will be your shelter, your calm in the storm. I will wash you clean.”

A showering, a joyous occasion, an exploration of His creation, just 2 weeks prior.

A showering, a joyous occasion, an exploration of His creation, just 2 weeks prior.

The winds shook branches loose, and I remained still.  The rain poured down on me, greater than any shower waters I’ve felt before.

I am redeemed!

Thank You for this rain.  A cleansing of my foolish steps these past days.  How joyful You are to have Your daughter captivated once more…Though the world around me may be frantic, You remain my calmness in the storm, I am clean.

And so, I continue to pray, “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.  I have chosen to be faithful… I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding” (Psalm 119:29-32).

May we each praise God saying, You are the complete authority over this life You have created, oh God. For each of us, I pray we remain devoted to the path which Christ continues to light before us.  May we each be the person He has created us to be, and be intentionally humble in our walks as we glorify God through everything we do.  In our waking and in our sleep, may every breath truly be His and for His glory.

Sunday, my pastor shared a testimony of a member in our church, a blind man.  He shared, with joyous laughter: I am envious at times.  This man will see the face of Jesus before any other.  The first time the lame will walk, is running to Jesus.  The first time the mute will speak, is singing praise to Jesus.

Lord, You are our Light.  God with authority over all that is, has been, and will be, we entrust our safety in You.  We know safety to be much more than physical un-harm, but rather a shelter, a lamp that won’t grow weary.  We know, Jesus, that You are with us always.  We thank You, that there is purpose in our breath, and ask for assurance as we step out.  May our lives be before You, glorifying Your name as You please. Humbly, we are on our knees.  Abba, with arms up as Your children, waiting upon Your call.  Lead us.  Discipline us, Father.  Teach us Your will.  Enlighten our path.  Walk with us, Jesus.  We thank you.  We delight in You.  Thank you for the rains, the washing of our sins.  Jesus all we are is indebted to You, and yet we have freedom.  Freely we scream praises to Your name. Amen.

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Freshman year of undergrad at a Christian University, it was mandatory to take a FYI class.  I cannot recall what FYI stood for, but in these courses we also were required to take Strength Quest Assessment and find our roles on campus in consideration of our results.  Finally my results lead to new insight unto my faith journey.

More than I want you to like me, I want you to love God.

From people-pleaser to God-fearer.  The transformation within, expressed through the artful craft, the God-gifted talent, the ability to speak.  I’m not muted.  I praise God.  May my days bring honor to Him, as my interactions with others bring praise to His name.  May the stillness be praise.  May we have hymns of joy and hymns of sorrow, hymns of gratitude and hymns of rest.  But in it all, may our time be glorifying to God, our thoughts His–about Him, through Him, for Him, by Him, completely trusted in Him alone.

Used to be a people-pleaser, now I live to please God alone.  May He win others over to Himself through the life that He has breathed into me.   It is also my prayer, that for anyone else who may self-proclaim or are told that they may be a people-pleaser:  may our priority not be on people looking at us and sharing words of affirmation; rather, “may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful,” as our desire is to advance His Kingdom (Psalm 90:17).

Let us boast, not in ourselves, but in the LORD (Jeremiah 9:24).

May our ears be deaf of anything that speaks highly of ourselves.  May we immediately translate affirmations of self into praises of God’s high and holy name.

For all the people-pleasers, let us please God by winning others over in advancement of His Kingdom.

 

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March 9, 2014

As I sit her just this moment, I recall the day I walked towards the remaining wall of what once was the Holy City’s Temple.  As I walked backwards in respect leaving the Western Wall (known also as Wailing Wall or Kotel), I took out my journal and began to write the victory of a confession that had just been placed in a crevice of the wall.  I was speaking with Jesus, and was asked to stop.  It was against Jewish law to work in the presence of something so Holy, and to them, writing was work.

Here I am on my Sabbath, and again I find myself working.  However, I do not hesitate, as what I write is inspired by my devotion to the LORD, and is therefore a sign of worship in and of itself.

However, my readings of Scripture this morning were of different topics, so this comes from a conversation with the Holy Spirit.

Just yesterday, I listened to “Scare Crow in a Melon Patch” a 3-part sermon series by Pastor Josh Nelson.  In it, he speaks on how the idols of his past kept him from initially believing the Divine call on his life.  Josh attended Hillsong International Leadership College, and during one worship service, he asked the Lord for direction.  In response, Josh saw clearly the hand of God anointing him as he heard one word, “pastor.”  He was 21.  It wasn’t until Josh was 30 that he felt the LORD insist it was time to begin the church.  Again, Josh battled saying, “I am not educated enough,” or “I am not old enough.”

Today, The Station Church is 2 years old and thriving to serve God and anticipate the movement of the Holy Spirit in every relational interaction and serving opportunity.

Josh thought his past prevented him from being “good enough” to pastor God’s church.

A different perspective of Divine destiny is my own.  At 20 years old I had received the Call of God in a dream.  After the most trying years of my physical, Spiritual, relational, and emotional life,  I had finally rested a full night’s sleep and awoke at peace.  This dream ended an excruciating series of disgusting, distorted, traumatizing nightmares where the enemy had held me captive in the night.  I fully believe our night’s rest prepares us for the works of our day, so in this season of nightmares, I found myself believing my worth was relative to that of which the enemy claimed.

However, the dream unleashed an ambitious student of an everlasting God.  It is my childhood, my independence as a teenager, my foolishness, my temptation, and my distortion of my worth as a female that make me the person God chose to pursue a retreat for broken families, where parents will be equipped to better support their children struggling through mental, emotional, or psychological pain.

Similarly, last night I spoke with a 16-year-old girl who had been fighting the urge to self harm for hours.  Her anxiety kept her from talking with anyone she knew, so she called a stranger.  After discussing several options for 20 minutes, I was left clueless as to how to help.  However, just at that moment, I suggested a phone number that changed her mentality completely.  It was a teen line, trained teenagers who will not judge or condemn a caller, but rather, support and empathize.  At that very moment, this young girl spoke clearly, “Can I do that?” She began to speak energetically, “I want to be a psychiatrist for teenagers.”  At 16, this girl already recognizes that her experience suffering with mental illness is what qualifies her to help others more accurately.

Because of what and who we were, we are able to better empathize with individuals struggling in the same matters.  It is then, the transformation through surrender and obedience to God that enables us to have an eternal impact on such individuals.

Whether you struggle to think you are not good enough to accomplish the calling God has set forth, or you recognize it is your past that makes you the right person, know that it has been placed on you, and no one else is responsible.

In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt speaks of the 6 billion people who have yet to hear the Good News.  He repeats through the text, the only way this is possible is that we are not praying.  He also suggests, too many people are not listening and obeying the calls to share God’s Truth.

As Josh, the 16-year-old girl, you, and I continue in life, may we be praying people who trust the voice of God and look for guidance in His Word.  May we be bold in our radical pursuit of becoming more in-lined with God’s path: living and loving others as Jesus has lived and loved us.

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November 4, 2013

Over the course of a four-day trip to Texas, I read the majority of Jennie Allen’s Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul (2012).  I found myself reading rather quickly as it is one of the lighter reads I have faced since beginning college.

Tonight, while sitting at a very unique, late night deli/coffee shop, I discussed the conclusions God has allowed me to recognize through multiple encounters I had during this recent trip.  I sat across a booth from a slightly younger Believer whom I met during my studies in Florence two years ago.  Ironically, God allowed us to continue our friendship as we live a mere 80 minutes from one another in Southern California.

She still attends a small Christian private undergraduate school, and yet, very quickly referred to me as the only female friend whom truly gets what being a matured disciple is about.

I discussed three friends, not in a gossipy manner, but rather in awe of how God works so differently in each of us while maintaining the same interest: to spread His love to the nations.

The first, my dearest friend who I’ve known since the age of three.  Her prayer two weeks ago was a cry of loneliness.  Two days later, God provided me with three babysitting gigs to fund a visit with her in TX.  She was astonished to see Him answer. I didn’t quite get it before this trip, but through hearing her current situation, for the first time I got to know a girl wanting, needing to believe in God without having a tangible grasp of His presence.  For me, I hear God’s voice, I see His presence through the faces of the world, I read His Word (the Holy Scriptures), and I recognize His comfort through the mighty winds.  But not everyone communicates with God the same. She is struggling.  She prayed and was given a single room apartment to study in the quiet.  Now she is alone.  It is exactly what she wanted that now haunts her nights.  It is her fears that keep her from allowing flexibility in her schedule.  It is her future ministry that she idolizes as a “plastic god” before the one true God.  Although God-inspired, it serves as a predominate controller.

Toxicity and Transparency.

I feel it is all too quickly that we can have our bathroom floor moment as Allen called it, as she read the blogs of Katie Davis in Uganda and realized the call to pray “anything,” find our “anything,” and devastatingly pursue our “anything” over our intimate pursuit of Christ, Himself.

Heather admitted towards the end of my stay, “It is only me.” See, we attended Spirit Fest, and after hearing Mike speak of the meaning behind Tenth Avenue North’s “Forgiven” lyrics, I asked the Spirit within myself, “Is there someone I have yet to forgive?” I later asked Heather the same question, she stated “It is only me..I have yet to tell myself.” Although transparent for the first time, it was the teed-bit of information she could not face that was gnawing at her sense of freedom in Christ.

The second, a girl I met during my first year walking in the Family of Christ, and had the privilege of traveling in with in three separate European countries.  During a lunch date, she told me, “You would like him.” That simple line described the man of God she met the week of her graduation from university.  Within days of their meeting, both moved away, leaving them states apart from one another.  Over the course of a summer, they flew back and forth between Texas and California to formally begin a dating relationship.  When summer came to an end, God led her to boldly follow Him into the unknown.  With her new boyfriend along, the two-headed back to TX where they’d interview and look for housing (independently, of course).  Completely trusting God, they began in Austin and when doors closed, they changed their focus to Dallas.  Now having been settled for two months, God is doing amazing things in their relationship and in their path of influence.

For the third girl, I thank God for demolishing my previous judgements.  This girl is truly God-fearing, trusting as a child, and joyful as a blind mind given sight.  During a trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England, I traveled with two best friends–the three of us had all attended the same school in Colorado.  I consider myself rationally spontaneous.  As in, I have a skeleton outline, but allow God to move within, through, and around such precautions.  However, the two of them favored trusting God and nothing less.  Our two weeks in the UK were compiled with nothing less than miracles.  The entire trip was a whim, in that our housing was provided by people we met at churches we attended while in the area, our meals were paid for by other attendees of such churches, and our conversations were all God-centered.  It was majestic.  Now, I would like to claim that it was immediately contagious and adapted into my own walk with God, but that would be a lie.  Rather, it wasn’t until last week that I became overwhelmed with satisfaction that this girl is a genuine delight in God’s eyes.  God is Father.  All Abba desires is for His prince and princesses to reach up professing their need for His Merciful Love.  This girl got that.

Now it is my time to step out.

My anything is the ministry God showed me in a visual dream 3 years ago.  However, it is my present that is of utmost importance.  For the longest time, I had been focusing on the qualifications necessary to one day found and manage this ministry.  In idolizing the goal, I nearly forgot the means.  God is my breath, my purpose, and my guide.

After returning from Europe, God allowed me to admit “The most beautiful thing on this earth is a Christian man loving his children.  In contrast, the most heinous thing on all this earth, is a mother who kills her own children.” I read study after study on the emotional connection mother and child have due to the pregnancy that the father lacks and began to recognize how much harder the father works to gain the emotional intelligence to love his own child.  Where the mother was physically bonded for 9 months, the father touched his child for the first time after the birth.

At the time, I thought God was preparing me to intern in a women’s prison where I would have the opportunity to interview and assess the mental stability of a mother who was charged of murdering her own child.  It didn’t happen.

For the past 7 months, I have been living back at home under my parent’s house.  It is toxic.  As the only Christian in the family–the only one who believes in one Almighty God for that matter–I find myself giving authority to my parents who are not aligned with the ultimate Authority of my life. It is time for true obedience and a sense of self-responsibility, again.  Tonight, as I clicked ever ad posted in a region on Craigslist for “room for rent,” I found an ultimate opportunity.  A single, working father of two boys (ages 3 and 5) is looking for someone to babysit 15 hours a week in exchange for free rent.  I would have the opportunity to minister to this partial family as I serve them in their place of comfort and need.  I applied, and now God is at work, for that I am certain.

May you be willing to meet as a family–whether it be with your spouse, children, dear friends, mentors, or just yourself–and pray, “God, do anything and I will follow.  I give you my everything and with it will do as You say.”

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September 21, 2013

As I finished a reflective call with my best friend while driving home at a dark hour I noticed drops beginning to splatter, covering my entire windshield.  Very quickly God had restated everything He had told me during our conversation right there in one image.  God watered my garden the day I was unable to–for Saturdays I spend out-of-town.

Jalapenos from my home garden

Peppers from my home garden

Simply said, God takes care of His family.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), all of which remain genuine characteristics inherited by a Loving Father in Heaven.  By which, He proclaims, “No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (Isaiah 65:22).

If we are truly made in Imago dei and He has promised us the fruits of our labor, then it is true that through hard works great reward follows (Jeremiah 17:10).

Over the course of a week God has demonstrated the beauty of genuine and humble obedience.  I said it to my best friend tonight like this, “I don’t care what someone believes in, but taking Yom Kippur off from work, or resting on Sunday, these acts of honest obedience are true beauty.”

The personal anecdote is quite simple: I am taking the Psychology GRE in one week and the general GRE 11 days later.  Now, although my study calendar is elaborate while maintaining an achievable layout, I could not predict nor prepare for the Enemy’s accompaniment.  The last two months were scheduled with long library days, yet, when illness prevents the body from absorbing and transmitting energy, sitting in a stiff manner while stressing the brain muscle is quite appalling and by no means a relaxing option.

Having that said, since Wednesday I am free of stressing (mentally, emotionally, and physically) over the GRE exams.  Rather, I have been reminded that there is a ministry with mine and God’s names written boldly on the welcoming doors.  The only thing is, I had a deadline.  Now it is to my belief that God did not set me up for failure nor any other struggling individual.

With sense of relief, today I was overcome by the possibilities of enriching today’s opportunities.  This means that if not accepted into the ideal graduate program this coming fall, I will proudly and transparently continue volunteering for the suicide prevention hotline.  The glorious part… today God did not whisper to me once. Rather, it was a continuous display blending my greatest passions, skills, and the nations God has called me here to serve.  Today is the day I recognize my work for God’s Kingdom does not rest within the walls of any particular ministry (no matter how enriching).  God’s ministry is, and that’s that.  For God is alive in you and me, and as the blood of Christ forgave our sins, the Holy Spirit has washed us clean with Holy water, and we live knowing that God’s tools are sharp and ready for battle:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

 

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