Thursday, April 10, 2014

john 15: abide (restful surrender)

This whole chapter is so full of rich promises stemming from challenges Jesus is giving to his disciples. It's not "don't do this or that", or "do this because I said so"--it's "Do this, know this, react in this way, because it is the way of the father, it is what I myself have followed and modeled for you, and because it is the way of fruit, of joy, of love, of peace (even in the midst of hatred), and of truth. It's what I've called you to, and it's worth it."

It's hard to believe, from this side of the first Easter, that by this point, Jesus knows he is headed to the cross. More than likely, he was struggling himself to believe the words which he was saying. But John has made Jesus' devotion to the father's will the clearest message to both follower and opponent alike. It is a beautiful example to follow, and his words here highlight, for me, a simplicity that we often miss.

We are (I am) so quick to jump headfirst into dogmatism and ritual over the imperative "abide." But when you look at the objects of the command, the place of abiding we are called to, it cannot be another work on our Christian to-do list. We're called to abide IN JESUS and IN JESUS' LOVE. A person and his heart. There isn't a formula for this. There's a relationship, an intimacy, a friendship. "No longer do I call you slaves," he says, "but I have called you friends." A slave is told what to do, insider to outsider. A friend is an insider, who is a part of the plan. Stop asking how. Seek his presence. Spend time with him. Take moments with him. 

And this will change everything. You will no longer look like the world, therefore, you'll no longer be acceptable in their eyes. Rejoice in this fact. Keep loving and keep bearing witness--"Keep doing what I have done. And keep listening to all that the Spirit recalls to your mind about me--that you may continue to hear my words and "may not fall away" (16.1), even as hatred crosses the line into persecution, just as it soon will for Me." 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Last night, my mind was spinning around my battered ego and the forerunner of ego: insecurity. Spinning around in these two areas was the word preparation. I am being prepared for a soon-to-be-fulfilled dream. But dreams are often doubted in the midst of ego & insecurity's onslaught. The story/quote that floored me as I cried was this: "And what's to be done with the ashes?"

It comes from a love story (Elisabeth Elliot's); obviously my application doesn't sit there. But then today, I see another quote from her about these ashes, which "result when an act of obedience is passed through the fires of God's perfect--yet mysterious--will." 

Now here this: My obedience isn't on some grand scale in this season. It's small, minuscule even. If I had to define it for you, it would simply be a moment by moment surrender and rest in whatever HE--not I--has planned. For the day. For the morning. The minute. The interruptions. The to-do lists. They are all subject to Him, just as I am subject to him. Obedience is where dreaming culminates and thrives.

Some days, it is a sweet surrender. God opens doors and paves ways and makes things clear. 

Others, not so much. God seems silent. Distant. Stopped in His tracks.

And I have these ashes. These particles of dust hanging onto an altar, fogging the atmosphere around me. 

And last night I knelt in their pilings, broken over what their purpose might be. Knowing the surrender, the burning sacrifice behind them, was not an end, but rather a means of what is ahead. Also, graciously, knowing that somewhere down the line, a dream will be fulfilled from them. God's work is redemptive, always. And in his beautiful sovereignty, out of these ashes--out of the remnants of the burning--good will arise, glory will shine for him. 

But in between, their warmth is no comfort for the waiting.

My hands cannot grasp at these wispy particles. I cannot sort through what I cannot define, form, shape, function--all lost through the fire. And yet so much is still just sitting here, with me, on purpose. For purpose.

In the warfare waging in this waiting, God, with conviction, turned my thoughts outward. Rejoicing can still occur on this ash heap, if I look up from the ashes to those dancing before the altar in the streets. 

And then he turned my thoughts upward, to the dreams he has given, the dreams still to be fulfilled. Coming, coming, coming...but I cannot see the big picture here. Only the present. The tough present, that challenges my Christ-given identity as a dreamer, dreaming for the immeasurably more. 

Then God reminded me of another dreamer through a dear, dear friend.

" know God gives us a little bit at a time. Keeps us relying on Him and seeking His face about the next, if we saw all the stuff in between, we would probably bail out on Him! I know its hard... Just think about it..when God gives you a vision or a thought and He says, this is how it'll end, who does that remind you of? Joseph! But imagine if Joseph would've seen being sold, the pit, then Potiphar's house, prison, and finally 2nd in command of you think he would've been as eager to see the dream come to pass? Or even relied on God for it to come to pass?"

As long as there is sin-stained substance, there will be ashes. 
As long as there are ashes, there has been surrender. 
And as long as there has been surrender, hasn't there then been obedience? 

And isn't that what our dreaming is all about? Desiring to be obedient in the big, bold, beautiful plans our Father has for us?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

some stories

Today I read a job posting that said, "Applicant must love telling stories." YES. I wish could have immediately applied; however, I am still finishing school and looking at moving overseas as immediately as possible, provided the Lord not only opens the door, but pays for it to be opened. I can't doubt that He will, because I saw Him provide so abundantly for East Asia, but the figure I'm looking at is literally over 10 times larger (really?!), and that is terrifying. Excuse the rabbit trail. But it's real life. And He's holding it all in His hands.

So, how about I take a different avenue now, and post some of my favorite photos from my trip on here, with a little story or two to go with each? Ok, here we go.

This was our last big time sharing with college students, and I think it was one of my favorites. I shared the story of the symbolism of the candy cane, which I dreaded as I approached the trip, but my mom made sure I found the story and bought the candy canes. I shared it each time we shared, and each time the Lord had me sharing his whole story through it. This particular night, he allowed me to see certain faces in the crowd lighting up with understanding and amazement. His story, His word, will not return void. The seeds we planted will grow. Of this I am certain and oh so thankful of.

Oh these precious girls. On this day in class, as we sang a song, I just couldn't hold the harmony in any longer (it is my favorite!), and these girls in particular noticed. As they gathered around me and we started talking, they asked if I would sing a song to them. I chose the song "Wanted" by Dara Mclean (see my video on FB or instagram), and was delighted to share the meaning behind the song--God has loved and has wanted a relationship with these girls since the beginning of time. It was a sweet moment of laying the gospel boldly before these girls. Once again I must say it--His story, His word will not return void! Those whom He loves will be found by Him. He goes after His lost sheep.

We sang a lot on this trip, which was a beautiful thing and an incredible way that the Lord opened the door for us to share. In this picture, we are singing "Jesus Paid it All" at the [cold] seaside. In the middle of the picture is a prayer bell, made and rung to awaken the gods to hear the prayers for good fortune. But our God was present, with no need to be awakened, and He shared his story through the words of this precious old hymn. It was an amazing moment for me personally, as God humbled me to my knees and to tears as He spoke to these girls about what He has done for them. He paid it all.

This girl has my heart. I call her Taylor Swift, because her English name is Taylor and she loves Taylor Swift. The impact of this picture is more than my time overseas--through technology, I am still able to text and video call with her every day, and have been able to share with her how much God loves her at least once a week. She believes, and thinks it is so good, but perhaps is still unsure about what having a relationship with Jesus means. Please pray with me that she will continue seeking and come to that relationship with Him very soon. 

These two girls. Christmas day. Got to share with them so much. They recognized God's love for them so beautifully, but again don't understand what the next step is. One day, they will.

A longer story, worth its entirety:

At the end of a trip, especially a longer trip, when you begin doing tourist-y things and expect to chill with your team and prepare to get back to America, you aren't really in a mood of expectation, for God to work something in and through you. It's extremely easy to switch off in a way, and stop watching and waiting for God to show up. But then He does. 

We were 3 days from leaving, in Beijing, fresh off of a day full of travel from our city. We unloaded our bags and went straight to dinner at the massive mall down the street from our hotel. As I waited for my food, I was overcome by my love for this place and people, and so I began smiling incessantly at everyone who walked by me, and saying "hello" in their language. Well, one young girl smiled back at me, and said hello, so we struck up a conversation. She asked me questions, particularly why I was there. I told her I was spending my Christmas holiday becoming friends with students here in China. She was so amazed and said that I must be a very kind girl to do that. I smiled, and she walked away.

Thirty seconds later, she came back, phone in hand, determined that we should be friends. We exchanged information, I told her I was soon to leave, but that we could stay in touch via this app on our phones. She was delighted, and we texted a little bit that evening. The next day was full of touring and shopping, but as we drove back to the hotel late that night, I realized that I didn't want to spend my last day in China touring random things and spending money. So I decided I would text Candy, my brand new Chinese friend, and ask if she wanted to grab lunch together the next day. Turns out she was free! So we had lunch, took my first subway ride, and hung out the entire afternoon. It was amazing just to live life with her and love her, even having just met her, as Jesus loves her. 

Sometimes when you are least expecting God to move, He shows up and does the most unexpected things. Although that could describe this whole trip for me, this story particularly displays His intricate and inexplicable attention to orchestrating every detail in our lives.


That's just a glimpse of the larger story our Father is writing overseas. 
How is He calling us to join Him here?
so abundan

Saturday, November 16, 2013

a note for the longing

Love is and always was the longing placed inside my heart to know You, and be known by You.

(from "the longing" by All Sons & Daughters...check out the whole song here and the song story here)

The Lord woke me up with this song first on my pandora playlist this morning, after several switches through playlists. But he stopped me on this one, and it set the tone of my morning. Just to be honest, it's been a rough week. After a really great and inspiring week last week, watching God move in amazing ways, this week has been full of both wonderful ups and confusing downs. But that's life. God is bigger than life, though.

And this morning, by His grace, I'm finally able to slow down, sense that, trust His hand is still at work in it all, and be revived in learning a new lesson from this song that I can even find a few minutes, sit down, and share with you. I've missed blogging. There's SO much to say, SO much going on, and not enough time to get it all out of my heart and mind and prayer journal. Perhaps there will be a short bullet-point list at the end of this. But first things first, this lesson.

As this song played over me, my heart was simultaneously challenged and comforted by this re-defining of what love is. 

It's a longing
        A deep-seated emotion that desires more than what is being given. 

It was placed in my heart
        I did not conjure it up, and I cannot increase it. This is God's area of expertise.

Why? to know GOD & be known by Him
        Bottom line of love: it revolves around God. I look to Him, let Him in, become vulnerable with Him, grow in relationship to Him; it is a vertical direction that must be met first and foremost before it can ever translate effectively into horizontal relationships here on earth. 

What hit me even more as I continued to listen was this: When I feel this longing in my other relationships, it is a sign that I am not pressing into His all-satisfying love deeply enough. The longing is meant to take me to His love only. Because only His love can meet my heart exactly where it is. Only His love can fill my heart and life with joy that cannot be shaken. Only His love can comfort me, take care of me, teach me, and mold me to look more like Him, perfectly. 

This world and its love, even the Church's love, cannot do any of that as perfectly as He can. 

I need to know that. 

A) to give the Body of Christ a break. She cannot do what He can. Yes, we need to be there for each other, but we cannot always be. And that's ok. That's how it was meant to be. She's only a picture, a more tangible sampling of 
what HE wants to be for us.

B) to give myself a break. Just like the Church, I cannot be for others what God can be. I cannot. God wants this knowledge, even this longing to bring great FREEDOM into our lives. ABUNDANCE is His calling for us (john 10.10). Sometimes it takes the wilderness, alone and destitute with His love as our only company (see Hosea 2.14-23), to see the amazing, freeing abundance of love that He alone offers His people.  

A practical note: Ok, so if I'm feeling this longing, what do I do? How do I press into His love? Ask Him. Read His Word (especially Hosea). Be convicted and challenged. Do not despair. Remember that He loves you, and that is enough. More than enough. We cannot fathom the depths of His love. Let's just try.   

1st john 4.13-19
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us his spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world (we are not alone). There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

Father, perfect us by your love. Cast out every fear in our hearts that hinders us from fully being found in your love, and help us to love others only out of the abundance of love that you have given us. Continue to set us free from ourselves and our expectations of love, because you alone can satisfy us. Only your love is more than enough. Continue to make that clear, even in the wilderness, draw us closer and closer to you. Thank you for being our teacher, leading us into all truth.

(also: I'm going to East Asia this Christmas break. We've officially reached the less-than-a-month mark. WHAT?! message me for more info!)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I will not turn back.

You know when we are most vulnerable? When our walls tumble faster and with more ferocity? In excitement. In extravagance. In abundance. 

It's when you are stepping into the place of abundance that the enemy's whisper abounds:

turn back. turn back NOW.

These are his taunts, his fears, his insecurities, that have no where else to show up, than in the heart & mind of a child who has all of the rights to God that he never had. 

Satan doesn't like that because it is how God wants us to live. That's what God wants for us: ABUNDANCE. 

As someone who passed through a season of barrenness and is on the cusp of a valley of abundance, I can say that I have never felt the enemy's attack more closely or more deeply than right here. In anxiousness for the next season, full of hope. Last year, his attacks were superficial. Now the spiritual warfare is closer than ever before. Jesus, help me. 

I've been getting a lot of what most would term "good news" lately. A lot of doors are opening. This fall is looking sweet and full, because of some ways God is moving. 

Yet it also looks big. Huge. Giant. Like Goliath stands before me, the armor ill-fitting, the stones in the stream minuscule, being pushed ahead, trying to swallow my own fear while coming to terms with all the fear around me. 

I hear David's shaking voice to his king: "Let no one's heart fail because of this giant. I will fight."

Then, resilient, to his foe: "You've got weapons; I have the living God of armies, whom you have defied. He'll give you into my hand. You will fall defeated. That all may know that there is a God here--the God of all gods, who saves not with mortal weapons, who already has this battle in hand--He will give you into the hands of his people." 

And there, in bold, is the purpose here. That all may know Him. Not me, not the church, but HIM. 

Abundance is from him and for him. So I will not turn back. The wilderness is no longer where he wants us. We didn't have it all together in Egypt, in chains. We won't have it all together here either. But he does. He holds it. He holds me. I will not struggle for release from his hand. 

I will not turn back. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

hope that does not lose heart

Today I had some Jesus time on the quad, with shade keeping me cool enough to quiet my mind and heart and focus on listening. Yet my voice interrupted with destructive, entangling roots of self-centered lies.

But God. Those timeless words ring true for me today. This is what He did, the opposite of what I was doing. 

The breeze picked up, playing with the strands of hair around my face. A subtle reminder of His presence. With it came the Spirit's challenge to lay down my concerns and convictions at the feet of Jesus. 

Oh Jesus, thank you for being right here, right now, for challenging me to reject all the lies and deception that seek to chain me up in self-destructive thoughts, when you long & delight to build me up by your great love that says that I do not have to be good-enough, smart-enough, pretty-enough, loved-enough by mere humans, filled by others and a good-filler of others. All of that is loss, not gain. All of that is rubbish, not treasure. Daddy, help me to rest there. You are good enough to even extend goodness to me. You are the very radiance of our Father's beauty and are loved so much by him that you pour those two attributes freely over us. In doing so, you fill us, such that we need nothing else. You heal & restore our temporary leaky-love cups by instead making our hearts your home forever. I believe this--oh help my unbelief which keeps me from entering and remaining in that precious rest. Thank you for demonstrating this rest for us all across you word, from creation to creation, this beautiful story of redemption, response, and rest. 

See 2 Corinthians 5. 

We are new! It seems unreal. The old has passed away, and you no longer consider, regard, remember, or count it against us. Wow. There is such sweet rest to be had here. 

Why, then, am I still trying to earn it?

Why, then, am I still shrinking back into the wilderness?

My groanings long for something more, and because of Sin's familiarity and my flesh's fragility, my 1st inclination is to look back. 2nd? To look inward. 3rd? To look outward, to others. "Fill Me!" My flesh screams, forgetting the abundance found in Christ, the ever-filling, life-giving sustenance. 

I cannot implore anyone to be reconciled to God until I myself am resting in that reconciliation that I have responded to by faith, the only response fitting to such a faithful display of redemption, drawn out of the depths of the worst of circumstances: a bloody Roman cross. How do my present, repressing circumstances stack up in comparison? Do I believe that he is able to work redemption out of its trenches as well?

And just as this reconciliation is to be worked outward horizontally, so the bulwark between my faith and the object of my faith affects all the spheres that I move in. In seeking my problem, I avoid God. In seeking myself, I avoid others. The breakdown of this ministry of reconciliation is found in my response to it each moment. 

I fix my eyes on redemption, 
A response to walk in the light of the truth, not in the darkness of my deception,
To rest in the land of promise even before the giants are vanquished. 

Cease striving through the wilderness that I have freed you from. 
Do not turn back to the chains and worthless labors. 
Look ahead to the full redemption, and there find hope to live again,
Abundant and free,
Ambassadors of reconciliation, 
Prototypes of resurrection--
Whose archetype will come for you. 
I will not leave you alone. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

a true story

Today, amid all the insecurities, I saw the Lord. 

I spent hours in his presence, along bustling streets, full of anxiety, doubts, and fears, pressing close on every side.

Looking for just the hem of his robe, to reach out and be perhaps be healed.

I bowed my face to the ground, reaching out in desperation, hand flailing in the air, failing to find the hem.

Just the hem, I said. It's all I need. It can heal me of this thing that is eating me alive. 

Just them hem, Jesus. Just your hem!

He had more in store.

I looked up and saw him looking right back at me. Eyes overflowing with grace.

His arms were extended to me.

I look at the transformed surroundings around me: the throne room. 

Robed in a brilliant, bright white robe, his hem was nowhere in sight, because his robe fills the entire room.

Then it hit me: the hem is not enough

But He is. And I need all of him to overcome.

Because of the victory in Christ's resurrection, the Father gives me more than the hem. He gives me himself. He takes me in his arms and whispers, "Your faith in me--not in my hem--heals you. Be at peace. I have overcome it all. Go, walk in the freedom I have released you into. Don't settle in fear and anxiety to look only for my hem. Come to me, Daughter. Come to me and lay it down. Day after day after day. Moment by moment."