Monday, September 11, 2017

It was all I could do not to burst into tears....I couldn't understand it all!  

It was Spanish class and my new teacher speaks Spanish in class a lot more than my last teacher did.  Sometimes I feel a little lost.  I miss my old Spanish teacher!   The way she explained the Spanish vocabulary and grammar made a lot more sense to me than my new teacher does!   And I miss my Spanish tutor!  It was so fun and exciting learning a new language this spring & summer semester.  But this fall is different.

Then I thought about one of the things that was making it hard: I was comparing myself to my other classmates.   In my spring & summer Spanish classes I was at the top of my class and other students would ask me to study with them to help them out.   I loved helping others!   I loved being one of the best.   And now I've lost that.  And so it's not just about learning a new language being difficult, it's sad to no longer be the student who can help others.  Maybe I was getting a little bit of my identity out of being one of the "good students".  Oops!  I know that sounds so selfish and immature, but it honestly hurt.   I feel less than my classmates.   I feel less than my Spanish-speaking friends who speak English to me instead of Spanish.

Yet through this, I'm learning some tough lessons that can actually be applied to every area of life.   So I'm going to share these lessons - just in case anyone else needs some encouraging as well.
  1. Comparing yourself to others isn't smart.
  2. Growth and learning of any kind takes hard work and commitment - it does NOT come naturally.
  3. Comparing yourself to those who do better than you is discouraging.   The only person you can compare yourself with is who you were a couple weeks ago.  Ask yourself the question:  "Have I grown in the last few weeks?"
  4. Get over your pride and don't be afraid to ask others for help.
  5. Learning anything takes diligence and consistency.   You can't just go over something once or twice a week.  You have to be in it daily if you're serious about learning.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Too Busy for People???

This morning as I left my apartment for my morning walk I noticed something interesting.  A man drove by in a SUV with a little kid in the vehicle beside him.  Another vehicle passed along side him on the other side of the road, and both vehicles slowed down.  The woman in the other vehicle rolled down her window and handed the man in the SUV a piece of paper.  And they both drove on.  It all happened so fast it didn't look like either vehicle had even come to a complete stop.  The two didn't even speak to each other - no smiles either.  Just a transaction, an errand to be accomplished, and back off to their own lives, to go their separate ways.

I couldn't help but wonder what story was behind this interaction.  Was the woman the man's x-wife giving him a paper their child needed for school?  Could she be the mother of his child but not the love of his life?  Or maybe their happily married and were just in a hurry that morning.  But if that was the case, then why not even a smile?  And why not even a word?  There's no way of knowing, but I couldn't help but wonder.

As I pondered this, I couldn't help but wonder how many of us do the same thing in our interaction with one another.  We say, "Hello, how are you?" and get the almost programmed, automatic response, "I'm fine".  We move on to our duties never knowing what is really going on inside the heart of another soul.  So focused on our goals in life, how often do we see others only in terms of how they fit in with our needs and our agendas?  I know I struggle with this.  How often do we take the time to really listen?  We talk to one another but do we really hear what the other person is saying?  Do we read beyond the words and look deep into the heart of the other, ask questions, and seek to understand what a loved one is going through?  Have we made relationships a priority in our lives or are we too caught up in the fast pace of society and in accomplishing the next thing on our to-do list?

As I write this I can't help but think of my own life, and how I interact with those I'm the closest to.  How often when my mom calls me at a really inconvenient time, (with a 3 hour time difference it's hard to connect at times), do I think "It's just my mom I can call her some other time"?  Or do I take time to communicate I love her and will call her as soon as I can?  Am I too afraid to be vulnerable by saying the words, "I appreciate you", "I miss you", and "I'm sorry" to someone I love?  When I go to church do I put on my "I'm-happy-everything-is-ok-face?  Or am I real with people?  Am I sharing the burdens on my heart and asking for prayer?  Or am I too proud?  When one of the ladies I'm studying the Bible with needs more time to talk, and tears run down her cheeks, do I put down my Bible, and take my eye off the clock and be all there for her?  Or am I too hurried thinking about my next appointment?  Do I weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, or am I too wrapped up in my own feelings and emotions?

What about you?  Are you rushing by someone who needs your love, care, and attention?

As another beautiful day starts, I'm reminded that the only "things" from this earth that will last through eternity, (aside from a godly character), are the relationships that we have made with one another.  Paul says that we shall be known "even as also I am known."  (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The heart of God yearns to be close to each of us - to be with us throughout all eternity.  He will joy over us with singing.  He says, "They shall be mine....in that day when I make up my jewels."  (Malachi 3:17).  Are we preparing for that day?  Are we taking time to grow in our relationship with Jesus?  Do we treat others with the love that Christ has shown us?  Will you take time to show love to others today?

"Dear Heavenly Father, Please teach me to love like Jesus!  Amen!"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In Awe of God

I just came from the presence of the Lord.  I was compelled to speak boldly with conviction, and then I was silenced.  Let me explain....

It has been a busy week so far.  After a twelve hour day of work yesterday, I was a bit sleepy.  I had slept in this morning - which didn't give me my routine time for my 30-60 minute walk where I pour my heart out to God and pray for those souls we're seeking to reach.  I'd barely had time to have my devotions.

Then later I find out it was our Bible study contacts birthday and ran to buy her a Bible she had been wanting as well as a few other things.  I briefly skimmed over my answers to the Bible study lesson before leaving to go to the study with her and tell her "Happy Birthday".

Jane* hadn't completed her lesson either.  I asked my friend from church to pray.  She prayed for me that God would give me the words and anoint me.  As she prayed I couldn't help but think, "I haven't given this study for a while, I don't know how I'm going to do this, I'm not prepared enough, and I'm not feeling 100%, I'm a little wore out."  But once I began to lead out in the lesson study all such thoughts were put out of my mind.

I begin to share how sin entered the world.  Thoughts and illustrations came to my mind as we continued our study.  Thought of the beautiful loving character of God....How he created us for the purpose of walking before Him in love and how sin defeats this purpose....How sin results from distrusting God's character.  "It's all about God.  It's not about us being a good person", I say.  As I continue I realize how pertinent this Bible study is - for the truth of our sinfulness and need of a Savior is a foreign concept to secular society.  The world says, "Trust your heart", the Bible says "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."  As I continued, I could see the wheels turning in Jane's eyes.  "You mean we're born sinners?"  She asks.  This was a new concept for her.  Then I show her from the Bible how we are sinners - in fact we're all born sinners.

After sharing that we can't even trust our heart, she asks, "What do we do then?"  My heart is convicted of the seriousness of this question, and I'm grateful to see her asking the most essential question ever!  My mind goes to the story of Nicodemus where Jesus showed Him how he must be born again.  I continue to pray for the Holy Spirit as I turn to share that story with her.

She has to use the restroom part way through our Bible study, and I bow my head and pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work on her heart, and to give me the words to of say.

I can't wait to show her the promise in Ezekiel 36 that says, "Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean....A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."  (Ezekiel 36:25-26).  "Is that like baptism?" she asks.  I explain to her in utmost brevity how baptism is a symbol of a change of heart that God has already worked by giving us His spirit.  Conviction and boldness deepening in my own heart, I feel impressed to read Ezekiel chapter 37 which talks about God sending His spirit upon the dry bones.  "You see the change God does for us is just as dramatic as bones becoming living people!  We don't have anything in ourselves to commend ourselves to God!  We are totally dependent upon Him for everything!  When we accept Christ into our lives He makes a complete transformation.  The drunk man becomes sober.  The fearful timid woman becomes confident and bold."

Tears flood down her cheeks.  "These are tears of joy", Jane says.  "I've learned more in the short time we've been studying together since I've met you ladies than I have in my entire life."

We continue by reading in Revelation 3 which speaks of our condition - that we are blind and miserable and poor and naked - we see our need of Jesus, and how Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts.  Bible verses flood into my mind and I share them.  I can't help but tell about the young man who came to Jesus wanting to be saved, and saying he had kept the commandments from his youth, and yet he wasn't willing to give all to Jesus.  I close with an appeal.  "Do you want to give all to Jesus?"  She says yes and repeats a prayer after me accepting Jesus into her heart - on her 60th birthday.

After leaving Jane's house, and getting into the car with my friend from church, she says to me, "This Bible study was different."  "How was it different?"  I ask.  "You spoke with more boldness and conviction", she told me.  "It was God!" I reply.  "Thank you for praying for me", I replied.

I couldn't say any more.  It is amazing that God can use a sinner to reach out to another sinner, and connect a soul to the Savior!  More than ever before in my life I felt humbled.  Humbled because I had not prepared any words.  Humbled because I'm no better than her.  Humbled because God had just given me the Words.  Humbled because God's Holy Spirit had been working on my heart, giving me Bible promises and words to share, and the conviction to speak with more boldness than I normally do.  And He had touched Jane's heart - to the point of tears. 

No feelings of a desire to be some great Bible teacher, or pastor or evangelist now could find any room in my heart, instead the song on my heart was, "Hide Me Now Under the Shadow of Your Wings."  I wanted to run and hide and pray.  To worship God in His majesty.  I felt like Isaiah when he exclaimed, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."  (Isaiah 6:5).  I felt the need of a deeper walk with God, in case He might see fit to use me again someday.  I felt a deep conviction of the seriousness of the work God has committed to me to win souls to the kingdom.

God still works miracles today.  The greatest miracle is a changed heart.  He uses us in spite of our unworthiness.  He sends out His Holy Spirit to convict souls of their need to come to Him.  The question is, are we available to be used by Him?  Can we sing with all sincerity of heart "Nothing between my soul and my Savior"?  What is between you and your Savior, my friend?  Have you given Him your all?  If not, why not try doing so right now?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I get home from a long day at work.  My phone needs charged so I plug it in and then almost instinctively I turn it on...for what I'm not sure.  I'm not contacting my boyfriend because we're not boyfriend & girlfriend anymore.  I don't feel like talking to anyone, but I grab my phone anyways.  I read a few Bible promises and then open Facebook.  "There's nothing here on Facebook I even want to see!"  I say to myself.  And then it dawns on my at what I'm really doing.  I'm trying to find something to cope with the loneliness inside my heart.  I'm trying to keep myself busy to avoid the hurt and the questions.  I know I need something and I know that only God can fulfill that need, and yet I still grab my phone. I look to earthly friends to give me support when ultimately only God has the answer and only He can give peace.  I open Facebook and then remember how meaningless that is.  But the one thing that gives me hope is God and His Word.  I love the promise which says, "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly."  (Psalm 84:11). 

I don't know why I wasn't ready to get married.  I don't know exactly why our relationship took the turn for the worst the way it did.  I don't know exactly what God's plan is through all of this, or what my love life will look like from here on out, but one thing I know is that God will not withhold anything good from me.  God withhold from any of His children.  My moments of regrets, uncertainty of the future, questionings and loneliness remind me of where my true strength comes from.  My relationship life has shown me a deeper need for my dependence on God as my true source of love joy and fulfillment.

Romance, love, relationships, the dream job all sound great, but in the midst of my business sometimes I lacked the deeper connection with the Divine that now is giving me greater joy than any joy I had about planning my wedding.   I can't explain it.  And I can't help but wonder, how many times is our life less than God's ideal for us because because we're looking around instead of looking up to Christ for our light, hope, peace and fulfillment?  May you find perfect peace and fulfilment in Christ's love for you today!

Monday, September 26, 2016

It Wasn't Enough

With my head buried in my pillows, and a whirlwind of emotions sweeping through my heart, I finally came to grips with the reality of the breakup.  The relationship was actually over.  I couldn't comfort my boyfriend and tell him that I was sorry it didn't work out, and I couldn't comfort myself either.  It was a moment of utter helplessness.  But in the midst of that moment I came to grips with a deeper reality...."It wasn't enough".

In the quiet of that moment alone with God - alone and single - I started to come to grips with the fact that the relationship wasn't enough.  The dream wedding I was working towards creating...the trips we had went on together...finally being in my first relationship ever...having a boyfriend...it wasn't enough.  The fantasy, the romance and the fun times were over.  It had all crumbled apart - and even at it's best, the relationship hadn't ever been enough!  I've always known intellectually that a relationship can't fulfill you and that our ultimate fulfillment has to come from a relationship with Christ.  But it's one thing to know something in your head, and it's another thing to know something in your heart.

There have been so many lessons I've learned from being in a relationship....the need for me to seek to understand people who see things differently than I do....the truth that men are different than women....that love isn't enough....that you can't make yourself fall in love with someone....that saying "I do" is a serious commitment and you have to being willing to say with no regrets "forsaking all others".  That love isn't just a feeling - it's a decision you have to know you're ready to make and know God is asking you to make....that boundaries in a relationship matter more than I thought they did.  Learning what's a deal breaker in a relationship and what is not a deal breaker.  Learning what personality types rub me the wrong way, and what people are easier to get along with....Learning that selfishness, stubbornness and pride ruin relationships more than any other little thing; and that humility and forgiveness are essential to making a relationship work.  But of all the lessons I'm still in the process of learning, I've had to learn that a relationship in and of itself will never be enough to fulfill me.  Sometimes I'm tempted to think otherwise.  I'm tempted to think that a different relationship would be more fulfilling, but deep in my heart I'm learning to accept the truth that only God is enough to fulfill my deepest emotional needs.  Only He is enough to give me peace, joy, and confidence in all the decisions that I'll have to make throughout life.

I believe God allows us to go through experiences that make us actually experience our theology in our hearts.  To bring head knowledge home deep down into our hearts.  I can preach and give Bible studies on the importance of Jesus filling that hole in your heart.  I can talk about the importance of putting God first, spending time in His Word every morning, and praying without ceasing, but until I went through the relationship I didn't realize how much I needed God.  All of the sudden I want to spend hours in His word.  All of the sudden I'm praying more, because I have to.  I need God.  I need Him to be my best friend.  I need His companionship more than ever before because I don't have a boyfriend to talk to.  And through Christ I'm experiencing peace more than before.  Sure there are moments when I question "why", moments when I'm frustrated at the decisions I made and the consequences of them that I have to live with, but deep in my heart there is peace in knowing that I did the right thing.  Peace in knowing I'm in the will of God.  I'm learning Jesus has to be my peace.  I have the tendency to look for peace in circumstances.  In my right decisions, in my relationship working out, but right now all I have to cling to for peace is Jesus.  And I've come to realize that this peace in Christ is more of a witness to those I'm reaching out to than all the words I can say. I never dreamed I could have peace going through a breakup.  But God is a God of peace.  And through this peace I'm able to connect with others I'm seeking to share God's Word with more because of my testimony of the peace and fulfillment I have found in Christ.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

People, people, people!

So maybe I am an extrovert, and of course I love my job and what I do, but I'm not beyond the possibility of getting peopled-out!  I have to admit there are some times when I get tired of reaching out to people.

"She's so demanding", I thought to myself.  "It's probably her Indian culture.  She's a difficult person.  She's wants things when she wants them!  Having said that, I couldn't help but remember my shortcoming - I had promised her WEEKS ago that I would print out some hymn lyrics for her to go along with a Christian music CD that I had given her as a gift.  She loves music!  I remember how frustrated I was at the lady's attitude.  And now I was starting to get tired of reaching out to her.  It's easy to justify our frustrations..."it's their culture", "it's his personality type", "She have too many issues!", "They think the world revolves around them!", "He's always late", or "They are so impatient with me!"  Whatever our excuse is, it is always the other person's fault.  They are the ones with the problem - NOT us!  The difficult person to reach out to.  The difficult person to connect. The difficult person to give Bible studies to.  The difficult church member.  Lord have mercy on us!  But isn't this the truth?

Recently I've been struggling to give unselfishly to others.  Without realising it, I had started complaining about other people.  But then it hit me...this wasn't just one incident, it was twice...twice that I had been complaining about other people, rather than realising maybe I'm the one with the problem! There was the lady last week in a Bible study group who had difficulty understanding a truth we were studying.  And I remember the thought crossing my mind "she's a difficult person to work with, other people I've worked with haven't been this difficult."  While there may have been some truth to that statement, in reality I had made a mistake.  She hadn't been ready to hear the truth presented, and I hadn't taken control of the situation in a way that would have most likely prevented her difficulties.  In that moment I felt the holy spirit speaking to my heart and saying, "Do you think that people are an inconvenience?"  In reality, people are an inconvenience!  Ministry never can get crammed into our perfect schedule, neither can it revolve around our preferences!  Its about them - NOT about me, NOT about us!  God doesn't ask us to reach the perfect cookie cutter people, he asks us to reach those who are messy.  Those who are inconvenient.  Those who are impatient with us.  Those who are needy.  Those who are different.  Those who are difficult.

I believe God leads us into situations in our lives where He shows us our neediness.  If there's one thing I'm learning it's to be more unselfish and to put others and their needs first.  If there's one area of my character God is working on, it is Him teaching me to be more giving and more flexible.  I have to take time to ask myself tough questions, such as, "Am I becoming hardened by the hurts, needs, and lacks of humanity?  Am I manifesting the character of Jesus in all I do and say?"  Oh how I want to be like Paul when He said, "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."  (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Oh how I want to exemplify the life of Jesus who gave His life for me!  What about you?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Decisions and Knowing God's Will

Sometimes I feel like life is a mixed bag of opportunities, choices, big decisions, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  It's somewhat like a puzzle to solve - with each life experience a piece that fits into a larger picture of God's plan for our life and the place in humanity He desires for us to fill.  Life is also like a maze we're walking through.  We could go straight north, or a little northeast, or south or southwest, or a number of other directions.  You can also imagine life to be like a race.  A race to a goal, but often times there are many different ways to reach a specific goal.  For example, someone who works as a nurse could work in many different hospitals.  Someone wanting to go into the ministry could go many different routes, they could study theology, or religion, or chaplaincy, or religious education.  And beyond that, there are other types of ministry that people are called to.  We live in a world with many options - which is great.  But how do we know which road to take?  What is it that determines the choices that we make?  How do we know what God really wants us to do?

The first question I ask myself is, "Do I really trust God?"  And, "Is my heart completely surrendered to Him?"  Maybe it sounds too simple to just pray for God's leading in your life.   To walk through the doors that He opens, or wait on Him to see when He lets doors close in your face.  But it really is that simple.  I believe we don't give God enough credit for our lives.  The failures we experience are often God's method of training us for something greater.  The opportunities we are given wouldn't have been available to us if it were not for His blessings and providence.

When I know something is in line with God's will I can pray with boldness, believing that God will answer my prayer.  A couple summers ago when I first started Bible working, I was really strongly impressed through the summer that I needed to keep doing Bible work rather than going back to school in the fall.  So I began to pray that God would open the door for me to work longer as a Bible worker.  I've actually prayed that prayer twice in the past two years since starting Bible work.  Both times I was in the dark for a while and didn't know what I should plan to do in the very near future.  Both times God answered my prayers and gave me another opportunity to work for Him - and He did so right when I was desperate and didn't have any other good options!  I didn't put out my resume looking for a Bible work job, opportunities came to me.  The one time I did send my resume and apply for a Bible worker position, it didn't work out.  Ironic, right?

For me this is a character developing journey of seeing what God really wants for me, and if I will totally stay surrendered to Him rather than pushing for my own plan.  Most of the plans I've made have fallen through.  The plans that did work out are the ones I prayed over for weeks or months until I had confirmation from God that He was leading me in that direction.

But what about the times when you really just don't know?  It's not like there's a right and wrong thing in every situation.  Often times there are several good options.  Then what?  I tend to take two different approaches, the first and main approach is to pray that God will close or open doors according to His will.  I like having lots of options to choose from, I don't like being tied down to a set plan.  And yet, I've found it amazing how much God narrows down my options for me when I pray the specific prayer that He'll open and close doors!  Sometimes I don't like God closing the doors He does!  Sometimes it feels like I'm saying goodbye to my dreams, but God's ways are always better than what we could have chosen for ourselves.  Praying for God to open and close doors and lead in my life makes it easier for me to accept "rejection" because I know God allowed it for a greater reason.  Then instead of being upset when I'm not hired for the job I thought would be perfect for me; or when the guy I loved isn't interested in me; I can believe by faith that God is leading and answering my prayers - even when my heart doesn't feel that way.

The second approach I take is choosing the option that best aligns with God's leading in my past.  In addition to this, I choose whatever option makes the most sense after counseling with others and after looking at the pros and cons of a certain decision.  There is a time for logic and decision making.

It's so easy for me to waver back and forth between the options that both look good!  And so I challenge you, if you're in the midst of making a big decision, first ask yourself the question, "Am I really surrendering this to God?"  If we know that God is leading us, why doubt?  If we know something is right and in accordance with God's will, consistently pray for it and wait to see how God will work out His plan for you!