Monday, November 23, 2015

Be Fearless!

I thought I had overcome all my fears...until recently.  I've come to see fear as an opportunity to look deeper and ask myself questions like, "Why do I worry about this?"  And, "Where is my heart?"  I wonder how many of the fears that we have are related to our past bad experiences.  We're afraid because we don't want to go through the same type of experience all over again!

I remember taking swimming lessons when I was eleven.  I loved the water and caught on pretty fast.  The pool we went to had a high diving board - probably about 10 feet above the pool - and it was a lot of fun jumping from way up there into the water.  Toward the end of the summer, I noticed people diving - not just jumping - from the high dive.  It looked so beautiful, and elegant as people soared through the sky like dolphins, and then deep down into the water below!  I had learned to dive and was pretty comfortable with it, so I wanted to try diving from the high dive, but I wasn't sure I could do it.  I finally mustered up enough courage to try.  Down into the water I went.  And I did a belly flop.  Because I had jumped or dived or whatever you want to call it, from higher in the air, when I hit the water, it hurt my stomach - it sorta stung, if I remember correctly.  As I swam to the edge of the pool, I had a decision to make.  I could either try diving from the high dive again and again until I succeeded or I could let that pain hold me back.

And such is life.  We can let our past experiences scar us, or we can try again, realizing that we all make mistakes, and not all bad experiences were our fault.

Oh, it's so much easier to be afraid!  I tend to retreat - like a wounded soldier.  After fighting for something I thought was worth while, and being rejected - losing the battle - I'm ready to retreat!  Don't say those things again - because someone else might not like it.  Don't totally be myself, because, inevitably, there's something in me people won't like.  Don't ask those questions, because someone might think you're weird, in fact, you might not even get an answer!  Don't be vulnerable.  Don't ever take risks.  And so I put on my facade.  I live in my fake - but comfortable bubble - not letting people see the real me.  But, it's not fulfilling.  Because that's not how I was created to live.

Back to the pool....With some encouragement from others, I tried again to dive off the high dive.  It only took me one or two tries before I was soaring through the sky, and deep down into the water slow, like the others I had watched.  And I wanted to do it again!  And again!  Because it was so much fun.

It takes a lot of courage to move past the past.  It takes a whole lot of faith to believe that someone else won't react in the same way....To believe that somebody different could love an aspect of you that really bothered someone else.  But I think it's worth it.  Life is so much more fulfilling when we live in "the real".  Even when we live "on the edge".  Pushing the limits, questioning the status quo, and risking the chance of being disappointed.  Being kind even when it's not appreciated.  Being honest even when it's not what people want to hear.  That's where I'm really supposed to be.  I think that's where we're all supposed to live, because you never experience growth if you let your fear push you back to where you're comfortable!

Lest it sounds like I'm advocating something a little crazy, let me clarify, don't be fearless just for yourself.  Be fearless for God.  He made you the way you are for a very specific reason.  And He loves you more than anyone else ever can.  He even loves that thing about you that turns off someone else.  And remember, no one else can live the life you've been called to live!  You have a unique calling that only you can fulfil!  Embrace it.  Live past your fears.

So try it.  Knock on another door of opportunity.  There's a different person behind every door.  They're all not going to respond to you in the same way!  Push through the barriers.  Give it all you've got!  Be fearless!  Soar with God!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Yoke is Easy

A week ago Sabbath, I brought a lady to church for the first time - after only giving her one Bible study.  I've never done that before.

One of the verses we read in our Bible study together was John 15:15; "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."  I asked her, what type of relationship does Jesus want to have with us?  She had to read the verse again.  "Not servants...Oh, wow!  Friends!  I really like that."  All through the Bible study she kept saying things like, "Wow, this is awesome!  I'm actually starting to understand the Bible."

I learned a lot about her in that first visit.  She hasn't had an easy life!  She didn't grow up in church.  She's been reading through the Bible on her own - she started in the beginning with Genesis!  She told me she wanted to go to a church that has a good Bible study, so I had to invite her.  I felt like I needed to pray that she would actually come to church.  So I did.  When I called her the next morning to make sure she was expecting me, she still wanted to come.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  When I picked her up she told me she had been a little afraid to come with me, but she figured that that was just Satan trying to discourage her.  Prayer is powerful!  I need to pray more often!  The Bible does say "pray without ceasing", doesn't it?
Next, I was hoping she would have a good experience.  It's a big church and she's a shy person - so yeah, I was a little nervous.  Reasonable, right?  At the end of the service she told me she had never been with such nice, friendly people - who smiled so much!!!!  Oh me of little faith!  And in case you've ever wondered - Yes, your smile can make a difference!

This morning on our way to church I asked her how her week was.  "It was better", she told me.  "I'm starting to worry less.  I believe Jesus is taking my load off me. The peace I have now is so wonderful!  I've never had it before!"

What a powerful testimony this dear lady had just shared with me of what Jesus can do in our lives!

Jesus says:  "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."   (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus says:  "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into his harvest."  (Matthew 9:37-38).

Share Jesus with someone today!  It can change their life!  And it might just change the direction of your life in the process!

What more can I say???

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Different Type of Marriage

“You deserve the type of guy who would be willing to drive or fly across the country to come and see you”, the lady said to me - with all good intentions.  Really?  To say the least, her words got me thinking.  I knew where she was coming from, the guy has to be the initiator, sure, I totally get that!  I mean, we live in a world where a man will let his life revolve around the love of his life, right?  And of course, you want to be with someone who really loves you and values you.  But still…“I deserve”?  Is that the right type of attitude?  Would that really set me up for a healthy relationship?  I deserve…and we start writing our list…hard working, must be someone who is really spiritual, has a sense of humor, tall and handsome, (or beautiful), someone who is totally in love with me, someone who respects me, someone who would do anything for me…and the list goes on and on.  Setting our expectation high - maybe even too high, but remember, you can’t sell yourself cheap - and possibly even setting ourselves up for some disappointments down the road.  Can our significant other really be all we want him or her to be?  Who can live up to it all?

Now imagine with me a young happy couple…That glow in each other’s eyes, the joyful conversations, the laughs, the freshness of their new relationship, the hopes, the dreams, and the joys.  Relationships, romance…something about it must hold a kind of charm.  The roses your boyfriend surprises you with, the love letters you get from your girlfriend telling you how much she appreciates you.  The date nights.  Being able to post that new status update that tells everyone in your world that you’re in a relationship.  The happy couple may even seem to have shut themselves off, to some extent, from the rest of the world.  Old friends are forgotten for a time, and life revolves around their relationship.  Theirs isn’t a story of heartbreak, they truly love each other, and besides, happy marriages are possible, believe it or not.  They both love the Lord, and each other, and so they decide to get married.  For them, happiness isn’t an illusion, it’s a reality, we could say, “They live happily ever after.”  Now, if you’re like me, you may wondering, “Well, what happens next?  What do they do with their life?”  Well, maybe then they buy a new house - her dream house.  They have the average 2.5 kids, living the American dream.  In a country where divorce is so popular, somehow this couple got really lucky!  They may argue a little now and again, but they never have any major fights.  They are happy with each other - happy in their own little world.  Together.  Family.  Live…laugh…love.  Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t this what we want?  The happiness?  Dreams come true?  True love?  A relationship that will actually work?  A relationship that will last forever?  Without the heartache, without ever wondering if you’re loved and appreciated?  Without ever questioning if you’ve married “the right” person?  Yet, I’m still left wondering, is there more to life than this?  What will happen next in their story?  When their life has come to an end, what could be said of them?  What legacy will they have left for humanity?
 
I recently started reading about two amazing people…yet, their life story is very different.  Picture a tall, intelligent, hard-working, fine young man - in the prime of manhood.  The world of opportunities is open to him - he could be anything he wants to be.  Yet his is a different calling.  His heart is pained by something deeper - a people not his own, a people in a far-off land.  He must go.... She was born into an upstanding family, she has all the world has to offer her.  Before the young man leaves, he writes the following letter to the young woman’s father:  
"I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world.  Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life?  Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?  Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?  Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

As I read this letter, I find myself wondering if there could be more to marriage than what I have thought of.  What if marriage was about mission?  A mission to better reflect the love of Christ, because two can better be the hands and feet of Jesus than one can.  “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor”.  Ecclesiastes 4:9.  What if marriage is really about sacrifice?  What if this was the principle that marriages were formed upon?  "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord...Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."  Ephesians 5:22, 24-25.  Did Jesus ask Himself what He would get out of the deal, when He chose to give His life for us?  

When her father left the choice to Nancy Ann Hasseltine, did she weigh the costs and think of the type of life she deserved?  Did she think of what type of marriage she could have if she said "no", and waited to marry someone who didn’t have such a goal - a marriage that wouldn’t require so much of her?  I don’t know whether she asked herself these questions or not.  All I know is that the father left the choice to his daughter Ann, and she chose to marry him.  With her husband, Adoniram Judson, they became the first missionaries to Burma.  He later writes the following in a letter to Ann:

"What a great change will this year probably effect in our lives!  How very different will be our situation and employment!  If our lives are preserved and our attempt prospered, we shall next year's day be in India, and perhaps wish each other a happy new year in the uncouth dialect of Hindustan or Burma.  We shall no more see our kind friends around us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy day; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eye, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall witness the assembling of the heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods.  We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove, that we may fly away and be at rest.  WE shall probably experience seasons when we shall be 'exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.  We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception.  O, we shall wish to lie down and die.  And that time may soon come."

That time which Adoniram spoke of came all too soon, for Ann died at the early age of thirty-seven.  Did she ever regret her choice in life?  I think not.  Would her husband’s life had been the same without her?  Would he have lived out his calling with the same passion, enthusiasm, and dedication?  Would as many people have been reached?  Maybe, but then, maybe not.  I can't help but ask myself the question, "Would I have been willing to do what Ann did?"  

Both Adoniram and his wife Ann lived an incredible life of sacrifice for God.  I think their life modeled well the Biblical standard of marriage.  I believe marriage is giving yourself to the other person.  How much are we willing to give?  I believe each one of us - whether married or single, in whatever occupation we have - needs to ask ourselves the question, what are we living for?  "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."  1 Corinthians 6:20.  "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."  1 Corinthians 10:31.  What if everything in our life revolved around a purpose - a mission - God's calling for your life?  What if instead of thinking of what we deserve, or what we want in our life, we put God and His purpose in the center - with everything else revolving around that?

What do I invest my time and money into?  Is it preparing me for a life of service for my Master?  And when it comes to relationships, who stands out to me, and why?  Is it really fair of me to think of the type of man I think I deserve?  Or is it for me to be willing to sacrifice anything and everything with whoever God chooses to place in my life?  Could it be that marriage is really about coming to grasp a love that is stronger than we can ever know?  A love that held the ultimate Lover to the cross, when He could have turned away?

Sources:  http://www.sbts.edu/resources/journal-of-missions/sbjme-12-fall/the-life-and-significance-of-ann-hasseltine-judson-1789-1826/


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Love Beyond

Deeper than the deep emotion the wife and children feel for their man who’s just come back from years as a shoulder overseas...

Stronger than the passion the couple feels who are only a few weeks away from their wedding day – just a a few more days and we will be...

Beyond the warmth of an embrace when it’s been months since you’ve seen the one you love so dearly...

Beyond the feelings of heart sickness of the girl who is in love and separated by miles as she says, “I miss you so much, I just want to be together.”

More committed than the dedication of commitment the couple who have been together...

Dearer than the love a mother feels that moment she births her first born child and holds him in her arms...

The parent who’s heart goes out to the wayward child – the one who’s lost his path, who’s making grave mistakes yet won’t listen to advice...

The compassion the Doctor feels for his patient, as he says "we must do something fast or we may loose him before the night is over"...

The man who shows forgiveness to the wife who has hurt him, who leaves him, but decides to come back to him....The overwhelming gratefulness she has as she embraces the fact that he loves her anyways...

But yes, it’s deeper than that.  It's a love that has no end.

"Behold! what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God."  1 John 3:1.  "How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure...."  We look for this love, we see but dim reflections of such a love....

Above the frustration of an unresolved conflict, beyond the closeness of those who you hear the words, "I love you" from....Above the hurt you feel when no one understands what you are going through, a stronger voice, a more tender voice says “I love you more, I love you most.”

Beyond what we can see, beyond what we hear, beyond what we feel, beyond what is even humanly possible for our minds to comprehend or our hearts to fully believe, is a deep strong love that pleads tenderly for our recognition.

It’s ardor has never run out, it’s consistency never wanes, it’s patience goes beyond what we've seen in any human being, it suffers long though it's been rejected ….This love is the love of the Father, the love that never fails.  When we sit at the top of the mountain, when we’re at our lowest point all alone, still God’s love is there.  Who can separate us from the love of God?  Only one – the person you see in the mirror.  The love that is stronger than death.  He confines Himself to our choice, because such love in it’s very essence is the freedom to choose to accept love.  Will we choose to be loved beyond?  Will we see our Father’s love for all that it truly is?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fearless

Whimper, whimper, whimper.  The little cries from the corner drew my attention.  Mini, the family puppy, was again afraid of something - this time it was the gentle rain.  "The rain is outside, it can't hurt the puppy - silly dog", I thought to myself.  "It's OK Mini, you're fine, I'm right here", I found myself saying in my sweetest wanna-be-a-mom type of voice. The whimpering continued... "OK, I'll let you can  come out of your cage", I said to Mini.

I'm not an expert on dogs, but Mini is the most fearful puppy I've ever known!  She's afraid of everything - rain, being walked on her leash, eating food off the floor, and at times, she's even afraid of her master!

I couldn't help but think of myself.  I haven't always been a competent girl living thousands of miles away from home, going door-to-door, giving Bible studies, living with people I've just recently met, and making friends with strangers.  I don't think I was born with the gift of being able to talk to just anyone - though others might object - it's more something I had to get used to.  So many times God has had to calm my fears and reassure me that He is right there with me leading me, and that I can go forward because He's in control.

I recently read a quote that said, "You have to want it more than you fear it."  In some ways, I feel this statement is true.  I wonder, How often are our fears a cry for more?  A cry for freedom, a cry to be able to do what we know would be fulfilling - if we could be free from the fear of failure.  A cry to experience more, a cry to be closer to someone, to pursue a dream, to work towards a goal.  To have a deeper relationship with God, to have a closer relationship with friends or family.

It's amazing to me how many times in the Bible you can find the phrase "fear not".  One of my favorite examples, is the story of Mary.  She was a godly young woman, and yet she didn't know what to think when an angel appeared before her.  Something about large, Divine, angelic beings, seems to instill fear into most finite beings.  But when the angel said "Be not afraid," Mary was ready to obey, even though her lot in life as being the mother of the Messiah was not going to be the easiest.

What about us?  How do we respond when God gives us a command and tells us not to be afraid?  Do we hold onto our selfish fears, or do we go forward?

I can't say that I'm totally fearless yet, but I've come to realize when I step outside of my comfort zone, I experience a freedom in Christ that supersedes my previous fears.  "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love."  1 John 4:18 .  What are you willing to do for the love of Christ?  What are you willing to do to show your love for someone?  Whatever it is - it will be worth letting go of your fears!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blessings

"Church pot lucks are risky for people who have food intolerances", I thought to myself as I sat on the sofa trying to endure the stabbing pain in my stomach.  This was the first time I had experienced any such pain in a while.  The only things I've dealt with are missing my family at times, or missing my best friends.  I couldn't help but think back to the year when feeling sick was more normal for me than feeling well.  That was back when having a job outside of the home was impossible for me, and going to college wasn't an option because of my health challenges.  My streamlined plan of leaving home and following my dream of starting and finishing college in a timely fashion was overruled.  That was also before I met some of the friends who have come to mean the world to me, and before I ever dreamed I would be doing Bible work.

The words of a song floated through my mind...  "What if your blessings come through raindrops what if your healing comes through pain, what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're there."  (Laura Story)

I remember those sleepless nights all too well...when I would vomit up to twenty times in a night and get nearly no sleep.  And the tears I shed when I had to lay down on the couch and rest, with a lack of appetite and a lack of energy.  I hated not being able to be busy and accomplish a lot of things!  But I learned the importance of being still and knowing God - there was nothing else I could do.

For me, those years were more than just a time of sickness where we tried to figure out what was wrong with me.  They were a time to seek God's will for my life.  That summer I had my last violin lesson with the teacher who had taught me for over eight years.  After playing a Mozart violin concerto, my teacher said to me, "That was beautiful.  God has blessed you for the amount of time you practice because you make God and family a priority.  You could go where ever you want with music, you could be a concert violinist, a violin teacher, or anything you want to be."  I was thankful for her kind words, but even as I listened, I knew deep down inside my heart that God was not calling me to a career in music.

I believe God allows us go through things to show us the weakness of our own heart.  Until having health challenges, I never realized how much I took God's blessings for granted.  God was teaching me the importance of surrender, and how to trust Him completely with my life.  He gave me Bible verses that said:  "Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth?"  (Jeremiah 3:4, KJV).  "Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth."  (Jeremiah 33:6, KJV).  "For I know the thoughts that think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11, NKJV).

After a lot of prayer and doctor's appointments, my health started getting a little better.  I decided to go to college, and at the time, God was leading me to study elementary education.  The climax of the experience of the whole experience, was when I finished that first semester of college.  I returned home sicker than before I had left.  Even my Dad - who is a very calm man and doesn't make a big deal out of things - put his foot down and said I was not going back to school the next semester.  Even though I wanted to make my own decision to go back to college, I knew my Dad loved me and knew what was best.  The experience lead to me my Heavenly Father.  "What is your purpose for my life in this?" I prayed, "What do I have to live for?  I thought I was following your leading, I thought I was doing everything right.  Here I've sacrificed my dreams to follow You, and this is what I get."  

Up until this point, I had never realized how much I struggled with a legalistic mindset towards God and religion.  The hardest thing for me about the whole ordeal was it struck at the very core of what I thought about life and God's character.  "Why would God allow this?  I deserve to be healthy, I eat healthy, this should only happen to people who eat really unhealthy.  And don't I deserved a Christian education?"  I questioned.  But God showed me that the greatest of all education is to learn to trust Him, and follow His plan for my life.  Little by little, He was teaching me to love and value Him more than my ambitions, more than my friends, more than education, and more than my plans for my life.  I had to come to the point where I realized that I have never and will never, deserve the least of God's blessings.  I learned to lean more on His Word than anything else in this world.  I could truly say, "I hope in Your Word." (Psalm 119:114, KJV).  Since then, in Bible work I've meant people who have truly had a difficult life.  When I meet them I have greater sympathy for them, and don't look down on them because I realize that could just as easily have been me, were it not for God's grace and blessings.

Looking back, I can put some of the puzzle pieces together and see how God was leading me.  But I'm no where near the end of the journey!  At times I'm tempted to think that I've earned things rather than giving God the glory, and sometimes I still try to earn love and acceptance.  At other times I'm tempted to try to solve other people's problems, instead of realizing that God is in control.  My flesh wants to follow my own plan instead of waiting patiently on God to lead my life.  But now, when I start to complain about some little issue, I remember what God has brought me through, and I have to say, I am truly blessed.  I also genuinely love life!  Why?  Because it is a precious gift and each day is a new adventure.  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning."  (James 1:17, NKJV)

This morning as I look out at the sunshine, I'm thankful that the stabbing pain in my stomach is now gone.  I'm thankful for health.  I'm thankful for my family and for the amazing friends God has placed in my life.  I'm thankful for life and God's many blessings.  I'm thankful that God's plans for me are good.  I'm thankful that His mercies are new every morning.


"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who reeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."  
(Psalm 103:1-5, KJV)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Outside the Gate

A few moments to sit down and write a note to someone who needs to be appreciated...Will you reach outside the gate?  The gate of "I have no time"? the gate that says, "This doesn't really matter"?

A smile, a hug, an encouraging word...that may be all it takes to cheer someone who's spirits are down....Will you reach outside the gate?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell that someone is hurting.  They're dealing with something they can't trust just anyone with, but it's eating away at them, because they can't work through it alone....Will you listen?  Will you reach outside the gate?  The gate of your own group of friends?  The gate of "this is my comfort zone"?  The gate of your own school, your own home, and your own routine?

A soul who's longing to be noticed - to be viewed a way no one has ever seen them before....Will we see them as Jesus sees them?  Will we reach outside the gate?  The gate of prejudice, the gate that says, "They're weird", or "That's not politically correct, it goes against the social norm"?

Will we reach without the gate?  Will we reach out beyond ourselves to touch someone who is hurting more?  Will we go outside our camp to find those souls for whom Christ shed His blood?  Will we follow Jesus outside the gate?
"So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make His people holy by means of his own blood.  So let us go out to Him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace He bore."
-Hebrews 13:12-13