Tag Archives: Christ

To Polish or Paint

As a newly engaged woman I am constantly obsessing over the sparkly ring on my finger, not because I’m materialistic but because it is a reminder of my fiancé’s love for and commitment to me. While slipping into my flats this morning I noticed how my ring glittered and glistened while my recently polished toenails were already chipped and dull. 

This one observation spurred me to think of and pray for those in my life who are experiencing hardship. We don’t know the reason for specific struggles and suffering, but we can trust that God uses these instances to bring us closer to Him and to polish us. Why does it take struggles and suffering to be polished? Well, like my toenails, if our flaws were simply painted over, we would just be back to our damaged selves right away, but God chooses to scrub off our blemishes and make us shiny and new. We don’t have to return to the dull-in-spirit sinners we were before. 

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. – Psalm 66:10-12

When I look back on the valley journey it took to get to this mountaintop joy-filled time of my life, I honestly don’t see how I could have gotten here without the many valleys along the way. In addition, I wouldn’t be the person I am now without those valley, those times of refinement and scrubbing. There were times I felt hopeless, worthless, and ashamed. If God had just painted over my sin instead of washing it away, I couldn’t be the wife and daughter he is making me to be. I might look nice, but I couldn’t love like Christ. 

The biggest lesson learned through suffering is this, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are higher than my ways. We will never have all the answers to the “why me?” questions in life, but we aren’t meant to. We are meant to trust God and His process no matter how painful it is because we know He is good all the time…even when we can’t feel it. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Pray for someone who doesn’t have the strength to pray right now and reflect on the good that has come out of the worst in your life. 

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God’s Current

As far back as I can remember in the history of cell phones I have always overcharged my phone. I use it so much for taking pictures or Googling random facts, that I don’t like to let it out of my sight long enough to charge until I’m ready to hit the hay. At the end of the day I plug it in, thinking, I won’t fall asleep before I unplug the phone, but inevitably I always doze off before it’s done charging. It’s a bad habit that ruins my phone battery and keeps me running on empty throughout the day, but it always happens.

One evening I was winding down for the day and went to plug in the phone, but the end of the cord that connects to the phone was fried. In my sleep a few nights before I had unplugged the phone and left the cord plugged into the wall. It had been like that for who knows how long, and it had finally gotten too hot and melted the outer shell of the plug. Fortunately this did not cause a fire, but from the appearances of it, it very well could have. 9597bc0b-3382-455e-a663-e83d75bcb989

As I reflected on my foolish mistake, I realized that we neglect our spiritual lives just the same. We power up on Sundays, neglect God all week, and return the next Sunday ready to refuel. And just like I didn’t unplug the cord from the outlet, so God does not unplug from us. His Holy Spirit current is still flowing to us, but we are disengaged. We fail to receive His power because we’ve detached ourselves from the source. It is not that He ever denies us the Holy Spirit, in fact, it is still flowing at the same speed and same strength as it ever did. And like the cord that got so hot it melted, so we can feel the Holy Spirit tongues like fire (Acts 2:3) roaring in us, to the point of it spilling over, erupting from us. God uses that precious overflow to reach those around us that are yet to know His power.

Today and everyday, God invites us to reconnect, refuel, and allow His goodness to spill over in our lives if only we take the time to plug in.

Zealand Worship – Your Love is Wild (Official Video) Published on May 23, 2016

Thanksgiving in March

For the last month and a half I have been trying to get healthy. I’ve been eating smaller portions and healthier food, taking vitamins and probiotics, and stretching and doing yoga daily. I’m especially fond of the hilarious Adriene of “Yoga with Adriene.” Her motto is “Find What Feels Good.” Now, as a Christian, I know that saying cannot be applied to everything. Many things that “feel good” in the moment are not good for us in eternity, but it works for yoga and stretching. It basically means, don’t over-extend.

In life, I am learning, however, that it’s important to not only find what feels good, it’s important to find what fills us. Over the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Costas*, a man from Haiti who lives near a park where I was attending an event. Our conversation started when he mistakenly told me “Happy Thanksgiving” and I corrected him, saying, “I think you mean happy Easter.” This led to a long conversation about assignments from God. Though, on first glance, Costas seemed like a disheveled wanderer, it turned out he was a man literally on a mission from God. All the trials and tribulations of his past had brought him to a place, geographically, financially, and spiritually, where he could serve the very place where it all began. He allowed God to take the pain of yesterday and turn it into the joy of the present.

After escaping his home country, Costas entered a world that was new to him. The language was new. The culture was new. Everything was new. In this place of deep need and emptiness, much like Job of the scripture, he encountered people on assignment for God, people of many different cultures and religions who had made the humble decision to serve refugees. As a recipient of such generosity and kindness, he thrived in his new home. He created a life for himself, even purchased the house he once shared with 11 other refugees.

His story could have ended there with a big fat “Happily Ever After,” but it didn’t. Instead God called him back to where all the pain began, where the running began, where the terror began. It must have been as profound for him as it was for me listening to it because he made a point of saying, “God often sends you back to where it all began.” He gave examples like that of Moses who had to go back to Egypt to set the Israelites free. Costas, in the last 15 years, decades after escaping Haiti, decided to go back to build a school where there was no education and serve thousands of people in rural Haiti.

His story really resonated with me. For the first 25 years of life I lived within 30 miles of where I was born. At 25 years old I decided to move to the Bay Area for 3 years until I finished school. Now 10 years later I am still here, and constantly wondering why. I love Oakland. I love my church, the food, the culture, but I often miss home. Maybe God took me from home to learn something to take back home someday. Perhaps there’s something I will find here that I would have never found at home, and when I return I will bring with me something someone needs.

So maybe there is something I could gain from this conversation with Costas that I could use years from now when I return home, but what I can I take from it today? Later that day, after talking with him, I felt so energized. I’m sure it was partially due to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our exchange, but it was something more than that. I realized afterward that I am energized by one-on-one conversations with people. I walk away feeling like I have gained insight, learned more about culture, the similarities and differences. I feel as though the words spoken to me are the most precious gift.

Through this conversation with a complete stranger God reminded me that I need to have these individual conversations in order to be filled, energized. I recognize now why I sometimes feel unfulfilled in my workplace where there’s little time for individual exchanges or deep conversation, where the majority of my day is spent conversing with a computer screen.

Perhaps Costas had a point. It may not have been Thanksgiving, but Sunday was truly a day to be thankful.

 

*name changed for privacy

 

What’s Attractive?

What’s attractive? Ask a woman, and she might say tall, dark and handsome. Ask a guy, and he might say curves in all the right places. When it comes to being attracted to people overall, I think it’s more than physical attraction.

My last post was about family, specifically church family. Later a friend reminded me that family is more than our biological family, and it’s more than our church family. She said it another way, but I heard it said recently, that we can see God in all people. It doesn’t matter if they are Atheist, Jewish, Muslim, etc. God created all people, and therefore they were made in His image. It is possible to see God in even those that deny His existence.

There is a common thread that links us all together whether we like it or not, and it’s our Creator. I love my friend because I see Jesus in her in so many ways. I see it in the way she is sensitive to the needs of others, in the way she celebrates my victories with me, in her creativity, and in the way she loves. It doesn’t matter that she is not Christian because I still see God in her no matter her belief system. Because I love God so much, how can I not love her?

If we limit our spiritual family to only those who are on exactly the same page in their faith, then we alienate nearly all Christians not to mention people of other faiths. When we include those that have other faiths or have different views than our own, even within our own denomination, we open our hearts to loving more of God’s creation. The family circle was never meant to be closed. There was not meant to be a periphery of those of different religious views. Otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have commanded us to go forth and make disciples. When you close the circle, you close the world to the kind of love only God can offer.

To my friend, I love you because we have the same maker and I see Him in you. I hope you understand this statement, and see it as the compliment that it is. You were made in the image of a perfect God.

Are you willing to love someone despite their religious preference?

Value Born Out of Love

You may have gathered from previous posts that there is a significant change happening in my life. Recently I have decided to transition from my church of eight years to a new church closer to my home. This was not a decision that I expected to make, but one God made for me and confirmed over and over again through other believers. While it is bittersweet, I have already reaped many rewards from this decision.

First, I reaped the reward of complete peace. Secondly, I received incredible support and love from friends and family. Earlier this week I received a card from one family, showering me with love and fond memories. The most special message I received was on the bottom corner of the back of the greeting card. In his 10-year-old handwriting my little friend and Sunday School student, Ryan, wrote that I am the “best, coolest, funniest person ever.” How can I argue with Ryan’s compliment? He obviously knows what he’s talking about.

What Ryan doesn’t know is that I am not cool or funny, but one thing I believe he does know, is that it is important for people to feel that way. When you love someone you make them feel valuable. Because Ryan’s act of love, I wore a smile all week. His love reminded me of the value I have as someone loved by friend and family as well as my Heavenly Father.

Who can you love and give value to today?

 

When the Hungry Cry Out

Last Friday while preparing my lunch I saw that I had way more fruit than I could possibly eat, so I packed it into a bag with some other unwanted snacks and set off for work. I thought about giving it to my coworkers, but then I remembered the group of homeless people that sleep outside the work parking lot. Perhaps they would want some fruit and crackers.

When I arrived to work I was surprised to see that the group I normally see was gone. That’s unusual, I thought. After work I gathered my purse and the bag of food and wondered if the group would be back that evening. I wandered out another entrance and immediately came to a couple of disheveled men chatting. Not sure of whether they would be offended by my offering, I started unpacking my bag a few feet away. They looked up with hopeful eyes, as if wondering if I would share with them. When I saw their glances I explained that I had bought in bulk and had too much food to eat myself. In their gratitude they offered me a newspaper, the kind that the city provides for the homeless to earn money for meals.

As they handed me the paper, they began explaining to me why things are the way they are for the homeless, basically covering the topic of the paper. To my surprise, the older man revealed that he was recently diagnosed with cancer and that he is afraid of what will happen if he needs chemo or radiation. How will he care for himself as someone without a home. His resources are so limited. I listened quietly until he said, “But I believe my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can heal me!” I think my eyes widened. I didn’t expect to hear that through the cloud of pot smoke that was forming around us. You see, the other man had been smoking the whole time. Then he, the guy who was smoking, started telling us about a prayer ministry he was a part of in L.A.

It goes to show God’s children come in all shapes and sizes. After they were done sharing I offered to pray and the older man grabbed my hands and said, “You pray first.” I prayed a short and simple prayer asking God to be with them and keep them safe and for the older man to be healed. By this time we were on a first name basis. When I finished praying the older man looked up, eyes wide and said, “Wow! That was a powerful prayer.” Then the other man started praying, and boy did I feel the Holy Spirit…or maybe it was a contact high (just kidding). At the end we all said Amen, and the older man exclaimed, “I am healed! I believe I am.” The other man kept proclaiming, “You are healed in Jesus’ name.”

A few minutes later the younger man asked the older man, “Are you sick?” Through a frown the older man said, “Yes…” to which the younger man responded, “But you just said you were healed?” The older man laughed, “Well, I forgot. I smoked two bowls before we prayed!” We all burst into laughter, and I truly believe the joy they felt was not just the influence of marijuana but the joy of the Lord upon them.

God is good, and He does not discriminate. He blesses those He wants to bless whether they are stoned or sober. I praise God for putting those two in my path that day. Who knew that on the streets of Berkeley in a cloud of smoke I would meet two of my Brothers?

The things that have grown my faith more than anything else are those instance just stumbled upon, interactions with strangers on the street. God uses all kinds to teach our busy minds and hearts to love.

Wise Words for my Future

Earlier this week a wise friend set me free with this statement, “You and God have a good thing going. I, too, feel there are some big changes coming up for you. Just know that not everyone in your life is going to respond positively to those changes, but if those changes are from God it is better to do His will than to please others.”

As the week progressed, I kept going back to that statement, feeling freer and freer to be who God has made me to be and to do what God has purposed me to do. I’m sure, if you have been reading my blog regularly, you have sensed my utter frustration at closed doors in my life. Part of my frustration is feeling that change is coming and not seeing the manifestation of that change. My thinking is, ‘If God has told me change is coming, why hasn’t it happened yet?’ I feel like the child in the back seat of the car screaming, “Are we there yet?!?”

The fact is we aren’t there yet because if we were it would mean running red lights, passing on double yellow, violating laws of physics. The same goes for life, sometimes if we rush to our destination, not only have we been reckless along the way, but we have also wished away our day, our week, our life to get to our final destination, death. I’m guessing that’s not truly what we want, and I’m guessing we probably don’t want the consequences of reckless living: broken hearts, stressful thoughts, and tired (possibly sick) bodies.

In the past week I have made a decision that affects every part of my life. As one friend explained, God knew that this would be a good foundation for change. When we set out to do a large project, we don’t try to develop the product right off the bat. We must first make a plan, from the ground up. If our project doesn’t have a strong foundation, it will fail. In the same way I feel God placing that foundation for further growth in other areas of my life.

This 34th year of my life has started off with a bang! I’m so excited (and yet terrified) about what God will do next. A change is coming God willing.