Tag Archives: Christianity

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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Reverence: A Lost Concept

The word reverence is rarely used in everyday conversation. In fact, I would guess that many young people don’t know the definition. To be honest, if you would have asked me two months ago for a word that means respect and awe, I wouldn’t have been able to identify the word. It was just off my radar for too long.

Since hearing the word at a prayer meeting or small group discussion a couple months back, the concept has been on my mind, but in my pride I didn’t act on it.

More recently, within the last week, I recognized that I had not been hearing God in the way I had even a year ago. A heart shift had happened. I had unmet expectations of God, and therefore lost some of that respect and awe in His presence. He became someone I expected to disappoint or fall short, and while I still have areas where I struggle to trust Him with my life, I find a little physical expression of reverence goes a long way…even if my heart isn’t there yet.

The term “fake ’til you make it”, I think it applies to faith. You’ve heard it said that love is a decision, and a decision is a conscious choice. I just woke up one day and thought, I’m going to choose to kneel down at my bedside the moment I open my eyes. And when my knees hit the floor I’m going to praise God for all that He is and all that He’s done. After I praise Him I’m going to confess even though my respect for Him is waning at times. Then I’m going to pour out my heart, my deepest hurts, concerns, requests, and cries for help. I’m going to be honest, but I’m also going to remember my place in this relationship by bowing my head, closing my eyes, and kneeling before the King.

While I am still not hearing God clearly, I know that I am doing nearly everything I can think of to open my ears and my eyes to see Him. If you have suggestions for drawing nearer to God in reverence, please leave a comment. I read them!

 

Oddly Jesus’ Best

Learning to accept and even welcome the unexpected as Jesus’ best for me is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a Christian. When things don’t turn out the way I planned I want to stomp around and pout like a two-year-old not getting her way. As adults we often throw ourselves pity parties or practice retail therapy or even worse, but when we see kids throwing tantrums we roll our eyes at the thought. 

In John 9 Jesus uses mud and saliva to give a blind man sight. If I were the blind man I’d be thinking, “Look dude, people already think I’m a horrible person just for being born blind and now you’re going to rub mud, wet with your spit on my eyes. Can this get any worse?!?” 

I notice, however, that Jesus didn’t forewarn the man. In fact, the author doesn’t record Jesus addressing the man at all before rubbing his spit in his eyes. 

Often we experience these off-road, unplanned detours God throws our way without warning and without apparent preparation, but as we see in the scripture, God uses the odd and seemingly unplanned as a testament to his goodness. When God is able to use the odd for your good, it shows the good in your life is truly a miracle from God. 

When God used my Great Uncle Jerry’s illness and near death to turn his soul back to God and heal him in order that he could share the Gospel during the last years of his life, it was an undeniable testament of God’s goodness. When God used my prayer for my friend’s back to heal me of half a decade of unexplained stomach pain, there was no question it was God’s doing. God is notorious for making himself known in the lowliest of places and circumstances “…so that the work of God might be displayed…”

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

God’s Will and Shoe Shopping

Alas my foot finally rubbed a dime-size hole in the side of my favorite pair of flats. These were the shoes I wore proudly for five-plus years and got compliments every time. These were the shoes in which, though they were pricier than most I owned, I didn’t hesitate to invest. When I noticed holes wore through the inside of them last winter, I turned a blind eye because I loved them. Though they always came untied, I never hesitated to bend down and retie their bows. No shoe matched everything better than these shoes.

Now without my perfect flats, shoe shopping is more difficult than ever. No flat seems worthy of filling its empty slot on my shoe rack. I’ve searched high and low, and not one meets the high expectations I now have because of my perfect flats. And though shoe shopping is difficult, I only wish parts of my life were as easy as shoe shopping. If only I could walk into a husband store. A salesperson would slip my heart into a heart measuring device, pull up some possible matches on her register, and pull some of those candidates from the back room for me to try on. I could take them out of their boxes, turn them around in my hands, examine their quality, and try them on for size. I know, I know. There are things out there like that. For instance, online dating sites. Each of these advertises that they can find you a perfect match, but I’ve tried and they can’t. In fact, they match me with non-matches, saying things like “A what-if match!” I’m sorry, but if I’m looking for Nordstrom quality I’m not going to walk into Payless Shoe Source!

Before I knew God, I mean, really knew God, I would have settled for any Joe Blow off the street. I had never experienced the unconditional love of a perfect heavenly Father, but now that I have experienced it, it’s like my perfect flat. I know what real love feels like and its difference in quality to that of lust or a crush. Since man can never live up to God, of course I’m not searching for perfection. I have taken the time to pray and think through the qualities of God’s love and character that I most love and appreciate. Those qualities are what I hope to find in a husband. I’m looking for the perfect flat of a man. Someone who, just like my perfect flat, complements all my favorite things like faith, family, volunteering, trying new foods, hiking, etc. Now that I’ve experienced God’s love, nothing will ever compare. Fortunately God’s love won’t ever wear out as my perfect flat did, but perhaps there is a husband out there who mirrors some of my favorite God-qualities. And maybe there’s another shoe that can fill my perfect flat’s slot in my shoe rack, if only I wait just a little while longer.

Better than I Used to be

After taking off a few months from writing, it is a little overwhelming to try to start again. So much has happened that it makes it difficult to know where to start.

For those of you who don’t know, I took off the last few months to concentrate on studying for the CAPM exam. The CAPM is a “junior” certificate in project management. I decided to do this after an “ah-ha!” moment about 18 months ago and several failed attempts at getting a job in project management without obtaining a certificate in that area of expertise. I’m glad to say that I passed with a lot of effort and even more grace.

I’ll be honest, after applying for over 30 jobs in a little over a year, it got pretty embarrassing to receive job offers of less than 80% of my current salary. Each time I was turned down or offered one thing when I felt I deserved another, it felt like I another needle pierced through my pride bubble. Needless to say, it was painful. For those of you without jobs, I understand that I am blessed to have one, especially in the Bay Area and the state of the national economy, however, nevertheless it was heartbreaking every time. I felt cheated out of my destiny, out my dream job, my dream life.

Finally a manager offered to give me feedback on an interview I had done. I gladly accepted the offer to receive feedback from a manager who had hired and fired many staff. One thing she repeatedly suggested was investing in my own growth. Finally I realized that I had been prideful, I had felt entitled to succeed in the workforce simply by excelling in the one job I have had for the last 10 years. It was at that time I realized I was nothing special in the eyes of my interviewers. There is too much competition in an area of the nation where there are several major universities and organizations that invest in the development of leaders.

With this new-to-me information, I set forth praying and researching. What could I do to prove to the workforce that I am skilled in managing projects, leading, communicating, and coordinating activities and resources. My initial thought was to go back to school, however I just paid off my student debt and colleagues advised against it. Eventually I ran across the Project Management Institute website. I found all the resources and information I needed there, and bought some courses through Groupon believe it or not. I studied and studied and almost gave up, when I realized I needed to keep praying. Alas, it was the week of my test, and I met with a former student volunteer who will soon be starting medical school. I told her about my aspirations, and she gave me some invaluable advice, don’t study the day before or the day of your test. You won’t learn any more than you already know by then. That advice stuck with me, and I took the day off before my test to rest and relax. I ate healthy food, spent quiet time with God, treated myself to a massage and pedicure, took a tour of the testing facility, and prayed a lot. The day of my test, I awoke ready to conquer the world. I pulled on a shirt a friend gave me the day before. On the front was the word “Brave.” I used my time wisely on the test, and as I hit the “complete” button, I reminded myself that I had done everything I could and the results were up to God.

As I read the screen that popped up next, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I passed! I can’t forget the feeling I had. It was similar to the feeling I had going into the test, an overwhelming sense of peace.

I know what you are thinking. No, I haven’t forgotten that this is supposed to be a faith blog, but the above story is all a part of my testimony. You see, all throughout college I suffered pretty severe panic attacks. I remember one in particular happened the day of a test or a presentation. I went to the student health clinic thinking I was having a heart attack when, in fact, it was a panic attack triggered by the pressure I put on myself to perform without error. I have struggled with being a perfectionist my whole life, but God is freeing me from it.

Anyone that tells you God frees you from experiencing panic attacks the moment you become Christian, is either lying or has experienced a miracle. I can say, that since becoming a Christian trusting in God has helped me to experience joy which helps calm panic and anxiety, but no, anxiety hasn’t completely gone away. Over the years, I have learned ways of coping with it. I have come to know myself better which has helped. I realize that I need daily time to myself and time with God in order to enjoy social time. And I now recognize that social time, fellowship time helps too. It helps put things in perspective when I hear other people’s stories and when I tell my own.

Earning my CAPM is not the end of the road for me. I’m a lifelong learner, and I plan to get my PMP and other certifications in the near future. Above those goals though, is my ultimate God-given purpose to love God, love my neighbor, and to share the Gospel and all that goes with that. So no matter if I hold this same position another decade or get promoted to project manager, I know that I am fulfilling God’s purpose for my life every time I love Him, love my neighbor and share the Gospel. I also know, that with every day I read His word, live it out, and draw closer to Him, I will become freer and freer from anxiety and panic. He promises it over and over that someday all who believe will be free from what we suffer…someday.

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