Tag Archives: faith

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!

 

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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

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

 

What it Really Means to be a Contagious Christian

Last Sunday I attended a new church with my parents and family friend. They showed a video of a new study they are starting called “Becoming a Contagious Christian.” The video had about five individuals telling about their misconceptions of the meaning of “evangelism” and why it was so scary for them to practice.

Toward the end of the video the five people each told how this study on contagious Christianity had changed their view of evangelism and made them more attractive to those who are yet to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. After church my family had brunch together and discussed our thoughts on sharing our faith with others. Some of us were scared and intimidated and others felt they had found ways to share that were right for them.

As I pondered the topic, I thought of those in my life that practice contagious Christianity. I was reminded of a coworker who posts scriptures on her office bulletin board, a friend who writes heartfelt letters of love and encouragement, my dad who uses his talents to serve others and his church, my pastor who made it his mission to overwhelm our city with love through service, and a mentor that, even after retiring from teaching, invited former students over for tea parties.

The key to being contagious is radically loving, doing something so selfless that people ask why, and being the one that others look to for inspiration. Most of all, contagious Christianity pulls, it beckons, it draws others in to the love of Christ rather than the punishment of sin. Yes, hell is a very real thing, but the message of salvation is a much stronger conduit.

In a world full of failed relationships, broken families, abuse and violence, we cannot expect the message of eternal punishment to change lives. Many people feel they are already living in hell. The one thing people do respond to is transformation and hope for a pain-free eternity.

There’s a reason why Christmas stories like that of “A Christmas Carol” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” are still so widely popular. They are testaments of spiritual transformation. Your testimony, your faith story is the most powerful tool you hold in becoming contagious when you share it with a little TLC.

Resting and Being Yourself

Ever been offered an opportunity to do something you love, but your plate is already close to full? It’s hard to turn down that opportunity. It’s also hard to say no to something that needs to be done when you know no one else will do it. Life is full of things that need to be done, that are actually, in reality, optional. Examine what’s on your plate, and you will likely find things that could fall off without anyone noticing.

This past week I was asked to be on several different “teams.” All of the teams sounded great, fun, amazing. I was asked if I wanted to communicate. I love talking, writing, and sharing information. Yes! That’s for me! The kid’s team asked me to help out in the classroom. I worked with kids for six years at my old church, and it was fun. That would be an easy one for me. Maybe I should do that. The third team that approached me was the outreach team. I have been wanting to be a part of an outreach team for years, and as the team leader described the areas she envisioned us focusing on, I wanted to volunteer for them all. After receiving these three offers, I was so excited, but then reality sunk in. My past complaints about serving so much in church, included not having as much time to volunteer with other favorite non-profits, not enough time to enjoy the hobbies that help me reenergize, resenting my volunteer duties, etc. Do I really want to put myself back into that situation?

I’d like to say that when those thoughts arose, I went straight to God in prayer, but alas, I didn’t go to Him right away. Instead I went to my mom, my friends, and my sleep. You see, when I’m stressed I have nightmares, and I did. I had nightmares about losing control, feeling overworked and burdened by responsibility. Why didn’t I just go to God? You’d think I would have learned by now.

The next day, after tossing and turning all night, I did get up and pray about it. I was reminded that my blog really is my outlet for “communication” and writing. While I would enjoy time with the kiddos, maybe now is not the season to volunteer in children’s ministry. Outreach is really where I’m most passionate in this season of my life, and where I have been most passionate most of my life. I love helping people, meeting needs, and improving my community. I felt God nudge me in this direction, but I still felt so bad saying no to the Communication team and the Kid’s team. Then in a last-ditch effort God provided, not one, but a whole week’s worth of devotions on resting. Day after day I read messages that reminded me to rest my body and my mind for, not only, my physical and mental health but my spiritual health. It took me back to times when I was riddled with anxiety and stress, not that taking part in the communication and kids teams would do that, but I know myself and once I start taking on responsibility, I don’t slow down.

As a result of God’s undeniable answer to my prayer, I did contact the two team leaders for the teams I had to decline. I sent thoughtful responses and expected them to beg for my assistance despite my turning them down, but instead I was met with encouragement and understanding. Perhaps I reminded them they needed to rest too.

I believe that, as a Christian, when I truly rest, I experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus sent him to be our counselor, and what a gentle and kind counselor he is. He makes my spirit feel like it is lying down in a green pasture beside still waters, full of peace. It is in this time that I feel truly myself, the way God created me, a creative, kind, compassionate, quirky, funny woman. I feel free to create art, write letters, chat with friends, laugh at a favorite movie, talk to God out-loud, and totally recharge. It is in this Holy Spirit time that I “fill my tank” as my dear friend Scott would say.

When your soul is resting, your emotions are okay, your mind is okay, and your will is at peace with God, not resisting what He’s doing.    – Joyce Meyer

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