Tag Archives: inspiration

What a Difference a Decade Makes

As my 35th birthday approaches I reflect on the difference the last decade has made. Ask a 15-year-old or even someone in their 20’s like the volunteers I work with, and they will probably tell you that most maturing happens between ages 15 and 25. However I beg to differ. I have found no other decade thus far that has both matured me and made me more youthful than this last decade.

Perhaps it is because my family dynamics are better than ever or because I have mastered my job of 10 years, but my gut tells me it’s more than that. I know this maturity and this youthfulness has come from a deeper relationship with God as a result of many enriching friendships with genuine investment in my life. These individuals and church communities have been intentional about their relationships with me. They not only loved me with their own love but with the love of Christ. They met with me, prayed for me, encouraged me, counseled me. I wouldn’t trade the last absolutely excruciating years of spiritual stretching, molding and refining if it meant going back to where I was in my faith at 25.

As my church prepares to start discipling relationships, I am both fearful of failure and confident in God’s grace. The same grace he has given me in the last decade will be shown to me in the next…and shown to my discipleship partner as well. It is comforting to reflect on how God used many ordinary people in my life to do extraordinary deeds for him. Not once did he use a celebrity, a earthly king/queen, or a genius to disciple me. He used a dietitian, a wealth manager, a housewife, a manager, a college student, a pharmacist, and many others to disciple me. None of them were Bible scholars, sinless, and few were even in places of authority in the church. He can and will use me when I step out in faith.

Lord, I am so grateful for the way you have used the past decade to mold me into who I need to be in the next. I step out in faith to disciple others because I know you are the only tool I need. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Amen.

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Love is Discipline

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:27

In this season we are constantly surrounded by heart-shaped chocolate boxes, pink teddy bears,  roses, and glittering diamond ads. Is love really all about material things? Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to get a nice heart-felt gift and a romantic date with the one you love, but it seems like there’s something missing here. Can diamonds and chocolates really make for a golden anniversary-type romance or is that all just for show?

In the Fall of 1941 near Peggs, Oklahoma a couple wed on their 4th date. That couple, Hugh and Ruby, my grandparents, were married just short of 67 years when my grandma passed. I do not remember one time they gave each other a gift that was just for pure enjoyment, certainly never roses. My grandpa did not shower my grandma with diamonds, that’s for sure. You see, love is more about discipline and dedication than about all those expensive gifts.

In Matthew 16 Jesus said to his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” Taking up your cross does not mean carrying a heavy burden. When a prisoner carried their cross they were on their way to be crucified (death penalty); basically a walking dead man. Jesus asks us to lay down our old sinful selves to dedicate our lives to following him. To deny yourself is to have DISCIPLINE to the one you love, Jesus.

Similarly when you are in a romantic relationship, friendship, familial relationship, any relationship founded out of love you must dedicate yourself to it or it will slowly wither. Love is not about a date on the calendar (btw guys it’s this Friday!). It is about a lifetime of phone calls, “I love yous,” hand-holding, pats on the back, family dinners, shared laughter. Love is being disciplined enough to make the time to spend with those special people in your life. There will be storms. That’s guaranteed when you make this kind of investment, but the benefits of true love far outweigh the struggles.

So you may not have that one person in your life, but you have the everlasting, never-ending, crazy-love God that can’t get enough of you. He looks down on you in your discipline of love and he gasps with excitement at your efforts to reciprocate His love.

Saving Mr. Banks…and Mrs. Jones

Last night I watched Saving Mr. Banks. It is a touching film about Walt Disney’s persistence to purchase the rights to P.L. Travers’ book so he could produce the movie Mary Poppins. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Mary Poppins that I don’t recall the whole plot, but from what I remember Ms. Poppins was quite the relief from what the children were used to. In the movie Saving Mr. Banks you get a new perspective of what the story of Mary Poppins is really about. The true story really isn’t close to what Disney brought to the big screen. Disney brought the ending that every child dreams to have, an ending of love and reconciliation.

The reality is that many of us don’t reconcile with our parents the hurts of our childhood. We don’t have a magical nanny to come rescue us and bring unity back into our broken, dysfunctional families. As I watched Saving Mr. Banks I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I have a tremendously dysfunctional family? We’ve all done and said things to hurt one another and yet we still spend time together, call each other often, etc. Why didn’t I need a Mary Poppins when my childhood had its rough times as well?’ We all need a Mary Poppins sometime in our lives. The answer is that my Mary Poppins was more magical and mysterious, more fun and exciting, more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious than Ms. Poppins could ever be because my rescuer, my protector, my encourager was Jesus Christ.

Fortunately my mom talked to me about God when I was a kid, even before we started going to church or calling ourselves Christians. Later on we went to church where I learned a lot about Jesus and all his power and might. I learned from a very young age that God was the place to run when I was scared, whether I was scared of the dark or scared of how things were going. He was always faithful.

So while it’s cute and fun to believe in this magical singing nanny, Ms. Poppins is a far cry from our true Savior. I don’t want to ignore, however, that God uses people like nannies or friends or strangers or pastors to speak truth and life into us, but I just want to point out that without Jesus our human strength falls short of the redemption and deliverance we all yearn for. I know you yearn for it too because you were born to yearn for Him. So while Mary Poppins saves Mr. Banks, Jesus saves all who believe.Image

Resolve to Resolve

This past Sunday my church continued it’s tradition of having a giving thanks service on the last Sunday of the year. Pastor Joseph sent out an email a day or two before prompting us to come prepared with what we wanted to share with the congregation. As I reflected I realized the thing I am most thankful for in 2013 is the breakthrough I had forgiving my dad. From the outside it might have appeared that my dad and I had a great relationship. My dad always hugs me, we go father-daughter dates, we tell inside jokes, but inside I held on to the times my dad hurt me. To be close to my dad meant the risk of reopening past wounds. In Spring 2013 I was home for a visit with my parents. What started out as a lovely day of kayaking ended in the reopening of my festering wound. Even though my dad had been calm and collected most of the day one little bout of frustration brought back thoughts of unforgiven arguments.

I’ve heard people say, and probably uttered the very words myself, “Why should I forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it?” The very definition of forgiveness implies that the pardon is undeserved. Through the gentle guidance and counsel of my pastor’s wife Marlin I was able to recognize that much of my physical and emotional pain stemmed from the grudges I held against my dad. Not only was I holding him in bondage but myself. To break the chains of unforgiveness would grant us both freedom, but I could not gain freedom without also granting him freedom. It is like a prison guard shackled to a prisoner. In order for him to be free he must also set the prisoner free. What a predicament!

In my pain and struggle to forgive, in my moment of desperation on that spring day, I went in my parents’ guest room, opened my Bible, and prayed. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but when I came out I slowly ate my dinner in silence and let the Holy Spirit stir within me. Afterward I knocked on my dad’s bedroom door, “Can I come in?” I sat next to him on the bed and tried pouring out my heart in my own heartfelt words, but it didn’t seem to sink in to him how hard this conversation was for me. Finally I looked him in the eyes, I had no words to speak and yet my lips spoke, “Dad, you know the Bible front to back. You know the men of the Bible are remembered not for being perfect, but for being changed. I don’t want you to be remembered as a man who wouldn’t change.” I’ve never seen a tear come to my dad’s eye before that day except maybe one other occasion, but I like to think I saw a tear that evening. After our conversation I had to leave to make the trek back to the Bay Area. It hurt to leave it like that, but as I drove home I heard the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts. I knew God had already begun His work in my dad’s heart, but just as importantly He had begun His work in my heart. Not only has my dad been changed, but we have both been set free.

Due to privacy I didn’t want to reveal what exactly I forgave my dad for, but I do want to clarify it was typical father-daughter stuff, nothing major. However I do want to stress that God wants us to forgive even the harshest of hurts.

My Aunt Wanda told me to watch the video clip below. She was very moved and inspired by this man’s ability to forgive. I hope you are too.

Is there someone deserving or, more importantly, undeserving who you need to forgive? Take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to help you start. It’s the best New Year’s resolution. I guarantee it.