Christianity isn't a responsibility. It's a response.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
I'm reading this book called City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre. It depicts life in the slums of Calcutta, amongst the leperers, the pariahs of the pariahs. As I'm reading it, I'm amazed at how much love, joy, compassion, and hope these people have. It seemed like the poorer they were, the more they were willing to give and give up. It reminds me of my time in Africa. So poor in the material, but so full in the spirit. I go downtown to talk to the homeless. Again, you see people holding onto and being thankful for what they have, even if it's something as small as laughter. And compare it to our culture. Sometimes the more we have, the less we're willing to give. And then it dawned on me:
When people have absolutely nothing, they focus on (and are thankful for) what little they do have. But when people have everything, they focus on what they don't have.
This is apparent in our rich culture. We have everything, but why aren't we happy? Why can't we find joy? We're looking, but we're looking in the wrong place. We buy things that we think will make us happy, we wear clothes that we think will make us look good, we do things we do so we can create this image of what we want people to see. But, that's never enough...and it will never be enough. If we keep doing those things, we will never truly find joy. We're mistakenly filling our emptiness with material things when what we really need is in the spiritual.
I'm not saying that we need to be poor to be happy, but we need to open our eyes and try to see how blessed we are. We need to shift our attention from what we don't have, to what we do have. And by doing so, we realize how much excess stuff we have that we don't need. Ultimately, we realize that we only need God. Having realized that gives us strength to give up what we don't need. It allows us to be free from worldly riches. We become, in a sense, poor, yet, so rich. "Blessed are those who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven"
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
As we walk back to our cars, I was just struck with awe. I have everything. I really do. Yet sometimes, I can't even manage to force a smile. Why is that? Our society has everything, yet it's so empty. You truly have to be willing to lose everything you have to be able to just laugh. It takes having nothing, to smile, because you have nothing to lose. This was something I found in Malawi. Absolutely nothing in the physical, but so full of something in the metaphysical. That something: love, joy, hope.
Maybe there's something in my life I'm not willing to give up. Something that I'm holding onto so tightly. I don't know what it is, but I have a feeling I'll find out soon. The funny thing is that I thought I had let go already. Let go of something I would never have the strength to let go. But I'm realizing now that I'll always going to be called to give up things, things that are the hardest for me to give up. Something that's not physical, but mental.
Maybe it really takes willing to lose everything to be able to smile again.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I was conscious of not isolating myself. I made an effort to let people in because so many times, I've been told that God works through people. While this is true, the reverse isn't. I found myself just letting anyone in, thinking anyone would and could lift me up. They didn't. People are people. They are not God. God works through people, yes, but just because you let people in, doesn't mean God will use them. I feel like God uses all kinds of people, the most unexpected people in my life to bring me up.
Looking back, I made the mistake of thinking that guarding my heart was isolating myself. How did I ever come to think that? It was just the information I was getting at the spiritual, emotional, mental place I was at. There needs to be a balance. And though it took so many mistakes, so many embarrassing moments, so many regretful thoughts, I'm glad I went through them because had I not, I would probably have never realized this about my life. It's kind of like an inevitable thing I had to go through and probably still will go through. Yea it hurt some, but it's not the kind that can't heal.
I'm glad, thankful even, that I've come to realize this now better than later. I've been walking on a path of eggshells, so focused on not cracking any, that I go the wrong direction. Maybe we're supposed to crack some eggshells along the way. Wouldn't it make getting through so much easier? It's going to be messy, but its cleanable.. and....they're just eggshells.
So having lived both extremes, neither good nor bad, I see that I'm neither, or both? Somewhere in between. I think I caught myself before wanting to plunge back into the other extreme.
This self-discovery thing, it's so tiring. But it's necessary, and the only way is to make mistakes. There's no guidebook. It's trial and error, and it sucks. It takes courage, it takes strength, it takes hope. It takes knowing that you're about to jump off a cliff into shards of glass, and somehow believing, knowing, that you will come out alive. Yes, you are alive, but you're badly beaten, broken, suffering, and it'll take months, years, to recover if at all. It takes resilience, and a will to move on instead of hiding in the hurt.
How I wish i could so easily bounce back after a terrible fall...
Saturday, November 28, 2009
"A heart can break a thousand times before it finds, the love that makes it beat again."- Chris and Conrad
It's been almost 4 months, and I still find myself clicking through these pictures. It seems like I can stare at them forever. I close my eyes and try to imagine the kids right in front of me. It's hard, but for a moment, nothing else in the world matters. Everything is just so trivial. Everything that bugs me, every hardship I'm going through, everything that once mattered so much means absolutely nothing to me, and I'm just reminded of how small my problems are.
And it is in these moments when I'm most upset about the world, my world, and what it has become. It's so hard being surrounded by people who just don't know or don't care, and the worst, don't care to know. It saddens me to see people drowning in their own seas of not even problems, but anything, infatuations, obsessions, whatever. It's stupid. I don't get it. I do it too, and I hate it.
I know I'm here for a purpose. I know people are as lost here as anywhere else. I know there's a lot I can do here. I know. I know. I just need to vent and be anti right now. anti-people, anti-things, anti-world, anti- stupidity, anti-i don't know. maybe i'm just bitter. Maybe I just see Malawi as a place that escapes all the silliness of our culture. It's simple, and I miss that, so much. Why can't it be like that here? I hate being caught up in all this silliness, and then feel like I don't belong here.
Sometimes I contrive these plans in my head of how I can logically go back to Malawi within the next year. What if I just up and left right now, this instant? Of course it makes no sense, but why does it have to? Nothing ever really makes sense to me anyways.
So that's why I go through these pictures. Because that's all I have that's tangible at least. I look at these faces and my heart breaks again and again, and again, and at the same time, it's these very faces that keep my heart beating. It's times like these when I know I'm going back, I can't not.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Just wanted to share something from a book I'm reading, A Hole in our Gospel by President of World Vision, Richard Stearns
But Margaret was found and rushed to a hospital for treatment. Remarkably, she survived and three months later gave birth to a son, James. She and James were then brought to World Vision's Children of War Center, where she received trauma counseling, support, and, later, skills training as a seamstress. Margaret, traumatized and permanently disfigured, was trying to rebuild her life and be a mother to her child. This is where I met her, perhaps a year after her ordeal.
To our American sensibilities, Margaret's story seems beyond comprehension. There is nothing in our frame of reference that allows us to understand such brutality. What happened next can only be understood through the miracle of God's love--as a demonstration of the incredible power of the gospel to redeem even the darkest kinds of evil.
One day, months after her son's birth, Margaret saw the commander who had given the order to main her, arriving at the same rehab center. He had been captured and had also been sent for counseling and rehabilitation. I cannot imagine the emotions this must have triggered in Margaret. In great distress, she frantically told one of her counselors that she had to leave immediately, that she could not be near him, and that she wanted to kill him. In response, the man was moved to a different rehab center several kilometers away. But Margaret's anxiety remained.
World Vision counselors began working with this man. At first, he denied that he had committed the atrocities. They worked, too, with Margaret, tying to lessen her anxiety and exploring the possibility of forgiveness. After weeks had passed, the man confessed to his involvement in Margaret's attack, even as she worked through her own fears and anger. Finally, a meeting was arranged. The man asked Margaret to forgive him. And Margaret, reaching deeply into the source of all forgiveness--Jesus Christ--forgave. Here again was the power of the gospel to redeem and restore, and to meet evil and turn it back. On the wall of the Children of War Center are photographsy of that day--Margaret and this man who had mutilated her.
He is holding little James in his arms as she stands next to them--smiling without lips."
And so people ask me why I believe in God, this is why.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
If you know me, you know that I have a heart for people and it breaks for their pain. I can't sit around knowing others are hurting; I have to do everything I possible can to alleviate it, even if it means sharing that pain with them.
If you know me, you know that small things mean the world to me. The smallest gesture, the slightest smile, truly warms my heart.
If you know me, you know I dance when I get excited.
If you know me, you know I have an odd sense of humor and can be really weird sometimes.
If you know me, you know I love to laugh and I appreciate so much the people who can laugh with me.
If you know me, you know that I love my doggies
If you know me, you know that I love adventure, doing spontaneous things in the middle of the night are what I live for.
If you know me, you know I fight for what I believe in
If you know me, you know that I'm passionate about music. Music is the only thing that makes sense to me. Music isn't just a sound, its a feeling, its an emotion, its a release, its an expression. Its my way of telling my story without words.
If you know me, you know that I'm fully in love with God.
If you know me, you know I'm still trying to get to know me.
If you don't know me, you should really get to know me.
Love, Love, Love,
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
That afternoon, I went into the village, eager to say her name to her. As I walked up the dirt path, I saw her from a distance, and instead of her calling me first, for the very first time, I yelled out, TIYAJANE! When she heard her name, her face immediately lit up, her smile exposed two missing front teeth. She ran to me and hugged me. At that moment, I knew I had made her day. That's when it dawned on me how appreciative these kids are. They can find so much joy in you just remembering their name, in you just thinking about them. But, I wanted to give her so much more. That's when God called me to sponsor a child.
Looking for a sponsor child was not easy. God really put on my heart, the kids in the neighborhood I visited. However, most of them were either sponsored, or were unregistered. Coming back to the states, I checked the COTN site daily, waiting and praying for not just a familiar face, but the right face to pop up. Finally, Modesta, one of the girls in the family I visited every week showed up. I recently realized that God is using my sponsoring Modesta not only to reach out to her, but also to the 15-20 kids in her neighborhood, those exact kids I wanted to sponsor, but was unable to. Through this connection, I am able to send letters and pictures to her as well as all the other kids I have come to love so much. I'm so thankful that I can continue to pour my heart out into these kids. God knew what I needed.
Love, Love, Love,
Love them anyway.
Be kind anyway.
Be good anyway.
Be honest and frank anyway.
Help them anyway.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
At first, I really just wanted to close myself in. I remembered my first week back. I stayed home, didn't answer any calls. I got anxiety whenever I had to drive, even when I thought about going to the supermarket. I got nervous when I was about to see my friends. Africa has opened my mind to so many new things, it truly transformed the way I thought. I thought that my perceptions of my friends would change as well. I was afraid that I was going to get angry at them, that I would flip out over the tiniest things. So I tried to avoid everything and everyone all together. But, I failed to see that while I was growing in Africa, my friends were growing here. And, I should be excited to see how God was moving in their lives. I realized that by isolating myself and distancing away from my community, I was damaging my spiritual life. I was being selfish. Instead of seeing the hype for my homecoming as an opportunity to reach out to others, I saw how overwhelmed I would be. By not putting myself out there, I was slowly destroying everything I had learned in Africa.
But, I'm so thankful that God provided a few people in my life, to really just pursue me. No matter how cold I was to them, they went out of their way to reel me back in. And I appreciate their patience and perseverance.
I think I have a glimpse of what God wants me to do back in the states. In Malawi, I thought I would immediately go back to San Diego, I never thought I would end up here in LA with my family. But God has really made me a light unto my family. In Africa, I remember God tugging at my heart, telling me to pray for my family, that they were going through some strife, and he was right. Coming home, I was overwhelmed with all the drama we were going through. It seemed like while I was gone, the undercurrent of tension in my family grew. At first I was angry. As if I wasn't overwhelmed enough already. But then I realized that Satan's trying to destroy all that I've learned in Africa, and what better way to do that than to start with the people I'm closest to, my family.
Then I remembered a book my friend from Africa recommended to me called the Battlefied of the Mind by Joyce Meyers. It talked about how the mind is so powerful that it can often times, trick the heart. I just remember in the bookstore, having a battle in my mind over whether or not I should get it, because there were so many other books I wanted to read. But something told me that I couldn't leave the store without this book. That was the night that I realized the root of all the strife in my family, and this book was going to help me fight it.
So the next morning, God really spoke to me through that book. And while I was reading that, my mom was listening to a sermon about the mind. She started to share that sermon with me and I was just so shocked. I knew coming back that I would have to team up with my mom to fight something, I knew she couldn't do it alone, that she was getting tired because she's been doing it all these years. So at that moment, I knew exactly what and for who I was fighting for.
A couple days later, I went down to San Diego to check out my new apartment, I was dreading to go because before coming back, I was worried about whether or not I would have a community here. Something held me back, I didn't call anyone, except one or two people. Something in my mind just told me that I wasn't part of that community, and I certainly didn't want to be thrown back into something I didn't feel apart of. I was afraid. But then, I realized that God would never discourage me, keep me from my community, make me think bad of people. I knew those thoughts weren't from Him. I was thinking so much in my unfurnished apartment, just trying to unravel these thoughts in my mind. I felt trapped in that apartment, in my mind, and I had to get out.
I went to the gliderport. It was at night for a change and instead of the sun, I saw the moonlight streaming across the ocean. And, despite the light pollution, I saw stars! (I'm only excited about that now, at that moment, I was pretty upset) I went to sit on the edge of the cliff. Just reacting to whatever emotion I felt. My mind was wrestling with my heart, I couldn't think straight. But, I let everything out, cried everything out, all my anxiety, fears, worries, pain, heartache, everything. I didn't even know why I was crying, it was just one heavy mass of anguish. But when I let it all out, I felt peace, God's peace.
I went back to my car and decided that I didn't want to go back to that apartment. I sat there, calling my friends on the phone, just wanting to talk to someone. So I sat there in the parking lot, talking on the phone with one of my best friends. I hadn't realized how much I had missed her because the whole time, I had been trying to avoid her. She's studying abroad in Hong Kong for a semester and my heart knew that she needed to find community there. That was when God convicted me to come home, back to LA. I had to see her, I had to tell her. I had to share God's love with her.
That morning, I drove home. Bought lunch, and brought her to a picnic at the park. It was so nice to just catch up with her, learn from her, and encourage her. She's the one friend that had always stuck by me. Through my highs and very lows. She's seen me where no one has seen my before, in my complete disaster. But, not once does she judge me. She doesn't draw back when I push her away. And when I come running back to her, she embraces me with open arms. She understands me so much. She is such a beautiful person inside and out, and I just pray that she sees that. She deserves so much more than she gets, she is constantly giving, putting everyone else before herself.
I realized that I never verbalized my appreciation for her. And that's the least I owe her. I love her so much and I realized that she's been fighting her own battle alone. So, this is a surprise for her, but I'm really excited about it, and she's probably busy packing so she wouldn't read this anyway. But, I wrote her a letter every week for four months. Each letter is about a specific Bible verse that I hope would encourage her. She's taking a huge step out of her comfort zone by going abroad, and that's HUGE for her. But I knew it is God who gives her strength. I hope that these letters will give her a piece of home, and a piece of my heart. I hope it will encourage her and help her not to feel alone. I hope it reminds her that I'm missing her and praying for her. Most of all, I pray that she stays in God while she's abroad.
God is convicting me to do things more than ever, and I already have a list of convictions I need to act on. I'm so excited to see what God has in store for my friends, for my family, and for me. Every day, I realize more and more of why God wants me here. Every day, His voice becomes clearer and clearer to me. I'm humbled by the fact that God wants me to be His partner. That he wants to work not only through me, but with me.
My roommate told me a story about singer, Jeremy Camp. About how he was cleaning his kitchen one day and his daughter wanted to help him. At first he didn't want her help because he knew it would take longer than it had to, but his daughter kept on insisting, so he finally agreed. She made a mess, sweeping and everything, and the whole process took four times it usually would.
But that's how God is with us. God can do everything Himself. But he wants us to help. He wants us to partner with him, even if we make a huge mess of things, even if we make the process so much longer, so much more difficult. He loves us so much that He doesn't care about those things. He just wants to be with us, and I'm so humbled by that.
I do believe that my faith has really been tested this couple weeks, and is still being tested, every single day. But I also feel like every day, my faith is growing stronger and stronger. I don't feel anxious to drive, or go to the supermarket anymore, and I'm getting less and less anxious about seeing people. I knew coming home that seeing people would be most difficult for me as my relationships with people are my weak points. Satan knew exactly where to attack, but God is giving me the strength. God is shielding and arming me. Though I'm still fighting that battle in my mind, I know God's victory is already there.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I don't know why it hit my yesterday, but it did. We were driving from Anaheim after having lunch with my pastor and all of a sudden, I felt free. I, for the first time, felt like some chains were loosened, and I'm just waiting for the day they'll be broken. Anyways, I realized that all the things I've done in my past, and those things done to me, they don't matter. Well, they matter because they make me who I am, so I guess I mean that it doesn't matter in the sense that it's ok that they happened. I felt a light sense of joy, and all this happened while I was sitting in the car. God really does speak to you throughout the day, if you just listen, you'll hear Him.
So I'm continuing my devotions like I did in Malawi every morning. And I was reading some of the letters given to me by my friends in Malawi. We wrote letters based on the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22). So I was reading chapter 5 and it was the "Freedom in Christ" section. It reminded me of feeling free, but it actually had nothing to do with freeing from your sins, it talked about circumcision, which made me wonder why I was reading it. But it was talking of freedom from doing legalistic things because those things turn what should be a lifestyle into a religion and law. So, it doesn't even become what it started out to be. It's so crazy how Satan can instantly pervert and mutilate things. God called Abraham to be circumcised to show a covenant in the flesh (Genesis 17:10-14). It was a manifestation (maybe not too public) of the sacrifices people would make for God. After all, God said to love Him with all your heart, soul, body, and mind and this was just a test for the flesh. But then, this test was twisted from a pure intention to something focusing on pain, rather than love which then turned into this legalistic thing where if you didn't do this, you can't be a child of God, ultimately putting words in God' mouth. But, who are people judge who can be God's? Everyone and everything is God's. He created the heavens and the earth.
God doesn't ask much from us. All he asks is to love Him first, and the 2nd, to love your neighbor as yourself. And reading it, I thought it was clear. But the world has put a rule before it. I remember studying this in philosophy. We were discussing morals and Kant's categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." So whether an action is morally permissible depends on whether that action could be universal law; it would be ok if everyone else does what you are doing. He goes on to saying it follows the Biblical rule "Do unto others as you would do for yourself", also known as the Golden Rule. I never actually looked up the rule in the Bible, but I found that it appears in 2 places. Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. Anyways, I feel like this rule has been distorted. God doesn't require you to do anything for people. That's not the main focus. I'm not trying to discredit the Golden Rule, it does show up twice. But the 2nd command shows up 8 times! (Lev 19:18, Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Gal 5:14, James 2:8). The main focus is loving, not doing. If we do things without the root of love, it becomes this vain selflessness and obligation. But, if you first love, the doing and serving others will come naturally. It will become less obligatory and more willful. So the Golden rule, that mere name is ironic in that it is gold, an idol. It reminds me of the golden calf in that people, in their weak faith, formed their own image of God, something tangible, yet false. Similarly, people have manipulated God's rule, giving it a new intention, a new definition which raises questions and doubt. As we learned in Galatians, a little nuance, change in intention and focus can corrupt something that was once for God. So by changing the intention to doing instead of loving, the rule rules out that second command, to love. It blinds us by raising questions against it. It leaves room for arguments of subjectivity and that's when worldly philosophy comes in.
God's rule is unquestionable; there's no room for argument; it's simple. Just love. I guess you can ask, What is love? (baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.. ahah). But love is something you can't answer. Everyone has experienced it at one point. It's a feeling, not a thought, a feeling so strong and dense, a feeling that can't be wrangled and dissected by the mind. I think whether you're a Christian or not, you've experienced it. Love is something so great that cannot be withheld from anyone. Love doesn't bias because its from God. The only difference I feel, is that Christians acknowledge that this love comes from God and non-believers have yet to acknowledge it. It's amazing how everyone has a piece of God, even unknowingly. And, even if they continue to not know, God will not withhold His love from them. That joy when they love, it's from God. This feeling, so indescribable comes from God, who is too great to be put into words.
The Golden rule should not be made into an idol. And, I think its called the Golden rule for a reason. Not because its precious, but because it is precious in the worldly sense, which ultimately makes it inferior to God. Anything from God is more precious and more pure than gold (1 Peter 1:7).
So don't let the world blind you. Let's love, and not do.
Love, Love, Love,