Category Archives: Holy Spirit

The Joy of Wandering in the Wilderness

I read 1 Kings 19 this morning, and I just…there’s so much in here.

1 KINGS 18

Elijah  comes to Israel, where the king has done great evil in the eyes of God, and has therefore led the nation astray.  I got the sense that the sins of the people lie with the people, but also on the king.  And Elijah asks the people:  “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal–each will put forth a sacrifice on the altars, and whoever is the true God will bring down fire to consume the sacrifice.  So the prophets of Baal pray all morning and into the afternoon, and they wail and they cut themselves that their god might hear them, but nothing happens.  Elijah, after them, takes four cisterns full of water and pours them over the sacrifice–not once, not twice, but THREE times, so much water that it’s flooding and pooling around the sacrifice.  And he calls out to God, and immediately fire rains down and consumes the water and the sacrifice, and all the people believe.  So they round up the prophets of Baal and put them to death.

How long will you waver between two opinions?? Elijah asks them.  This really hit home for me, as I’ve been struggling to find joy in obedience to the Lord.  He has asked me to end a dating relationship that I’ve been in for six months (my first, at the age of 26 years old), with a God-fearing man who meditates on scripture, writes songs based on the psalms, and respects me and sees me as a daughter of the King, and not as a prize to be gained or an object to be used.  This relationship has grown and stretched me in the Lord in so many ways, and he has said that it’s as iron sharpens iron.  But perhaps nothing in our relationship has grown me as much as obeying the Lord and choosing to (attempt) to let go.  It’s been two months now, and sometimes, there are still pain and tears when I think about the loss, and it’s a pain unlike that I’ve felt before. (will be a post in itself)

And yet in this, God convicted me on Sunday that he requires obedience not just in deed, but obedience in attitudes of the heart.  We have ended things, we are no longer talking about marriage, or meeting up one on one, or once a week.  We no longer text, or call, we hardly talk, really.  But I have not been glad to obey God in this, I’ve only felt sorrow and have even chosen to rub salt in my own wounds by reminiscing and allowing myself to think about him.  But God is calling me to be joyful in my obedience, to not just want to obey, but to be glad to follow him.  What kind of relationship is it if you just drag your feet through the motions, kicking the curb and dawdling like a petulant child?  Joy is independent of circumstances.  Happiness is based on what happens, events.  But joy, true joy from the Lord, is everlasting. He gives us joy in our poverty, in our afflictions, in the aching of our hearts, to know that He alone is enough, and He is with us always.  How long will I be obedient in action, but long for God to change his mind in my heart?  Ah, it’s truly painful.

1 KINGS 19

So in 1 Kings 19, Elijah gets word that the king and his wife want to put him to death for killing all of their prophets.  So Elijah, this man of God who just called on God to burn a soaking sacrifice, who is known for being so godly that death never touches him, and he rides up to heaven in a chariot of fire, this man, flees.  He runs away.  Once he reaches a large town, he leaves his servant there and continues to run into the wilderness.

He fears for his life, and lies down in the wilderness, asking for God to take his life before Jezebel reaches him.  He fears dying at the hands of man.

Instead, an angel feeds him, twice, saying “Arise, eat, this journey is too great for you.” And it is enough to sustain him for forty days’ wanderings as he progresses towards a mountain.  When he reaches his destination, the Lord speaks to him and asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He answers, saying that he is fleeing for his life.  The voice tells him to go and stand at the mountain, and “Behold, the Lord was passing!”

A great and strong wind rocks the mountain walls, then an earthquake, and then a great fire.  But the Lord is not in any of them.  He comes after the fire, in the sound of a gentle blowing, and at this, Elijah emerges from the cave he was in, wraps his face in his mantle, and steps out to meet the Lord.  Again, the Lord asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  And again, Elijah tells the Lord that he is fleeing for his life.

The Lord then tells Elijah to turn around, go back into the wilderness, to go to Damascus, and proclaim new kings for both Israel and Judah, and then to anoint Elisha to take his place.

He arrives in Damascus, finds Elisha, and puts his mantle over him.  Elisha, however, asks to say goodbye to his parents, which Elijah allows, and then Elisha follows and attends to Elijah.

There is SO much goodness in this passage.

  1. A man as holy as Elijah has his moments where he fears man more than he fears the Lord.  And God is not angry with him, God simply wants Elijah to admit where he’s at (What are you doing here?), to recognize that he is fleeing from man, instead of trusting in Him.  And God meets Elijah in a crazy way in the midst of his fear.
  2. After such a strong demonstration of God’s power (lighting the wet sacrifice), there will be those who turn to follow God, but there will be those too, who will seek to kill you and the God that you worship.  We’re always at war.
  3. Elijah fled to the wilderness alone.  He left his servant behind, just as Abraham left his servants behind when he went up on a mountain, and just as Jesus often retired by himself to pray.  These people willingly chose to be alone when they go to meet with the Lord, but in truth, the wilderness can be a lonely place.  Jesus was alone in the wilderness for forty days as well, led by the Spirit to go there.
  4. Even holy people have moments where they would rather just be taken up and leave this earth behind.  It is selfish and sinful, to be sure, to escape the trials and difficulties and fears of this world, but at least we are not alone when we have such thoughts.
  5. God knows what we can handle, and he will provide and sustain us so we can continue.  Arise, and eat, for this journey is too great for you.” How beautiful!!!  The Lord knows, even when we flee in fear, that we are weak, and he is tender and gentle with us.  While we are still on this earth, while God still has plans for us, he will sustain us so we can accomplish his plans.  And what he provides is enough.  Elijah lasted forty days on those two meals.
  6. Even in the wilderness, Elijah is open and sensitive to the words of the Lord, and obeys his commands, and the Lord meets him.
  7. I love that the Lord was not in the great wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire.  These great demonstrations of power and might announce the Lord’s coming (and strike fear and awe in our hearts), but the Lord himself appears as the “sound of a gentle blowing”.  Again, it’s so tender.  He is the God of angel armies, the God of all creation, the God of righteousness and justice, of power and might, but he presents himself as the rustling of a gentle breeze.  I think sometimes, especially when we find ourselves in sin, like Elijah, fearing the world more than our God, fleeing to protect ourselves, and wanting to die to avoid the pain and fears of this world, we often expect harsh judgement and a godly slap in the face.  Or even when Jesus came, the Jews expected to find a mighty king who would overthrow governments and reign in power.  But instead, it’s his loving kindness that leads us to repentance, it’s his great mercy and grace that touches our hearts and bids us die and follow him.  Surely our God is the God of both/and–he is both righteous AND gracious, just AND merciful, pillars of fire AND the sound of a breeze…and he chose to be a baby in a manger.  As Matthew Henry says  “Gracious souls are more affected by the tender mercies of the Lord than by his terrors.”
  8. He calls Elijah by name and gives him a mountain top experience, where his courage is restored, he is refreshed, and his purpose and vision are renewed.  It may have been in the midst of dark and uncertain times for him–no food, no water, Jezebel and the wrath of the king seeking his life, but God was there, and God not only provided his needs, but he attended to his soul–Why are you here, Elijah?, and revealed his plans for him.

And so yes, even in my disobedient heart that still wants what the Lord has said is not for me, even as I rub salt in my own wounds (why??), he convicts me, but he is still so tender and so gracious with me.

And he has reminded me too, of all that he has done, of my testimony from day one of laying down my life for him to everything that has led me to being here in Hawaii.  That his hand was upon it all, and while there were periods of wandering in the desert, he was still there, and he was still leading me.  And Lord, that year of wilderness felt so long.  I felt so deserted and spiritually dry.  But your amazing timing and incredible plans were at work even then, this I know full well.

And so you may be leading me into the wilderness now–my closest friend here having graduated and moved away, ending a relationship with my other good friend, small group girls moving away, and my grad school friends all gone or busy with their own lives, you’re pruning my life. Truth, there’s still one good friend here, but even still.  I may not be choosing this for myself, like Elijah, Abraham, or Jesus did, but I know that you still have good work to be done, and that even if I end up in that dreaded wilderness again, that you will meet me there.  You will speak tenderly to me and call me by name, and you will give me new purpose.  You will make these dry bones live.

Ezekiel 37:1-6

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

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so many thoughts in my head…it’s times like these I wish I had a pensieve.

God has been teaching me SO much recently.

So last week, Barney and I were talking to Andy B in first prez office.  He was telling us about the Enneagram…it’s like Meyers-Briggs on crack.  with eastern mysticism and ancient pre-Jesus wisdom thrown in there.   I had never heard of this before…this number system that somehow knows me in my deepest core.  At first Andy refused to tell us outright what he thought our numbers were.  He told us we should take the test in our mid to late twenties, when our "selves" have solidified more.  But then he couldn’t help himself. 🙂  So he wrote Bnay’s number on a post-it, folded it up, and passed it to me.  Dead on.  
I told him to do me next…to guess my number.  He was more hesitant with me, but through our conversation, he started hinting at me.   "Number 2’s are really recognizable, and they love giving and helping other people."  My ears perked up at this, and I turned to face Andy.   "But when it comes to figuring out their own needs, they’re often at a loss," he finished.  AH!  My eyes grew big (or as big as they can be haha).  He caught my gaze, and slowly a sly smile spread across his face.  "Something sound familiar?"
"It’s like it knows me," I said.  

It’s like it knows me.  And that wasn’t even the end of it.  The 2 needs to feel needed.  They give to feel needed, to feel worthwhile.  They’re seen as the "good parent" (if I had a dollar for every time I was called a mom…).  Twos love extravagantly in order to be loved, in order to get love.  But this can often lead to feelings of resentment or bitterness when our hidden expectations are not met.  How is it, that this system, devised thousands of years ago, can understand the core of my humanity so clearly, and come to the same conclusions I’ve only begun to understand in over two decades worth of life on this earth?  And moreover, how is it that humanity can be so neatly summed up in this system of numerical gifts coupled with our dark side?

And they say that no one knows who came up with it.  But it’s eerie how it knows the human condition so well.  

My deepest desire is to be appreciated.  I don’t think that all I do is to gain the praise of others, but I have noticed that when I get overlooked (as in, I’m a team player on this one thing and then the others get exalted and I’m forgotten)…this is what hurts the most.  This is what makes me start doubting myself, makes me start wishing I had other gifts.  

I know in my head that all gifts are valuable, that all are needed in the body, that all have worth and are necessary for the body to function.  But in my heart…the devil sometimes finds fertile ground to sow his lies.  Lies of worthlessness, lies of jealousy, lies of wanting to be something different, or maybe even something more than myself, more than what God has made me to be.  And in doing so, I sin.  I call myself better than my creator–that I know better, that I should have been gifted in this way, that actually, these gifts are more important, more useful, more valuable.  You don’t know what you’re talking about, Lord.  I know better.  (oh the heresy!  and even as I type this, I’m slightly afraid of a lightning bolt coming from the sky…)

At Urbana, in a moment of complete surrender, of complete longing and desire to hear from my God, I cried out to him with tears streaming down my face, asking the Lord of the Universe to just tell me what He wants.  To just tell me where to go.  I’m willing, I said.  I’m willing to go where you call me, just tell me!  Just give me some sort of direction!!!  And in my earnesty, in my nearly physical pain to hear from my Lord, I heard nothing.  As thousands were making commitments all around me, to go into cross cultural missions long term, short term, go on staff, go into the business world…I just sat with palms turned upwards, waiting, pleading with God for a word, a picture, a place.  I wanted to be able to make a commitment.  I wanted to say that God was calling me to something, anything.  So finally I just asked Him–Do you want me to stay on staff next year?  And the answer I heard gave me agony for the next two months.  "No," he said.  

No?!  NO??!?  My tears were falling for vastly different reasons now.  But God, I….How can you…I’m not done yet!  I thought of all the relationships I’d built, of all of the friendships I’d made, of all the things that students had shared with me, of all the ways I’d seen students meet God, all the ways I’d seen God transform them before my eyes…and I couldn’t bear to leave.  And i hated myself a little.  I’d just told God I’d go where he sent me.  Anywhere…and yet, here he is, calling me away from something, and I can’t bear to leave.  

So for two months I wrestled with God.  I told friends to pray for me, together we asked God for visions, for pictures, for words of wisdom to affirm what I’d heard.  And I hoped beyond hope that somehow, somehow I’d heard him wrong.  Somehow I’d made it up in my head.  Or that somehow he wasn’t calling me away from staff…just maybe away from UIC.  And my supervisor set a deadline…beginning of March. By then we need to start making concrete plans, he said.  Oh Lord!  

Over those two months my friends saw visions and had dreams.  And I was going.  And I was free.  And I was sooo happy.  And finally, I gave up.  I gave up wrestling with God.  I gave up what I wanted…to stay at UIC with all the amazing students, with all the amazing work that God was doing there.  Not that I know what’s in store next.  With three rejections out of four in hand, I don’t seem to have many options.  So will I trust God not knowing what’s going to happen to me?  I had to let go of that desire to see the road ahead, be willing to accept rejection in this world.  And he gave me this weird peace that was far from joyful. It was solemn.  And heavy.  

So I told my supervisor.  The day before we left for Asian American Staff Conference I told my supervisor what i had decided.  More like…that I was willing to obey.  There was nothing to decide, really.  How do you argue with God??  That conference was sooo bittersweet.  (saving it for an entry in and of itself)  To see where God is taking Asian American ministries, to see where we’ve come from…and to know that I will no longer be a part of it.  Bittersweet is so fitting.

This past Monday we had our Area Team meeting.  And William shared with such joy about leaving staff, about seeing the exciting opportunities ahead and just how God has been affirming his gifts in unexpected ways.  And I saw the joy he had, and I wanted it.  I want to be joyful, I want to be celebrating…but I find myself caught inbetween mourning and merriment.  I’m just not there yet.  

I realized though, as I shared  a prayer request with our team (a moment of extraversion), that God is doing a good work in me.  That in leaving, He’s breaking me free of this desire to be needed, of this desire to be wanted, of my "two-ness".  If I can move on from this campus, from all these students and leave it in the hands of God, and not seek out "senior notes" of thanks and appreciation, I will be okay.

As a staff worker, I’ve been feeding my little needy monster.  The one that gets locked away in the dark, hidden corner of my heart.  When a student tells me they need to talk to me, when a student tells me asks me to meet up with them, when I see that words I’ve said have encouraged or challenged them, the monster gets a cookie.  And sometimes he reaches out and grabs an opportunity, asking a probing question of a student because I can tell they’re holding something back, and the needy monster doesn’t like that.  Am I not good enough for them to share?  Do they not trust me enough?  So he reaches out his paw and he holds a sugar cube out to them.  Here, take this sweet looking, innocent sugar cube.  I’m just doing it because I care for you.  I just want to know more so I can pray for you better, help you more, that’s all.  Here, take it.  TAKE IT.  Thankfully, he’s only done that once or twice.  And that’s when I’m aware of how deeply sinful I am.  Of how tainted I am…that even my gifts are guilty of the smattering of sin ingrained in my life.  Even my gifts are in need of the blood of redemption.

And so for God to take me away, for God to tell me to seek Him first, to be more passionate about Him than I am about InterVarsity….He’s killing the needy monster inside of me.  And it hurts.  I feel it starving, I feel it restlessly pacing circles, waiting for the look and response of students when I tell them I’m leaving.  But He says, Find your worth in Me.  The affirmation of others, the trust you built up with others…it’s all temporary pleasures.  Look to Me, and I will show you how to use your gifts.  I will show you who you are, and I will show you where to go.

Okay Lord…I will go to the land you will show me.

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The Shack

excerpts from the shack

on the crucifixion:
Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly.  love always leaves a significant mark, she stated softly and gently.  we were there together.
mack was surprised “at the cross? now wait, i thought you left him…”
you misunderstood the mystery there.  regardless of what he felt at that moment, i never left him.
how can you say that?  you abandoned him just like you abandoned me!
mackenzie, i never left him.  and i have never left you.
that makes no sense to me, he snapped
i know it doesn’t, at least not yet.  will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?

jesus’ humanity
when we three spoke ourself into human existance as the Son of God, we became fully human.  we also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed.  even tho we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.  it would be like this bird, whose nature it is to fly, choosing only to walk and remain grounded.  he doesn’t stop being the bird, but it does alter his experience of life significantly.
although by nature he is fully God, Jesus is fully human and lives as such.  While never losing the innate ability to fly, he chooses moment by moment to remain grounded. that is why his name is Immanuel, God with us, or God with YOU to be more precise.
but what abt all the miracles? the healings?  raising ppl from the dead?  doesn’t that prove that Jesus was God–you know, more than human?
no it proves that Jesus is truly human.
mackenzie, I can fly, but humans can’t. jesus if fully human.  although he is also fully God he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything.  He has only lived ouot of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.  he isjust the first to do it to the uttermost–the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe i my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence.
so when he healed the blind?
he did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him.  jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.  only as he rested in his relationship with me, and in our communion–our co-union–could he express my heart and will into any given circumstance.  so when you see Jesus and it appears that he’s flying, he really is flying.  but what you are actually seeing is my life in him.  thats how he lives and acts as a true human–how ever human is designed to live–out of my life.
a bird’s not defined by being grounded but by his ability to fly.  remember this, humans ar enot defined by their limitations, but by the intentions i have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in  my image.

on the trinity
what’s important is this: if i were simply One God and only One Person, then youwould find yourself in this creation without something wonderful, without something essential even. and i would be utterly other than i am.
and we would be without…?
love and relationship.  all love and relationship is possible for you only because it already exists within me, within God myself. Love is not the limitation; love is the flying. I am love….
you do understand, she continued, that unless i had an object to love–or more accurately, a someone to love, if  i did not have such a relationship within myself, then I would not be capable of love at all?  you would have a God who could not love.  or maybe worse, you would have a god who, when he chose, could only love as a limitation of his nature.  that kind of god could possibly act w/o love, and that would be a disaster.  and that, is surely not me.

in relationship with us
now here i am telling you abt my friends and abt Nan, but you act like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.
sarayu reached across the table and took his hand–mackenzie, remember our conversation earlier abt limitation?
our conversation?
you can’t share with one and not share with us all, sarayu said and smiled. remmeber that choosing to stay on the ground is a choice to facilitate a relationship; to honor it.  mackenzie, you do this yourself.  you don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority.  rather, you chose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor that relationship.  you willeven lose a competition to accomplish love.  it is not abt winning and losing, but about love and respect.
so when i am telling you abt my children?
we hav elimited our selves out of respect for you.  we are not bringint to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. as we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known abt them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.

that is the wonder and adventure of exploration, a piece of what you call science–to discern and discover what we have hidden for you to find.
so why did you hide it? mack inquired.
why do children love to hide and seek? ask any person who has a passion to explore and discover and create.  the choice to hide so many wonders from you is an act of love that is a gift insdie the process of life.

on good and evil…
then it is you who determines good and evil.  you become the judge.  and to make things more confusing,m that which you determine to be good will change over time and circumstance.  and then beyond that and even worse, there are billions of you each determining what is good and what is evil.  so when your good ande vil clashes with your neighbors, fights and arguments ensue and even wars break out.  and if there is no reality of good that is absolute, then you have lost any basis for judging.  it is just language, and one might as well exchange the word good for the word evil…it allows you to play God in your independence.  that’s why a part of you prefers not to see me.  and you dont need me at all to create your list of good anevil. but you do need me to stop such an insane lust for independence.  you must give up your right to decide what is good ande vil on your own terms.  that is a hard pill to swallow; choosing to live only in me.  to do that you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.

women and men…
women in general, will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meet their needs, provide security, and protect their identity, and return to me.  men, in general, find it very hard to turn from the works of their hands, their own quests for power and security and significance, and return to me.
i’ve always wondered why men have been in charge.  males seem to the cause of so much of the pain in the world.  they acct for most of the crime and many of thos are perpetuated against women and, he paused, children.
women, jesus continued as he picked up a stone and skipped it, turned from us to another rlationship, while men turned to themselves and the ground.  the world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and genler place if women ruled.  but power still corrupts…don’t you see how filling a role is the opposite of relatioship?  we want male and female to be counterparts, face to face equals, each unique and different, distincitve in gender but complemetnary, and each empowerd uniquely bay sarayu from whom all true power and authority orignates.  remember, i am not abt performance and fitting into man made structures; i am abt being.
but you came in the form of a man, doesn’t that