Category Archives: life lessons

Take courage.

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God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper.  

A man acquainted with sorrow and depression, William Cowper spent his days holding on to small grains of hope and faith.  Even till the end, his last days on earth were dark, and it’s difficult to know why God would allow him to find no respite.  But what’s clear, and perhaps what’s even better for him, is that when he arrived to meet his maker, his joy was that much sweeter because of the clouds.  The joy and awe that he must have felt was infinitely greater because of the contrast to his black days here on earth.

It’s not ungodly to have seasons of depression, or dark nights of the soul.  Even Jesus himself was a man of sorrow, acquainted with suffering.  (Isaiah 53)

10Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makesc his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

11After he has suffered,

he will see the light of lifed and be satisfiede ;

by his knowledgef my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,g

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,h

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

But it’s up to us what we will do during those seasons.  Will we turn inward and see no more than the pain that threatens to overwhelm us, or will we strain to lift our head from the miry clay and set our eyes on Jesus, and find our salvation there?  Don’t give up the fight.  

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What’s next?

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You don’t need to know what the destination is, you just need to know who’s in the driver’s seat.

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Fear & the Will of God

Fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real orimagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension,consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.
Antonyms: courage,security, calm, intrepidity.

The third of this dictionary series.

These past six months have been absurd.  Filled with quick blushes, fluttering hearts, and alabaster jars full of tears.  As a twenty six year old who has never been in a relationship, these past six months were full of uncertainty, excitement, and revelations, as for the first time, I was “seeing someone”.

He came out of nowhere.  I was happy being single, busy with friends, school, research, and church.  I had just come back from Urbana, InterVarsity’s amazing missions conference, where the Lord reminded me that he has a perfect plan, a me-shaped dream that is part of his plan in restoring the world.  He reminded me that he made me, down to the interests and specific experiences that I’ve had in my life, and nothing, nothing goes wasted under his watch.  He is a purposeful God.

So coming off this conference high, my friends told me that they were speaking to this guy about me, and suggesting that we meet.  They’d been talking to him for months, and he was asking my best friend tons of questions about me to see whether he wanted to take a risk and meet me.  Eventually, he decided that he would jump, and he asked me out to coffee in mid January.

We met once a week, no more, no less.  And we tried to keep the boundaries platonic.  Ever since our second meeting, we always went dutch, and physically we did nothing–not even holding hands.  But over time, he found me making my way into his heart, and eventually, I found him in mine.  As cliche as it was, things happened so quickly.  He told me  in early March that he “liked [me], and really enjoyed spending time together”.  And in early April, I tried ungracefully to tell him the same–“soooyanothatsongthatsplayinginthatsceneinbeautyandthebeastwheretheyrethrowingsnowballsateachother?yeaaah,ithinkthatswhereimat.”  Hahaha 🙂  But he graciously let me express myself in the only way that I could.

We went and found new restaurants together through yelp, we fast danced (me awkwardly) at the Navy’s Anniversary Ball, and we sat beneath the shade of trees and talked for hours, often spending a quarter of a day together.  Restaurants would close, but our conversations would continue as we strolled along the Ala Wai canal, or sat in a car.

He believes in one of those Christian alternatives to dating–dating with friendship at the forefront and marriage in mind, then once he knew that I would be the one, he would propose, and then pursue until I said yes.  It’s modeled after Christ’s pursuit of our own hearts–a commitment to loving us that inspired and motivated the greatest act of love known to mankind.  Commitment first, pursuit second.  And although I struggled (and quite frankly was frustrated) with wanting a traditional relationship where pursuit and romance happens at the onset of emotions, I respected his conviction and I admired that his eyes were focused on the cross.

Being in the Navy, he would occasionally be gone, disappearing into a submarine for weeks at a time, and communication was spotty and via email at best.  But we made it through, with biblical encouragement and the cds of worship songs he’d make me.  His last underway was most difficult, I was so used to texting him every day, and that morning he’d sent me a text, facebook message, and email, so every line of communication that I had was another reminder that he would be gone for 21 days.  And I actually was counting them down one by one in the beginning, because I missed him so.

But while he was gone, I was praying with open hands, asking the Lord what he would want from us.  Specifically, “What should we do, Lord?”  And behold, I heard “Break up.”  Over the course of a few weeks, I’d press the question again twice after that, not believing what I’d heard, and honestly not wanting it to be true.  So finally, when I heard it a third time, I began asking the Lord for confirmation–through scripture, through quiet times, through anything, but specifically, I asked that my friend Jeannie, who had always been so supportive of us, would confirm what I’d heard.

The Lord provided.  Be careful what you pray for, because He is a God who answers.

Since we stopped dating, the tears just won’t stop coming.  I sobbed in the beginning, and I just had no words to say to anyone, including God.  It was all I could do to just sit there with Him in my car, watching the sun sink over the Honolulu skyline, and know that He hears and He was with me.

Through this time though, God has taught me so much.  I’ve begun to read books on Guidance, Finding God’s Will,  listening to sermons on singleness and listening in silence…and through it God has shown me much.

We all want God to tell us what to do.  We all want God to simply save us the pain and the struggle of figuring things out for ourselves, because we know that his plans are infinitely better than ours.  That his plans lead to his glory.  And who wouldn’t want to take a shortcut to get there?  Why bother with my own plans and my own desires when i know my heart is sinful, and when I know that whatever he wants is best for me?

Because he wants you to be an autonomous being that is both fully you and fully submitted to him.  Just as he didn’t force you to choose him, he will not and does not want you to just be a puppet who does whatever He wants.   In a sermon by Tim Keller, he provided this illustration:

Imagine you’re a parent.  And your five year old asks you for permission to go out and play.  “Of course,” you say.  “But be back home by five, because your mother and I are cooking dinner.”  Now imagine that it’s 15 years later, and your 20 year old calls and says “Hi Dad, my friends are playing frisbee at the park, is it ok if I go play with them?”  You’re dumbfounded.  “You’re 20 years old!  You know your workload, you know how much time you can afford to spend with your friends.  You don’t need to ask me, you can decide for yourself.”

The greatest lessons are learned through living, not told by word of mouth.  Did you come to believe that God loves you because you heard it week after week in a building with a steeple, or did you come to know that God loves you because you had an undeniable experience where his love completely overwhelmed you like the flood of rushing waters?  Did you come to know that you are a sinner because people with picket signs pointed their fingers and accused you, or did you come to find you’re a sinner because you were shown a mirror and saw the depth of depravity within your own soul that looks so shiny and good from the outside?

Likewise, God’s guidance, his wisdom comes through learning.  Learning to listen for the promptings of the Spirit, and learning to walk in ways that are just and true.

Of course, when you’re making difficult decisions that have nothing to do with morality (for those, the answer is in God’s word), things get complicated.  What job to take, what school to go to, who we should marry, we often turn to God for guidance and for direction for these.  As we should.  There are certainly better options, and there are worse options.  Prayer, wisdom, and countenance of friends are certainly necessary.

But to ask God directly for what He wants, I think we need to examine our hearts for why we ask this question.  Sometimes the way just doesn’t seem clear.  And any of the options before you seem good, so therefore you really want to inquire of the Lord and make an informed decision.  And often times, he may just tell us to choose.

Sometimes, however, we ask the Lord what he wants because we’re afraid.  We fear making the wrong choice, because we’re afraid of the consequences.  We don’t want to pick the path less traveled by and come to find it’s full of thorns and wild beasts waiting to devour us.   It may seem like the holy way to go, inquiring of the Lord.  But your heart is quaking in fear.  You’d rather He just make the decision because then there’s no responsibility on your part–God told you do this.  And if God told you to do it, it must be good!

Remember, God is a God who answers prayers.

When I asked the Lord what to do with this man, I was in the second boat.  Not only did I fear the consequences of my actions, but I honestly thought that if God made the decision and told me what to do, then I would follow, and I hoped that it would expedite his glory.  God, you, me, and the right person, we’ll make a good team one day.  So if he is the one, tell me to get a move on and climb aboard.  Silly me.  Expedite his glory.  As if such a thing exists!  The rocks cry out day and night with the sound of his praises!  As if I could delay his glory by making the wrong choice.  As if I had any power to do such a thing, as if such a thing could even happen!  The Lord will be glorified in our sin or in our worship, it’s simply our choice.

But the Lord convicted me today that I asked him what to do out of fear.  He in his grace, answered anyway.  I was afraid because I knew that he was close to a proposal.  I was afraid because if it turns out I don’t want to marry him, I didn’t want to hurt him.   I was afraid because if I don’t want to marry him, I may end up alone forever.  I was afraid because if he didn’t want to marry me, I would be heartbroken.  I was afraid because deep down inside marriage scares me.  I was afraid because my parents are divorced, I’ve never seen a healthy marriage, and I’m terrified of going through it myself.

Being a child of divorce leaves scars.  It just does.  The Lord heals the pain, but that divorce is never erased from your memory.  My identity was shaken.  I became the product of a broken home.  But as the pieces were shaking, what came to the surface was that I was first and foremost a child of God.  Should God strip away all the other labels that people place on me (daughter, sister, tree hugger, student, staffworker, etc), only that would remain.

Nevertheless, I didn’t realize until today just how scared I was of marriage because I’m afraid of divorce.  I’m afraid of the arguments that come between two people who vowed to love each other till death do you part.  I’m afraid of marrying the wrong person because I know how painful and earth shattering divorce is.  And I know the bitterness and the resentment that can come.

I was talking on the phone to my best friend, and I told her my fear of being single.  And she said–what’s meant to be will be.  But I asked her–were my parents meant to get a divorce?  Was that meant to be??  And I still am wrestling with God about the answer.  I know that sin wormed its way into their marriage and rotted it from the insdie out.  But was that part of God’s plan?

The Lord convicted me too, asking me…do you really believe that I work everything out for Good?  Do you really believe that my plans always prevail in the end?  Do you really believe that you can mess with life so badly that my plans do not come to fruition?  Do you really believe that I am Sovereign??

So choose.  Pray, consult, listen, use wisdom.  But choose.  Don’t live life in fear of making the wrong choices because no matter what you go through, I will be there.  No matter what happens, I will use it for good.  No matter what happens, I have you in my hands.  No matter what happens, I am in control.  No matter what happens, I love you and that is enough.

Do not fear impending danger.  Do not fear evil derailing my plan.  Do not fear a life of pain.  Do not fear threats that are real or imagined.  Because I am the Lord your God, and you are mine.  Trust me.

When we seek to know the Lord, we aim to please him, and we find ourselves squarely in the will of the Lord.  It’s not something to be sought, but something to be lived.

The antonyms to fear are courage,security, calm, and intrepidity.  (Does this not sound like a life lived in freedom in the Lord?)

The cure to fear, however, is faith.

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We know what injustice looks like.

With the verdict out on Trayvon Martin’s case, and a man walking free, there’s a cry for Justice. Race is powerful in today’s society, whether we choose to see it or not.  As an Asian American whose only language is English, I’ve had my AP English teachers ask me if English was my first language, I’ve had an elderly black woman ask where I’m from–no really, where are you from?, I’ve had people shout out “That’s how we do things in America!” as I’m crossing the street (whatever that even means…), and I’ve seen the news broadcast just last week that claimed the pilots of the crashed Asiana flight were “Ho Lee Fuk”, “Wi Tu Low”, and “Bang Ding Ow”.  Really, America?  You decide that a plane crash is an appropriate time to make a racist joke out of Asian names on broadcast television (as if there were ANY appropriate time for such behavior)?

But worse than that, an unarmed (though apparently they claim the sidewalk is a weapon now…) teenage boy is dead.  And his killer walks free.  It’s true that the media loves to sensationalize, and no one knows exactly what happened except for Trayvon and George Zimmerman, but nevertheless, we know the system is huge and broken. So what now? What can we do?

This morning I heard a recounting of Dr. John Perkins’ talk at Reed College. He spoke about growing up black in Mississippi, and wanting to seek vengeance after his war vet brother was shot and killed by white police men at a movie theater. He spoke of being forced by his family to flee to California before his actions made him another “dead Perkins”. He spoke too, of finding faith through his son, and returning to Mississippi, not for violent vengeance, but to seek civil rights.

During one of his demonstrations, his students were arrested and carted away to the most racist county in the state.  They called him, and he answered.  When he arrived, Dr. Perkins, defenseless, was thrown into a police station’s windowless back room and beaten within an inch of his life. As they struck him again and again, he suffered a heart attack, and he watched his own blood spray and splatter the walls.

But “as I lay there at the feet of those huge, white police officers, I looked up into their faces…twisted with anger…immediately my heart was filled with compassion. Seeing them, all I could think was, “Dear Jesus, what pain these men must have endured in their lives to feel such hatred. Have mercy on them.”

I teared up when I heard the verdict, and I cried when I heard this story.  We know what injustice looks like.  Our hearts ache and cry out for wrongs to be punished, because we know that there is a cost for brokenness, and we know that somehow, it must be paid.

But as I listened to the story of Dr. Perkins, his blood on the walls, and a prayer on his lips, I immediately thought of another man, beaten, flogged, ridiculed, who also prayed for those who persecuted him, asking the Lord for their forgiveness, because they knew not what the did.  And it was for him that I truly cried.  To speak forgiveness for those who seek your life is radical.  To choose to love and have compassion on them who spare no whip and grant no mercy on you is unheard of.

We know what injustice looks like.  Our hearts ache and cry out for wrongs to be punished, because we know that there is a cost for brokenness, and we know that somehow, it must be paid.  And this, Jesus, was the ultimate injustice.  The innocent being found guilty, while the offenders walk free. While we walk free.  

The story wasn’t over yet.  “There is no hope,” Dr. Perkins continued. “There is no hope [for our broken communities], apart from the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.” Finally, when he was done speaking, the students gave him a standing ovation.

What can we do? Stand up for ‪#‎Justice‬ and strive for ‪#‎Reconciliation‬ , even when it’s your blood on the walls. 

He has showed you, o man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

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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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