Category Archives: prayer

Sacred ground

Holy Ground

Sometimes the problems of this world weigh heavily on my heart, and this, prayer, is the only place that makes any sense. The darkness can seem overwhelming, and the devil likes to whisper in our ears that nothing we do matters, and that we’re fighting a losing battle. But he’s the father of lies, and we know who wins the war. There’s hope because He’s not done yet. He’s the God of this city and He loves these people than we ever will. Skylines are Chicago and Honolulu (Diamond Head).

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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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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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He never slumbers or sleeps.

God is always at work in our families.

Today, I failed to go to church.  I got hooked on a really bad game and have been going to bed super late as a result.  So instead, I listened to two sermons (I don’t condone not going to church!  please don’t do as I do…): one from Evanston Vineyard, and one from Willowcreek.

And even though I didn’t wake up in time for church, God’s grace still abounds.

This week has been difficult for me.  I lost my job at the animal hospital, and I got in a huge fight with my mom.  It doesn’t really matter how I lost my job, I believe I did all that I could do, and yet with live animals, there’s still some things you can’t control (no animals were harmed in the making of that post).  In any case, I was up for a raise, and instead, I lost it all.  And in the fight with my mom…it happens every so often, but this one was probably the worst it’s been since I told my mom I was moving into the city.  I’ve learned over time just to sit there, and to not say anything when she yells because it just makes things worse. I get really upset, she gets even more upset, and it’s just not good.  This time she just said a lot of things that brought up other things she’s said in the past…and it’s not easy.  So it’s been a hard week for me.

And I wonder…God, what happened to the blessings that you gave me?  What happened to the blessings that come with giving up everything and following you?  What happened to the blessings of giving up a job that I loved to wander in the wilderness?  Was I not supposed to take that job in the animal hospital?  Is this your way of telling me?  I don’t know.  I’m glad that I have more time for my grad apps, and I’ve been so tired.  With two jobs I was working 7 days a week, probably around 50-60 hours a week.  And I needed a break.  So I cans ee the silver lining…it just sucks being fired.  Especially being fired from a job you were told you were overqualified for.  (humbling in more ways than one)

And in an email I sent to my friends/prayer partners, I wrote that I never hope for full reconciliation when (not if) my mom starts yelling.  the best i can hope for–the best i can expect, is that after a day or two she acts like nothing ever happened.  i’ve just gotten so used to the pattern of brokenness that its hard to maintain hope…even for my family.  And I know I’m not the only one with difficult family issues.  I have friends whose parents refuse to acknowledge their presence at home, friends whose parents are threatening to kick each other out of the house, friends whose parents are constantly arguing about their beliefs.  And I think since Thanksgiving came around, the divorce was all the more real because this year it was just me and mom sitting at the long dining table that in years past was so full we had to scrounge around the house for extra chairs.  Dad’s away taking care of GungGung, and so with two separate celebrations, it really feels like we’re two families.

But back to the sermons…the one from Vineyard, a woman was preaching.  Talking about the genealogy of Jesus.  She goes through and explains who everyone is, from Abram all the way to Joseph.  She talked about the heroes in the story, the great kings, the rebuilders of temples, the men who walked with God…and she talked about the adulterers, the drunkards, and the men who sacrificed their children to other gods.  Oftentimes, they were one and the same person.  There were messed up people in the lineage of Christ.  There were messed up families, sinful people, deeply lost people, people who even murdered their own children.  And you wonder–why, why would God choose these people to be part of the line that brings about the savior of the world?  Because these are the people that God came to save.  God’s grace, his mercy, is not too far from these people.  And she said–look back.  No matter how messed up your own story is, no matter how far your family seems from God…you can find part of your family story in this line.  and you too–even if you think you’ve messed up far too much, even if you think that you are too far from God, that he could never take you back…your story is echoed here too.  And God is not far from you.  His grace is still more than enough to welcome you back home.  and he could have just given up on those people and said forget it, i’m going to go another route, use a different family, one more deserving, but no.  he PRESERVED the line in FAITHFULNESS to abraham and allowed his son, the savior of the world, to be born into a long line of broken, sinful people.

As for willowcreek…he spoke on the story of Ruth and Naomi, also part of the lineage of Jesus.  He spoke on how Naomi lost everything–her husband, her two sons…and she was so miserable, so tired, that she changed her name to Bitter.  Times when you lose a member of your family, and that chair is empty at the thanksgiving table…times when you or your parents lose their job and are wondering where the money to pay the next bills is going to come from…God is still at work there.  And that is paramount to our faith.  Knowing that God is who he says he is, that he can do what he says he can do is foundational.   Ruth was a woman of great reputation, a woman who chose to be faithful to her mother in law when she could have gone back to her own family, and in the bitterness of losing her husband and leaving her people behind, God was still at work.  A story of Redemption.  A small picture of the rich history that Jesus was born into.

And so the pastor reminded us that family was God’s idea.  Part of his plan.  And he asked–will you commit your family over to God?  We have the faith to believe that someday…those that we love that do not know Him may come to know Him.  Something that was permanently broken can be made new.  Relationships that you think are irreparable can be reconciled.  Will I commit to praying for my family?  Will I? Do I believe that God is still at work in the midst of the sorry state, the crap, the messiness, the yelling and the tears, that is my broken home?  Do I believe that what was permanently broken can be made new?

God is working behind the scenes in our lives and in our families.  He never slumbers or sleeps.  And he is working all things together for good as we trust and follow him. (rom 8.28)

And I’ve learned–there’s a difference between optimism and putting our hope in Christ.  Optimism is just blindly hoping things can’t get any worse, that things have to pick up.  But putting our hope in Christ is knowing, knowing that he is working for our good, and for his glory.  That though things may not get any better, we are being shaped and formed into Christ’s image, and he is where we place our trust.

Revelations 21:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

He is making all things new.

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