I wrote a post the day before Easter and was re-declaring I was going to take up the cross. But my computer froze when I hit submit/post and it was lost. This actually made me think a lot. Did I genuinely mean what I wrote in my Easter reflection blog? Was I genuine?
I’m writing this today because yes, I am being genuine when I say I am going to let go of my hurts, free both my hands so I could carry the cross.
During these last couple of weeks I notice how Jesus is so present. When I find myself dwelling in past hurts, I replace the thoughts by visualizing myself opening both hands and lifting the cross. Sometimes lifting the cross looks more like dragging the heavy cross with my two bare hands, other times I visualize myself carrying it over one shoulder as I’m hunched over. The common feeling is the same -the cross -its big, hard and its heavy. Yet surprisingly, freeing.
1. The heavy weight of carrying the cross has lighten the imprint of haunting and painful thoughts and memories.
2. Carrying the cross is more productive and healthy than holding on to anger and bitterness.
3. In carrying the cross, I notice Jesus has been giving me companions and resources that can empathize with my burdens. Its been so comforting.
The highlights of my last couple of weeks include: reading the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). There were so many new nuggets of truth that hit me for the first time. Although mean and horrible things happened to Joseph, he didn’t wallow in bitterness in blaming his brothers for his fate. He did not let his hate consume him. Although it took his brothers a long time to apologize, they eventually do but by then Joseph had long forgiven them. His forgiveness was not dependant on their apology and owning up to how they wronged him. But instead, this is what Joseph said to them:
"Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you an your little ones." In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21
I love the way Joseph understands the goodness of his creator, the bigger picture that is hard to see when disappointing things happen. Most of all I am inspired by how good God always is, even when others are not good to us.
Today marks a special day. I finished the bible today, for the 3rd time. It took about 1.5 years reading King James Version. This is a special moment of reflection and celebration.
Drawing near to God was a roller coaster ride this year, with many ups and many downs.
Memorable “up” moments:
- Singing worshiping songs on the chairlift, not caring who was beside me to hear me praise my God.
- Waking up every morning excited to read God’s word, spending half a day in prayer, meditation and reading.
- Snowboarding to my hearts content, feeling like I was dancing on snow with Jesus and the trees were holding back their clapping. One day, tree friends, one day you will clap until your heart’s content.
- Watching God provide over and over again in tangible ways…
- Placing me in a job that I love with a greater purpose of workplace ministry.
- Jesus making Vancouver home by leading and connecting me with genuine friends, who are generous, kind spirited and most importantly, REAL.
- Watching a small group member dedicate her life to Christ
- Being comforted in deep ways that only Jesus could penetrate and satisfy.
- Meeting a good and godly man who loves Jesus and who loves me and has the patience to put up with the crazy.
Lessons I learned:
- Jesus loves us all, even the undeserving
- Jesus gives and takes away.
- Hell is not an imaginary place we go to when we die. It exists in the deep places in our minds and we can experience it in this lifetime. It is a dark place where anger, bitterness and loneliness all meet and consumes the mind. It is a place for those that feel unheard, unnoticed, unjustified or unappreciated.
- Jesus died on the cross to save us from our own “hell on earth.” He does have the power to heal and save us.
- Even the nicest people are selfish. The only one capable of loving beyond themselves is Jesus.
- Jesus does not pity us, he give us mercy.
- Being thankful each day is a choice.
I heard an interesting sermon once that said if you see someone that needs help and you do nothing about it then you pity them but if you see someone who needs help and extend help, thats mercy.
Now lets change the words. If you see a friend that needs help and you do nothing about it, then you pity them. But if you see a friend who needs help and extend help, thats love. But what if helping your friend wasn’t easy and you still chose to do it, that would be mercy but what if you chose not to help them, then what would that be?
How thankful I am that Jesus doesn’t pity us but gives us abundant grace. Grace is not convenient or easy or cheap.
Next time I smile at a friend that needs help and won’t help them, I’ll remember, I’m pitying them; when Jesus didn’t pity me but gave me everything, so I would have something worthy to give people.
Jesus did not pity people, he helped them and so should we.
Ever have one of those days that are just so wonderful you never want it to end? Last night I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. because I was just so happy. It started with Saturday. My church organized a sandwich run. We were to make the sandwiches and head off to East Hastings. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect as this would be my first time doing a sandwich run. (I know, where have I been?) 3 of my small group members came and I was so glad we were going to do this together. Alice, our leader, told us that the point of the afternoon was to build relationships. That there were many assistance programs in the downtown east side where the homeless could get a hot meal so not to think too much of our sandwiches. The sandwiches were more like a gift, something to start a conversation. I thought that was a good way of looking at things.
At first I was sad because it was hard to engage in meaningful conversations. I mean the people I talk to they were friendly, polite and grateful for the sandwiches but no one really wanted to engage more than they had to. But then again, what did I expect, I don’t even find fully engaging conversations on a Sunday morning at church either. At the end of the day people are people regardless of race, gender, socio-economical status. Friendships and relationships take time to grow.
I was intrigued though, as the homeless gathered in groups in the park and talk and talk, I wondered: what were they talking about? I sort of wish I could stand with them and be included in the conversation rather than be the person they were just “nice” to. My group and I were on the same page about that desire and the wonderful thing is God heard us.
We went to Carnegie Hall for dinner and there was this super outgoing homeless man his name was Nicky and we talked for 2 hours at dinner. I shared my meal with him. He was so knowledgeable and funny. I enjoyed our conversation very much. He was so talkative and easy to get along with. He made our entire group feel so welcomed. He said I had bright, shiny eyes. I hope he saw the holy spirit through them.
I saw him again last night at the Out of the Cold program at my church. I was so happy to see him. I yelled out NICKY! like we were long lost friends and he played it off like he knew who I was but he clearly forgot. Made me wonder how many people they meet on a daily basis. Once again we sat and ate and talked. He is such a wonderful person. So knowledgeable and funny. I love how he doesn’t complain, actually none of the people at my table complained. I learned so much about Vancouver through their eyes. Such lovely people. I can’t wait to see them again.
Its been exactly one month since my last post. I feel like so many great God things have happened this month. There is no excuse as to why I haven’t written them down….so here are my 3 highlights of March.
1. One of the members of my small group accepted Christ as her Lord and Saviour! It happened at church. A guest speaker did an altar call. It was one of those moments I sat in great anticipation in deep prayer hoping she would stand up and declare her life to Christ. I definitely can’t take ANY credit for her decision. I just got the privileged of sitting next to her. I remember sitting in so much anticipation and hope and active prayer picturing the imagine of her face imprinted on the palm of God’s hand and her name was written in the book of life. I cried tears of true happiness as she stood up along with a scattered few in the congregation. It affirmed to me a few things that day:
- God has great plans for the people and city of Vancouver.
- The heavens were rejoicing as more brothers and sisters are coming into the family of Christ.
- The joy I felt for her reminded me nothing else matters here on this earth. We have one commandment and that is to make disciples of all nations. Everything else is so secondary and literally unimportant when we meet our heavenly father. If he asks me what did you do with the time and the resources I gave you? How did you further my kingdom on earth? I don’t want to be standing there ashamed like the servant that buried the talent instead of making wise investments for his master.
- I also had a renew sense of hope -hope to continue to pray faithfully and earnestly for my parents, my brother and my friends that do not know Jesus yet.
2. I experienced God’s grace first hand. It hard to describe what the last month has been like in terms of all my protest and questioning God, my dialoguing and pleas…. one thing is clear now, I was being arrogant. I wouldn’t have come to this conclusion without God’s grace. He was really patient and kind and gave me grace in two very audible ways: through a 6 week Habakkuk study at church and through a conversation with my bestfriend who flew in for 6 hours. Each Sunday at church Habakkuk spoke loud and clear into my heart. It was comforting that this prophet could articulate my frustrations. I walked out of church feeling comforted in the midst of my turmoil because I knew God was with me. He was speaking truth into my life so I could see my situation for what it was. God’s living word is so amazing, it really does cut through the fog. At the end of the day, the situation I felt so strongly about didn’t change. What changed was me. I literally experienced my living God first hand. The back and forth conversation I had with him was both frustrating and incredible. I mean at the end of the day, he is GOD, he doesn’t need to talk to me, let alone put up with my anger and accusations but he does listen and respond because of his love that transcends all understanding. He is trustworthy and is true to his promises. I didn’t realize this then but I recognize it now, I experienced my own personal Habakkuk story. A deeper and richer understanding of who God is. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Whatever brings us closer to God is worth it. Now I have another tangible experience to add to my many God adventure stories. How precious and foundational are these moments -Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
3. Giving up sugar during this lent season has been TOUGH! How I miss the sweet goodness that melts in my mouth. I think about a donut everyday, which means that I think of Christ on the Cross everyday. Truth be told, I have thought about Jesus on the cross more during this lent season that ever before. His grace has been sweeter and more satisfying than any awesome man made donut.
Relent, LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:13-14
Today we sang The Desert Song and Blessed be your Name. When I heard the Desert Song I knew God was with me confirming I am in the desert season again. Its okay. No more kicking and screaming but a heart of surrender. I woke up with more peace than yesterday and now its a matter of moving forward in peace resting in Him because I know he is with me through this dry season.
I have a spiritual temperature song and that is Blessed be your Name. Whenever this song plays at church, it makes me evaluate where I am in Christ. The fact that we have sung it for 3 weeks in a row gives me strength to keep moving forward because I know God does not want me to give up or give in to what is not of Him.
I was given a word of encouragement after the service by a stranger I have never met. She said to me, I want you to know you are so loved by Jesus. He wants you to know he is very pleased with you. He has some refining to do with you and it hurts and its uncomfortable but he is so pleased. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I need to remember what God has already done for me in order to keep on keeping on. To fight the good fight. Praise is a weapon and there is power in prayer. Thank you Jesus for meeting me today.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:56-58
For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13
As I have this deep desire to make space for God, I feel like I’m going through another phase of loneliness. I have cried bitter tears thinking: NOT AGAIN! We have been through this already, the dreaded desert season, don’t put me back there again!!!
After all of my angry words, fit throwing and complete exhaustion, I have met Jesus is moments of deep worship that can only be met with complete surrender and a humble and contrite heart.
The refining fire is so hard to go through. Its so uncomfortable that the only comfort is really clinging to the living word of God.
Thank God His word says: For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20
I am thankful for the soaking prayer night at Regent last night. I am thankful for corporate worship and I am thankful for sermons that are available at my fingertips. In this midst of the desert season I’m thankful for quiet days of reading and reflection and silence. Following Christ is not a feeling, its a commitment.
Today I was humbled by Andy Stanley’s sermon in the Simple series. The sermon is titled Follow. He said we have made the Christian walk too complicated. If we just followed Jesus we wouldn’t even have the time to look at the way other people are following him. When did I take my eyes off of my own journey and feel entitled to judge someone else’s walk? What has that done for my own walk with Christ? How shameful and eye opening.
Andy Stanley says don’t try to change. Just love Jesus, follow him and he will change your heart and your actions. He also said that Jesus loves hanging out with the people that resembled nothing like him and they liked hanging out with him too. Pretty cool, very radical.
Stepping into the refining fire, wiping out the self righteousness that lives in me. Lesson 1 in progress.
The beginning of lent. The beginning of the fast.
Day one: anticipated suffering.
Keeping my eyes on the end goal: To experience Christ so intimately that my face will reflect his imagine.
Note to self: Persevere. Keep your eyes fixed on the things above. Jesus is worth it. His strength will sustain me and not my own.
Entering lent. Here goes….for Christ and Christ alone.
My very good friend came to visit me. It was a short visit but I was excited nevertheless. My first visitor.
- Running alongside my friend at a challenging pace on the seawall and feeling inspired to run faster.
- All the laughter and inside jokes shared between old friends.
- Me screaming in excitement as I watched the rain turn to snow as we were approaching the top of the mountain!!! Big fat white snowflakes. What a blessing.
As my friend was experiencing a typical day of my life here in Vancouver, he said to me: “You have nothing to complain about.” And he is right. I have nothing to complain about. God is sovereign and I trust him. He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away…My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.
I read this verse yesterday morning and I can’t stop reading it over and over again. (I added the bolded highlight.) Romans 4:13-25
The Promise Realized Through Faith
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Vancouver!
I wasn’t sure what Valentines Day would look like this year, as there were no coworkers to make candy grams for and there was no desk to receive any sort of Valentine day’s surprise, I guess overall I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up but the honest truth is, I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe its the girl in me, but I just love a day to celebrate love. It makes me happy.
I woke up, walked to the washroom half asleep and there in my bathroom was a card and a red chocolate heart. I couldn’t help it, I was surprised and so happy, I shed a tear. Even in Vancouver, God has remembered me. It amazes me as he continues to provide for my single heart. He is enough. My roommate wrote in my card that she hoped that today I would experience Jesus as the lover of my soul and that I did. I spent the entire day with Him. In worship, in praise and in adoration.
I really connect with Christ through creation and as I was snowboarding today, I was riding through thick fog, feeling scared. I was going slowly and cautiously, sorta thinking I could fall off the cliff and wondering where the edge was. I really should know better that God would never let me fall of the edge. He is faithful even when everything seems to be fuzzy. When I did my second run I looked up and decided to take the sky chair up to see if I could ride above the fog. What made me think of going higher, I have no clue but man, was I ever met with the best surprise of my life. I have never seen anything so spectacular in my life. I was on top of the fog and there was the most magnificent sunset. Pink, orange and blues splashed on top of billowing, thick white clouds. I really couldn’t help but stare in amazement wishing I had a camera to never forget this moment. Our God of the universe created this landscape for us, because he loves us. I just sat there feeling so full, so loved and so blessed to experience this moment with him. It made me think of this verse: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.” Luke 6:43a.
Life lesson that was confirmed today: When life seems foggy, look up and Jesus is there ready to take you to new heights with him.
Jesus thank you for Valentine’s Day. Thank you for a day to celebrate love. Thank you for spending the day with me. To experience the colours of your world. To take me to new heights and unexplored territory with you. Thank you for always providing beautiful moments and gifts to remind me how you love me deeply. I am so grateful Jesus that I am imprinted in the palm of your hand. With a deep heart of gratitude. Amen.