reflections on taking chances

I was 23.
April 2008.
Nearly a year of wonderings and wanderings after graduating from college.
I was ready.
Ready to spread my wings and fly,
ready to take a chance.

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In 2007 I graduated with a degree in music.  In my young, naivete I thought I would immediately be hired in full-time music ministry and that church job offers would simply flood in as soon as I walked across the stage with my diploma.

(I was wrong, by the way).

That summer I travelled to India for a two-month long mission trip.  In many ways, that trip changed my life.  My first time overseas, my first time fully immersed in an eastern culture, and the first time I really caught a glimpse of life abroad serving a God who isn’t American.  A God of all nations.

I returned home more sick than I’ve ever been in my life, and still had no job and no direction for my life.

The difficult months that followed shook me to my core: extreme culture shock, depression, meandering and wanderings…  but then in April of 2008, everything changed.  You see, when I returned from India, my team spent several days in Bangkok, Thailand debriefing.  I had a distant feeling in my heart, a feeling that I would return to Thailand one day.

Ten years ago, in April 2008, I interviewed for a Music Teacher position in Bangkok, Thailand.  A few weeks later, I boarded a small airplane with 2 large suitcases (and a very heavy carry on) and moved to the other side of the world.

I didn’t know a single soul.

But that decision – that chance.  It changed my life forever.

The friendships forged during that year forever changed me, the students I taught showed me what compassion looked like with hands and feet, and living in another culture taught me how to be empathetic.

That chapter of my life opened up doors for me to later serve in full-time Worship ministry, and the relationships there inspired me to pursue seminary.  Many of the co-teachers I taught with are still my friends today.

The thing about taking chances is this: when the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to take steps of faith, or “chances” in our human thinking, the greater chance to take is to ignore that prompting and taking the wider, easier path.

I’m so glad I took that chance.

S6300051India, June 2007

S6300243.jpgKolkata, India, July 2007

IMG_1493_7Thailand, October 2008

IMG_5313Our street, Nonthaburi, Bangkok, Thailand

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called

That which Christ calls us to do,
he will enable us to accomplish.

This is the message of the Miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.
The only miracle recorded in all 4 Gospels, this seems to be the message for the disciples: when Christ would leave the earth, they would be empowered to carry on his message.  And the ability of them to carry out this ministry would not be of their human strength, it would be the power of God.  The power through His Spirit.

Christ called them to feed the multitudes, “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16)  And amongst the people, five loaves of bread and two fish were found.

Jesus prays a prayer of thanks, breaks the bread, and from this, the food just kept coming.  More and more.  More than they needed.

And the disciples did the work to distribute the food to the people.  “They all ate and were satisfied.”  And “the number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matt. 14:20-21).

Jesus commanded the disciples to feed the people, and through him, they were able to accomplish what he called them to do.

The same is true for us today: That which Christ calls us to do, he will enable us to accomplish.

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loss

The more days I travel as a pilgrim on this earth, the more I am convinced of this truth: to live is to lose.  As young children, somehow we think we can grasp and hold onto the things of this life, but to me now as an adult, loss seems to mark my journey more than gains.

Yet.

Yet.

The only loss we will not have as followers of Christ is just that: Himself.

The time we spend earning more material possessions or working hard to maintain our neat squares of grass called “yards”… less time we have to spend with the One who will carry our souls into eternity.  Where yes, we will spend the rest of time, until there is no more time.  Forever.  With Him.

God.  The triune God.  Father, Son and Spirit.

The more time we spend on this earth being quiet before Him, and allowing those “things of earth” to grow “strangely dim”… He will become more beautiful to us.

He will become that which we desire most in this life.

And that my friends, is GAIN.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 34:4)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

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sometimes it just can’t be spoken…

..it must be put to music.  Or in the words of another…

You say to us seek Your face
Our hearts reply, Your face we seek
And come teach us Lord, reveal Your ways
Anoint us for the greater things

We have gathered with one thirst and hunger
We’re here to drink of glory and wonder,
Here to cry out
Come and fill this place
Come and fill this place

And our single wish, our sole desire
To gaze upon Your beauty God
We will not rest, nor will we cease
Till with our eyes, Your face we see

We have gathered with one thirst and hunger
We’re here to drink of glory and wonder,
Here to cry out
Come and fill this place, this place
Come and fill this place, this place

We wait for You to come and show Your glory here today…

Alleluia come, Alleluia come, Alleluia come, Alleluia come!

God’s heart for the poor

The God of the poor.  God has a special place in his heart for those who are poor, not only that but the poor are part of WHO God actually is, and names he is called by:

  • Defender of the fatherless and widows (Deut. 10:18; Psalm 10:16-18; 40:17, 68:5; Jeremiah 22:16)
  • Protector of the poor (Psalm 12:5)
  • Rescuer of the poor (I Sam 2:8, Psalm 35:10, 72:4, 12-14, Isaiah 19:20, Jeremiah 20:13)
  • Provider of the poor (Psalm 68:10, 146:7, Isaiah 41:17)
  • Savior of the poor (Psalm 34:6, 109:31)
  • Refuge of the poor (Psalm 14:6, Isaiah 25:4).

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.  God honors humility and those who see their need for God.  Hunger- both physical and spiritual is the starting point for change.  Necessity.

Matthew 5:3 (ESV) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3 (MSG) “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more room for God and his rule.”

Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God = for those who are poor.

Matthew 5:6 (ESV) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Thirst and hunger makes me think of desperation.  If someone is so empty, they become desperate for anything that will satisfy.  If we are searching for righteousness, we will be satisfied.

I’ve thought about this on and off for the past 4 years or so, ever since my trip to India.  The poverty was astounding.  People dying on the sides of the road, and children begging on every corner you turn around.  It’s almost more than you can even imagine, if you’ve never experienced it.  I’ve been reading “The Hole in Our Gospel” by World Vision President Richard Stearns, and it’s given me some more perspective.  Check out this link to more scripture concerning poverty, and what the Bible says about it.  Why is it that we seem to skim over these sections of scripture, instead of actually thinking about it?  Have we made poverty something that only exists third world countries?  Have we distanced ourselves from this, simply because we don’t see ourselves as “that rich” here in America?  Those of us who are “middle class” don’t see ourselves as wealthy?

More to come in future posts.  It becomes so easy for us as Americans to sit back, cross our arms and talk all day about poverty.  It’s sure easier to do that than sell all our belongings and give to the poor.  Talk is talk, and talk is cheap.  It’s faith in action that requires more.  A lot more.  Maybe everything we have.

 

“Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast”

Here are the beautiful words to one of Charles Wesley’s hymns, I don’t know the hymn, but the words are touching, and so rich.  I’ve been reading through a book for the past year or so, divided into 52 weeks with different Wesleyan meditations.  Each lesson includes a different hymn by Charles Wesley; this is one I recently read, then discovered again today, and was touched.

This is the book here, if you are interested, “A Life Shaping Prayer”.

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast;
let every soul be Jesu’s guest;
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bid all humankind.

Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
the invitation is to all:
Come, all the world; come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.

Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed,
Ye restless wanderers after rest,
Ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.

This is the time: no more delay!
This is the Lord’s accepted day;
Come thou, this moment, at his call,
And live for him who died for all!

prepare the way

Prepare the way for the LORD.
A voice.  In the wilderness.
Calling.  Shouting.
PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD!

 

I was reading in Isaiah 40 this morning, actually, I was reading at first in Luke 3, then refrenced back to Isaiah 40… the prophecy of John preaching in the wilderness.

John’s central message was preparation, but part of that preparation was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

The Season of Advent has finished, and we are now in the Season of Christmas.  The central theme of Advent is looking at Christ’s first coming, but looking forward to his second coming is also another theme that is often overlooked or missed.  This morning, I was struck with a question I hadn’t really thought about before…. what does it mean for US to prepare the way of the LORD?  For his second-coming?

Verse 5 in Isaiah 40 talks about the Glory of the LORD being revealed and says, “all people will see it together” in NIV, in another translation it says “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God”.  I still can’t help but think of the second-coming of Christ in this statement.  All people saw the salvation of God in the face of Jesus Christ, but when he comes again, we will ALL see with our own eyes what we’ve lived out in faith.  It also made me think of 1 Corinthians 13, the latter part of the chapter, verse 12,it says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known…”.

Soon we will see it all together.  The Glory of God.  Revealed.  The fulfillment of our faith and salvation in the face, body, and death of Jesus Christ, and in his return for us.  What do you think, what does it look like for us to help prepare the way for the LORD today?

I think Matthew 28:18-20 gives us just a small glimpse of our duty and role

Repentance, Forgiveness, Baptism… same message still today!