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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arrival of advent

The arrival of advent awaits us.  Beginning December 3, the church begins a season of expectation and waiting, culminating on Christmas Day as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A few friends of mine have put together a contemplative advent guide, which will be available for free.  Check back here later this coming week for a link to download.  This guide is meant to help you create some calm in the midst of this often busy season.  We hope it is a blessing and refreshment to your soul this season.

Check back here for a few of my original writing and poetry, as I’ll post on the day each one is read in the guide.

Peace to you this Christmas season.

Waiting

Psalm 130:5-6 ESV

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6 NET

I rely on the Lord,
I rely on him with my whole being;
I wait for his assuring word.
 I yearn for the Lord,
more than watchmen do for the morning,
yes, more than watchmen do for the morning.

This morning I was spending time reading this Psalm in a couple different translations.  I’ve thought a lot about waiting over the past year.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  In short, the Hebrew verb for wait also can be translated “to look” or “expect”…. also the word “linger.”

To linger in expectation of the Lord.  Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing.  Waiting means anticipating.  Looking.  Lingering.  There is an active sense to this word that sometimes seems so passive at first glance.

I love the NET, “I wait for his assuring word.”  Sometimes that’s all we need, right?  Just his assuring word.  His gentle guidance and leading.

“More than watchmen waiting for morning.”  Cities at the time the Psalmist writes this psalm were fortified by walls in order to keep those inside the city safe from outside forces.  Watchmen were responsible for watching through the night to ensure the safety of those residing within the city walls.  I could be reading into this, but I’m sure there was a sense of relief once the morning came, and the shift of the night watchmen came to an end.  There is something comforting about daylight, and having the advantage of seeing in daylight possible danger coming from a distance to a city.

Yet the psalmist longs for the Lord more than even these watchmen on duty at night longed for the first signs of daylight on the horizon.

There was an intense expectation for the Lord to move, act and deliver on his word.  The psalmist is sure of God’s action, yet without promise of the Lord’s timing in his waiting.

We all wait at different times and in different ways as we go through life.  Sometimes, we just wade through dry, desert seasons and expectantly wait for God’s presence and guiding word to come to us.  Other times, we wait through intense storms and difficulty.

Find encouragement today.  As you linger in expectation.  Waiting involves action to look, and expect his presence to show up.  So don’t give up hope.

Keep waiting.
Keep watching.
Keep lingering.

Holy Week 2013 Thoughts

This year as Easter approaches, I feel somewhat caught off-guard.  I no longer work in church ministry (for now), and it was strange during Christmas this year I wasn’t planning Easter dramas and music…

I have participated in a very self-revealing Lent this year that has exposed parts of my heart.  I  gave up all television and movie watching (apart from watching things with friends, and an occasional Sunday I watched a few shows).  Six weeks is a long time.  But in many ways it has gone by really quickly.  I’m still not quite ready for Easter.

There is much to be said about this significant week, you can read some of my posts from Holy Week 2012 for more devotional reads.  I was a little more dedicated last year.

As I slaved away this week writing a paper on the sacrificial system in Leviticus, there was a phrase that caught my attention: the wrath of God satisfied.  Of course this reminds me of In Christ Alone (what phrases DON’T remind me of a song?), but in this case it was in the context of Leviticus 16, The Day of Atonement.  Once a year, the High Priest made an offering for the corporate sins of the Israelite people.  This was to show: the constant daily sacrifices made by the people for their sins was not enough.  For a Holy God to continue to dwell among his people and for his wrath to not consume them, atonement had to be made.

God.  Dwelling in the camp with His people.

I still am blown away by this.

Anyway.  I started this post earlier this week, and now it’s Good Friday.  I’m saving more on Leviticus 16 for another post, but for now, for today, we rejoice in the brutal, humiliating death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  A sacrifice perfect and sufficient.  Unlike the Hebrew people needing to continually make sacrifices in Leviticus, this sacrifice satisfied the wrath of God.

Completely satisfied.

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I Breathe You In

The presence of the living God,
Satisfies the depths of my heart
All of me changed when you came,
Iʼm made free by Your glory and grace

I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me 
I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me

The brightness of Your loves pure light,
Pierces through the darkest of nights
Everything is possible now,
For God is here and God is good

You are good God, 
For You are good to me You are Good God, 
For You are good to me

When I donʼt understand Iʼll choose You
When I donʼt understand I will choose You God
When I donʼt understand I will choose to Love You God