Thoughts from February 2003

February 20, 2003 - let me be different, Lord
during my lunch break, i observed a couple standing in line in front of me. i was jolted out of that dreamy i-want-to-have-a-relationship feeling once again by the strong question, "is that what you want?" that's not what i want if that's all that i get. in the last few days, i've lulled myself to think that what i really want is to have a boyfriend, get married, settle down in a nice house and have children. we'll just give money to missionaries and serve in the church and witness to our coworkers and never have to be uncomfortable again. yeah, comfort. but as i observed the couple, i realized that that was the lifestyle i left behind, the bleak, boring self-satisfying one that i rejected. i couldn't stand it if that's all there was to my life. "Let me be different, Lord," I prayed. Let me live for You and die for You. I want that adventure which You promised -- that adventure which (scarily enough, I know) includes pain. I want to live the full life which I was meant to have... I know that means I won't always feel comfortable, but at least it'll be interesting... :) What's that gonna look like? i have no idea.

Feb 19, 2003 - i can only imagine
the busy-ness of life can seem so absurd at times whenever i stand still at the point i'm at and turn around and look back at my life. these days i've been learning that when my eyes have been given the liberty to only look at the circumstances around me and the issues i need to work through and resolve, then a sort of distress takes over me; i am overwhelmed and undone. but when i look upward, things seem a little more manageable.

i've been struck by this song by mercyme for the last few days... here are the words:

I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face Is before me. I can only imagine. // {Chorus}: Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine. // I can only imagine when that day comes and I find myself standing in the Son. I can only imagine when all I will do is forever, forever worship You. I can only imagine.

The words seem to lift me up out of my microscopic, narrow view of life and reminds me - no, more than that, it DARES me to think - of the wonderful place we will ultimately be. A place so wonderful with Him, we can't even imagine it... even if we wanted to!! :) It's been helping with the emotional breakdown I've been experiencing these days from burnout.

Feb 18, 2003 - post-wcc: pressing questions
the question that keeps pressing on me is whether or not everyone is truly called to "go." and when i say "go", i don't mean simply to be a missionary in the workplace right here in the States, and I don't even mean going to one of the populated, industrial cities of another country in order to do tentmaking. i mean jungles and villages where the whole culture has NEVER heard the name of Jesus. Rom 15:20 - it was ALWAYS Paul's ambition to preach where Christ was not known. What does this mean? Are we lesser of Christians if we stay in the US, live a "posh" life, but live out Jesus here? Is it a cop-out to stay? Would we be missing out on "better"? Would we be "Jonah"? When we say "THAT (jungle-living) is good for 'them', but I can't do that," is that just us being cop-outs or is it actually true that God has made some people to do certain things and others to not? Would you be "able" if you just step out in faith and trusted God even if you feel like it's not "physically" possible? i don't want to go. and my reason is simply because it seems really uncomfortable to me. that doesn't seem like a good enough reason. everyone has a "reason" why they're not going. "not feeling called" sounds like a cop-out excuse to me -- because did you even give God a chance to call you? if everyone is like me, the answer is no. but these are the questions. the pressing questions. of which the answers will really determine my living.

February 13, 2003 - ripping God off
just because we do not know or believe in God, it doesn't mean that He doesn't exist. just because we don't exalt Him as the Ultimate, it doesn't mean that He isn't. when we worship Him, we are merely acknowledging what is already True about Him. and when we do not, we rip Him off and ourselves off of the praise and recognition that He deserves. so when we worship any other gods other than the Lord God, Creator of Heaven and earth, then we are misplacing the credit.

last night i realized that it would be like i created some really cool work of art, writing, music (or something) and it WAS really great, and everyone who saw it gave praise after praise after praise... but to someone else!! it would aggravate my heart... cuz hey, i was the one who created that work. but the praise & credit was going to someone else!! loving and worshipping something else more than God is sorta like that. it's ripping God off of the praise He deserves.

but i think idolatry is worse than that. it's like making a marriage covenant with someone and then going off with other men... and having sex with them all... coming back and professing that I love Him... but then the next day going off with another man again and again and again. ok, if you were the man married to me, how would you feel? and if i was married to a man who did that to me, how would i feel? i've made a marriage covenant with God, and yet i've run off with other men, inviting them inside of my heart and not withholding any part of myself, allowing them to have their way with me. that's idolatry. awful, grievous idolatry. whether it be with material things or friendships or prizing ANYthing over prizing God, it's idolatry and it grieves my God...

Lord God, please forgive me for not seeing or understanding how much I grieve you with my ceaseless idolatrous heart. Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

Feb 12, 2003 - good vs. better
"If you really want to know God (not just know ABOUT God), you need to step out in obedience and take a risk - and God WILL MEET YOU THERE." Larry Walker

in a recent email to a friend i wrote this: when we follow Jesus, we are definitely going to come to crossroads in our lives where we will have to decide between "good" and "better". it's not good and bad, but one choice is "good" while the other might be "better." i think of "good" as continuing to do what's comfortable, what i've been used to, what i know how to do -- and do well. "better" is something unknown & probably involves a step of faith.

she asked: i'm wondering is 'good' and 'better' as we idealists really define it?

my answer: i still hold to my position. 'good' is simply doing what IS good. it's doing what is comfortable. and it is exactly what i said it was - GOOD. it's good, and God is pleased with it. that's what "good" is. pleasing.

and 'better' is exactly what it connotates -- a greater degree of 'good'. and it's "that other option." that unknown that God is possibly leading you to. it's better - but oftentimes we miss that because we're satisfied with the good. and it's not bad to live life with "good"... because remember God is pleased with it. but sometimes there could've been better.

it seems to me that most of the time when we are standing in the crossroads where we can make such choices, it is ALWAYS subtle. it's not the big decisions of either i obey God or not. if we make one choice or the other, neither would be construed as disobedience to God.

for example: in september, i had two choices: stay at home & continue to live with my parents? or move out. the former was comfortable, it would mean not rocking the boat, it would mean living life as usual. the latter would be a faith step in every way - trusting God to take care of my parent's worries & fears, trusting God to provide for me. the reason it's a choice between good and better is because if i had stayed home, it would not have been BAD. it would've been business as usual for me. i wouldn't have known that i was missing out on certain things. i would've still been able to serve and to minister to college students (granted, in a more limited capacity) and everything. but... i chose better. i chose to step out in faith.

so whatever the choices you might be facing, i guess you'll have to decide what is "better" for you in that situation.

for me, as i've been wrestling over the choice between staying & going, i've realized that for myself, staying would still be "good." there'd be nothing wrong with staying. i am good at everything i am doing right now. work, ministry, friendships, church, (ok, family is another story). so i could keep on staying on and doing all this stuff, serving God in these similar capacities that i've been doing for 6 years and do well in it. but what if there's something different i could do? what if there are places for me to go and things for me to do which i have never done before, where i would HAVE to trust God desperately because i have no clue? i'd love to be challenged again, to feel the thrill of stepping out in faith. and for me, i know with certainty, that stepping out in faith is ALWAYS the better way. it's thrilling & terrifying at the same time... and ALWAYS, we get to see God in Power in ways we would've never known or experienced Him had we not taken that step of faith. so this makes me wonder.... could leaving behind all that i have always done (all that's comfortable) mean that i am embarking in something better? could it??? maybe. and that's kind of what i want to find out! the future unknown!! how exciting!!

she asked: why isn't your definition of 'good' possibly 'better'? (not necessarily because it takes "no faith"...i know of plenty who live the suburbia life with more spirituality than the missionaries i met in china) did God really define it the way we do?

I said: i think you're mixing up my definition of "good vs. better" with "going overseas vs. not going overseas." because that latter is a whole different story.

whether or not i think everyone should participate in God's passion and mandate to the nations by actually GOING to the nations, i'm not sure my stance on that yet. but i do think that everyone should participate, and that to me is the BEST choice for life-decisions. so to answer your question, the lesser choice is not necessarily "living in suburbia". the lesser choice is being a christian and not living boldly for Jesus. being a christian and not living BOLDLY for Jesus can be deemed as "good." it's all right. you can get by. God will bless you with nice stuff. but you've missed out on the greatest adventures and satisfaction that the God of the universe could've and would've bestowed upon you.

sometimes "staying" IS "stepping out in faith." it all depends.

she said: one thing they did last year at WCC that brought me a bit of puzzlement was that they put on a pedestal those that have left the country to serve Him. but just as many are serving Him even more faithfully here at home...doing what they're comfortable and know how to do. i.e. raise a family, bake cookies for hospitality....

I said: 'better' is always recklessly abandoning ourselves to God's mandate. always. wherever, whatever.

In another email to a friend I explained: when i say "comfortable" - i don't mean that "God doesn't want us to be happy" - i was talking about the status quo, the living by the default of cruising along in neutral and not NEEDING to trust God for anything -- simply because the idea of "trusting God" and stepping out in faith means that you will have to feel a little uncomfortable. for example, inviting nonChristians into your home... instead, you'd rather spend all hang-out times with other christians... i think you know what i mean.

What do you think?

Feb 11, 2003 - searching for treasures
i made an email address awhile back called searchingfortreasures@yahoo.com for my car-search. this morning i realized how fitting that name is for me. i think i have been on a treasure hunt my whole life. i searched high and wide to find treasures. through friends and memory-making and coins and scrapbooks and religions and relationships and novels and dreambooks of dreamhouses and dreamcars and dreamlovers... and I found that the most priceless Treasure is Jesus. and at that moment when i "found" Him, the search was over... but at the same time, the search had only just begun. Tozer says, "To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart." (The Pursuit of God, Ch 1) there are so many treasures that scale the ceiling, piled high - over the top - in Christ. the more i search His heart, the more i find unfathomable treasures. the search is different now - because i KNOW where to find the treasure, and i already have the Ultimate Treasure, and yet there still continues to be so much more treasures to be found and had and cherished and delighted in -- in Him!!

Jesus looked at him (the rich young ruler) and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said, "Go, sell everything you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me." (Mrk 10:21). There is some Treasure in Heaven that is worth much more than the things the rich young ruler could not give up. But Jesus knew that it was worth everything that man owned - and then some! I'm searching for that Treasure.

"Lord, You have my heart, and I will search for Yours. Jesus, take my life and lead me on. Lord, You have my heart, and I will search for Yours. Let me be to You a sacrifice."

a "sacrifice". that's a whole nother Thought.

(p.s. guess who prayed for really hard rain last night?) =)

Feb 6, 2003 - all I've dreamed of
Since I've always been a first class dreamer, I found this statement from today's "My Utmost for His Highest" really shocking, "Tell God you are ready to be offered, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be." You would laugh out loud at the impossible absurdity of all that I have ever dreamed God to be... You would think it'd be supremely impossible. Because I know all I have ever dreamed Him to be, and I laugh at the absurdity of such an enormous promise! But if Chambers is right... then for all I'd gain, it'd be worth it to give myself up to Him as an offering. Totally worth it.

Feb 4, 2003 - free to experience the most excellent
when we worship God, we are doing exactly what makes sense. He is worthy to be exalted to the highest place by us. it's not that our worshiping Him makes Him more excellent. it's that we are finally recognizing Him for His excellence - the excellence that He already is. it's a duh. and the most wonderful thing is that when we worship Him, we are also in the most excellent place that we could possibly be. when we worship Him, we are brought to a "self" that is greater than greatness. really. so for these two reasons, why would we not worship Him? and why would we not be compelled to recklessly abandon ourselves to the pursuit of bringing others into this most excellent place? (these thoughts are from Perspectives)

it's this reason that compels me to "go" and leave my comfortable environs despite all my fears. what i must give up pales in comparison to this worthy pursuit. obedience to Him would mean that more people could be ushered into His satisfying presence.

Mark 10:21b - we know this verse. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." But it's the 10:21a that has riveted my attention. "JESUS LOOKED AT HIM AND LOVED HIM." Jesus really saw the rich young ruler. He saw his heart, his character, his talents, his gifts, his weaknesses, his struggles. And He loved him. Jesus tells him to get rid of his idols because He loves him. He loves him, and He knows that the only way the rich young ruler would be free to experience the most excellent is by being free of the lesser gods and, instead, worshiping the King of kings alone. Forget about what Jesus tells us to give up! Think long and hard and deeply, instead, about what He wants to give us. Treasure in Heaven.

The incomprehensible wonders of His treasure compels me.

Feb 3, 2003 - fear role call
last week, i came to the decision that my theme for this year will be "faith, not fear." my vision for 2003 is "stepping out in faith." so i thought it would be good for me to check myself and do a sort of "fears role call" from time to time -- i.e. what am i afraid of now? what makes it "scary" for me to step out in faith?

today the fear of my parents disowning me has made its attendance -- raising its hand and clamoring, making its presence known. if i told my parents i was going to go overseas - ultimately to share the gospel - would they really disown me? maybe they wouldn't say that. but i know they'd no longer be pleased with me. deep down, in my heart of hearts, i long for my parents to be pleased with what i do. not just accept my decisions grudgingly with disappointment dripping all over -- but to rejoice at who i am, what i choose, what i dedicate my life to. i want them to be proud of me! it seems like a great agony to my heart to have them think of me as a waste. i've heard what they have said about others! ...

Luke 9:59, Jesus said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." I know that excuse. It's an excuse because that man's father is not dead yet. I've made the same excuse. "Lord, why don't we wait until my parents have passed away before I go, then there won't be any trouble." The irrationality of this thinking is derived from a false belief that I would "save" them (from grief) by being obedient to them and adhering to their desires for my life. But this is only a "false" salvation -- for it may ease their minds for this present age but what about the age to come?

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much...and in the age to come, eternal life." Mrk 10:29-30 There is something RIGHT about obeying God. He will take care of the cost of obedience for others closest to me and for myself... I need to just obey and not worry about all the consequences...

thoughts continued tomorrow. :)

Feb 1, 2003 - new year's
the smell of incense from the dining room table, the squeal of a child's delighted, "you're it!", and the sight of a myriad of colors and foods... means nothing else but that it is the Vietnamese New Years. the first smell is evidence of generation after generations of ceremonial prayers to ancestors for the new year. the second sound is evidence of my 8 or so little cousins. the third sight is evidence of a long morning of skewering beef, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions (in a very specific order, regulated by my sister for aesthetic purposes, i might add!!). all spells tradition.

i have long since ceased to receive "ly sy" (red envelopes which contain money for "good luck") since i am quite "old" these days. but this year was the first year that i actually gave the "ly sy" to my little cousins. and it occurred to me in those moments how much like the grace of God those red envelopes are. the reality is that none of my little cousins had done anything that would mean that they should receive a gift from me - nope!! -- and as i gave it to them, there is nothing i expect in return. it's just a free gift. i like that idea. :)