Thoughts from August 2002

Aug 30, 2002 - as good as it gets?
back in the day, one of the greatest fears of my life was wondering if "this" was as good as it gets. by "this", i meant waking up each day, going to school, studying, eating, sleeping... just to wake up again the next day to go to school, study, eat, sleep... It terrorized me to imagine that that was all life consisted of. terrorized, absolutely terrorized! forseeing such meaningless, monotonous misery and such a boring, dreadful existence made my eyes grow bleary and life seem so awful and bleak. i was terrorized.

today, i am so grateful. so grateful -- that i know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the answer is no. oh so grateful! yes, "there's more to this life than living and dying, than trying to make it through another day, more to this life than what these eyes alone can see... that Jesus died to give us more to this life." Jesus died to give us more! "this" isn't as good as it gets. and so i better not be living as if it is.

Aug 28, 2002 - There are callings, convictions and assignments.
1. Everyone is called (Aug 20th Thought), but not everyone hears it.

2. Once you have heard the calling and are willing to be led by Him, He will confirm your call with convictions. He will do it many times and in many ways. Through the Word, through other people (books, missionaries, friends), through ministry experiences and through life experiences. Without a doubt, He will confirm your calling with convictions that you can hold onto once you are on the field. So that you know it was not just a "feeling" or just some random "thought", but really something He wanted.

3. When it is time for you to go, He will give you an assignment. A specific place, a specific people-group, a specific "organization"/team/focus/mission.

If you know you've been called, don't pursue (if you're a man) or don't allow yourself to be pursued (if you're a woman) by someone who does not hear the call. Assignment is a different story (that's negotiable). But calling is something you want to watch for. You will regret it if you know you are called and the other person does not.

I wanted to write down some people that God used to confirm my calling. These are the missionaries whom God used to help form my convictions. Every one of these books/tapes are EXCELLENT. I highly recommend them.

Bruce Olson: "Bruchko" -- this was the first missionary book I read. It is an amazing story.
Darlene Rose : I heard her testimony on a tape from Focus on the Family -- Amazing story!!!
Jim Elliot: "Shadow of the Almighty" (edited by Elisabeth Elliot) -- His writings, convictions and thoughts has molded much of my thinking.
Elisabeth Elliot : "Passion and Purity" -- This is a book on dating, but God used her to teach me about His sovereignty through this book (as well as others).
Hudson Taylor : "Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secrets" -- I learned what it means to really rely on God.
Isobel Kuhn : "By Searching", "In the Arena", "Second Mile People" -- She is my reference for how God can change even someone like me to be useable on the field.
Isaiah : Isaiah 6:1-8 -- An example of one who eagerly volunteered to go.

Aug 27, 2002 - feelings and choices
Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

i'm starting to realize that maybe the way i've been feeling lately has been a great lesson in God's scheme of things to teach me how to not let my feelings & emotions be my guide to life. sure, i might feel one way but my convictions and calling tell me otherwise, so therefore, i need to turn toward that "otherwise" direction even if i still feel that one way. meaning that i don't have to curve my feelings toward that other right direction in order to go in that direction. i can still choose to go in that direction. and hopefully, my feelings will eventually follow. just like the verse. whatever i put my treasure in (what will i choose? where will i choose to place my conscious ambitions and affections?), there my feelings (truly, my heart, my emotions, my feelings and my affections) will be.

perhaps what i'm saying here is not really novel. this logic is really rather intuitive, but i think i've never actually done things that way. it's always been that i'd pray and offer up my "wrong" feelings (wrong timing, wrong person, wrong desires, wrong dreams, etc) in order to get to a point where my feelings would go in the direction that i'm supposed to, and then I would feel at peace to plow on in walking in the "right" way. but maybe sometimes, your feelings just won't ever be obedient no matter how much you pray & offer it up, and you just must go in the right direction first, and it's in the actual proceeding in the proper direction that the feelings will ever follow.

what do you think? anybody have any idea what i'm talking about? :)

Aug 24, 2002 - tired
Yesterday was a rough day for me. I felt attacked in every way. And very hurt. I ended up praying:

What I need is to know what You have called me to,
not what others want me to do.

Lord, I want to love You only,
offer my life to You only,
plan my life around You only.

I read these verses this morning, "You still the hunger of those You cherish...and I - in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing Your likeness." (Ps 17:14-15)

"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters." (Ps 18:16)

"...those who hope in the Lord WILL renew their strength." (Is 40:31)

"...Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." (Is 49:23)

The only way that we will never be disappointed is if we hope in the Lord. Don't hope in anything else. Not any dreams (not even of missions), not any ambition, not any skill or strength, nor any money/power/wealth. Put your hope in the Lord.

Aug 23, 2002 - safe
I heard this quote the other day:

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."

-- Billy, Age 4.

This means... they won't abuse you (who you are, your reputation, etc) and they will never use your name as a curse word.

Is God's Name safe in our mouths?

Aug 22, 2002 - Guard your heart
If you are thinking about relationships: Here is some really good counsel that I got from Larry Bauer, my spiritual dad, awhile back. I thought you'all would enjoy it. (Note: this advice is from a father to a daughter, so some of it may be the opposite if you are a guy reading this.)

"My advice would be to guard your heart and enjoy the counsel of the Spirit of Truth. Keep the leading of the Spirit ahead of your emotions. If emotions jump out ahead of God's leading, the reigns have to be pulled on the bridle so the bite hurts the mouth in order to force a change in direction. Ps. 32:8-10 paints this picture well.

"How do you guard your heart? Here are a couple of my thoughts as a Dad:
1. Keep looking to Christ for an approving nod or a warning glance.
2. Keep your heart committed to doing what you know to be God's will in relationships. Eph. 4:25 directs us not to speak falsely but to speak truthfully. We are not to seek to manipulate and control but to trust God to give a life partner.
3. Keep the values Christ has placed in your heart as a lens to look at a man. Like a diamond is placed in a setting, your life partner will have to have the values which will place on display the beauty of the values Christ has placed in you.
4. Keep your ears open to a word to "go forward," "slow down," "wait," "stop," "forget it," or "full speed ahead."

"One factor in God's leading is a "responding" one for you. The man will have to have God's leading to approach you to develop a relationship. As he leads or doesn't lead in the relationship, always take it back to Christ to see how He wants you to respond to the initiatives he takes or doesn't take. The man needs to be able to define and lead in a specific way, so the woman can determine if God is calling her to respect and support the man in the way the man's leading. I'll reverse what God told me and apply them for your role as a helpmate.

"When you meet your future husband whom Christ wants you to help, you can ask these 3 questions:
1. Is his walk with Christ more alive because of your presence in his life? If not, you cannot be a helpmate.
2. Is his ability to fulfill God's revealed will for his life more assured because of your supporting him? If not, you cannot be a helpmate.
3. Does his delight to have you as his companion for a lifetime fill you will a sense of great value? If not, you will not enjoy a lifetime of helping him.

"These are thoughts directed toward marriage...apply these thoughts in the context of a healthy interaction. Keep the Romantic under the reigns of the Spirit's gentle tugs. He will keep his eye upon you and guide you into the relationship He delights for you. Settle for nothing less!"

Aug 21, 2002 - authenticity and integrity
Two of the greatest defining driving-forces of my life are authenticity and integrity.

God calls us to be authentic. 1 Cor 12:7 says that God's lessons to us are for the common good (not just for us to hoard to ourselves), i.e. they are to be shared with others so that everyone could be encouraged and edified, and 2 Cor 12:9-10 - that we need to boast about our weaknesses (let people know how we are flawed!) so that others can really see that if any good comes out of us, it's really God and not "us". These two verses have established quite a conviction in my heart that drives me to go completely contrary to my reserved nature and be really honest, often revealing the nakedness of myself to others in ways that shockingly astonish both me and others.

God also calls us to live lives of integrity. Being someone who has integrity is different than simply being someone who does not sin. It is going the extra mile in what the Bible teaches us as to "live above reproach" and to be pure and blameless (blameless meaning that we do not do anything that would leave us "open" to blame & blame). The Bible also tells us that Jesus was a man of integrity. (Mrk 12:14) He was not swayed by men, but He stuck to living and acting according to God's Word. We also know He was a man of integrity because people described Him as having "done everything well" (Mrk 7:37). As His disciples, we must follow in these footsteps. Psalm 41:12 reminds us God delights in those who have integrity. And Prov 11:22 is a guiding verse on the importance of using discretion in choices and decisions. I so love this idea of integrity - to live so much above reproach that my life is a witness which furthers rather than hinders the fame of Jesus. It is this conviction about living with integrity that gives balance to my convictions about authenticity. It helps me to use caution and discretion as to how much I share and to who and in which circumstances I share...

because ultimately, in being truly authentic and in striving to live with integrity, I am driven by a deeper desire... and that is to make Jesus famous. And to this end, I will do just about anything for. Anything! Even things that are not natural to myself.

Aug 20, 2002 - Everyone is Called.
I believe that everyone is "called" -- called to preach the gospel, called to give up everything to follow Jesus (not figuratively but LITERALLY), called to take up their cross daily -- daily, meaning take risks at the peril of death daily for the sake of proclaiming the gospel. Everyone is called. The Great Commission isn't only for the few. It's a call for everyone.

When Isaiah received the call in Isaiah 6, God was not asking him, specifically. God was just asking for volunteers. "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" But the key is that Isaiah was hanging out in God's presence. He was in God's presence, and he was willing to hear, and so he heard the call. And when he heard the call, he volunteered himself. "Here am I. Send me!" If you truly spend time in God's presence with a willingness to hear God command you to do whatever and a willingness to obey, you WILL hear the call. Because the call is for everyone. And if you are in His presence, you won't be able to help but to answer, to respond, to volunteer yourself! He's just so captivating, you won't be able to resist.

Our selfishness and self-sins (self-reliancy, self-sufficiency, etc.) really hinders us from hearing God. If we are so stuck on ourselves, we won't be able to see Him or hear Him. That's how so many go through Tozer's book ("The Pursuit of God") and never actually press on into God's presence beneath the veil. All the baggage and worries about the self cause a blockage (a veil over our own eyes) which prevent us from entering God's presence truly and delighting in Him there. If we never get there, we will never hear the call.

We are all so very selfish and self-centered. There's this universal digging of our heels into the sand and not letting God really take us anywhere. We are afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to be honest, afraid of what we'd find if we really let God. Unfortunately for us, as we dig our heels in the sand, we are delayed and maybe permanently prevented from having the very best things God has to offer us. Honesty leads to intimacy. Intimacy with God is an incredible thing. It supercedes any pain or embarrassment of what awful wretchedness in us that might be exposed if we are willing to truly let God take over our lives, our hearts, our dreams, our thoughts. Strangely, we forget also in this digging of our heels that God already knows all these things and loves us unrelentingly still...

But it isn't that we are simply afraid that God will condemn us that prevents us from being vulnerable and "letting God." We understand His grace and Christ's work of atonement. What we are really afraid of is the pain of facing all those things. If only we could realize that it is far more painful to not deal with our wretched sinful self and insecurities NOW and saving it for later. Because it will continue to plague us - popping up in our lives to paralyze us when we least want and expect it -- and keeps us from truly growing up in Him. We will not go deeper with Him, not understand more of the wonderful complexity of who He is, not become more holy, mature or stronger in our faith, not hear those sweet whispers from Him that He reserves only for those who have surrendered their hearts completely to Him... And we will not ever hear the Call.

The call is our destiny. What happens to those who never hear the call and so never answer it? What happens to those who never fulfill their destiny? They are NEVER satisfied. They constantly struggle with mediocrity and apathy and dabbling in the world's ways. And they're unhappy, and they bicker, and church politics & family drama & friendship fallouts becomes even more sticky. But those who answer the call eat better, sleep better, live better -- even if they are in far worse environmental conditions and have less. How many missionaries have told me that they never ate, slept and lived better, more satisfied and woke up with as much purpose as they did while they were overseas? Truly, I believe that everyone is called.

The question is... have you spent long enough in His presence -- with a willingness to really hear His heartbeat and passion -- to hear the call? And if you've heard the call, are you obeying? That is the question I ask myself today...

Aug 19, 2002 - better vs. best
As a comment on what I wrote yesterday, Alvin wrote to me, "hmm...could I challenge a thought here...He will let you miss out on the good only because he wants to give you the BEST. (something that is already good). He doesn't want us to settle on the better, but wants us to get the best."

My response to him, "Yes, that's what i mean. That's what I meant when I referred to the "ultimate good." God wants to give us the best! ...but when I wrote that, i was contrasting "good" vs. something-better-than-good, so of course i said "better" as opposed to "best" - but i suppose i should've just written "best," eh? But i often rant about God being "Better and Best"...and that God wants to give us "better and best." --- which means that "God is better than all things, in fact, He is the BEST thing." and "God wants to give us better things than we ask for, in fact, He wants to give us the BEST thing." "

This has been my theme of the year. That God IS Better & Best. :)

Hope that clarifies for everyone who's reading. Thanks for reading, by the way. :)

P.S. Check out Alvin's webpage... I particularly liked his "Life Thoughts".

Aug 16, 2002 - been rejected
i have been rejected by guys a lot in my life. i've had one boyfriend total. and as far as i know, that was the only boy that has ever "liked" me. and that was a very short 3-week relationship. i've had many, many crushes (i would venture to guess at least 100). but none of them came to fruition. but i guess, i've really only had 3 or 4 major crushes in my life. and one of them lasted for 4 years. it was not reciprocated, but boy was i attached. in high school, i tried asking many guys to dances, but was mostly turned down. my attempts to please and to captivate were fruitless, mostly...

the other day i realized that i never really reconciled all this rejection. i thought it was a good idea to do so - just in case it was holding me in bondage. hrmm...what did i need to do?, i wondered. am i to agonize over the unchangeable past? no, fortunately, not. God and I have already worked out my worth, significance, "beauty" -- i have all these things in Him. so i didn't have to agonize over any insecurities. BUT God did want me to understand something:

He has been watching me this whole time. All my life. He didn't start doing it the day I acknowledged Him. No, He's been watching me my whole life. If any of those obsessions had been reciprocated, and I had entered into a long-term relationship with any of those guys, it would've meant trouble. Trouble that I would always regret. Not only so, but it would've delayed my knowing Him. My meeting Him. My falling in love with the One who was already in Love with me. It was like He put a shield over me my whole life, a stamp of His love - that I've belonged to Him from the very beginning. No other could touch that or see beyond the shield. My Lord has something special planned...

Perhaps you think, "Mary Ann, that's nice. But aren't you just saying that to make yourself feel better?" I would say, "no." I think it's a matter of seeing life through His Master-Planner eyes. Haven't you ever heard of Romans 8:28? Romans 8:32? Psalm 84:11? I believe He is a good God, and that even when I don't get what I think I want, it doesn't mean that I am missing out on something good. Or maybe it does mean I'm missing out on something "good." But He's letting me miss out on the good only because He doesn't want me to miss out on something BETTER. I believe, I believe, I believe that God desires to give us the ultimate good (July 18th thought).

He makes me stand in utter awe.

Aug 15, 2002 - in pursuit of nonpursuit
girls should be in pursuit of nonpursuit. and guys should be in pursuit. and yet it's funny how girls are so easily tempted to pursue, while guys are so easily tempted to hedge in pursuing. lack of trust in God causes both of these weaknesses to reign in the sexes. we need to trust God more!!!

p.s. i was really encouraged by reading Daniel Lowe's blog today and all he had to say about missions to China.

Aug 14, 2002 - If I never get married...
If I never get married, it does not mean that God has withheld something good from me. I reject that idea because of Psalm 84:11. I reject this idea that the world espouses - as if to say that I have no value because I have no "partner for life." It's not worth it to me to have just any "partner." I refuse to settle for being the helpmate to any man who does not know anything about being a true disciple of Christ. A man who is unwilling and who never thought about what Jesus literally meant when He spoke of giving up everything to follow Him (Mark 8:34-38, Mark 10:21, 29-30, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 14:25-33, etc). A man who is unwilling to or has never even considered suffering (as a privilege) for the Name of Jesus. Phil 1:29!! That's all the Bible talks about -- suffering for Christ as a privilege. I will not settle. My worth is not in whether or not a man "chooses" me or not. Jesus, Lord of Heaven & Earth, who could've "chosen" a bunch of anybodies, chose me. He chose me. And I will be His forever. I am significant because He loves me. If I never get married, God has not withheld anything good from me. In fact, He has given me the best thing. All of Himself.

Aug 13, 2002 - being used
Luke 23:26, "As they led Him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus."

This verse is so striking of something I've been learning. What a surprise for Simon of Cyrene. He was just coming in from the country, minding his own business, probably imagining the peace & quiet of his home, his wife, his bed, and having rest. He wasn't thinking anything really. And all of a sudden, he was "seized" -- forced to carry Jesus' cross. Interesting isn't it? You never know when God will use you. It's not always at Bible studies when you've prepared it all nicely. Nope. It could be at any time when you least expect it. It could be in those moments where you've failed Him miserably or through circumstances where you struggled and doubted straight through, where you were only clinging on to God by a very bare thread but doubting the rest of the way. And yet He will use you and the situation to reveal Himself, to glorify Himself. Such is the way with God.

I say this because I have been realizing that God using me for Himself - as an instrument to bring glory to Him - is not a "right" that must happen. Whether or not He chooses to "use" me is His divine prerogative. It's up to Him. And when He chooses to make me useful, it is a privilege for me. Yes, He wants to use me. But it is not my deserved "right." It is a blessed privilege...

Aug 10, 2002 - a delayed poem
I started this on July 16, 2002. I found it just now and finished it today. The rhyme scheme isn't very good. It's very forced, I know! I apologize. But here it is anyway:

Today's the last day I'm 22,
what an amazing year that I've been through.
How the Lord has set me free,
from bondage that'd been holding me.
It's like He's set my heart to flight,
by giving me true clarity of sight.

Life comes down to just a choice;
what will I do when I hear His voice?
-- not just in obeying things that are sane,
but will I deal with what gives me pain?
with issues of the past that come back to haunt,
reminders of things I'd not want to flaunt;
the things that I thought were totally, long gone,
but have kept me in bondage, on and on;
fears, insecurities, sins, weaknesses galore,
that I wanted to sweep 'neath the rug of the floor.

The best thing I learned is to face all these things,
to press into the pain, no matter the sting.
To discover the lies that continue the hurts,
to find out the whys that make me a flirt.
What are falsities I believe are true,
that make me do what I don't wanna do?
Why don't I believe that I can be forgiven?
Why am I so works-based, driven?
Why do I still carry so much shame?
Why do I steal God's glory & seek my fame?

Once I found those lies at last,
it set me free from my wretched past;
because I confessed them to the Son,
and renounced it all to everyone.

Oh, what a year of freedom found,
His grace is clear, His love abounds!
Praise be to the King of kings,
Savior, Redeemer, Lord of all things!

Aug 5, 2002 - confession & shame
There is something about confession to another. James 5:16 at work. It is amazing. It really sets us free! It takes faith to believe that God has really forgiven us in order for us to be willing to confess. But when we confess, we are free.

If we fear anything in this world, then we are "trapped" (opposite of "free"). If we fear God, alone, and nothing else, then we are free. O Lord, I pray that I might always be free.

(The following are thoughts from 8/1/02 about Shame.)
As long as we still feel shame, there's this fullness of redemption and freedom that we will never understand. It's because we will never feel "good enough." We will always doubt our worthiness. We will always doubt whether or not God's promises are really ours; we won't be able to claim them. Why is that? Probably because if we can't renounce them (announce abandonment of the sins/past), we are still believing some kind of lie that this particular sin isn't forgivable, that Christ's blood "can't" cover this particular offense -- we are not acting out of faith, we are distrusting God and distrusting the all-sufficiency of His work at the Cross. What a dastardly sin to say to God, "I don't believe what you did was good enough!" It's almost like questioning Him, "You don't know what you're doing!" As awful as these words seem, words that we wouldn't really say, this is what we ARE saying when we do not believe that He can forgive some sin in our life -- which is what we are believing when we still feel shame about our past --- when we feel so much shame that we can't admit it to others even if it is beneficial to them.

If we don't think that this Ultimate Promise from God (the promise of redemption and forgiveness) is claimable by us, then how will we be able to claim any of His other promises? I see how quickly unbelief of being able to receive His forgiveness and cleansing leads to, "Oh, I am not good enough to receive that promise." "Oh, there's no way that He would love a wretch like me." And the doubts begin to assail.

But why is it so hard for me to share about past offenses? It is because I still feel shame. I still really care about what others think of me. But who am I - and what am I trying to prove?

I am a sinner. This is not a secret. Am I still seeking to retain admiration, respect and praise? What-for? There is something so much more utterly useful about me if I will forget about "self", dive in, confess, acknowledge, announce & renounce my past. It's not even that big of a deal. Oh, the freedoms we might have in Christ if only we're willing to step out into it and embrace it!

Psalm 34:5 again, "Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." I just need to look to Him, to fix my gaze on Him - not worry about any others - and my face will be radiant -- there will be no shame for me.

He has changed my name,
there is no more room for shame.

Aug 2, 2002 - insecurities
I used to be so insecure. I would see a group of people - guys & girls - hanging out, talking & laughing, and I would just feel so inferior to them. I would never go up to them and talk to them. It wasn't even a consideration. They were so cool, too cool, out of my range. Sometimes when I see young people (peers) hanging out like that now, my first-thoughts still land on that. But it quickly shifts to the permanent reality. The reality that they need Jesus. That as cool and happy as they might seem, on their insides their hearts are aching. They are wondering if they really have to always keep this up in order to not be lonely. They are wondering if these people would really care about them if they knew their true self. They fear that their true self is too ugly to be shown. They feel like they don't really fit in, that they are the only odd one out. All the while, every other person feels exactly the same way. Every other person feels the same fears, insecurities, emptiness, aches and longings. But they don't know that. So they feel even more alone on their insides. They keep pretending, but they feel so alone. There is a brokenness in there, a heartache, a hollowness that I can feel myself when I look into their eyes and see the depths of their hearts. This is how they feel and I can feel it with them, and it makes my heart ache. It pains me so terribly to know that that is how they truly feel. I want to tell them about this Savior I know who will fill every heartache and longing, who knows their true self and accepts them, loves them, wants them. He can satisfy them and fulfill them, and they don't have to do one single thing -- except accept His love. And so my heart aches as I think of this reality that they are missing out on...

Aug 1, 2002 - out of the comfort zone
Many months ago, I saw an old high school friend at the BML (library). She wasn't walking with Jesus at that time. I should've said hi to her, but i was scared to (I so often lack the confidence to approach people); in fact, i purposely avoided her. But because I walked away like that, God rebuked me. What was I doing?!! The sting of the remonstrance from the Lord made me know that I would "never" do that again. A few months later, I saw her again at the Geisel Library. This was my second chance. You bet I went and talked to her. I pulled up a chair next to her and sat down & talked to her. I remember the incident very distinctly b/c it was God's gracious second chance to me. (I thought I would never see her again after that first incident and I regretted it so terribly.) Anyway, we just chatted -- I didn't say anything special to her (although I invited her to Navs)...

Well, do you know what she told me last night? She said that she will never forget that. Because when I did that, it was like I was reaching out to her. She felt like I was reaching out to her! She said that I seemed so very content -- and that she could observe a difference in me from 8th grade (b/c of course, in 8th grade, she remembers that I talked about suicide ALL the time). Ha. It's interesting that I had walked away beating myself up b/c I wished I had shared about Christ more verbally/directly, and yet God still totally used that simple act of obedience. Isn't that amazing? Even then, I knew God was still pleased by my obedience, but her telling me all this affirmed for me again that it is good to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people. It may be "nothing" to me, but it could mean everything to someone else. :) (She is now walking with Jesus, by the way. Praise the Lord!)

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Copyright 2002, A Lil' Ladybug Production.
Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.