Thoughts from January 2003

Jan 31, 2003 - "I AM"
When God called Moses (Exodus 3), He said, "I am sending you..." Moses protests because he looks at himself (refer to today's My Utmost for His Highest entry). He replies doubtfully, "Who am I that I should go...?" When we only see ourselves and not the all-powerful God, that's when we deliberate and make excuses. That's when we are paralyzed and fearful. That's when we doubt and disobey.

God doesn't even answer Moses' question of who he is, He simply says, "I will be with You..." For all our lacks, God will be with us and will be sufficient to complete us and make us useable by Him.

Moses' next question - basically: Who are You? What's Your name? God answers, "I AM who I AM." He says that His name is "I AM." I've never unlocked the secret to this Name... but apparently, the word "YAHWEH", which we understand to mean LORD, is derived from the Hebrew word "HAYAH" -- which means "to be." Thus, the Lord "is." He exists. He's alive. (In contrast to the other "gods" who just "aren't.") And He's the One who made everything "be" - He put the "to be" in every creation, so that we "are" - we exist. Who better to go with you (me!) on a missionary journey than the One who created all things! The Creator of all things is all-powerful. That's a Truth I can certainly trust in -- yet, I probably have the most trouble doing.

Jan 29, 2003 - one option
We all only have one option, really. Either we believe God is good or we believe God is bad. When we are unwilling to trust Him, we are saying, "I don't believe you are good." And we are either saying, "I don't believe you know what is best for me (I know what is better, so give me ____ )" or we're saying, "I know you know what is best for me and it's in your power to give it to me but you won't give it to me because you're mean."

It seems that not trusting God with our lives really comes down to these unsaid beliefs. Either we're accusing Him of "not knowing" or accusing Him of being mean. These are both attacks on His character - His proven character. For He IS all-knowing, sovereign & omniscient as well as eternally, unconditionally loving, compassionate and merciful. Maybe just recognizing that in my not trusting Him, I'm really just attacking His character, it'll stop me from not trusting Him.

God is good. I am thoroughly convinced of that. Come what may, He will always continue to be good.

Jan 27, 2003 - memory verses
I have this stack of 60-some verses that I have memorized through the years, which I got a chance to review on Saturday morning. Going over the verses was like walking into a Reality that I had once thought was a dream. You see, most of the verses I memorize are of Promises and Truths that God has given me. God's promises sometimes are so extravagant that they seem like unfathomable dreams. And yet, as I went over these Promises He had given to me in the past, times and events of His fulfillment of these promises crashed into my line of sight (which I had forgotten!). I have so many stories of so much evidence of God holding true to His promises and being true to His Word. It was overwhelming. And I realized something. Once God gives you a promise, it's yours forever.

For example, these are two verses where I have seen Him prove true:
Josh 1:5, "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; never will I leave you nor forsake you."

Josh 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Having witnessed Him prove Himself to be True to His Word to me in the past, I know I can trust Him to continue to be true to His Word to me in the future (the "scary" future of the unknown). He never changes, His promises never change; these promises are mine forever...

and yours. I would like to counsel you to memorize verses. It will determine your steps of living when you most need it and when you least expect it, and it will help you set your feet in the Better Way. Josh 1:8.

Jan 26, 2003 - standing ovations
ever since a brother-friend, daniel lowe, said, "When you worship God, you stand because it's like you're giving him a standing ovation," i have not been able to sit when i worship God. unless the sitting included bowing and kneeling. but in general, when we worship God, what we are doing is declaring His worth ~ declaring how worthy and excellent He is. it is so very similar to when we watch a really great play in the theatre, and we think it's so excellent that we are compelled to stand in order to say with punctuation - "Wow, I am in awe. I am amazed!" When I am standing in the sanctuary to sing praises to God, I want to stand in order to say emphatically, "Wow, I am in awe of you, Oh Lord -- utterly amazed by your Beauty and Majesty..." To stay sitting seems to treat our great God with such irreverent commonality.

Jan 24, 2003 - willing to love
i am very cautious about loving. i am very guarded with my heart. before choosing to love, i weigh it out and measure - does it make sense? are the consequences worth it? i know i must do this because once i've chosen to love, there is no turning back. not really. i love with my whole heart. and once that choice has been made, rationalization takes second rung. of course, sometimes love is irrational. and sometimes it's good that it is...

i have spent the last few months deliberating and debating, weighing and rationalizing. does it make any sense at all for me to leave my comfortable environs and go to a place that is more uncomfortable in every way? does it make sense to leave my nice, cushy new office for a cold, unfamiliar classroom in china? my conclusion... no.

but somewhere in all the debating and the thinking, i hear one Voice that rises above the rest. one Constant that steadies on beyond the rest. one Love that is incomparably best. one Love that compels me to go despite the irrationality of it all. i've been hiding. plugging my ears. but now, i cannot but hear. in hearing... all I hear is His love. and all i know is that in his willingess to love me, i am willing too to love - not just Him - but all those whom He loves... and i am beginning to love those students whose faces i have not yet seen... "irrationally" ... yes, irrationally so like His irrational love toward me...

Jan 21, 2003 - dawdling
Gen 33-34 - Out of fear and deceit, Jacob chose to stay in Shechem. God had intended for him to go back to his father Isaac's dwellingplace, but he dawdled - probably because he did not trust Esau, which ultimately meant that he didn't trust God (to care for and protect him). The dawdling led to the sordid events of Gen 34. When we dawdle in fear, are unwilling to trust God enough to act on it, we end up putting ourselves in the way of temptation, outside of God's will, leaving ourselves open to "bad things." I'd like to not dawdle; I'd like to trust God. I'd very much like it if I was never outside of God's will. I don't want to take circuitous detours. But as much as my heart of hearts desires for His best, there is so much fear in me that is so similar to Jacob. It's not hard for me to understand his narrow suspicion. It's easy to distrust when we weigh out human nature using our own "natural reaction" as the measuring ruler for what others might do...

But as God's people, we are called to live according to a different worldview... we are called to cease from regarding people from a worldly point of view (2 Cor 5:16), we are to cease looking at circumstances from only the physical reality but to trust instead in the spiritual (real) reality. In other words, we need to make decisions in our lives in ways of trusting God & plunging in - and not dawdle!!

Jan 20, 2003 - not my past
i am one of those christians who has a "past." a past that seems to come back to haunt me from time to time. the consequences of my sinful past is the insistent hammering of that which i have seen, heard, thought, read, imagined, lived out. sometimes i feel as though i am incapacitated by such a past. i apologize with desperate contrition to my Lord. but that doesn't stop the accusatory voices or the hammering hauntings.

the words, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come!" (2 Cor 5:17) change matters though. yes, i am a new creation. that means that i'm an entirely different creation (person) than i was before. that means that "that past" is not MY past anymore. THAT IS NOT MY PAST. it does not belong to me. those were actions committed by a completely different being. by His blood, i have been changed. that means that i don't have to replay my past transgressions, i don't have to be grieved over them, feel ashamed by them or be hampered by them. i can live in the freedom of someone who has never committed those wrongs because Jesus has made me a whole new creation! the echoes of those sins don't have to reign in me. i am not enslaved to that past anymore. i can shut off the voices and live in purity and wholeness...!

Jan 16, 2003 - time and heart
it's not about how much "time" you are willing to give the Lord, it's about how much "heart."

this morning i spent nearly 45 minutes with Him, but i did not leave the time feeling like I had had a sweet encounter with Him. there have been days when i'd only spend 15 minutes with Him, and it would be so incredible that it was like the world stood still for hours and hours. so what was different about this morning?

i think it had a lot to do with the fact that i was not willing to be changed by Him and I was not honest. i was not willing to acknowledge honestly things i was struggling with, not willing to confess honestly about the sins i had committed (and continue to commit), and most of all, i was unwilling to invite the Cross to do its deadly work in me. i think sometimes when i am so afraid that God would convict me and make me change from my selfish ways to His Right Way -- when i'm so afraid -- i deter Him from actually speaking and doing anything. when i am so afraid of Him challenging and change me, i leave unchanged. if all this happens, then no intimacy can be gained. honesty always leads to intimacy. no honesty, no intimacy... no intimacy, no true Joy and no true Life. I don't need to give Him more of my time. I just need to give Him all of my heart.

Jan 15, 2003 - sarcasm
There are only two reasons why people are sarcastic: 1. to hint at something cruel that they really feel/think but are unwilling to say outrightly and 2. to be witty in the presence of others. We Christians say that it's okay to be sarcastic if it's just to be witty. But Webster defines sarcasm as "a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain." In other words, sarcasm is poking fun of someone (in an effort of purchasing the status of "wittiness") at the expense of another. If that's true, then dissing someone, mocking them and being sarcastic toward them is all the same thing -- all not a good idea. God tells us, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph 4:29). Sarcasm doesn't fit there. Even as a joke.

I've decided that I never want to be witty at the expense of another person. That could get really expensive. I could lose some friendships. I could intend a joke but inadvertently really hurt someone. I think that it's not worth it. Sarcasm is out.

Jan 14, 2003 - a good person
The account of Genesis seems to be very silent about Isaac. Only four significant events are mentioned about him: 1. He was almost sacrificed, 2. God made sure to give him the Promise, 3. he got married, 4. he fathered Jacob and Esau. Nowhere does it include that he called on the Name of the Lord (to worship). There is no record of any death-defying, God-obeying feats that he had done. It leaves us only to have to guess at what else happened in this man's life?

Did he know God like Abraham knew God? Did he love God? obey God? (I know he was meditating when he first met his wife Rebekah, and he also prayed that she could get pregnant twenty years later.) Did he remember that he was almost sacrificed on an altar? Did he know why? Did he know that he was a child of the Promise? Did he know that his birth was a miracle?

It seems to me that Isaac was probably a good person - a good person who did know God and tried to obey God whenever possible. But I wonder if there's no record of any further faith-adventures or exploits because there was none. He is best remembered for what almost happened to him (getting sacrificed).

I don't want to be the kind of person who passes through this life (almost silently) labelled merely as "a good person"... but never truly has a story to tell. The kind of person who has a story to tell is the one who follows God closely, and when there are moments when she hits a fork in the road and has to decide between "good" and "best" (even if "best" means harder), she would choose "best" ~ because that "best" means bringing glory to the Father. You see, the choice is not between "good" and "bad", it's between "good" and "best". The one who chooses best has the greatest stories to tell about God's power and faithfulness. I want to be that kind of person.

Jan 13, 2003 - lofty goal
"Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you..." (Ps 63:1) Earnestly, I seek You. Earnestly I want to know You fully...

What has arrested my attention these days is this panting (pursuing, chasing, wanting) after this glorious - lofty - goal of knowing Him fully. It is a worthy pursuit because while it is so seemingly unattainable, it is yet so very much so within my grasp. It is within my grasp because while I will never completely attain it here on earth, there is so much pleasure in the pursuit of it - so much satisfaction - that I can't help but want to keep pursuing. He is so satisfying and marvelous to my soul. It is just as the psalmist said, "My soul will be satisfied as with the riches of foods..." (Ps 63:5) So much so that these days, I would grapple after as much time as possible with Him in the mornings that I would willfully choose not to eat (which is so strange for me since I have always been ruled by the consistency of my stomach.) Mornings go by without a morsel in my mouth and yet my soul is so desperate for Him that whatever happens to my flesh is irrelevant to me. It's because deep within my soul, I know I can make it through the day without food in my stomach, but I will never make it without the God of my life filling all my insides with His Life.

Jan 12, 2003 - He came
John 1:10-11, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him."

I am a writer. I write stories. It takes a long time to write a story, and by the time I'm done, I grow very attached to these people that I created. I love them because I've spent so many days thinking about them that they have become real people to me with different characteristics, feelings and thoughts. I come to know more about them than I've written in the pages. In fact, there is a little bit of me in them. Yes, my characters are made in my image. In some small way, each one of them reflect a different aspect of who I am. (As complex as I try to make my characters, they can never be as complex as I am.) Because I created them and because they have parts of me weaved into their character, I love them.

It kinda gives you a glimpse of why God loves us -- His little creation.

Honestly, I would be quite devastated if I decided to jump into my story one day and they all went on their way busily, ignoring me and being completely aloof. What if they scoffed at me or kept me outside of their loop? I would feel really snubbed -- after all, I created them!! They should come up to me and say, "Wow, Mary Ann, thanks for creating us!" If they didn't, I would want to go up to them and pick them up at the scruff of their necks and shout, "Hey, don't you know who I am? I created you!!" I would be so hurt if they just ignored my words and spat in my face. And you know what I'd want to do? I'd jump out of my story and destroy my work. I'd get rid of those ingrates!!

But fortunately, I am not the Creator God. Because He came to that which was His own (His very own!!), and we did not receive Him. We spat in His face! He should've torn us all up. He should've destroyed us completely. I would've done so, wouldn't you? Such ingrates.

John 1:12, "YET to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." Wow. This verse comes RIGHT AFTER the one that says that we did not receive Him. We did not receive Him, and yet He still gave us this option -- the option that if we changed our minds and chose to receive Him, He would allow us to be His children -- children with the very special blessings of God!

Meditating on verses 10 and 11 really puts verse 12 into perspective. What a strangely wonderful God...

Jan 10, 2003 - daydreams
I caught myself daydreaming this morning. It's been a long time since I've done so. I used to be a compulsive daydreamer though. I daydreamed because all my life I thought of marriage and courtship in excessively ideal ways. I have played out far too many scripts on what I wanted the courtship process to look like (too many Jane Austen readings!). The root of all that was the core misconception that marriage could make for my happiness. I brainwashed myself with the books I read, movies I watched, songs I listened to, stories I wrote and poetry I recited. Always been such a romantic - seeing things through clouds, rose-colored glasses and a hue of pastel dreamy purple. Last April, I came to a point where I knew that I needed to crucify my ideals of romance, acknowledge that they were false and will not make for my happiness. (Marriage is not the ultimate happiness!!) Yet it was so hard - how to alter years and years of faulty thinking? I had clung to 19th century ideas of courtship for so long - yes, damsels in distress who are pursued and protected, buggies, lords & ladies, the City of Bath... and even a Knight-in-Shining-Armor concept. I knew I needed to be rid of hoping to be swept off my feet, having the door held for me, flowers bought and poetry written. God's idea of romance is NOT this. Not at all. Because such things are as hollow as those chocolate Easter bunnies - looks good on the outside, but hollow on the inside. No substance. No good.

So this is what I journaled on April 17, 2002 that helped me be set free from the harmful world of daydreams:

What I have been thinking about (longing for) is an earthly way to do romance. It's a worldly way for the man to win favors and the woman to gain significance. I do not need flowers and gifts to gain significance. Christ gives me my significance. All those things will not last (flowers die); and a man's flattering attention will fade. But say a man - having been married for 20 years - no longer pursues his wife with gifts. If she had gained her significance from that, then no wonder she gets upset that her husband has "stopped being romantic." But that is not Christ's way, and therefore that is not my way. My significance does not come from flattering attentions. So after 20 years of marriage, I cannot feel less of a person simply because I don't get that special attention. All that is meaningless anyway. All that really matters is special attention and recognition from Jesus - and that I already have.

Marriage is not a contract for me to be coddled - it is not a promise of being pampered nor of living perpetually on Cloud 9, nor of rose petals and cotton candy, nor of eternal focus on one another alone and getting all my needs met. It is - as in all things - a partnership to enjoy God together and glorify Him for forever. It is for Him, not "us." Amen.

Jan 9, 2003 - everyone's getting married
so i've finally hit that age where everyone around me is getting married or getting together with someone. it's kind of a neat stage to be in. the other night i was telling one of my best friends about another friend's engagement, and she said, "i'm happy for them... but it makes me feel lonely." i was thinking about her statement last night. do i feel lonely? do i wish i was married? dating? hrm. strangely enough, the answer for me last night was, "no." i'd like to be in a relationship. i'd like to get married one day. i know in my heart that i was made to be a helpmate. i feel that purpose within my inner cavities quite keenly. but these days, i hold on more tightly than i have ever before to the desperate desire to have God's best for my life. if this is not the best time for a relationship, then i really don't want to have one! i can't see beyond what's in front of me. but God does. He knows exactly what is best for me. and i want that "best" -- not the "best" that i can conjure up -- but the REAL best.

This morning I read Gen 21. Verses 1 & 2, "Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him." Who or what is at the central focus of these verses? Was it Abraham? Was it Isaac? Was it the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise? No. The center of God's focus is Sarah. God looks at Sarah. He sees Sarah. He knows what she has suffered all those years: the anguish, the ridicule, the feelings of being less-than-a-woman because she could not bear a child. And so He is gracious to Sarah. He gives her a child. Now, the child was set in this huge greater plan that reached farther beyond her heartache - but do you see? Even though God has huge, global plans and He orchestrates great things in order for everything to fit together, that does not mean that He overlooks our very real and personal heartache, needs and longings.

This is the God I know. He knows my desire to be a helpmate. He knows my desire to have a companion. And He has such great and wonderful ways to fill my need while fitting His glorious purposes at the same time that I can't help but want to wait for Him to accomplish it all - in His timing and His way.

P.S. Check out verse 6, "Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'" What did I tell you?(Jan 3) God desires to fill our lives with mirth!! =)

Jan 7, 2003 - this is all conjecture (Gen 19)
I think the real, compelling reason why God saved Lot and his daughters was because of Abraham (Gen 19:29). Lot doesn't seem to be a man who was very "sure" about God, I don't think. When he was urged to leave the city, "he hesitated" (v. 16), and afterwards, "he settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar" (v. 30). His wife also "looked back" (v. 26); his sons-in-law "thought he was joking" (v. 16). (I cite the wife and sons-in-law because I believe that's a reflection of what Lot believed about God, taught and lived out. As the family head, his ideology HAD to have rubbed off on them.)

I'm pretty sure he was afraid to stay in Zoar because he was afraid God would pour His wrath on Zoar also -- but the problem with this fear is that it came AFTER he begged the angels to let them stay in Zoar and they had consented. He really didn't have to be afraid (although I can see why he was; after all, all he knew was that he just saw his city burn down & his wife turn into salt) -- but he could've trusted God's messengers - after all, they had consented. But I think the problem was that he didn't have an intimate relationship with God. (The Genesis account doesn't record him ever calling on the Lord as Abraham had done.) Without a deep friendship with God, it's hard to know what's really going on (what God is doing). It's hard to trust Someone you're not really friends with. And so, Lot acted on his fears. He fled to the mountains. (Do you know what happened there??? Read the chapter!!)

I think the only way to avoid this kind of "fleeing" and running away is by knowing God. Paul knew God - that's why he stood his ground, did not run, was not afraid - even in the midst of hardship - 2 Tim 1:12. I, too, want to know God intimately like Paul did, so I know what's really going on (what God's up to), so that I don't just run & flee... (I guess what I'm talking about is a constant communion, a continual flow of conversation with Him.)

Jan 5, 2003 - a song in my head
I'll obey and serve you
I'll obey because I love you
I'll obey, my life is in your hands
For it's the way to prove my love
when the feelings go away
It'll cost me everything, but i'll obey.

I've changed the last line; the author actually wrote, "IF it costs me everything, i'll obey", but this is my rendition, because I know it will cost everything.

Jan 4, 2003 - will I make it as a missionary? (straight out of my journal)
I know that I do not have what it takes to be a missionary, but I know that the Lord will give me what it takes if He really wants to take me there. I recognize wholeheartedly that by myself and my own "talents" and merit, I would never be able to hack it. There's so much room for Him to be glorified - in all my weaknesses. I was not made to be a missionary - not physically - nor was I raised to be one. I was raised to get my masters degree in middle class suburbia. I don't want to stay so long that I can earn a "masters" in suburbia, but I can see it happening already...

I'm passing some of the "general requirements" - the accumulation of "stuff," the lustful eyes after pricey consumer goods (everything from a digital camera to a brand new car!), the desire to lead a project shockingly well at work in order to receive commendations (not to mention a secret wish to stay long enough to see the project finished and ensure that my name goes on the research findings publications - after all, it could be groundbreaking news!). Ah, my desires are so worldly! The longer I stay, the worse it will get - for the more attachments I will have made and the more difficult it will be to severe the ties and go and follow Him!

Spiritually, I think I could make it on the field. That's my strength - though even that, I find much faltering and wavering. But, in general, I could love just about any individual or group of individuals with souls created by God. I can easily walk alongside His people, put my arm around them and veer them toward Christ. People respond to advances of genuine, sincere and persistent love. And I can look into someone's eyes and just know simply if they're alive or dead or alive-but-dead; I can see their hearts and their struggles and have uncanny insight on knowing how to help them find Life and Hope and resolution and Peace. It's a gift from Him that allows me to read hearts - identify the core issue even before the person sees it, know the answer and respond to them in the way that benefits them the most. It's a gift, and I can use that anywhere I go.

But it's everything else that's my problem. I'm so prissy - such a suburbanite. I can't endure pain, heavy loads, cold, heat, dirt or anything that's "too extreme" in any direction that causes any measure of uncomfortability. What an awful missionary I will be! How ill-fitting am I? I am completely inflexible and unadaptable, slow to change, slow to adopt new ideas. Anything foreign to me needs to be reasoned out and somehow reconciled in my mind before I am willing to accept and embrace it wholeheartedly. I am afraid of bugs and disease and filth and smelly things. I'm afraid of illness... and rejection (being with people who don't want me to love them), of persecution, torture and being misunderstood. I'm afraid of being poor and going hungry and making my parents feel as if I have abandoned them...

but more than all these fears, there is one fear - the greatest fear - that surpasses them all. It is the fear of not living out my life for Christ. It's the fear of not being a true disciple. It's the fear of going my own way rather than His and maybe not necessarily ending in "destruction" but not necessarily ending in the greatest Joy either. It's the fear of missing out on God's Best for me (and therefore indirectly, for others as well), the fear of not "going on" in Christ, the fear of not being at the center of God's will. Yes, the greatest fear that surpasses them all would be the fear of the consequences that would come from my conscious or unconscious willful disobedience to the desires of my God and King.

And so I plow on and plunge in, willing to crucify my flesh - all those dumb excuses and complaints and fears - I crucify them, pick up my cross and follow Him - even to the depths of the unknown... which is really only "unknown" to me, but not to Him... because no matter how awful "unknown" may seem, it would not be as awful as having the "greatest fear" lived out in my life.

Lord, help me to not miss out on your best for me by helping me not be willful, defiant and disobedient. I want your Best, Lord, and I know the only way to receive the best from you is by being obedient to you. Help me be willing. And even more so, help me take action and obey.

Jan 3, 2003 - mirth
i was praying last nite and got a word from Him. it was "mirth". funny word, isn't it. but it was the dawning realization on me that Jesus desires for us to have mirth in our lives... to fill us with mirth.

webster defines mirth as: gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter.

isn't that wonderful?

i think i've reached "mirth" today because yesterday i finally agreed with God to carry my cross and follow Him. ah, therein lies the secret to mirth.

January 1, 2003 - beginning again
first day of a new year. fresh start. clean slate. my searching heart searches His searching heart. my soul gazes longingly into the eyes of a Lover who never ceases to woo me. pursue me. nor let me be. he wants to hold me to make me more beautiful than i could ever be. shining radiantly. delicately. a pure bride bringing praises to Him at His side. the perfect match. the perfect fit. such will be two hearts that are knit - together for all timeless eternity. forever.

Lord Jesus, I offer up to You all that I am, all that I have, all that I do, and all that I shall ever suffer, to be Yours today and Yours forever. Amen.

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Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.