Thoughts from October 2002

Oct 31, 2002 - vietnamese language lesson
there are five tones in vietnamese. plus an English vowel like "o" can also possibly have 3 or 4 different sounds to it. so it really makes a difference where you put the tonal accent and what particular vowel you are using.

i learned awhile back that with the word "toi", when you change one little accent on the "o", you've got an entirely different word. the first word means "I" -- a word you use to refer to yourself. if you change the accent, the word becomes "dark" or "night." if you change it again, the word becomes "offense" or "guilt". and if you change it one last time, the word describes someone who is a bad, bad, lost, wretched person.

did you catch that? I = dark = guilt = lost.

it is an unforgettable description of the culture from whence i have come. and prods my heart that it is thence that i should go. if He will send me.

Oct 30, 2002 - what is fun?
i don't know how to have fun. other people seem to do it VERY well. in fact, it comes natural to them. they don't even have to THINK about it. but for me, i can't. i can't seem to separate my flesh from my heart/thoughts. i can't participate in some non-meaningful, non-deep activity that others deem as fun without longing to go deeper. i can't even sit around for ONE hour (while others can for hours on end) chattering idly about nothing and laughing about everything. i don't enjoying dancing, even, because it feels so meaningless to my heart and mind. when i join in with people in doing these things, i feel like my shell goes on ahead of me, acting in conformity with what everyone else is doing, but the rest of me - the essence of who i am - is left somewhere behind like a lead weight. "wait! come back!" it exclaims. "this is meaningless." somehow, i can't convince myself that all those activities are fun. so what is "fun" anyway?

Oct 28, 2002 - how has your life changed since a year ago?
that was the big question of saturday night. at first i could only think of phyical changes (i.e. moving out), but the more i thought, the more i realized how much has changed inside me...!

things have changed in my heart tremendously in the last year. it kinda feels like i am a different mary ann nguyen than last year. the 4' 11 3/4 " vietnamese wannabechinese girl of last year brings to mind an image of a white-knuckled grip (you know, a hand that is griping around something so tightly that it causes the knuckle to turn bone-white!), but that girl is no more. between the death of all my dreams to the purification of a lifetime of dross and the being set free from age-old sin, guilt, shame & faulty thinking, someone new and different has replaced the old me.

i feel different. my heart seems to soar on the inside because i've stopped holding on tightly to my own agenda, will and desires. i feel like God finally has a "surrendered life" in me. not perfectly, of course, but more so than one year ago... one would presume that the "surrendered" life is a sad lot, but in actuality, there is much freedom to the surrendered life...

keys to the surrendered life: be convinced that God is better and best. choose Him - as the better and best option, always. be willing to press into the pain. take Jesus at His Word; He meant it literally. be "at home with Jesus" and alone in the Garden with the Father. make the right "secret choices." do not conform to the pattern of this world (good or bad). live in light of the Permanent reality, not the Physical reality. refuse the life of mediocrity.

that pretty much sums it up. (all these topics i have covered in the last few months of this Thought Page.) ;)

Oct 25, 2002 - strangely satisfied
psalm 103:5 says that the Lord, "satisfies your desires with good things." i think that is one of the most amazing and repeated themes throughout the Bible. and it's so true!

yesterday i said that it's not about "those age-old desires I've had", i did not mean to say that he sweeps our hunger and longing under the rug and never addresses them. i meant to say that He satisfies our desires with Himself -- which is not what we expect (we expect boyfriend, job, money, etc) -- but HE DOES SATISFY US!!!

I don't know what it is. I don't have any of the things I dreamed of when I was a kid, but I don't want any of them. I am strangely satisfied with Jesus alone.

Oct 24, 2002 - the Prize
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be give to you as well." (Mt 6:33) "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Ps 37:4)

I confess, I have looked at these verses before and thought, "Okay, so if I delight myself in God and if I seek Him first, THEN I will get what I want!" THEN I will get that boyfriend... that ultimate relationship...

It's almost like trying to manipulate God's promises to fit my own agenda.

Oh, I must've been the queen of manipulation at one point in my life.

But that is not God's point at all. His exhortation to seek Him first and delight in Him isn't about what else He will give me nor is it about those age-old desires that I've had. The greatest Gift that He wants to give me is Himself. Jesus, that's the ultimate relationship, the ultimate happiness. I don't want to miss Jesus because I am of the mindset that the ultimate goal of seeking Him first is to get material/physical/tangible gifts. Jesus is the end-goal, Jesus is the prize, Jesus is the treasure, Jesus is my very great reward...

Hallelujah! I will get exactly what my heart has always longed for!! It's guaranteed. (2 Cor 1:20.)


Oct 23, 2002 - guilty as charged
sometimes silence can mean sinning.

i read Gen this morning - the part when Joseph's brothers throw him into the cistern and then sell him off as a slave. God made me realize that although not ALL the brothers made the suggestion or did the throwing or made the deal with the Ishmaelites, they were all there, none of them contested, so in essence, they consented... and so they were all guilty of the crime.

Lev 19:17, "Rebuke your neighbor frankly so that you will not share in his guilt." So the Bible says that if we let things go on, then we are sharing in the GUILT. We are guilty!

It's like the case of the pharisees - silence was interpreted as assent! (Jn 7:26)

oh Lord, help me not to be so silent & passive that it would be interpreted as assent and so i too share in the guilt. help me not to join in on the slander, the gossip, the meanness, the prejudices, etc.

Oct 22, 2002 - compelled by Love
Last night God compelled me to have compassion on a homeless man. Maybe it was because of all the talk this summer about the rich young ruler. Maybe it was the understanding that I am so very "rich" compared to the majority of the world. Maybe it was because I had read my friend's journal earlier that day about the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Maybe it was because I had just been crying out desperately to the Lord for forgiveness (oh the wretchedness of my sinful self, how could He love someone like me?). Maybe because I understood for the first time that God's love for this man is no different from His love for me - we are both dirty, poor and weak in our own ways. I was compelled by Love.

So I followed him. While I was getting gas, he was poking around in the trash can next to me. When I was finished, he was already walking away. It was on the tip of my tongue to say, "Can I get you some food, sir?" But he was gone in a flash. It was one of those moments that I could've "let go" - like so many moments like that in my life. Where I wanted to give something but I had no food or ANYthing in my car, and I would think to myself "this is a little unsafe" and so I would just get in my car and drive away. But I could almost hear Jesus saying, "For when I was gave me something to eat...whatever you did for one of the did for me" (Mt 25). So I got in my car and followed him. I was going to buy him some food but knew that if I took the time to do that, he'd be gone, so I pulled out my wallet... As he was poking around in another trash can, I said, "Excuse me, I wanted to give you some money." He looked up, took the money and said, "Thanks." I think we were both so surprised by that act, neither of us could really appreciate the moment.

In my act of obedience to the Lord, I learned a great lesson on grace. Grace is giving an undeserved and unasked for gift that could never be returned. It is a lovely thing to be a grace-giver. -- maybe because that is when we are MOST like our Father.

Growing up, I was always told not to give money to the homeless because they'll just use it to buy cigarettes and drugs. Well, I did smell the tobacco on that man, and I did wonder what he would do with that money, but I've come to understand what God desires of me. When He says that He loves a cheerful giver, He's talking about the state of my heart on giving -- it's not up to me to worry or judge about the state of the heart of the recipient, that's up to God to be judge. The question for me is: will I give in imitation of the way He gives with no bias on who I give it to, no expectation of return and no dictation of what my gift is used for? It certainly is not for me to judge. God is looking at my heart. Will I be obedient in Love?

After giving the money to the man and scurrying into the store, my heart leapt for joy - I felt like dancing. Not because "I did a good deed for the day." But because I obeyed my Lord.

Oct 21, 2002 - Is it I?
I popped in on CEC's missions conference Saturday night. There was a dramatic presentation of William Carey's life (the father of modern missions). After YEARS of hard work, the building where he had stored all his translations of the Bible (including dictionaries, grammar books) was BURNED in a fire. Do you know what he did? The next day, he went right back to work - starting over! Crazy. The narrator said that long before that fire burned, there was a fire that burned in his heart that was stronger than... I can't remember the comparison. But here was an amazing man (who was so full of faults) who God used to do so many amazing things including translating the New Testament into 30 different languages!

He said, "attempt great things for God, expect great things from God."

We sang a song by Daniel Schutte called, "Here I am, Lord."

"I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in deepest sin
My hand will save
I, who made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go, Lord
If you lead me
I will hold Your people in my heart..."

I couldn't help but shed a few tears. Is it I, Lord? Will He send me? If He sends me, I will go.

Oct 18, 2002 - 20-somethings & medicority
i don't want to fall into that gen X muddle of mediocrity.

so i am now well into my 20-somethings. when i was coming out of high school, i sidelined observed those in their 20-somethings. when they were in college, they were pretty active in their fellowship. and therefore deemed pretty spiritual. so i watched them. when they got out of college, they were involved in the church. they taught sunday school or helped lead worship. as time went on, it seemed that i saw them less and less involved in serving God. passion seemed to subside. i thought, well, maybe that's because they're just busy getting used to working in the real world or maybe it's just seasonal? they were busy. they started dating. courtship is a pretty big deal! they got married. ok, i reasoned, so they just got married, i can't expect them to be as involved in the church as they did when they were single and in college, right? right. ok, a few years pass. they are coming up to their late 20s, early 30s. they have their first kid. ok, so now they're really busy. gotta take time off of ministry completely to focus on these precious few months of being mommy and daddy. after that, they'll come back... full of passion? well, more time passes. they don't even get their foot in the door to do ministry again. they're on to their second child. by this time, someone else "filled their shoes" at church. they rationalize there is no need for them anymore. i guess my question now is, will i ever see them again? will they "come back"?

what's wrong with this picture? is anything wrong with it? well, if you want to point out to me that the family is a ministry, etc, etc, etc, then i won't take the time to argue with you about that specific point. instead, i want to talk about something else that really bothers me. it seems that the church produces cookie-cutter Christians who go through a sort of formulaic program or something. the church seems to bolster up its congregation to get people involved in its programs. raise them up to serve the church! and then when other things come along like family, work, etc, then they are excused from serving the Lord. is this all there is to God? to discipleship? to ministry? is this what Jesus meant when He said that "if anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up the Cross daily and follow me"? probably NOT!!!! what's happened to true discipleship? what's happened to the Great Commission?! because if we really understood what it meant, then we'd never be too busy to "serve the Lord". and serving the Lord wouldn't be a chore. nor would it be a one-time-deal. it wouldn't be teaching sunday school every other month or organizing a group activity. it would be every minute of every moment of every breath of our lives...

i want to live my every breath for Jesus. may i never fall or meander into the muck of mediocrity. let my 20-somethings be a time of increased learning and growing and passion and focus and zeal! from glory to glory (2 Cor). amen.

Oct 17, 2002 - splattered paint
there were some dabs of rich-colored paint splattered in the parking lot of my office. it's the kind that you use in kindergarten to do fingerpainting. it made me thinking of childhood.

seems like i'm overly sentimental. changes are so hard for me. and lately it seems i've had to deal with a lot of changes. sad things. transitions, absence, the understanding that as time passes, there will be no more return to a certain place or memory or time. that's the hardest part about transition. that i can't go back to that place anymore. like all the moments in the last three weeks that i've had of wanting to "go home" (not to my condo but my parent's house), i keep longing for that room that i grew up in with all the decorations of years. the room where i met Jesus. the familiarity of 10+ years. but that room doesn't exist in that form anymore!

my sister told me on sunday that she is moving out of san diego in nov. it's not like i didn't know it was coming. but the implications hit me all of a sudden. i won't be seeing her every monday night for bible study anymore! and all kinds of memories about our childhood came back to me. particularly when we first got a videocamera when i was in 5th grade and one summer we created a little skit (just me & her) and videotaped it. cute.

i'm grateful for these rich years i've had. funny to think that all these memories are but a shadow. greater things are yet to come. grateful that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever! that's the permanent reality. whoohoo! =)

Oct 16, 2002 - physical vs. permanent reality
the physical reality consists of what we see in the world around us. it is what is visible to our eyes. it is what seems real.

but the problem with the physical reality is that none of it will last. it may be what is tangible to us now, but it will all disintegrate one day. it is not, in actuality, what is the true reality.

the permanent reality is what is actually real. because it consists of things that will last forever. it is what God is really doing in our midst. it is also known as the spiritual reality.

for example, earlier (sept 26) when i was talking about how i felt about moving out, i mentioned the physical vs. permanent reality. the physical reality at the time was the awful heartache & anguish that my parents & i felt from this separation. that was what i could see and feel. but i knew that wasn't the permanent reality. meaning that God had a purpose to the uncomfortable pain. the permanent reality is what God will use this separation to change in my relationship with my parents. the permanent reality is in the growth that i will experience spiritually for stepping out in faith and obedience. the permanent reality is the "Hope of what is promised to be true (somehow, the Lord will fill their emptyness and heartache with Himself)." the permanent reality is the spiritual ground that will be gained from all of us from this experience.

if we keep our lives zeroed in on the physical reality, then our visions will be really dim & bleak (tunnel-vision). (the physical reality is not permanent!! it is therefore not real! ) but if we turn our eyes to the spiritual reality -- which is the permanent (and REAL) reality -- then we are living out what it means to be true citizens of the Kingdom. (there will be Hope & Joy even in bad circumstances.)

2 Cor 4:18, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Other verses: Ps 37, Ps 49, Ps 73, Ps 103, Col 2:17, Heb 8:5, Heb 10:1, 1 Peter 1:24-25.

Oct 15, 2002 - deception
Gen 26:27, When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, "She is my sister," because he was afraid to say, "She is my wife." He thought, "The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful."

Because Isaac was afraid of dying, he decided to lie. It seems to me that he was more worried about saving his own butt than about fulfilling his role as husband (which is to be his wife's protector). Instead of going out of his way to protect her, it seems he went out of his way to put her into harm. I wonder if he considered the consequences of his actions? Wasn't he worried about the fact that some man might've attempted to take his wife to marry her or sleep with her? He cared more about himself than her. Was he just following his own father's example (Gen 12 & 20)? Or perhaps it was more like he was being selfish? -- thinking only of himself? or perhaps he was only being human...

The greatest motivating factor for deception is fear. Fear leads us to deception and it leads us to selfishness, forsaking our callings, saddening the Lord, harming others... oh, the list goes on.

These thoughts led me to a new clarity of Numbers 19:21. "God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" No, He's not a man, He has no fear, He has no reason to have to alter his statements. He says something 'cause He means it, and there will never be any reason on Heaven or earth that would "force" Him to change His mind or change His promises. He will never be not powerful enough to act on His promise, He will never be threatened and have to retract His Word, He will never love us any less. He is not a man like Isaac. And I am so glad!!! :)

Oct 14, 2002 - more than these
John 21:15 seems to go something like this, "Mary Ann, daughter of Van, do you really love Jesus more than these?"

...more than comfortable, pleasant circumstances, more than good times, fun times, more than wealth & prosperity, more than having great friends all around you bolstering you up, more than a ministry that reaps tangible fruit, more than the praise & affirmation from others, more than safety and security...? If Jesus led you to a place where you were all alone & had none of these, how would you react? Would you do what is "natural" and human? Will you let your flesh or the circumstances dictate what you do or how you define God? OR will you do what is SUPERnatural, UNordinary and cling to the One who made you, trusting that He is good even so? Will you trust Him? Will you follow? You need to make a decision. Mary Ann, do you love Jesus more than these?

My response: All pleasure is pure pain if it be in Your absence, O Lord. All pain is pure pleasure if it be IN YOUR presence. I believe this to be true.

Oct 8, 2002 - stop doubting and believe
a study in the book of john seems to be the most effective way to lead people to Christ. after chapters and chapters of miracles and hard, piercing statements in which one has the opportunity to believe in Jesus and receive eternal life, we come to a culmination in chapter 20.

I am struck by the way that Jesus draws people in to belief in Himself in unique ways that are most perfect for them.

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved only needed to pause, consider the truth and then he believed (v. 8). I think some people just need to hear the News and they will believe, because their hearts have been readied for Him all their lives. (I am an example of one of these.)

Mary Magdalene was so blinded by her emotions of sorrow and hurt that she probably couldn't see straight. The "evidence" didn't help her draw the right conclusion about Jesus. It wasn't enough. And Jesus knew that, so He came to her personally and spoke to her tenderly. What does He say? He says her name, "Mary." And that was it. She recognized that He was her Rabonni (Teacher). (Reminds me of Jn 10:27.) Jesus will speak to us in intimate ways that can only be recognized by us. He'll go out of His way so that we know He is speaking to us, specifically. He speaks to our hearts and overwhelms us with His love, and that is how we know and believe... and naturally overflow in worship.

The disciple Thomas had lotsa doubts. It's interesting though that Jesus chose to reveal Himself in such a way that would supply the answers and help him resolve his doubts. He let Thomas touch his hands and side. Jesus desires to do that for us too. Supply the answers, resolve our doubts. He reveals Himself in such a way that will amaze us so much that we can't help but cry out, "My Lord and my God!" in worship. In revealing Himself to us in such a way, we only have one choice, "Stop doubting and believe." I think Jesus said that because despite the fact that Jesus had revealed Himself so mightily, there was still this temptation to keep asking questions. There just comes a point for all of us as well that even if all our questions aren't satisfied, we know enough to make a choice: will we believe? Believe and know that we could never know all because He is God after all; how could we possibly comprehend Him fully?

But that's the culmination. After all this revelation of Himself in 20 chapters and this final way, there is plenty enough evidence. Stop doubting and believe!

With each of these three, I think Jesus reveals Himself to them in the special way that they need, skillfully challenging them to believe, and so each of them believe and cry out in worship.

The last verses of chapter 20 take the cake: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these (all these chapters/words) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (v. 30-31).

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Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.