Thoughts from September 2002

Sept 27, 2002 - "the quiet of a place" (just composed)

lonely nights, full days
the quiet of a place
should be full of praise
for there i meet His grace

not in the clamor
but the silence of heartache
not in the laughter
but the tears desperation makes

for where i face pain
Jesus fills the empty space
bringing meaning and gain
and (true) life to my "race"

Sept 26, 2002 - the true reality
Yes, pain without Jesus is so forlorn and meaningless, but if I were to take my pain to Jesus, then a world of life would come of it!

I am suspended between what I see is true (the painfulness of the separation from my parents) and the Hope of what is promised to be true (somehow, the Lord will fill their emptyness and heartache with Himself). And for myself, the heartache is (unpredicted &)unreal!! It's interesting, the need to desist from focusing on the "physical" reality in this situation (oh, the heartache they feel & i feel) -- which is so glaring -- to the TRUE, permanent reality -- which is the promise of things unseen. I know He will be glorified through this -- for He LED me to leave home! But for now, my heart aches for the Living God to fill in all the holes & all the questions...

Sept 25, 2002 - turmoil?
it seems like when i am riddled with a lot of turmoil - whether physical, spiritual, emotional or all three, there seems to be something i always learn about Jesus in all of it. but i think a lot of times, i don't see it or appreciate it til way afterwards. the other day i skimmed over some of the Thoughts from earlier this summer. those were days of turmoil for me, but as i looked, i couldn't help but almost wish for those moments of anguish again because of how deeply Jesus met me in those moments of heartaching aloneness.

but i guess, in reality, i am going through some anguish right now too. however, the difference is that i'm not really bringing it to Jesus the way i should, so all i've got is "anguish". it's like holding out an empty bag. how forlorn & meaningless is pain without the Healer of all...

i'm really "homesick."

Sept 24, 2002 - moves
i guess you could say this is the year of "moves" in my life. first my sister moved out of my parent's house, then i moved out also; my parents are soon to move out of that house too, and my office (work) is going to move locations in December as well. it's funny, despite all these changes (and the tears that do come), i don't feel like a boat being thrashed upon the sea. my heart feels anchored.... like mentioned in Heb 6:19. there's something about Jesus; if you cling to Him as your Rock (1 Sam 2:2) and make your home in Him (thought from jun 12, 2002), then no matter how turbulent and unstable the circumstances that surround you, you can remain stable and undetracted from the Hope.

**** By the way, I MOVED OUT on Sept 22! Please read the amazing story of how God led me up to this point! ****

Sept 21, 2002 - believing
Jesus, You are LORD God Almighty. If I believe in you for anything, it just follows that I must believe in you for everything.

Sept 18, 2002 - falling apart
Today I fell apart at work. Crying in the arms of my former supervisor, weeping uncontrollably at my desk, and my eyes filling with tears every time my other coworker asked me if I was doing okay. They have been so kind to me today. It was helpful. But it wasn't until I looked to my Savior did I find the best comfort.

John 11:33-36:
When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

I am grateful that my Lord is not one of those who, though He knows the final victorious outcome, offers cursory platitudes. He does not advise, "move on!", "don't worry", "it's okay!" without any chance for the tears. He allows me to weep when I need to weep. Not only so, He will weep with me. How difficult it must've been for Him to watch Mary and Martha so deeply pained, especially when He could've prevented the pain from even happening at all...

...and that is how I feel. I could "prevent" my mom from her sorrow from my moving out if only I would just take it back & not move out. But I can't. Jesus stuck to the Father's glorious Plan, even though a byproduct of the Plan was "pain". I, too, must stick to the Plan. And here now as I do so, I stand before Him so utterly grateful that though He stuck to the Plan, He did not sweep over the pain.

Sept 17, 2002 - misunderstandings
i was reading a friend's blog about an bad experience she had in her religious studies class at Penn and it reminded me of when i was taking my Greek mythology class a few years ago at UCSD. one time, my professor actually made this awful joke about Christians. she was talking about the colossium and how they would watch bull fights, etc, for entertainment... "and every once in awhile throw in a few Christians (to be devoured) for fun." and everyone in my class laughed at that flippant "throw in a few Christians" comment. that whole lecture was full of heart-piercing jokes against Christians. i left the class feeling so sick i wanted to throw up. i wanted to cry! so i sought refuge in God at the top of the Geisel library & commiserated with another believer...

incidents like those just points us to the realness of this lost world. naturally, it makes us want to shut it off. we don't want to hear it. but that's probably not an option for us as believers. because whether we know it or not, this is what they are thinking. they have misunderstandings and misconceptions of Christianity that they have put together by a few half-truths that they have heard from the news, media or from their teachers or colleagues. and they don't even stop to question whether or not the assumption they are making is true or not. they don't think it deserves the time and attention to get an accurate view becuase while they think it's merely a religion, they're not gonna think it has any relevance to their lives or eternal destinies, so why track down the truth behind what others say about Jesus? as we discover the world's blindness, a huge burden of responsibility is placed on our shoulders. what are we gonna do about it? walk away and cry? rant and rave to other believers because we are hurt? or go out there into the world and help disperse the lies, remove the misconceptions and clarify the misunderstandings? what would Jesus have us do? will we do it? that's the real question.

Sept 15, 2002 - love story
once upon a prolonged time, i had a crush on a classmate. it started in eighth grade and continued on for years afterwards. what was it about him? i could name a few things. good qualities. but he never returned my affections. it was a foolish offering of my heart. yet i look back on all that attachment and know that it was only God preparing me for Himself. i have this theory. i think God uses crushes to draw us closer to Himself. somehow, some way. whether we are Christians or nonChristians. whether the feelings are mutual or unrequited. God wants to use our passions to help us understand the true Love Story. The one between Jesus and us.

i am going to give you a link to a letter i wrote to this former crush. i hand-wrote this letter to him a few years ago. but i never found his address, so i never sent it. Click here.

Sept 14, 2002 - free-fall naked
last month i went on a free-fall ride at Knotts Berry Farm. basically, this ride takes you a million feet up in the air (ok, slight exaggeration) and then drops you out of the sky. the point of the ride is to embrace the falling. even though i knew that was the point, as we begin to be dropped, i couldn't help but inwardly resist the falling feeling. instead of embracing it and thinking, "yay, how fun", i dug my feet into the foot-rest, closed my eyes tightly and yelped, "nooooo...." i think in the resisting, i was trying to protect myself from harm (as if in resisting on the inside i could protect myself on the outside -- which of course, could not logically happen). i guess the problem wasn't that i didn't cognitively understand that i was safe and secure in my seat, it was just that i reverted to my natural tendency. "Naturally," the body knows its limitations and so it will attempt to do things to protect itself...

I realized that the same thing happens to me spiritually. In order to get really intimate with God, you have to surrender yourself completely to Him. You must "let go" of yourself, you must resist the fear of "losing control", you must go naked before Him into His presence, you must be willing to be totally honest. Let go and embrace the free-fall. Trust in the safety and security of letting Him have "all" of you. Don't try to protect yourself. But my natural tendency is to put on the brakes and resist, natural tendency is to feel afraid of being totally honest. Because in this world, when we are totally honest, there is always a risk of being hurt or disappointed. It is difficult to be totally vulnerable. But, God the Father, is not of this world. He will not hurt or disappoint us. So we CAN trust Him with our heart and all our secrets. We CAN let go of ourselves and enjoy that free-fall feeling.

There is an intimacy that can be had with Him that is so incredible it far surpasses any kind of mortal description. And yet we miss out on it almost all the time (not realizing that it exists!) because we are afraid to truly enter His presence and go naked before Him. I know that I miss out on it all the time. But I know it exists. My heart cries out to have that intimacy, and yet so often my flesh resists. I don't want to live like that! I want to taste this incredible intimacy that goes beyond "checking in" with Him everyday with a 10 minute devotional and talking ABOUT Him in abstract, theoretical ways... Lord, help me enter the veil, leave my self-sins behind and come totally naked before you. I want to stop resisting, embrace the free-fall and enjoy incredible intimacy with you.

Sept 13, 2002 - Bounded-set and Center-set
The idea of bounded-set is a focus on strict definitions. "You are a Christian if you have done/do/believe such and such; you are not a Christian if such-and-such..." Such a focus may often cultivate feelings of "I'm in" and "I'm out", insider vs. outsider, us vs. them and general feelings of alienation, depending on whether you are within the boundaries of the definition of being a Christian or not.

The idea of center-set is to focus on Christ at the center and that everyone is somewhere around this central point. Everyone is seen in reference to this one central point. Some people have their backs turned away from Him entirely, doing their own things. Some people are turning toward Him. And some are headed in His direction -- some are closer than others, some are walking, some are running, some are crawling. This kind of focus includes everybody. This mindset prescribes that rather than asking of others, "What is your spiritual background?" and getting no response from the nonbelievers, you can tell them about this center-set idea and find out where they are on their journey. Everyone is somewhere.

So when you are ministering to people, do you have a "bounded-set" mindset or "center-set"? If your mind is focused on center-set, then your attitudes may be more inclusive and as a result, you may find that more people will turn around and move toward the center.

Sept 12, 2002 - intimacy
Lord, I long for intimacy with you. Not intimacy so that I can share with others (and sound spiritual) but the intimacy that is so intimate that I cannot share with anyone. The sweet intimacy that can only be whispered about. The sweet intimacy that would satisfy my soul-thirst. Only you can satisfy me, Lord. I pray that you would.

Sept 11, 2002 - Joseph's Integrity
Gen 39:6-23

v. 10 ..."and though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her."
v.12 "she caught him by his cloak and said, 'Come to bed with me!' But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house."

Joseph demonstrated integrity by not only repeatedly saying no to Potipher's wife, but also by avoiding being with her at all and by running away (he fleed and put himself out of the way) when the temptation was irritatingly excessive. He created distance between himself and the "stumbling block" (the tempter).

This passage also shows how you can never be too careful. Even though he tried to avoid her - in the end, he got trapped in a compromising situation, so she was able to use it against him. If he had not been alone with her, she wouldn't have had any "evidence" to convict him.

We definitely need to make every effort to avoid possible compromising situations. Go out of our way to avoid situations that are possibly dangerous. We don't know our own limitations. Or what runs through the minds of others. yikes! I confess that I am so very weak, I need to safeguard in every way possible.

2 Tim 2:22, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

Sept 10, 2002 - partial understandings
John 11:22. Martha believed Jesus had the power to heal her brother. She just didn't understand God's timing. It didn't fit into hers, so she was hurt. She was hurt because she knew He could do it - but He didn't do anything! If she didn't believe that He could do it, she wouldn't have been hurt. But she knew. This is an interesting dilemma. Martha is stumbling over a partial understanding of her Lord. For if she really knew her Lord completely, she would know also that He has a time frame and that timing is perfect. Perfect especially in the sense that He holds her in such high regard as well. He loves her deeply. If she understood this special love, this perfect timing as well as His tremendous power, she would've responded to this situation differently.

I identify with Martha so well. I know my Lord is powerful. I also know that He is capable. He is able to do whatever He pleases. But I often end up flailing my arms in complaint because I don't understand why this capable God doesn't "move" and do something to help me or make my situation better "right now." I am suffering under a partial understanding of my Lord.

But God doesn't ever hold back to be spiteful (He is the one who promises Ps 84:11 and Rom 8:32, after all). He's not trying to make us feel pained on purpose. He operates under a special timing which means that not only do we get the very best but wherewith He gets the most glory. I pray for the fullness of this understanding, so that I don't become "hurt" just because things don't go the way I want it at the time I want it...

Sept 9, 2002 - sometimes
sometimes when we actually allow ourselves to stop in the midst of the constant running around, pause, look up and take a breath of fresh air, we realize that there is Someone greater than us, waiting with outstretched arms. He smiles at us gently. He's been standing and keeping watch over us. He wants to breathe life into us. He wants to hold us close to Himself, warmly in His strong arms. To make us feel safe. To let us know that we are loved. That's all He wants. But so often we don't stop and take a breather. We keep running, running, running around...

Sept 8, 2002 - my destiny
I know my calling: It is to live for Jesus. To be so much "for" Him that I am abnormal. I love sharing the gospel - I know that it is my destiny - even though it's not my "gifting" (I am not "good" at it; I do not "magically" bear fruit from sharing) - BUT I just know it's my destiny. I am barely living if I don't pursue my destiny.

Sept 6, 2002 - wooed and courted
i have never been wooed or courted as much and as lovingly as i have been in this past week.

on wednesday the Lord gave me clouds. thurs He gave me rain. today He gave me a rainbow.

you see what happened was that thurs, i was standing outside looking at the clouds and just smiling, knowing that the Lord gave me those. but then i whispered, "but you know, Lord, it's really rain that reminds me of you." (rain is something special between us.) well, it wasn't like i was asking for rain. it was such an impossibility in my mind. plus, there was no reason for Him to answer such a thought.

but a few hours later, my coworker ran in and made a huge ruckus -- because it was raining outside!!! unbelievable. it made me wanna weep. God moved the skies to pour out water on my behalf. who on this earth could so such a thing? even the most well-meaning lovers who profess their undying affections could not move the skies. but the God of the universe, my Lover, would do anything for me. can. and did. he even made it rain, when i dared not ask. :) He is so intimate with His answers.

this morning, i walked out my door, turned the corner and there it was... a rainbow!

The Lord reminded me, "I am still here, and I love you." I am His sheep, and I know His voice (jn 10). His love-whispers to me are un-missable!!! that rainbow was definitely a love-whisper.

So here's my thought for today: Jesus wants to be our Ultimate Love. And so He pursues us unrelentingly... in ways that are so intimate, it speaks to our very hearts. What He speaks to us is to us and us alone. It won't be amazing to anybody else. Because He's that specific about His love-whispers. You don't believe me? You don't know what I'm talking about? Just ask Him about it. You, too, can have inside jokes with your Lord... =)

Sept 4, 2002 - whispers of the heart
God hears the whispers of our hearts. I am convinced that He does. Because even the little longings that I have, He will often answer - as if to say, "I know you didn't ask for that because you thought it was too trivial, but I want you to know that I love you, and I will give you even the littlest things that you dare not ask for." He delights to give us good gifts.

For example, I was just thinking yesterday, "There's something about cloud and fog and mist that reminds me of You, Lord. It'd be nice if You'd break through all this heat with a bit of that." I didn't really ask; I just "thought" it. This morning as I stepped outside, I was greeted with a blanket of cloud and mist which coated the whole wide world above me. And all I could do was stand in awe and worship Him.

Ps 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Ps 37:18, "The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever."

There sure is something about knowing the Lord and being known by Him. (sigh) [cloud nine] ;)

Sept 3, 2002 - the pleasure principle
a few years ago, i decided to stop living by the pleasure principle.

i've observed that people revolve their whole lives around the pursuit of fun (i.e. "the pleasure principle"). they will sacrifice and save money in order to go on exotic vacations, drop a few hundred dollars for adventures & thrills, and toss out a lot of money weekly for starbucks, jamba juice, snacks, clothes, shoes, etc. none of these pleasures last for more than a moment, i realized. so why waste my money on it? why be like everyone else and throw my money away on momentary pleasures? i don't want it. i refuse to conform to the pattern of this world. i refuse to do something just because it seems interesting or fun or different - or yummy. i refuse to... -- unless there is some eternal purpose. unless i am going skydiving because it would be good bonding time with my coworker, unless having the boba would promote kinship with a college student, unless watching a movie (ugh) means an opportunity to testify about the Lord afterwards. because living by the pleasure principle will surely mean emptiness. living for Jesus and investing in lives means full joy...

realizing all these things a few years ago made me decide that i want my every action to be motivated by some purpose that would glorify God, rather than myself. before opening my wallet (or saying yes to an invite) - on every occasion - i ask myself: 1. is this necessary? (things that are necessary are food, gas, contact solution, etc.) If the answer is no, then I would ask 2. will it somehow glorify God or further His Kingdom? If yes, then I could purchase it or participate in it. If not, forget it.

through the years, i have found that the more i denied myself of purchases for my indulgence, the more money i possessed to lavish on others. it has been so much fun. to always buy the cheapest for myself and the best for others. i love abstaining from unnecessary indulgences not pertaining to His glory and avoiding brand-name-everythings, just so that I could spend money freely for His glory on others. i love it. absolutely love it.

so i do not live by the pleasure principle. i never do anything just for fun, just for myself. and you want to say to me, "mary ann, don't you ever have any fun? you're so strict on yourself, you must have a dull life." and i will smile because i have found the secret to life that you know not of. the secret that knows where to find true "fun" and enjoyment which is not dependent on activity, circumstance or indulging my flesh. it is the secret which permits me to have fun every minute and every moment of the day. how? because i live for Jesus, not for myself. i have died to myself. i live only for Him. i am at the center of God's will. i am fulfilling my destiny. it is a dream within a dream...

Sept 2, 2002 - My Theme Verse for Fall 2002
If you've ever read the gospels, then you would agree that Jesus asked us to do very hard things. But the great thing about Jesus is that He didn't just tell us what our lives ought to look like and then step back and watch us struggle real hard trying to achieve it without any understanding of how insurmountable the task. No, He gave us hard commands and then He followed them Himself.

For example, in Luke 6:17-36, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. And He also said that we are blessed when men hate us, exclude us, insult us and reject us because we stand for the sake of God. Can you believe what He is asking and what He is saying?!! These hard sayings from the Lord really stopped me last month when I read them.

But then recently I read Jn 6:64, "For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him." Then I began to think of Luke 9:22-23, "And He said, 'The Son of Man must SUFFER many things and be REJECTED by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be KILLED and on the third day be raised to life.' Then He said to them all, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.'"

And then it dawned on me. As hard as Jesus' commands to us are in Luke 6, it was nothing that He Himself did not do. Remember, it said that Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him. And yet He was just as loving, generous and gracious to the disciples He knew would desert Him as the ones He knew would stick to Him to the death. Being honest with myself, I know that I would not be able to do the same. If I know that someone will stab me in the back, I would try to keep my distance from them, I wouldn't be able to help but would want to guard my heart from them and give them less of my time/investment/love. But Jesus did not do that. He exemplified what it means to love his enemies and do good to those who hated Him. He said that those who are excluded, insulted and rejected because they stand up for the LORD God are blessed. He does not say this as one who has never experienced these things. He too was excluded, insulted and rejected. He therefore KNOWS for a fact that it is a BLESSING to exeperience such ostracism from people - for the glory of the LORD.

So when Jesus says, "follow me" in v. 23, He is referring to the banishment and admonishment that He predicted He would experience in v. 22. Therefore, for me to "save my life", for me to experience the "blessed"ness, for me to be RAISED TO LIFE (just as He was), I must follow in His footsteps & obey Him -- even in the most radical of His commands. Yes, unto rejection, insults and exclusion.

He experienced the blessing. He was raised to life. I want to too.

Lord, as hard as it might seem to my eyes, I want to ask that you would take Luke 9:22-25 and make it my theme for this fall quarter. Meaning, make it real to me in my life. Allow me to live out what you said. Allow me to be insulted, rejected and excluded -- that I might experience the rich blessing of standing up for your Name, of saving my life (for forever!) and being raised to life -- just as you were. Help me stand firm, let nothing move me. I want to throw caution in the wind and boldly preach your Word of Truth - no matter if the immediate outcomes looks beautiful or bleak. May I never refuse or hesitate to speak. Thank you for your Word of Truth. Thank you for giving me life. I love You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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