Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Refiner's Fire

It's good to be home.

To be away from my job (even though it is great), my classes (even though I am learning so much in them), my city (even though I have learned how to love it), and even my friends (even though they are wonderful). It is just good to be away from everything and to be at home, with my family and friends here, and to be refreshed by them and by this wonderful country air that I seem to love and appreciate even more now than ever.

To be refreshed and to reflect. That is what I have been doing. I have been reflecting on how difficult and wonderful this semester has been. Difficult in that it has been so challenging both mentally and spiritually. Wonderful in that, in the process, I am being refined by the Great Refiner into more of who He wants me to be.

This semester has been different. It has been more than I thought it would be and it has been less than I thought it would be. It has been filled with changing friendships, deepening friendships, weekends running away from everything with my roommate, learning how to write and preach an exegetical message for a women's class and being so stretched in this new challenge, meeting Nancy Leigh DeMoss and being reminded of how faithful my God is, being given a job that I could have never asked for, more homesickness than I have ever experienced, two bouts of sickness that left me in bed and even more homesick, being challenged in my faith and in my beliefs, being stripped of the legalism of my past, making decisions that caused my heart to battle so fiercely within that I have fallen to my knees in desperate prayer, crying through Psalms on the roof, waging war against the powerful assault of doubts from the Enemy, learning how to read God's Word with the deep realization that it is truly living and active, and falling more in love with my Savior as I get to know my rebellious and sinful state more and Him and His great grace and love better. Yes, this semester has been different. It has been more and it has been less than I thought it would be and it has been wonderful and it has been challenging.

Overall, it has been extremely refining.

The dictionary defines this word, "refine," as "remove impurities: to produce a purer form of something by removing the impurities from it, or become pure through such a process" or "make something more effective: to improve something through small changes that make it more effective or more subtle."

This is what the Lord has been doing in my life. He has been removing my impurities to produce a purer heart within so that I may be more effective for ministry to further His Kingdom. It is so painful to go through the Refiner's Fire. Some days, it is excruciating as I feel as though I am standing in the front lines of a full fledged battle and the Enemy's troops look so much fiercer and bigger and stronger than me. And then I remember the Armor of the Lord (Ephesians 6) that I wear and I remember the One who not only stands before me, but goes with me. I remember the promise of the outcome of this Fire and I sometimes whisper, sometimes scream, back to the Lord, "Let it be so!"

The outcome of this Refiner's Fire is purity. It is effectiveness. It is being purified, as with fire, of all of the things in my heart and life that are not of the Lord so that I can be more effective for His Kingdom. It is excruciatingly painful at times, this Refiner's Fire. Not only does this fire purify my heart of all of its impurities (which are so ugly and painful to look at and face in the light of the Fire), but it purifies my life of all of the actions, habits, relationships, and beliefs that are not of the Lord. Sometimes I scream out to the Lord to please give me a break from the Fire, to please allow me to "just be" for a moment.

And then I realize that what I am asking from Him is to be removed from His hand as He is guiding me through the Fire, so that I can sit in the scum of the world for a while. It would sure be easier that way - to be able to make my own choices based on my feelings and not on the Truth of His Word, to be able to live my life my own way and on my own time instead of His way and His time, to be able to compromise and live like the world for just a moment.

To get to the heart of the matter, I must ask the question: "Why?" Why don't I just remove myself from this Fire if it is this painful? Why don't I just live my life my own way, based on my feelings and not His Truth, if it would be so easier that way? The Lord asked me that question tonight. It stopped me in my tracks.

And then I felt Him whisper to my heart, "Would you trade knowing Me for this easier path?" Tears sprang to my eyes as I whispered back, "No. I would not trade knowing You for the world." This is why I choose to be thankful for the Refiner's Fire, for through it I am purified and made more effective for His Kingdom. This is why I can smile under the Potter's Hand, for it is under His hand that I am shaped into who He wants me to be. This is why I choose to live in relationship with Him and to live in light of His will, His plan, and His life for me. To whom shall I go? I know too much of His faithfulness, too much of His love, too much of Him to ever step foot outside of the Fire. Knowing Him is the great reward of this life. Getting to know Him better every day is the great joy of it.

In this Fire, the Lord is more real to me than He has ever been. His Word to me is more living and active than I have ever noticed it to be. He is more trustworthy and faithful than I have ever known Him to be. Therefore, I trust that He knows exactly what I need in each season of my life and, because of that, I have exactly what I need in this season.

Yes, this Refiner's Fire is painful. It is more challenging than I ever expected it to be. Why do I stay? A better question to ask is, To whom else shall I go? There is nothing and no One who compares to this One. And, therefore, I say with earnestness and desperation and tears, I would not trade this for the world.

"I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”
-Zechariah 13:9

All of life is meaningless if I am not His and He is not mine. Therefore, to the Fire and the Refiner behind it Who I trust and love with my life, I say: So be it. Purify me that I may be made more effective for Your Kingdom. It is the great reward of my life to know You and the great joy of my life to get to know You more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When the Treasure Becomes Terrifying

It was just a fun night at the lake. It was just me and my friends filling the Chicago air with laughter.

Laughter. Fun. Happiness. We were carefree.

I looked out into the dark lake, as I have done so many times over this past year and a half.

But I was the only one looking. And as I stared out into the lake, a glowing circle fell from the sky. "Was that the moon?" I asked my friends. My answer came when an electric explosion rose from the lake. I knew that it was the moon the instant everything grew the blackest of black that I had ever seen.

Chaos ensued. I noticed for the first time the crowds of people that surrounded me. My friends and I were not alone. There were cries of desperation and devastation as the crowds had no idea what was going on. I became frantic. I knew.

I knew that Jesus was returning soon - at any moment. I knew that I was going to be with Him soon. I also knew that this crowd of people around me did not know where they were going because they were frantically searching for answers in the dark. I cried out to my friends, "We have to tell them! We have to tell them where they're going! We have to tell them that there is hope. This is our last and only chance!" I cried out in desperation.

And then I woke up.

I was thankful that this dream wasn't a reality. It was vivid. It felt real. But I woke up in my room, in my dorm at school, just like any other day. What did this mean? I didn't think too much of it that day.

Then I went out into the city. As I began to walk across the crosswalk, I flippantly commented to my roommate, "Sometimes I forget that these cars have people in them." I didn't think much of it until she looked back at me and said, "Wow, that was deep." I didn't mean for it to be deep. Actually, I didn't mean anything profound by it at all. But she got me thinking. I have forgotten. I have forgotten that this city is filled with real people with real needs and a real eternity ahead of them.

Then I rode on a city bus. I looked around at all of the faces before me who have so easily just blended together as I mind my own business, go where I need to go, and hardly acknowledge their presence. That night was different. The Lord brought back my dream. He brought back the flippant remark I had made about forgetting that the hundreds of cars around me are filled with people. And my heart broke. I have become numb. I study at Moody Bible Institute. Every day, I am being prepared for more ministry. Every day, I have conversations with friends about the Lord and His work in our lives and where He is leading us. Every single day.

And, yet, I have lost myself in theology. I have lost myself in my pile of books, in my twelve page papers, in my hours of classes and work. I have lost myself in the petty controversial issues that ensnare the Church. Although I believe it is good to talk about these issues and although I am thoroughly enjoying and learning from my time here at Moody and although I feel extremely blessed because I know that I am, I have forgotten.

I have forgotten about the moment a year and a half ago when I looked out over the city from the hotel window when I was visiting Chicago for the first time. I have forgotten the brokenness that my heart felt for the hundreds of people that I saw walking in crowds. I saw them as individuals then, as individual hearts in need of a Savior.

Now I just see crowds. Crowds and cars and faces without souls. I am thankful that my dream was not a reality. I am thankful that I can take it as a wake-up call. I am not sure what to do about it now. I don't even know what my next step is yet... but I know that the Lord has not placed me here in this great city to study at this great college to selfishly hoard my faith. It is a treasure that must be shared.

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." -2 Corinthians 4:6-7

It is a treasure not meant to be hoarded or stashed away. If it were meant to be, Jesus would have never come. There is no joy in selfishly hoarding our faith. Actually, it becomes terrifying when I hoard it. Images of my dream, of the people frantically searching in the dark for hope, flood back to me and it haunts me. Some of those people in that crowd are people that I know. Others are strangers whom I have never met. All of them are people that Christ has died for.

It is a treasure meant to give away, for to us it has been given. Eternity is before us and we must not forget the reality we are living in that we will enter His presence at any moment.

Let's not forget or become numb. May I give my life away for the King and His Kingdom, for it is my desire that when He returns, I will not be found hoarding this Treasure.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Poisonous Perfection

I had it all together. I was the youth group student leader, Bible Study teacher, AWANA Cubbies helper, missions committee member, once-a-year-every-year short-term missions trip participant, Jr. Church teacher, small group leader, advice giver, counseler, devotional writer, Christian website administrator, campaign coordinator, twice-a-week church going girl. This was me. I was "perfect." No, really, those around me used the word to describe me more than once. I "had it all together." My family life was one of encouragement, support, and joy. My friendships were deep, loving, and wonderful. I never made a mistake - or, at least, that was the impression of those around me. Life was good. I was serving the King. My days were bliss.

And then I came to the end of myself. This "perfect" life had become a poison. I cringe when I think of how easily others considered me to be this perfect girl who led a perfect life. How disgusting. How fake. How unloving and pious and ugly and ungenuine. How Pharaisaical. How displeasing to the Lord. It was an oxymoron of a life, really; I was striving so hard to please the Lord so perfectly that, in the process, I was really only displeasing Him.

Why do I say that? Because the Lord desires a relationship with us - a pure, humble, genuine relationship. He desires that we live in unity and love with one another. This includes serving, yes; it also sometimes includes letting our guards down, admitting that we truly are not perfect, and in humility considering others better than ourselves. This wasn't me. I was the girl with all of her walls up, never admitting any failures with anyone, and always (even if subconsciously) considering herself to be leading a much better, pure life than those around her.

How disgusting. How fake and unloving and pious and ugly and displeasing to the Lord.

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Ouch. Those words are like a piercing arrow to my heart. Really. It hurts. Again, it's an oxymoron, but although this verse hurts my heart because I know that I am prideful, it also just plain hurts my pride. God opposes me? No way. That is impossible. And in my stubborn pride I once again go back to my pharaisaical, Martha way of living.

How disgusting. How fake and unloving and pious and ugly and displeasing to the Lord.

How untruthful. In putting on the facade of "having it all together" and "never making a mistake" and "living a perfect life," I was living a complete and flat-out lie.

The truth is, I am not perfect. In bringing me to Moody Bible Institute, the Lord has been bringing me to terms with that fact. Here, I am broken. I am so, so imperfect. I thought that I knew everything there was to know about the Bible; every day, I am continuing to learn more and as a result, realizing just how much I do not know. I thought that I was a brilliant teacher; I have taken Studying and Teaching the Bible and Message Preparation for Women and have been brought to some of my lowest points in realizing how ineloquent I am. I thought that I was a wonderful leader; I am continually humbled every day by the amazing men and women of the Lord around me who lead in a way that I have never seen, let alone have been able to do myself. I thought that I was strong and unable to be broken by anyone or anything; thank the Lord, that isn't true either.

The truth is, I am more broken now than I ever have been in my life. The Lord has stripped me down of everything that I ever was or thought I was and is continually, slowly building me back up into who He wants me to be. It's beautiful. It's painful. It's lovely and it's hard and it's necessary. I do not want to enter the Lord's presence one day having lived my life as a lie before others - having put on the facade that somehow I am the only one on the planet who truly has it together. Because the truth is, only the Lord Jesus Christ truly had it all together. We are broken people in need of a Savior to make us whole. Thank the Lord, He has sent us that Savior.

In my brokenness, I am free. In my shortcomings and failures and mistakes, I am human. In my desperation and repentance to the Lord, I am healed. In my admittance to those around me that I am imperfect, I am free - free to love others and to be loved in return. What a burden has been lifted off of my shoulders - and only because it has been placed on the One who walked to Calvary for me. Praise Jesus. Thank you, Lord.

It brings tears to my eyes and a heaviness to my heart to think of this oxymoron of a life that I have lived. Pride is dangerous and subtle and directly of the Enemy of our souls, who desires to see us living these pent-up lives of poisonous perfection. Why? Because he is a liar and he desires to see us live our lives as liars. But why would anyone ever want to be like the pious, judgmental, perfect Christians that they see? It only offers more shame - just what the Enemy wants. This is why I call it a poison. It permeates the Church and leaves the rest of the world in resistance of ever wanting to follow the Christ that all of these unloving, lieing, perfect Christians claim to love and follow.

It pains me. May I live my days in the freedom and love of the Lord who makes this imperfect, shallow, unloving, prideful heart whole. As a result, the walls around my heart will be knocked down, giving room for the Lord to enter as King and others to enter my life. I will be more free and able to love and be loved by others and by my Savior.

I thought that I was too strong, too "put together," too tough to ever be broken. Today, I am thanking God that that isn't so.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Livin' the Ephesians 3:20 Life

Last night, as my hands were outstretched in praise to the Lord and the voices of about fifty other Moody students resounded around me in praise and surrender to our God, I smiled. As I sang out to my God that there is no other place that I'd rather be than right here in His love, I couldn't help but giggle a little. Suddenly the image of a blank piece of paper flashed across my mind. You may have heard the analogy that in surrendering our lives to the Lord, He hands us a blank piece of paper and asks us to sign our name at the bottom - no disclaimers, no "buts", no strings attached - just simply signing our name in complete surrender to all of the details that the Lord would fill in about our lives. Sometimes, that scares me. Sometimes, I wish I would have signed my name in pencil so that I could go back and erase it. Yesterday, it just made me smile.

God is not a God who is "somewhere out there." He is not aloof from us, far out of our reach, or only there when He has time to be. No, the Lord is a personal God who loves each and every one of us in a personal, intimate, passionate way. When He asks us to "sign our life away", He does not laugh in mockery; He does not sit up on His Throne and laugh a sinister laugh of selfish pleasure, as if He is a dictator pleased that we have agreed to be under His dictatorship.

No, the Lord is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is present with us (Ezekiel 48:35). He is Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord who is our Peace (Judges 6:24). He is Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord who is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).

This is the Lord who I serve, the Lord who I love and the Lord who loves me passionately. When I signed my life away, I did it with a smile - knowing that He is trustworthy, knowing that He is always present with me, knowing that He is my Peace, knowing that He is my Shepherd who leads and guides me and wants what is best for me. It is a Joy to know Him and to get to know Him more. The more that I know Him, the more I know whole-heartedly and with full assurance of faith that I can trust Him. And the more that I trust Him, the easier it is for me to relinquish control of my life to Him. When I say that it is a Joy to honor and serve and live for the Lord, I truly mean that it is a Joy.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us..." (Ephesians 3:20)

It is an Ephesians 3:20 life, this life that He has given me. Thank you, Kimberly Wagner, for reminding me of this Truth. The Lord has given me a life that I have sometimes been too afraid and too doubtful to even ask for. He has given me a life that I never thought possible. Why? According to the power at work within me... Not power that is my own; no, this is the Power of God. And that is why I rejoice, that is why I smile, that is why I am so full of Joy and Peace. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

Of course, there are things in my life that are not easy. There are things that the Lord has had to so lovingly pry my stubborn fingers off of so that I could experience the freedom of letting go and allowing the Lord to have control. There have been times when I was so discouraged, I did not want to get back up again. There have been times when I almost missed out on this Ephesians 3:20 life because of my own doubts and fears. Looking back, I cannot believe that I am where I am today; it is only by God's Grace that I am able to say that the Lord has done "far more abundantly than all that" I "ask or think, according to the power at work within" me....

" Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:21).

Amen. May I continue to know, love, and trust Him more as I follow in this path that He has set before me. I am loving living this Ephesians 3:20 life; it is my heart's desire that everyone would experience this Joy and Peace and Love and Life that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. To God be the glory!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wait: A Recurring Theme

I never - ever - share what I write in my journal... with anyone. The contents of it are my heart, as I pour it out before the Lord - my Rock, my Redeemer, my Father, and my Friend. He is my safe place, my place of refuge, and so what I share with Him are the pure contents of my heart. However, something that I recently wrote in my journal explains perfectly how I feel right now and what God has been teaching me through it, so I am going to share it here:

"I can hardly believe my life; honestly, I am always in transition... Whenever I get settled, You move me again. I see the purpose and the wisdom in that, for if I were to get comfortable in any place, I may get complacent. And I realize the dangers in that (complacency), especially as You have called me into full-time ministry. My flesh yearns for settlement and comfort, but I know You are pulling my spirit to higher places ~ places of Your calling and will in my life. Give me continued grace to accept that, I pray."

If my life had one theme word, it would probably be "wait." I think many of us who are following the Lord and desiring to obey Him would attest to this. I have many desires in this heart of mine, but to many of them the Lord continues to say, "Wait."

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." -Psalm 27:14

The reason that my life is this one big transition is because I am waiting on the Lord - actively waiting... pursuing His best, following His lead, doing what I can to do my part within His will for my life. This does not mean that I am perfect; I say with Paul, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).

To wait on the Lord does not mean to sit back, relax, and stare into space until the Lord shows you what it is you are to do next. To wait on the Lord means to actively pursue Him and His purposes, actively following Him as He shows you the next step, using your God-given wisdom to make informed and wise decisions. This is why I can say that the reason that my life is this one big transition is because I am waiting on the Lord.

Why? Why do I wait on the Lord instead of pursuing my own pleasures and desires and hopes and dreams? I realize that human logic, determination, and lots of hard work can get a lot of things done. I have tried, many times, to accomplish many things in my own strength - and, oftentimes, have accomplished them; exhausted and burnt-out, yes, but productive. So why do I wait instead of relying on my own flesh to do what I want to do?


That is it - love. My love for the Lord and His love for me. For, "In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome..." (1 John 5:3)

Love. His love for me overwhelms me and my love for Him is why I follow, why I pursue Him, why I wait. Looking back on my life and seeing how the Lord has so perfectly designed my life (full of its heartaches, changes, transitions, and joys), I rejoice. I have seen how the Lord has so graciously designed my life and given me even more than I ever would have chosen for myself had I decided to do things my way instead of waiting on the Lord... And so I won't turn back.

The cross before me, this world behind me...

A few specific things you can be praying for me for as I leave for another year at Moody Bible Institute:
*That I will find a job that will not only provide for my room-and-board, but will work with my crazy class schedule
*That the Lord will prepare my heart and work through me as I become (and am trained to become) a coach for some of the women's small group leaders
*That the Lord will keep this heart of mine humble, teachable, useable, and flexible

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Thank You, thank You, thank You for being my safe place - my place of refuge. Thank You for always knowing what is best for my life, even if that means that I must wait for it. Thank You for being my Rock - holding me fast - throughout all of these transitions and changes in my life. Thank You for being my Joy - making my life joyful, oh so abundantly joyful and full of peace and love and hope. Keep this heart of mine humble, teachable, useable, and flexible. Amen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Free Indeed

Always striving... Always placing one heavy foot in front of another, seemingly running in place and never getting anywhere. The bar of perfection seems to always be ahead of me; it seems with every step I take, it moves forward two. The standard of holiness seems to always be above me; with every vain move I make to reach it, it moves higher another mile.

Always striving... and never reaching. Always running... but never moving. Always trying to please others' standards, others' expectations, others' rules... and never being quite enough.

Always striving... and always failing. Burnt-out and exhausted, I fall to the Throne of Grace where I hear these refreshing words in my ears:

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Romans 5:1)

Justified. This means that even in my sinful state, the Lord has declared me as righteous in His sight. That means that I have peace with God. Peace.

The truth of these words goes in my ears and into my mind and begins to penetrate my heart as I look up to my Savior and hear these words spoken:

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)

I am free. I am free indeed.

The God of the universe chose to send His perfect, sinless Son to earth to live and die for us so that we could be set free. He died for our freedom. It is for this very reason that I wonder why so many of us live as if we are still in bondage when the Son has died to set us free?

Bondage to others' expectations. Bondage to religious rules. Bondage to a list of "dos" and "don'ts." Bondage to a cycle of sin, confession, and sin because we do not know the true freedom that we have in Christ.

But the Son has set us free! "For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14, emphasis mine)

We are no longer under a yoke of slavery if the Son has set us free. We are no longer "under the law" because we are now "under grace." We are not to live lives of legalism, of strict adherence to a certain law or a certain person's or group of people's list of rules that are most often merely preferences for living, for the Son has set us free from bondage and a yoke of slavery. Let us instead be servants of Christ, for:

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).

As a seminary professor so aptly put it in 1963, "Legalism wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian believer, and with the joy of the Lord goes his power for vital worship and vibrant service. Nothing is left but cramped, somber, dull, and listless profession. The truth is betrayed, and the glorious name of the Lord becomes a synonym for a gloomy kill-joy. The Christian under law is a miserable parody of the real thing." -S. Lewis Johnson

God is not a kill-joy. The Creator of joy and of all things good is not the one who desires to steal joy and all good things from us. No, there is another One who holds that desire, and that is our Enemy: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." (John 10:10a)

But, contrary to popular belief, God has "come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b).

May we stop our vain strivings, our treadmill runs to nowhere, and our joyless pursuit of perfection and instead fall at the Throne of Grace where Christ lifts up our weary souls and penetrates our hearts with these refreshing words, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Free indeed. Oh, how my heart sings with the lighthearted realization that I am free, no longer held in bondage to others' expectations or to the law... but free to live life as the woman that Christ has created me to be, loving Him and obeying Him and living to please Him only.

Freedom. Infinite Joy. Peace. Life to the fullest. This is the life that I live because the Son has set me free - and I am free indeed.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hiding Behind the Walls

I hear the stories all of the time. These are always stories of despair, of sadness, of depression, and of hopelessness. Never are these stories ones of love (unless that love has been taken away), or of hope (unless that hope has turned to hopelessness) or of life and joy and peace (unless, again, these things have been torn away from them).

I am writing of the stories of heartbreak - stories of people who once knew love, but then felt the stinging shock of rejection; stories of people who once had their heart so wrapped up in a person that when that person suddenly walked away or was taken from them, their heart was shattered to pieces; stories of people who once knew the life of love and joy and peace and hope, but have now turned to depression and disbelief and doubt because of circumstances in their lives that have proved to them that this life of love and joy and peace doesn't truly exist (or perhaps it does for some, but certainly never for them).

These people live their lives behind walls - and not just behind them, but surrounded by them. These are high, thick, heavy walls that cannot easily be penetrated. They are walls of resentment, of distrust, of caution - and sometimes, of bitterness. For these people, it is easier to hide behind these walls of "safety" than to risk loving and being loved again. For these, it seems the best choice to live behind these walls than to risk walking out and being hurt and broken all over again.

Perhaps you know these stories that I am talking about; perhaps these stories are your own. Maybe you could re-read what I have just written and replace the word "people" with "myself" and "their" with "my" and "them" with "me." Wherever you are at in life, I am writing to declare a truth that has been declared before and will be declared again. I say it with an urgency and a passion, straight from my heart to yours: there is hope. And there is only hope because we have a Great Lover of our souls. His name is Jesus.

Jesus tells me that He loves me and He proved it that while I was still doing wrong against Him, He died for me (Romans 5:8). He tells me that in Him, I can find rest (Matthew 11:28). Jesus invites me to come to Him, with all of my anxieties (that includes all of my burdens and fears and heartaches), and cast them on Him (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus tells me that I have hope - eternal hope (Proverbs 23:18). He tells me that it is impossible for me to be forever alone (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus tells me that He knows the plans that He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and that those plans are higher than my own (Isaiah 55:8,9). Jesus tells me that He is sufficient; He is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9).

And Jesus can be trusted. He bids us come to Him - with our broken hearts and all. In Jesus, there really are no broken hearts - only broken sinners needy of a Savior, who heals us and delivers us and makes us whole.

I wonder if more people knew this Truth if there would be less broken hearts and more hearts being satisfied in Him? It's a glorious thought, for the outcome of a whole heart in Christ is a glorious life - both for the glory of His Name and the futherance of our joy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

His Purpose Stands

That aching, burning desire has returned to my heart and it refuses to leave. I know many of you know exactly the feeling that I am trying to describe; it is a completely indescribable feeling except to say that it is aches and burns. There is no other way to describe it. It is a restless, holy dissatisfaction - restless because I do not know what to do with it; holy dissatisfaction because I know the way that things are and I also know from God's Word the way that things should be. And I see a gap - a wide gap that must be bridged. And that is why this feeling aches and burns my heart.

This is the longest that I have been in this country in three years. I didn't know that I would experience this restlessness to leave it again; I didn't know that I would fall in love with countries not my own; I didn't know that the people would recurrently come to mind, creating a yearning in my heart to return to the beauty that they behold. I didn't know there'd be pain in leaving until I left and I sure did not know that the Lord would ask me to wait so long to return.

However, I do believe with all my heart that my Father's timing is perfect. He knows the desires of my heart to return to minister to and with these people. He knows my burning desire to once again get dirty loving on these people, kneeling in the dirt and holding dirty, precious babies and sharing love with a widow who has not eaten in days and throwing a beach ball with children who scream with pure delight as they run after it and singing praises to my King with the resounding voices of a hundred financially poor children, creating a true richness that can be found in no material thing. I could go on, but I realize with each description, with each recurring memory, the burning of my desire does not subside, but only increases.

I trust God's timing is perfect - that truth is really what inspired me to write this; for this post is not about me. This aching desire came from the Father whose heart also aches for the people around the world; if it did not, He would not command us to go to the least of these (Matthew 25:40), bringing the Good News (Isaiah 52:7), and providing for those who have need (Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 28:27, Luke 3:11, James 2:15-16). This burning holy dissatisfaction came from the Father whose heart loves the people I love with a deeper and truer love than I ever could (John 15:13). And that is why I trust Him; my desires, if they are from Him, will not go unfulfilled. And I have found, time and time again, that when I am in close communion with my Father, my heart begins to become more aligned with His and I begin to desire what He desires. It is a wonderfully beautiful thing when my desires merge with the desires of my Father, for it is not a natural thing for the heart of a depraved sinner like me to desire what the King desires. When He allows it, I can do nothing but fall at His feet in peaceful admiration and worship, knowing that His desires and purposes are perfect and it is always His purpose that stands (Proverbs 19:21).

Though my heart yearns and aches and burns for things that the Lord has not yet seen fit to give me or allow me to do, I trust His timing. I know that He has a Plan. I know that when I am in relationship with Him, pursuing Him and enjoying Him and loving Him and worshipping Him, my heart becomes more like His and I begin to desire more of what He desires. If these desires in my heart are truly His, then they will come to pass. It is always His purpose that stands, though the plans in my mind are many (Proverbs 19:21). Though my heart senses a gap between the way that things are and the way that things should be both in the world and in the Church and it has caused a holy dissatisfaction to surface, I trust my God. He holds the whole world in His hands and He knows the end from the beginning. In Him I place my trust and, more than that, in Him I place my life.

Lord, give me more of a desire to desire what You desire; break my heart for what breaks Your heart. Father, I ask that You give me grace to accept and to trust Your perfect timing. Thank You, thank You, thank You, that it is always Your purpose that stands.

What is your heart yearning and aching and burning for that may not be in the Lord's timing for you right now? What are you going to do about it - bask in self-pity and try to go ahead of the Lord's plans or throw yourself, along with your plans, at the feet of Jesus? The choice is ours to make, but freedom is found in our Father and trusting in His purpose which stands.

Monday, June 25, 2012

20 Non-Academic Things I Learned at College

Things that I learned at school this past year that are completely non-academic:

1) Sometimes, the Lord will ask me to do things that are contrary to my plans, in the face of my fears, and bigger than any of my dreams.

2) Always, the Lord knows what is best and I never regret following Him - even when it is contrary to my plans, in the face of my fears, and bigger than any of my dreams.

3) "Home" can never be used to refer to a geographical location here on earth; home is always and forever will be in the presence of Jesus. Here on earth, home is where He leads me to go.

4) God gives me just what I need and takes away what I don't need; I may not understand or see the reason why, but I know He can be trusted. And I trust Him.

5) God is always, always, always faithful.

6) A career that can pay off school debt is not what is most important; what is most important is pursuing that vocation, career, and/or ministry that the Lord calls me to pursue. That is all. He will provide and fill in the rest. He has, He does, and He will.

7) Emotions are a good thing and not something to be pushed away; the Lord gave us emotions for a reason and are oftentimes used to direct us to Himself. Oftentimes throughout this past year, my desperation has been met with His provision; my fear has been replaced by His peace; and my sadness has been turned into joy that can only come from Him.

8) Friendships are a gift from God and even more so, friends that can genuinely be called family are a rare and precious treasure that should be invested in, loved deeply, and never let go of.

9) Family, those people that God has biologically placed in my life, are a gift from God; and even more so, family that can genuinely be called friends are a rare and precious treasure that should be invested in, loved deeply, and never let go of.

10) Never should I ever wear a mask, disguising who I really am and who God has made me to be. There is freedom in stripping off the masks and disguises of perfection and "togetherness" and laying them at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, where they belong. Redemption, Salvation, Forgiveness - they all flow from Emmanuel's veins; for He is my Redeemer, my Savior, my Rock, and my Father. Laying at the foot of the Cross, stripping off the vain strivings and labels of perfection, is a very humiliating thing. Yet it is in brokenness that there is freedom to become whole - truly whole.

11) There is a true freedom in learning how to dream; I don't mean "realistic dreams" that I can always come up with and see happen. The dreams that I am talking about are those that can only happen if the Lord is involved; there is freedom in faith that believes the impossible.

12) There is a special reverence in the gathering of some of the saints of Jesus Christ to worship Him freely together in one place - hands lifted, voices raised, knees bowed, prayers prayed. There is simply nothing like it and I cannot wait for Heaven, which wll be a perfect picture of this marred and broken one that I still find beautiful.

13) I do not know all that I thought I knew - about myself, about God, about life and living. Knowing Him means wanting to know Him more - intimately, truly, and deeply.

14) The Lord wants us to enjoy this life that He has given us - from the people He has blessed us with down to the trees and grass that He has created (which I have come to enjoy even more immensely after being separated from so much of God's creation since being in the big city of Chicago).

15) Rainbows in the sky truly are a sign of promise. I remember His faithfulness in the past and am encouraged by it, knowing that He remains and will remain faithful. It never fails. He never fails.

16) GO. DO. Whatever it is that God wants me to go and do - I must go after it. Nothing is too big for such a big God; nothing is too far out of reach to the God who holds the whole world in His hands; all things are His and therefore I am always provided for - exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. It has never failed. He has never failed.

17) "The Lord's timing is perfect." I hear it; but do I really hear it? It is perfect. I should not rush what He tells me to be patient for. I should not worry about what door He has not yet opened or closed. His timing is perfectly good, perfectly timed, and perfectly right.

18) I must seize every opportunity that the Lord gives me; to not do so is a sin. Jesus clung to His Father's Will as food (John 4:34); I am called to follow in His footesteps (1 Peter 2:21). And I must remember that love is no easy thing, but it is rewarded with joy - so much joy.

19) Joy is not always a feeling, but when it manifests itself as such it is an overflowing thing. It is as if my heart is literally bubbling over with something that I cannot contain and I cannot help but to express back to the Lord and to those around me.

20) And, lastly, one of the biggest things that I learned is that God's Word is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). God's Word says it but it has taken me 19 years to truly believe it. It is living and active - alive and truly working in my life. When I read it, I hunger for more of it. When I come into His Presence, I realize how thirsty my heart truly is and so I thirst for Him even more. When I read His Word for what it really is - the true, living, Word of God  - I am simply and genuinely overwhelmed and in awe of who He is and what He has done for such a lowly, sinful creature as myself. Redemption flows from the grace of the Cross and therefore it can be mine; it is mine. Thank You, Father.

This is a list of only twenty of the non-academic things that God has taught me my freshman year at Moody Bible Institute. There are many more and I am trusting that in the next few years the Lord will continue to teach me many things about myself, about life, and about Himself.

May I grow ever deeper in love with Jesus and delight myself in Him more and more every day, resting in His peace, growing in His love, enjoying His presence, and living in His grace. Amen.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Real Contentment

Where is true contentment found? What does it mean to be truly content?

These are questions that I have been pondering the past few days. Even though I know that true contentment is found in Christ and in Christ alone, I wonder how I know so many Christians who are discontent and so few who are truly content with their lives; and I wonder how I can sometimes be so discontent with where the Lord has me in my own life.

This can be seen in a number of "subtle" ways:

When I complain about the changes in my life, am I not showing that I am discontent with what God has allowed in my life? When I worry about the future, am I not revealing that I am discontent with the Lord's faithfulness in my life? When I am negative about my job, am I not discontent with the Lord's provision in my life? When I am bitter about my life, am I not truly saying that I am discontent with the Lord's sovereignty in where He has me right now? When I wish for a relationship or a friendship or money or possessions that I do not have, am I not actually discontent with the Lord's goodness in what He has given me?

Oh, Lord, forgive this undeserving and discontented heart.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, italics mine).

That word - season - has been a recurring thought in my mind for the past few days as I have been pondering what true contentment is. It is obvious that there are different seasons of life as we all grow older. However, each of our lives is filled with different life seasons that we can either resist or embrace; we can either be discontent with where the Lord has us or we can be content in knowing that He has us exactly where He wants us.

True contentment is not found in pretending. It is not found in putting on a facade, a mask, fooling ourselves and others that we are content with the way that our lives are. True contentment is not "faking it 'til you make it" - living in self-deception until your heart and mind believe that you are content. True contentment is not found in temporal pleasures and treasures that this world offers; how can one find true contentment in those things which are temporary and fleeting? True contentment is not found in friendships and relationships; how can true contentment be found in mere human beings who will never fail to disappoint and who can never fulfill every need of our heart and life? True contentment is found in only one place - in the Will of God our Father who loves us and has a plan for us.

God may have you in a season of desperation - of tragedy, of loss, of pain. He may have you in a season of change or of loneliness or of mourning. Ecclesiastes says that "for everything there is a season", including a time to die, to weep, to mourn, and to lose. However, there is also a time for healing and laughing and dancing. The Lord has a purpose for everything and to deny that is to deny His sovereignty and His faithfulness and His goodness. Those in a relationship with Christ have found true treasure and should be the most contented and joyful people in the world. It is a tragedy that so many Christians are unhappy and discontent.

True contentment is found solely - only, completely, wholly - in Christ and in Christ alone. Until we realize this, we will never be content. Life is full of changes and nothing except Christ, our Solid Rock, is consistent and unchanging.

And for this, I praise the One who gave me life - this particular life - for it is Him who gives me my every breath and it is for Him that my every breath is breathed. It is Him who has placed me here for such a time as this, Him who has formed my life, and Him who knows the end from the beginning and the big picture that I cannot see. It is Him who is faithful, who is true, who is consistent, who is unchanging, and whose promises and love are unfailing. And it is in Him that I can be truly relieved, loved, and content. Thank You, Father.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

For the Faint of Heart

I thought that I was convinced that life is not for the faint of heart - for those who cannot endure hardship and tragedy and pain. That we must be strong enough to push through the hardships of life and strong enough to even doubt and deny the pain that we are going through just so that we can be seen as "fearless" or "courageous" or perhaps even more "spiritual" than those who obviously struggle through the pain of life.

Then I realized that life really is for the faint of heart, those who are too weak to fight through the battles of every day and those who are too tired to press on through the struggles, tragedies, temptations, and despairs of life.

For Jesus says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9); I echo Paul, "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). And I rest in Christ's promise to me: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Life can be hard. There is no reason to deny the heartaches and the struggles that we all face. It is not a more "spiritual" act to deny and ignore the struggles and the pains of life. No, I am convinced that it would be more "spiritual" to admit, with Paul, that we are weak, that we are tired, that we need the Lord's grace and strength to fight the daily battles of life and to press on without giving up.

""Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Change can be hard. There is no reason for me to deny that the changes that I have come home to are not sometimes hard or painful or a struggle for me. I am convinced that it would be better for me to admit that I am faint at heart, that I need His grace and His strength to not only accept the change, but to embrace it without cynicism or fear or doubt of His goodness and graciousness towards His own.

It is in relinquishing the control that is already His that I find freedom. It is in opening up my hands and letting go that I find an inexpressible peace. It is in taking those now open hands and embracing my Father that I find an insurmountable joy that my heart truly cannot contain. Sometimes my heart overflows its joy into what I call "excitement chills"; they happen once in a while, as those closest to me can attest to. It happened tonight as I was driving through the beautiful country, reminiscing about the past and dreaming about the future that the Lord has for me. I was thinking of all of the "broken puzzle pieces" that seem to make up parts of my life and how those very things are being used to create a beautiful picture of redemption and of love and of hope - His redemption and His love and His hope. I cannot see the big picture; I cannot see the heavenly realms and what the Lord's purposes are in what He does and in what He allows. But I can trust that He is sovereign over all and that He uses broken and humble and weak and tired people to accomplish His purposes - for it is in these kinds of people that He is able to reveal His glory most... for all will know that it is His grace and His strength that deserve the credit. Amen. May all glory be given to Him, to Whom it is due.

Yes, life is for the faint of heart. There is hope in the despair. There is a constant in the change. There is a foundation in the earthquakes. There is love in the loneliness. There is strength in the weakness. There is rest in the exhaustion. There are hands that hold the world. And there is a God who loves us and desires to call us His own.

By His grace, I am His own. And that makes all the difference in all of my life for all of eternity.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

His Relentless Pursuit

Sometimes, I just need to go for a run. Alone. My heart has been full of so many things - wondering about what the future holds, worrying about what these next few years will bring, and yet yearning to find contentment in Christ and in Christ alone. With every step past all of the expensive stores and restaraunts and people walking and running from place to place, I was once again confused as to how I got here - to this big city full of so many people and places unlike anywhere I would have ever imagined myself to be.

I ran across the street and down through the tunnel leading to the beach that I have come to know from the many late night walks, sand fights, rock skipping contests, games of "ninja" and volleyball, runs along the beach, and even the one sunrise - all with great friends that the Lord has blessed me with. On this particular afternoon, I was running alone along the water's edge, where the waves were coming up higher than usual and washing on the shore with a stronger force than normal. I slowed to a walk and decided that I would use this time to pray out loud. I walked along the edge of the water, just speaking all of the words that have been heavy on my heart, voicing all of the thoughts that have needed to be voiced to my Father for some time. There is something so freeing about being able to let go of the burdens that have been on my heart and leave them at the Father's feet, where they belong.

I walked onto the small pier that jutted out into the lake. The wind was strong and the waves continued to force themselves up over the pier and splash me, despite my attempts to run away from them. As I neared the end of the pier, I turned around and saw the city - the skyline of the buildings behind the lake and the beach; I saw the place that I have come to call my home sometime during these past ten months. Another big wave came, this time splashing me so that my clothes got wet. I just laughed.

God, You are so faithful. You have brought me to this place despite all of my fights and fears. Like these waves, You have been pursuing me all of my life. Your love is unchanging; Your grace unending; Your faithfulness unfailing. I do not and will not ever understand why You are so faithful to me, to have brought me to such a place as this and to have given me all of these great opportunities for ministry... things that I have been dreaming about for years are becoming a reality. You have promised to be faithful - and You have been true to that promise yesterday and today and that is why I can know that You will be true tomorrow.

I turned around, ready to run back down the pier where the waves would stop splashing me. As I turned around, a wave once again came crashing across the pier, but this time it created a rainbow across the water. I was wet and the wind was blowing with so much force, creating relentless waves... but I just laughed. A rainbow, a sign of promise, a sign to me of God's unending and undenying faithfulness. Just like the waves, His love for me and His faithfulness to me are relentless. I do not understand why; I never will. All I know is the truth of His words and the evidence of His faithfulness in my life.

I began to run back down the pier, feeling as though the waves were chasing me because of their relentless pursuit, crashing onto the pier and creating puddles that I splashed through. I was overwhelmed. In the past, God has taken me to so many places and has changed my life in a way that I never would have ever imagined possible. Today, God has brought me to a place where I never would have come on my own and has continually been faithful to me every day, in the big and in the small areas of my life. And this is why I know that He will continue to be faithful to me tomorrow, relentlessly pursuing me and taking care of the areas of my life that I worry about, knowing my heart and its desires, and giving me what is best for my life and for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

All of these things that are in my heart and all of these situations that I worry about, are already in His sovereign hands. And, therefore, I must leave them there.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." -1 Peter 5:7

And that is a truth and a promise that I can rest in; the God of the universe cares for me. And this is why I can know that greater things are yet to come and greater things are yet to be done. This is why I have this peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). This is why I can find true contentment in Christ. Nothing compares to this. How deep the Father's love for us.

Praise God.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

God of this City

The smell of pot filled the late night air. The parking lot was dark and filled with guys, who all looked rough and well-cultured to the city. Being a young white caucasian girl, I was definitely in the minority. I stood with two other girls by the entrance to the liquor store, waiting for two young women who we had seen walk in. As we waited in the cold Chicago winter air, I watched as two guys pulled up towards us in their car. One was smoking pot. The other stepped out to check his tire, which looked completely fine to me. I stood there, realizing with every part of me that I was in a dangerous area of the city. My mind knew it. And yet my heart felt something completely different. My heart knew a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), a peace that reminded me that I am safe in His arms.

As the two women walked out of the liquor store, we stopped them and simply asked them if we could bless them with a rose. We handed them each a beautiful red rose and asked if we could pray with them. In the middle of the parking lot, surrounded by the darkness of drugs, alcohol, and brokenness, we formed a small circle and placed our hands on these two dear women as we lifted them up to the Lord.

I have been told that the light of the world lives inside of me. I have been told that this light was not meant to just be around other light. I have been told to shine that light in the darkest places of the world.

And so I went. I saw a young woman stand on a street corner and get picked up by a guy. I saw two semi trucks, in which the men were "doing business" with the young women. I smelled the weed and the pot and the "purple haze". I saw the streets lined up with police cars responding to a tragedy. I walked into a restaraunt and saw a country of the world represented right here in this city where I now live. I saw light be brought to a dark place as our prayers were lifted up.

I was with a ministry who does this every week. When I mentioned that I find this ministry amazing, the woman laughed and said, "Oh really? I guess I am just used to it."

Shouldn't I be used to it? The Lord has sent me to this city for a bigger reason than just to study the Bible at Moody Bible Institute. I remember visiting the city with my dad last year, before I had decided to come to Moody. I remember the moment that I looked outside the window of the tall building that I was in and my heart just broke. I was burdened as I saw people walking throughout the streets, so many of whom I knew were lost and in need of the hope that I have. While being here at Moody is a huge part of why God sent me here, there is an even bigger world out there. It's a world filled with lost people, a city whose people represent so many countries of the world. At times, the Lord has sent me to the people of the world. This time, the Lord has sent them to me.

"Seeking the lost is not about our abilities. It is really just all about our obedience. We need to just go. We have lost out there who need to know about Jesus. And we must do all that we can to seek them."
-Professor Yuan

I should be used to this. Evangelism is not just for those with the gift of evangelism. We are all called to evangelize. Maybe we are living with "tunnel vision", getting to where we need to go and not even seeing the people around us. Maybe we have given in to apathy, not expressing with words that we do not care about the lost people around us, but expressing it with our actions when we do nothing about seeking them. Or maybe we have given in to fear, another of the Enemy's tactics to prevent us from doing what the Lord has called us to do. But fear of what? Rejection? Why do we fear rejection when we do not even personally know many of the people that we come into contact with every day? I have come to find that most people are wanting to know of the hope that we have. There are so many people around us who are so lost, broken, and feeling purposeless that they are yearning to know how they can have hope. That hope is within us.

There is something freeing about stepping outside of the "bubble" of safety and comfort that I stay in most of my everyday life. It feels good to adventure into the dangerous unknown to reach out to the lost people who live in it every single day of their lives. There is a sort of peace about walking the streets with Jesus, stepping outside of the "American Christian" lifestyle that I have grown up in all of my life. There is so much more to this life than living in comfort, in safety, in luxury, and in selfish ambition. Why do we hold on to that which we have no hold to anyway?

We are living for eternity - for "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:4-5).

Our inheritance is in heaven. This earth and everything in it are temporary - everything except our souls. The souls of those who I walk the streets with every day are eternal and it should break my heart to know that some of them are going to an eternity in hell because they do not know of the hope that I have in Jesus Christ. That should burden me. It should overwhelm me. It should spurn me on to action... to just go.

I should be used to this - to living life as the adventure that it was meant to be, to going out into dark places... for that is where the light of Jesus can shine the brightest.

Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Burden me with an overwhelming passion for the people of this city who walk these streets every single day, broken and hopeless and in need of You. Give me the courage and the strength to bring them this hope that I have in You. Keep me from selfishness, from keeping this hope to myself. For if I did not know that You were my atoning sacrifice, I would also be without hope. Continue to burden me and break me and give me the strength to obey You, for I am reminded that if I love You, that is exactly what I will do (John 14:15). Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dreams & Desires

So, I've always considered myself a dreamer. A visionary. One who sees things as they are, dreams up the impossible, and desires to change things into the way that they should be.

Yes, I've always considered myself to be a dreamer. And, yet, I've never allowed myself to dream.

I remember days in Chuuk when I would stand and throw a frisbee with a little girl, my little LeAnne. As she laughed and ran to catch the frisbee that I had thrown to her, I remember feeling right at home... surrounded by children who simply need the love of Christ and being able to show it to them.

I remember days in Haiti, surrounded by swarms of children who were simply excited to be loved, to be held, to be smiled at, to be talked to, and to be given attention to. And that's exactly what I did. It's in the moments of being in the intense heat of the sun, surrounded by a swarm of sweaty children, holding a child, trying to please the three children who were trying to hold my two hands... It's in these moments that I felt more joy than I could ever remember feeling.

I remember days in Bolivia. Well, one in particular, really. I felt so utterly and completely helpless and lost on the trails of the Andes Mountains when my team got split up. And, yet, the Lord's hand guided me and gave me a peace that truly passes all understanding. He is faithful. It's in these moments that I felt the closest to God, for it's in these moments that I realize my great and dependant need of Him.

Through these experiences, I have not only been able to realize dreams of mine, but my mind has come up with all sorts of dreams. Big dreams. Dreams that I would still love to realize one day. However, I have realized that I have thought so much into the future that it has caused me to not enjoy today and, even more than that, it has caused me to not realize the desires that the Lord has placed in my heart.

Dreams come from the heart. Ideas come from the mind. I have never allowed my heart to dream for fear that my dreams would not be God's dreams for my life. Instead, I let the logic of my mind overrule the desires of my heart. While I understand that if I want to live my life in complete surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, which I have commited to do, then I cannot simply do whatever it is that my heart desires to do. I must guard my heart, as Proverbs 4:23 instructs me to do. I must offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord, as Romans 12:1 commands me to do. However, I am also instructed to delight myself in the Lord, "and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

This is a verse that I have always usually highly disregarded out of skepticism and fear that my desires would not be His desires. Yet, I have come to find that if I am delighting myself in the Lord (Psalm 37:4) and abiding in Him (John 15:7), His desires for my life will become my desires. As I grow deeper and deeper in intimacy with the Lord, my heart's desires will become those desires that HE wants for my life. This does not mean that what He desires is going to be something that I am going to initially want for my life. Oftentimes, what He asks is hard. Uncomfortable. Terrifying. Yet, when I am delighting in Him and abiding in Him, I will obey Him because I love Him (John 14:15).

I have experienced this over and over again in my life. Being here at Moody Bible Institute has been a huge part of this, because Moody was never in my plans for my life. Moody was never in the logical dreams that came from ideas out of my head. The life that I am living here is a result of delighting myself in the Lord, of abiding in Him, and of Him giving me the desires of my heart - some of which I never knew that I had.

Some of the desires of my heart have never happened because the Lord did not see them as best. Others have turned into realities beyond what I could have ever logically thought of in my own mind. Still others are desires that I never knew that I had, but as I have learned to delight myself in the Lord and abide myself in Him, He has changed my heart into more of His.

Out of the legalism of my past and the life of control that I have tried to live, I have come to realize that God wants my heart. He wants my heart. This heart, that has been scared to dream out of fear that it would not dream His dreams. This heart, that desires to become more and more like His heart, so that I will live out His desires for my life. This heart, that is so full of dreams. Some are even illogical. Some have not even been His desires for my life, but as I have drawn nearer to Him and nearer to the Cross in surrender, He has exchanged my futile dreams for His big dreams.

My heart is full. It is not full of tiny, logical "dreams" which can only stem from the mind. No, my heart is finally full of big dreams, envisioning a renewal and a revival that only the Lord can accomplish. It is full of the fruit of fulfilled dreams, some of which have been dreams that I never knew that I had, but when they were fulfilled I knew that there could be nothing better. It is full of anticipated dreams, some of which are so illogical and impossible that only the Lord could accomplish them if they are in His Will. And it is full of dreams that I already see happening, unfolding right before my very eyes.

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." -John 15:7

"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4

These verses are not to be taken out of context. However, I can take Jesus at His Word and know that if my heart is connected to His heart and if I am delighting in Him and His Kingdom purposes, then my dreams will not simply be my dreams - they will be His. And He will see His dreams to fulfillment for His Kingdom purposes. And that is what we are here for.

So, dream on.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Living With Open Palms

There have been so many thoughts swarming around in my mind these past few weeks here. Thankfully, the Lord has been surfacing one to my mind all day today that has been a constant source of comfort and encouragement to me:

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake."
[Psalm 23:1-3]

It's my second semester here at Moody Bible Institute and, yet, the challenges have not gone away. I didn't expect them to nor do I think that they ever will go away, for each season of life contains its share of joys and challenges. It's all a part of growing and maturing in the Lord and I want to be able to accept the challenges with patience and perseverance and a steadfastness in the Lord.

Last semester, I was faced with the challenge of settling in to this big city and of finding my place (or my next classroom, for that matter!) among all of the people who were strangers to me. I faced fears that were sometimes illegitimate and other times realistic. I went through my first semester freshman breakdown and sometimes I would cry when I realized just how far away God had taken me from those I love.

This semester, I realize the privilege that it is to have been brought to a place like this in such a time as this. I now have people - family - who I love and cherish here. I now know my way around the city (mostly) and can find all of my classrooms without getting lost in the tunnels. Those aren't my fears or my challenges anymore. But now, I face the continual realization that I am growing up. I am in a place that is preparing me for ministry. This ministry isn't a dream far in the future anymore. No, I am seeing my dreams unfold right before my eyes. It's exciting. It's scary. It's a challenge to be pruned, shaped, molded, and refined into who the Lord wants me to be. It's hard to live my life with open palms and see what the Lord will do with my relinquished plans and dreams. It isn't easy to grow up.

Yesterday, I was out adventuring in the city and ended up in the very building where I had a life-changing conversation a year ago with a man who I love, who will forever be my role model, my inspiration, and my example of a life of wisdom and godliness. I will forever be grateful to be able to call that man my dad.

We were sitting at dinner, trying to take in the surroundings outside of the window. Neither of us had ever been in this big city before and I was not quite sure what to think of it. I was scared. It wasn't a fear of impending doom or of terror. It was a fear that made my heart drop, a fear of knowing that the Lord was asking me to do something that I had never wanted to do and would have never asked for. It was all a part of living my life with open palms; it was a part of growing up, of realizing that the Lord is my King and I am His servant.

My dad said to me, "Molly, if you are not willing to go now, you are never going to be willing to go." He knows me sometimes better than I think I know myself. I had always spoken of my dreams of being a full-time missionary, of adventuring overseas to some part of the world that was unknown to me, to do whatever would be the hardest to do. I wanted to do the biggest and the hardest possible thing. Perhaps that's my adventerous spirit... but it had always just been a dream. I never imagined that the Lord would actually want me to go to a big city hundreds of miles away from those I loved and everything I knew to be familiar. To me, that's harder than going to some foreign country overseas. But my dad was right. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I decide, once and for all, whether the Lord is enough; whether I am going to decide to pursue Him with my life and fashion my pursuits and my desires and my plans around Him and His Kingdom or around my own selfish desires, whether I am going to live my life with open palms.

I cried. I got angry. I fought God. I doubted. I planned to go to a different college, closer to home. I held tightly to my own plans. I cried some more. I planned to tell Moody I would not be attending in the fall. I couldn't get it off my heart, out of my mind. I cried again, fought again, doubted some more. I opened my palms and I went. Somehow I'm now sitting in a dorm room at Moody Bible Institute, a year after that conversation with my dad.

Still, I'm constantly tempted to live my life with closed palms. Still, I doubt and am tempted to believe that the Lord is not enough. If only I had this... If only I had that... then my life would be complete. That is not what God's Word tells me. He tells me, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing" (Psalm 23:1). If the Lord is my Shepherd, then I lack nothing.

So what is holding me back from living my life with open palms? Fears? Doubts? "Messed-up" plans? Belief that I need something more to be content?

God's Word tells me to not fear. Jesus is the Truth. He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake. He is my portion. He is enough. I am now in need for nothing more.

Now is the time to let go. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is a crucial time in my life, when I must decide once and for all Who I am going to live for - myself or for the Lord. Now is the time when I must decide whether I am going to live my life with open palms, whether I am going to reach out to my Savior and embrace His life for me. His Word tells me He is enough.

So, Lord, give me faith to open my palms to You, embracing You and Your plans in surrender... knowing that in You, I lack nothing.