Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thanks, God!!

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:14).

A few months ago, I was sobbing due to the enormous pressure I felt from people at my church constantly asking me if I had found a job yet (I hadn't). After church service one Sunday, I went up to ask for prayer and explained my situation. "That pressure is not from God," my uncle assured me. I nodded, mopping up my falling tears.

I begged the Lord for instructions and direction--if I should go back to school or look for a specific kind of job, etc. I was so frustrated when I didn't receive a clear-cut response! "Lord, I will do anything for you," I would pray. "Just give me the word."

It was once said to me, "April, jobs don't just fall out of the sky." I think that may be the world's way of thinking, but for me, it's been a different story. I am a pretty hardcore and literal believer of "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). So basically since I've been back from Mexico I've been spending a lot of time seeking the Lord, keeping my eyes open, and believing in his imminent provision.

I've been so hell-bent on taking the stronghold of fear lately (see my last post) that when out of the blue two friends contacted me with two different job opportunities, I had to laugh. Of course, it was God at work on my behalf. I received an offer to interview for one of the positions, and before going to bed one night I prayed, "Lord, is this job a gift from you that I am to receive?" The answer came strong and clear: "Yes." "Hm," I replied, smiling, "Okay." I prayed. "Okay."

So when I went in for the first interview on Thursday and the second interview on Friday, it was so easy and effortless. When you know God is giving you something and it's already yours, you can live with a lot of boldness, peace and rest. Yesterday when I was offered the job it was such a surreal moment of receiving that which the Lord had already promised to me. It was the icing on the cake. After I hung up the phone, all I could say was, "Thank you, Jesus! Wow."

Jobs really do fall out of the sky.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth  through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created" (James 1:17-18). 

Monday, June 09, 2014

On the war path

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
-John 5:1-6
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Whew! What a journey it has been since returning from Mexico in March! In many ways it has felt like wandering in the desert with all of the detours, starts and stops and stumbling along the way. When I came back, I was just so broken, very deeply broken. And all I had was a prophetic word that I'd be "moving in different regions with apostolic teams" and the confirmation from God that "It is time to live into your calling." Other than that, I hadn't a clue what to do! "What does it mean?" I wondered to the Lord.

I won't lie, it was tough showing my face after coming back early from Mexico. What a (perceived) failure! Yikes. I mean, the embarrassment and disgrace I felt having to explain to people again and again that I was 'back-back' and didn't have another job immediately lined up...whew. Truly a cringe-worthy experience. Yet in all of this, God was faithfully moving on my behalf.

The thing about trials is that they expose my need for God. It becomes so clear that I need him BAD. I'm not talking about falling into self-deprecating, self-condemning attitudes of "Oh, I'm worthless" or "Oh, I'm a terrible person." It's so different. It's like, "Man, I am jacked up!!! Jesus, come quickly to help!"

You see, much of my life has been marked by fear. Fear has taken so many different forms in my life, you don't even know. Fear of rejection, fear of physical harm/pain, fear or failure, fear of God's abandonment, fear of God not being real, fear of God's call for me--I mean, talk about a pile-up! I just got used to being in a low-grade fearful state constantly. And there have been significant flare-ups a few times in my life where the fear just presses in and threatens to swallow me whole. It paralyzes me, makes me cry and makes me think, "Okay, wow. This is literally going to end me."

The month leading up to my departure from Mexico was another one of those flare-ups. I was struggling with physical pain in my left knee and it almost did me in. Gosh, I was crying so much!!! I felt awful, just absolutely tormented. I prayed, I read the Bible and just did my best to hold on for dear life.

I struggled with the following thoughts:
  • The future is dreadful.
    • 'God has called you to suffer, to share in the sufferings of Christ, and suffer you will!!'
  • Future suffering will destroy, kill and defeat me.
    • 'You will be overcome by pain and all life will be taken from you.'
  • It is futile to fight against pain and darkness.
    • 'Pain will come back again and again until you are defeated.'
    • 'The assaults will get worse and worse until you're finally completely flattened.'
  • You will go from weakness to weakness and God will leave you to the wolves to be consumed.
    • 'God will allow you to be crushed and will leave you that way.'
    • 'He will give you pain beyond what you can bear.'
  • You will not know healing or life on this earth.
    • 'God will continue to allow you to be stripped and beaten and emptied so that you can share fellowship with Christ, so he can keep you close, but you will not experience relief.'
  • Your experience of pain is a confirmation of God protecting you only partially.
    • 'Would a good God allow you to go through such agony?'
  • God has tricked and manipulated you into following him. He has taken advantage of you.
    • 'You labor in vain. You suffer in vain.'
    • God has promised all these good things for you only to lead you to more suffering and pain.'
  • The cost of following Jesus is not worth the 'rewards,' which you won't receive for years to come anyway.
    • 'Your misery and anguish are way more than what God will give you, either in this life or in the future. And are you even sure you'll receive that which he's promised?'
  • You draw additional pain and persecution upon yourself my following God.
    • 'You make yourself a target.'
  • God is a paternalistic, punishing Father.
    • 'He puts you through trials because 'it's for your own good' so you're going to take it and you're going to be thankful for it.'
  • Is Christ enough?
    • 'You're going to lose everything for his sake. Are you sure you want to do that? What's so great about him that you're willing to give up everything and even be destroyed yourself?'
As you can see, I was just being assaulted and pummeled with lies. Basically put, it was terrible! I was miserable. 

But you know, a couple of weeks ago I was driving in the car and began to feel that familiar sensation of fear rising up within me, along with all the familiar fearful thoughts that cause me to get even more agitated. As I was driving, I began to cry. "Help me, Jesus!" I prayed out loud in between sobs.

He did! After that prayer, something switched in me. Instead of being so sorrowful and scared, I started to get mad. I became fed up with being a victim to fear. I became determined to stand up and fight it. I started on the war path to confront fear.

If Jesus were with me in the car that day and had asked me, "April, do you want to get well?" I would have replied, "Yes, I do, *expletive*! *Expletive*! I will not be satisfied until I am!" 

So that's where I'm at. I am on the war path to confront fear.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
     I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
I crushed them so that they could not rise;
     they fell beneath my feet.
You armed me with strength for the battle;
     you made my adversaries  bow at my feet.
You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
     and I destroyed my foes.
-Psalm 18:37-39
Did you know that Jesus has given us everything we need to overcome Satan? He says, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you" (Luke 10:19).

Have you seen the movie Pacific Rim? Mako Mori is a woman marked by one terrible, fearful memory from her childhood. It continues to torment her and threatens her future as a jaeger pilot:
Her partner tries to reason with her. "Mako, this is just a memory. None of this is real." Can you relate to her continued terror at the memory despite others speaking the truth? I can.

But Mako's story doesn't end there. She is called to face the same sort of monsters that held her in fear for years and years. You guys, just watch the clip.

!!!!!!!!!!!! Get it? She uses a sword! "Take the...sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus has given me that sword, and boy am I going to use it!
Today we face the monsters at our door, and bring the fight to them! 
-Marshal Stacker Pentecost, Pacific Rim
Whatever monsters you may be facing, you can overcome them, for you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). Know that I, too, am standing with you in the fight.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Family


First vacation since entering the workforce in November of 2012? Absolute luxury. Spent a week in central Oregon with my mom's side of the family biking, jogging, eating and playing Bananagrams. Like, a lot. It was a really special time in light of my big move coming up in a couple of weeks.

As our family has really begun to show signs of aging in the past five years or so, the emotional stakes are increasing exponentially. When my cousin and I played and sang a send-off song for our great aunts and great uncle, we were surprised to find ourselves choked up and nearly unable to finish the final stanza. Although we sang, "until we meet again," our power to control whether we would actually see them in the near future, or if God decided to "take them home" before then, was totally out of our control.

Time is funny. Think about siblings... You spend practically all your time together growing up. Then marriage and kids hit and it gets tougher to get together. Then old age hits and due to disability it's a downright struggle to meet, especially when living across states. I got so sad watching my grandpa hug his lil' bro goodbye. I mean, he really doesn't and can't know if he'll ever see him again.

Enough sadness, though. What was really sweet this vacation was to see how all the younger (as in under 70 years of age) people pitched in to serve the elders. It felt so Asian; it was awesome. We had a buffet-style dinner at my grandparents' unit every night, and they got the place of honor at the table with my great aunties and great uncle. Since my grandma is in a wheelchair, others in the family would volunteer to make her plate and bring it to her. One time I was re-heating lunch leftovers and my great-aunt said to me, "That's really nice that you do that for your grandma." But to me I was like, "What?" I guess because we've been doing it for so long that it just feels natural.

I also loved the way in which the young people (as in my generation people) were really demonstrating being adults. It was so refreshing! We got to cook a big family meal together of "street tacos" three ways (pork, chicken and beef) with corn, grilled vegetables and two kinds of fresh salsa. To see that the rest of the family truly enjoyed the food was definitely a surprise. And talking late into the night with my cousins I understood that they, too, are thinking about Grandma and Grandpa and the fact that we don't know for how much longer they'll be in our lives.

I was struck by something my oldest cousin said. She said more or less that she had expected Grandma and Grandpa to go years back. Everything beyond that as been "gravy," she said.

Wow. Instead of feeling entitled to more time with Grandma and Grandpa, and maintaining a mentality of never wanting to let them go, she sees it as just a gift--a pure gift to have time, any time, with them now.

That sh1t is f*cking profound.

Followers