Petty Pebbles

Oh Abba Father, in my fist clenched tight

I cling to pebbles, small and trite

 

The longer that to them I hold

The heavier in my hands they do grow

 

I am weak but You are strong

The blood of Jesus cleanses me from all wrong

 

To You, Father, I do implore

In Your love may I abound more and more

 

Help me lay these petty pebbles down

In exchange for a precious jewel in my crown

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

~Matthew 11:28

Advertisements

Gospel Planter versus Salvation Dispenser

I remember one of my favorite bow-tied college professors continually telling us that once we left the world of academia the first question that we would be asked when meeting a new person would be “What do you do?”  

Perhaps this was meant to instill fear in his English students notorious for having a most impractical major or perhaps he was just gently reminding us to soak in those last few days of carefree student-hood, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time.

Like much of what that professor said, his words later rang true.

As my friends and I have all entered into the world of adulthood with the poplar #adulting at every turn, our answers to this question are different: teacher, nurse, adviser, engineer, etc.

When asked that question, I have never once said “seed-planter” (and if you’re a guy that could have a different innuendo entirely so I’d really suggest not giving that response), yet that is what I am.

As Christians, God gives us the privilege of having a job in His kingdom.  Jesus makes this pretty clear when He tells His disciples the parable of the sower planting seeds in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.  What are the seeds?  The Word of God.  Who is the Word?  Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  What is it we are supposed to share?  JESUS!  Jesus, who came to the earth, lived a sinless life, yet died on a cross bearing the weight of ALL of our sins so that we might have the opportunity for a relationship with God and eternal life through Him (1 John 5:11)!

It’s so simple really.  The message is simple.  My job is simple.  If Jesus is truly Lord of my life, then I will share Him with those I meet.  I used to think that it was up to me to determine if the state of a person’s heart was right for receiving the word, if a situation was good, finding the perfect words and timing etc. before sharing.  It’s not.  Just because I know that I won’t be able to invest and disciple a person who I have only briefly met, it is no excuse for not sharing the heart of the gospel and praying that another believer will come along who can guide him or her further.   If I am given the opportunity, then it is my job to sow generously.

I have read Philippians over and over again, but recently as I have been memorizing chapter one I was struck by the number of times Jesus Christ, Gospel, and imprisonment are used.   Paul’s whole focus is on Christ and the gospel and his imprisonment is not an inconvenience but rather a tool used to further the message of grace.

Not every encounter with someone is going to lead to sharing the gospel, but my new year’s challenge to myself is that the focus of every encounter is Lord, if possible, allow me to share about Your Son with them.”  This drastically changes the focus of a situation from one of annoyance and irritation to gospel-centered, Christ focused one and puts the pressure on to “live a life worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).   After all it’s hard to share about the love of God to your seatmate right after you have just been very vocally complaining about the stupidity of the flight attendants  (ummm yes this is spoken from personal experience).

BUT, this is where our job ends.  And this is where I have a problem with some evangelism methods.

I was so blessed to be in Bible-based churches growing up.  One thing we were taught when it came to evangelism was to succinctly present the gospel (which is great!) and then we were taught to follow that up with a question if the person would like receive Christ in their heart and lead them in a prayer of salvation if they answer was yes.
NO, NO, NO.

The Gospel is a seed.  So much of the images used in Scripture are those of a plant, illustrating growth over time.  Salvation is a one-time event, but just as sanctification after salvation is a daily process of growth, so is the time leading up to salvation.

The danger with this method is that it turns us into salvation dispenser instead of gospel planters.  Then we leave somebody who knows basically nothing of the Word-Jesus-with the idea that they are saved.  Salvation is huge.  Salvation is life and death.  Salvation is not something to be checked off the list with “Person X said the prayer.”

There may come a time when we have invested deeply in somebody’s life, sharing the Word with them, and after having the seed of faith take root in their heart and grow they are ready to believe and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior and we might get to be with them when it happens.  And hallelujah!  Or their time of salvation might happen when we are not present, when all of the sudden that budding seed sprouts from their heart’s soil and the angels rejoice and we could be snoring in our bed when it happens.  It doesn’t matter.  Salvation is God’s work.  For some unfathomable reason to me, God entrusts this incredible message to us frail, weak, sinful humans and commands us to go carry it to the ends of earth.  We plant the seeds but it HIS power working in hearts that saves.  My favorite verse to help unravel the mystery of salvation is Ephesians 3:7 when Paul writes, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”  

God’s power.  The Cross of Christ.  That’s what it all comes back to.

Easy Answers and Smooth Transitions

“This one is for all you girls, about 25

In little apartments just trying to get by

Livin’ on, on dreams and spaghettios

Wonderin’ where your life is goin’ to go”

I remember listening to the Martina McBride song as a child and thinking, “Wow, 25, that’s so old!  Shouldn’t these girls already know where their life is going to go?”  

Now, at age 25, change ‘spaghettios’ to rice and noodles, and this verse sums up my life.

Recently a friend made a comment about how life doesn’t happen with the “easy answers and smooth transitions” that we would like.  That phrase stuck out to me.

I have been reading in 1 Samuel and am struck by how David is constantly fleeing from Saul.  Here he has clearly been selected by the Lord through Samuel to be Israel’s king, yet prior to his kingship his life is spent on the run.  If I was David, I would be saying, “Excuse me Lord, but am I really supposed to be king?  If so, why is my life constantly in danger at the hands of foreigners and my own people, why did you allow my best friend Jonathan to die, why must I always be hiding and hanging out with a band of discontent, desperate, in-debt men?  Doesn’t being a future king mean a free pass and an easy ride?”

In 1 Samuel 23, David asks the Lord if he and his men should go to Keilah to rescue the city from the invading Philistines.

God says go!

David and his men rescue the city but the plot thickens as Saul hears of David’s whereabouts and seeks to kill him.  David then inquires of the Lord if the citizens of Keilah will hand him and his men over to Saul.

The Lord says yes.

At that point, I would be questioning the Lord about bringing me to rescue a city where the citizens would traitorously turn me over to my enemy.

God reveals the plan to David one step at a time.  David was a man with no easy answers and smooth transitions that most of us long for.  And as a result, we get some of the most beautiful cries of man to God in the Psalms.  These Psalms come out of the heat of the fire not from a flower-lined garden path.

Like my friend, I am yearning for easy answers and smooth transitions.  The second half of 2017 will be much different from the first half.  I will be leaving my China life and heading to where I know not and be surrounded by whom I know not.

So many of the Psalms proclaim, “Sing a new song to the Lord.”

Like David, I want to learn how to sing a new song to the Lord in part 2 of 2017!

Watching His Garden Grow

“The kingdom of God is like this,” He said.  “A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises–night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows–he doesn’t know how.”  ~Mark 4:26-27

Year two in China.  How different from the first.  This time around I packed my bags and boarded the plane not bursting with excitement but filled with the peace that passes understanding.

No doubt ever entered my mind that China is where I am supposed to be but the reason remained obscured.

Why, Lord, oh why?  

I am a child of running water, green grass, quietness.

My city is a place of horns honking, dodging cars, cement, and dirt.

Yet as I talked with a student, the reason became clear.  Watering HIS garden and having the privilege of watching a seed grow is infinitely worth a lack of exercise and strange foods.

One person is worth coming back for.

Why?

 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8

My life was of such value that Christ shed His perfect, innocent blood for me while I was still a sinner, undeserving of God’s grace!  

Rejoicing in year two and the joy of watching God’s garden grow!

Very, very Extra Ordinary: Year One in China

To put into words a year of humbling moments, ordinary events, and extraordinary growth painted against the backdrop of an overwhelming array of new sights, sounds, smells, language, and culture is like trying to fit back into your favorite outfit when you were five.

Nearly a year ago,  I didn’t recognize coming to China as a response to God’s calling, but now, through hindsight, I see that God had a plan, purpose, and place prepared for me here in Baoding, China, apartment 405.

From an impromptu root canal days before I left, to last minute discovering that my flight was two DAYS earlier than I had thought, to getting my visa less than 24 hours before I was supposed to be on a plane, to staying up the entire night to pack, somehow God got me to China.

And oh, what a journey it has been!

Our stories are so much more beautiful once we allow God to write them.  

One of my students, in an introduction poem, wrote this:

“I am ordinary and extraordinary.”

Simple and simply profound.

God takes the day-t0-day ordinariness of life and transforms it into something extraordinary.  

My days are ordinary: I eat three meals and my usual midnight snack, run dreaded errands to the grocery store, sweep my floors, and sit for hours at my computer to plan for classes.  Nearly every day there is a knock or two on my door and people to see.

Then there are those moments, after I have studied the Word with a precious little “seed,” that I pause, stare out my window, and in silent awe, thank God for watching growth as His Word gradually transforms hearts and the privilege of being a part of that extraordinary process.

I am ordinary. God working through me is extraordinary.

I see parts of myself in each of the heroes of faith-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses.  Not in their greatness, but in their weakness, in their doubts and in their questions:  “Why Lord, did you send me?”

Constantly I have been reminded that I am Yahweh, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that His grace is sufficient for me.  

His grace is sufficient for me when a forty-year-old woman comes to ask me for advice with a friend; His grace is sufficient for me when I am tired of smiling and talking for 12 hours straight, His grace is sufficient for me when my well of ideas has run dry; His grace is sufficient for me when I think I will scream if I get another stare or ‘hello;’ His grace is sufficient for me when my chain falls off my bike once again and I’m frustrated and irritated arriving to class.

His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness.  

I have come to rejoice in this season of life God has given me: a season where I do dishes every three days, laundry every 2 weeks, and cook lunch or dinner every….well almost never.  His grace has equipped me during this season with the time and quiet moments I need to come and drink deeply from the Word.

Every season is different.  Every season is perfect in its time.

The Lord had good works prepared in advance for me to do in China.  The Lord knew exactly what I would need this year before I even knew or asked.  He knew I would need the steady comfort of having a close friend a floor away as well as the challenge of becoming an active member of His kingdom without somebody’s shadow to stand behind.  He provided grace and support exactly where I needed it to accomplish His good purpose.

To God be the glory.  

Come

Constantly I am drawn back to the same chapters and verses in the book of Isaiah. They ring and resonate with my own heart. As I was reflecting on who I was and who I am now, I thought of how these passages I love are not only Israel’s story but they are my story and they are your story. This is a testimony of relentless love and amazing grace.

Spinning whirlwind
Rushing madness
High laughter
Painted smiles

In night’s Darkness I cowered
From the pang of morning’s Light

Caught in Death’s dizzying dance
Selling my soul for
A casual kiss, the flame in his eyes
One embrace here, a few drink over there

Noise, sound, work, words, madness, and folly
All mingled together
Gilt-covered pleasures
Killing my life

Unwilling to let go
Fearing the fall
Bound by my chains
There seemed no hope at all

But then into the Darkness,
He whispered,

“Come.”

I looked, I turned
Yet like a magnet was drawn back to Death’s ways

Again softly called He,

“Come.”

Trembling I put
One foot into Light
But a seductive cry clamored,

“Don’t go!”

Still His tender voice pierced
Through the Night

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
Come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.”

Starved was my soul
Parched was my spirit
And so He asked me,

“Why spend money on what is not bread,
and you labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

A tempting voice said in my ear,
“My way is fun! My road is easy!
His call is hard; His path is suffering.”

Alone, away from the noise
Crawled I to His quiet voice
A battle was raging
When to the Light I drew near

He broke me, He destroyed me,
He crucified my flesh
Tears I shed
For the pain was immense

Through fire and water went I
Yet my side never left He

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savoir;”

“My Lord, I love You!”
Was all I could cry

By His death I am free
Through His wounds I am healed
Out of the ashes and rubble rose I
Alive, new, a pure spotless bride!

Such love! Such grace!
I scarcely can comprehend.

“My Lord, my life for Thee,”
‘Tis all I can give.

An Inheritance of the Lord

He did not give any inheritance to the tribe of Levi.  This was its inheritance, just as He had promised: the offerings made by fire to the LORD, the God of Israel.  ~Joshua 13:14

Rings on left hands.  Rounded bellies.  Roots.  Stability.  Homes.  Community.  Turning my eyes away from Jesus, the source and perfecter of my faith to the inheritance of my brothers and sisters, my feet are quick to falter (Hebrews 12:2).  But I have been delivered from death, even my feet from stumbling to walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56:13).  

But Moses did not give a portion to the tribe of Levi.  The LORD, the God of Israel, was their inheritance, just as He had promised them.  ~Joshua 13:33                      

 Quiet morning hours.  Dishes (in fact, all dishes) in the sink.  Dinner at 10 pm.  Immersed in words of life.  Eating fully and drinking deeply without money and without cost (Isaiah 55:1).  Reluctant partings from my Bridegroom, yearnings that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, that the king would bring me to his chambers (Song of Solomon 1:1,4).  Closed doors, precious times.  For my husband is my Maker–His name is Yahweh of Hosts. (Isaiah 54:5).     

Still days.  Exhausting days.  Sweetness of friendships forming.  Time to ponder, think, reflect. A season to sit in the presence of my Savior. Freedom for long lunches to turn into dinners.  Called where I am.  An inheritance that looks different from others.   

But he gave no inheritance among them to the Levites. ~Joshua 14:3                                                                                   

Unsettled temporariness.  Why Lord?  Look at what you have given your other children.  Can’t you see my desires, my plans?  I want You as well as everything else.

No portion of the land was given to the Levites except cities to live in, along with pasturelands for their cattle and livestock.    ~Joshua 14:4                                                                  

A longing to know.  What’s next?  Oh Lord, I gave you my life that was not my own but never thought you might ask me to wander.  That you might nestle me between the crevices of two worlds.  Remove me far from familiar friends, a known way of life.  But I am a foreigner and temporary resident on the earth, seeking a homeland, aspiring to a better land– a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:13-16). 

But the Levites among you do not get a portion, because their inheritance is the priesthood of the Lord.   ~Joshua 18:7                                                                                                                                           

To all His children, beautiful blessings from above.

He alone is enough.  He alone is the richest inheritance.

Come Lord Jesus!    

                        

Chinese Students

It has been a fun, humbling, rocky, wonderful first semester of teaching.  My students taught me so much and laughter helped pave a lot of the bumps in the road.  Here are but a few stories.

From the first day, one student in particular would always stay after class to talk and his quotes and commentary on life were simply hilarious.  Students themselves were my best teaching tool, so at my request he would sometimes offer me suggestions and then proceed to tell me, “But Teacher Anna, you’re the man!” This same delightfully quirky student would always bow to me before leaving.  Traditional ancient China still lives on.

215
Kathryn had to tell Edison to scoot closer to me. He left a good foot between us haha.

Sometimes language can cause funny situations.  I had one student who came to me to tell me that another student would not be in class for several weeks because “she broke her ass.”  Um, what?  And what do you say to said student when she returns?  Asking them about their rear end just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Texting students is also a normal, great, and efficient means of communication.  Until in your haste you accidentally send a winky face instead of a smiley face to one of your young male students.  It’s amazing how one little emoticon can change the whole meaning of “Nice to meet you too!”

One time I gave students an assignment to finish as homework and told them they were welcome to go ahead and leave whenever they were finished.  They sat and stared at me.  About five minutes later, I repeated the same thing.  They still sat and stared at me.  Finally when the bell rang I repeated my directions and asked if they understand and they vigorously nodded.  It made me want to sing Semisonic’s “closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

Because I taught all freshman this semester, their general shyness and lack of confidence in English made it sometimes difficult to truly forge connections.  However, one of my student would frequently stay after my class ended at 6:10 (my stomach was always growling at that point) to talk for a little bit.  This same student had the curse of technology trouble when she was trying to do a presentation for class.  When she stayed after, she began crying and could not be comforted despite numerously assuring her that I was not at all upset, her grade would not be affected, and we would come up with a solution.  Trying to move past somewhat of a language barrier and see if there was something else provoking this onslaught of tears, I asked if she had been very busy the past week.  She then proceeded to tell me about a party she had gone to where the boys drank a lot and she drank some.  A teaching moment, but where do you go with that statement?  I thought she was going to tell me about test woes not weekend activities.

For Thanksgiving, I asked students what they knew about the holiday.  Chinese students have some difficulty pronouncing the ‘th’ sound and often make a ‘s’ sound instead, so when one student responded with ‘thanks’ I heard ‘sex.’ “Anna, get your mind out of the gutter!” some of you might be thinking but my mind started to instantly race with how to delicately correct him…maybe he’s confused this with Valentine’s Day….fortunately he repeated himself twice and I heard “thanks” the second time around.

Also, I would highly recommend investing 20 seconds of class time to show your students the “Scary Car Commericial” YouTube video.  If nothing else, it will liven them up for bit.

 

Another time I got a Chinese student to text my class group in Chinese on my phone pretending to be me.  Maybe not the most professional move but certainly a fun one.

Teaching Chinese students has been a wonderful mix of teaching adults (well kinda) who have childish delight simply because you are a foreigner and therefore new and exotic.  Don’t get me wrong, Chinese students still show up late for class, text in class, cheat in class, and fall asleep in class, foreign teacher or not.  Yet the awe factor that comes from having blue eyes and very pale skin makes it unique teaching experience.

026
Taking numerous pictures with your students is part of the job description.  

 

Light and Truth

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. 

Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.

Then I will come to the alter of God, to God, my greatest joy.  

I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God.

Psalm 43:3-4

Dear readers, let us pause and think about the power of these words!  How incredibly blessed we are as New Testament believers.  We can see the very fulfillment of this psalmist’s plea in the form of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When the psalmist ask God to send His “light” and “truth” we know as New Testament Christians that Jesus Himself has said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and He has also claimed “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Thus from our post-cross experience, we can see the answer to the psalmist’s plea to God to send His light and truth found in Jesus Christ.

This leads us to a second important truth in this Psalm: Jesus Christ is the One who must lead us to our God.  Jesus has said that “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  We cannot come to the Father on our own.  We cannot come to the Father with only our best friend.  We cannot come to the Father with only our spouse.  We cannot come to our Father with only our mother or father.  It is ONLY the light and truth found in Jesus Christ that will lead us to our God.

Next the psalmist tells where He ask of God to send His light and His truth to lead him.  He asks to be brought to God’s holy mountain, to His dwelling place.  “Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place” could read as “Let Jesus bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.”  And here we uncover a third truth.  Our plea for God to send Jesus to lead us is so that we may meet God ourselves.    We do not ask for Jesus to lead us into a Costco warehouse of spiritual and material goods that we can pick and choose what we deem best for ourselves.  We simply ask God for Jesus to lead us to God.

Another important nugget of truth found in these verses is that our God is our joy and our greatest reward.  Because of this truth, Jesus can lead us to God from prison walls from hospital beds from abusive homes and from these dark places we can find our greatest joy.  Coming to God, our greatest joy, is not dependent upon our circumstances.  Hallelujah for this!

From these verses we discover that when we come to the holy mountain, the dwelling place of God, we then proceed to go to the alter of God.  The psalmist and Old Testament readers would have been well aware of what an alter entails more so than the 21st Century Christian.  An alter is a place of sacrifice for the purpose of worship.  Sacrifice consist of pain and blood for the outcome of pure worship.  So not only does the psalmist plead to be led to God’s mountain, he also asserts that once he is in the holy dwelling place he will not come for any gains for himself but rather to sacrifice to his God.  The psalmist is willing to undergo death and pain because God is his greatest joy.

The result of sacrifice at the alter of God is praise to God.  How often we might think that if we sacrifice to God He will then reward us but how false that view is!  Our sacrifices are never meant to made for a future reward in mind but with the intent to purely praise our God once we have surrendered what we hold fast to.

What does this practically mean then for the modern day Christian?  How can these two verses be lived out in our everyday lives?  After all we cannot literally climb with Jesus the holy mountain and dwelling place of God nor can we literally go to the alter of God.

Day by day we need Jesus and we find Him through our prayers to our Father.  Doing God’s will and standing on the mountaintop does not mean that it is easy.  Jesus Christ must first bring us to a place of sacrifice.  This sacrifice can be in the form of a future career we had planned, a person we desired to marry, a child we wanted to bear.  We come to God to give all to God and sacrifice is not painless.  Yet from the pain of these high places we then can sing praises to God and our King and our joy.

So let us embrace the upward climb and pain of the Christian life for the joy set before us!

 

Running with Reckless Abandon

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, do you know what that means?

In one word, that’s me.  However this past year has revealed to me more than ever my own lack of self-sufficiency and need for others.

As I was reading The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken, I was struck by one part which described the author’s interviews of Muslim Background Believers in regards to a certain missionary.  He asked several different ones, “What makes a good missionary?”  None were able to answer the question yet all said the same name of a missionary they loved.  When pressed to explain why they loved him so much, they said “because he needs us.  The others don’t.”

I think of how during my internship in Guam I was reliant on others for assistance getting groceries, seeing beautiful sights that were further than my little bike could take me, and for any sort of social life.  How thankful I was to all of those who went of their way for me!

Here in China my apparent need has been even greater.  Sometimes I feel like a two-year-old trapped in the body of an adult.  Basic tasks like getting groceries, going to the bank, ordering food, and doing online shopping all require help.  Yet as one Chinese student said who has given so much time to all of the American teachers, “It feels good being needed.  Chinese people don’t need me but you do.”

Ultimately, these needs reflect my much greater need for Christ every day, every hour, every minute.  Could I have survived in Guam and now in China without those people that so graciously helped me?  Yes.  But, oh what sweet blessings I would miss and how much extra trouble I would bear.  Can I survive on small doses of Jesus?  Yes.  But like the old hymn says, “Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”  Why wander in the wilderness like the Israelites surviving on manna yet never completely satisfied when we have a sweet Savior, a man of sorrows, who has died so we might daily walk in a new life with Him?

As my need is ever before me, I am reminded of God’s words to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

As humans we were never created to be independent, self-reliant, self-sufficient creatures.  That is a result of the fall.  We were created to have needs, or rather a need for the One who made us.  A need for the rest and satisfaction that can only come from total reliance and humble dependence on our Savior and His finished work.   Our needs are designed to point us to Him, the only one who can fully sustain and satisfy.  They are meant to demonstrate that no good can come apart from God because as branches dependent upon upon His vine for nourishment we “can do nothing” without Him (John 15:5) and “power is perfected in weaknesses.”  Our great need is meant as a way to glorify our greater God as we humbly admit our weakness and seek Him.    As children of God, what a privilege it is to stand ransomed and redeemed before our Father, made righteous by Jesus’ blood giving all praise and glory to Him whose hands knit us together!

Along with my realization of my need for others and Jesus this year, I have also come to see that the amount of service for the Lord is dependent upon the amount of surrender to the Lord.  He can only use what is freely given back to Him, the giver of all good gifts.  Surrender is daily and it is unconditional.  Like cliff jumping or sky diving, the hardest part is the initial letting go.

I must confess that I strongly dislike trust falls- an activity where you stand on object, a group of people link arms behind you and you fall back with straight legs into their arms.  Nearly every time I fail to fall.  It’s not because I think that the people who are supposed to catch me aren’t there.  Even though I can’t see them, I fully believe that they are behind me.  It’s not because I don’t believe they have the strength to catch me.  I know they can.  Rather it is my natural instinct to trust no one but myself that prevents me every time from falling.

My relationship with my heavenly Father has been like my experience with trust falls.    As with trust falls, I don’t struggle with it because I doubt the Lord’s presence or His strength.  Rather it is my natural, Adam-like, sinful self that rebels against trusting Him completely.  Paul writes in Romans 7:18-19, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For the desire to do what is good is with me,  but there is no ability to do it.  For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.”

My desire to trust God fully in order to fully surrender and walk in obedience is there, yet it rages with my natural flesh.  Like Paul, I have cried out, “What a wretched [woman] I am!”  How I want to trust and surrender and yet at the last second my natural self jumps in preventing me from doing the very thing I desire.

I have so very much to learn but this year has taught me a lot.

I have prayed to learn how to walk humbly with the Lord and have been taught that learning to walk in the way of true humility does not come with a gentle touch but with a hot, searing knife.

In fear and trembling I have approached our King and asked Him to teach me to listen to Him and like Elijah, I have learned that the Lord comes in a “soft whisper,” not the the mighty wind or the earthquake or the fire that I so dreaded (1 Kings 19:11-12).

I have learned that if I am to be able to sing praises to my King from the darkest days in the midst of storms and affliction and grief and sorrow, my relationship with Him and delight in Him cannot be rooted in the gifts He gives me but in Himself, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

This has been a year of tears mixed with laughter.  A year of pain intermingled with joy raining down.

This year the  frantic, frenzy rush of my college days has been replaced by unusual stillness.  The silence and solitude that once seemed so lonely and barren has now become beautiful.  As with any intimate human relationship, I am growing to see how the most precious, intimate times with my Bridegroom happen behind closed doors where none but myself and Him can be present.

I am reminded that being a Christian is not about what we do but about who we are.  We are the Bride of Christ.  We are His love and His desire.  May our lives reflect the beauty of this relationship!

Here’s to 2016: a year to run with reckless abandon after my Savior and to spend in careful preparation for the testing that is sure to come.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+wound+gospel+whiskey+runners

1613854_10152676781286290_1240634138182167736_n