Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Still Can't Believe I'm in Uganda.

From the time Becca dropped me off at the meeting place on December 27th until day, Day 4 of our 15 day adventure, I have been completely floored by the glory and greatness of God. In my sweet time of prayer with Becca before I left, I saw God's provision for both of our spirits. Nudged to share in a time of confession with me, Becca's honesty spurred me into sharing and confessing as well. I was burden free as I stepped onto that plane :). Praise Him for His orchestration!

I am in great company--this team is made up of so amazing people and the people of Uganda are sweet of spirit and utterly stunning. The friends we're partnering with at GBCC are fantastic. Their love for the Lord and for prayer are hugely encouraging. There seemed to be an instantaneous love shared between us and them, and we can only give credit to God for orchestrating our interactions so beautifully. I'm completely obsessed with children here--their gorgeous eyes, their beaming smiles, and their little hands that so quicly latch on to yours...

We spent two days traveling, so it was really nice and such a break to finally get into Gulu. We experienced what we thought was heavy rain the second day there. It came right after we had gone hut-to-hut praying for people. We saw both children and adults come to know the Lord, and there was much recjoicing to be had. The rain was cleansing--symbolic of so much, and we met to worship together, to give thanks, refreshed and overflowing with the love and Spirit of God.Worship here is good for the soul and the body :)!

There's so much I can share from the last few days (e.g. interactions on the plane rides, our brief stay in Dubai, unexpected but awesome change of plans, etc...), but i'll leave you with a few of my gems. The car ride to Gulu was about 6 hours long. For five of those hours, I experienced a deep and powerful time of worship as I started out of the window of a 18-person bus. The landscape of this country is lush and remarkably green with equally impressive clear blue skies with clouds that seem to go on forever. I mean--seriously, they just doesn't end! I was making mental note after mental note of how creation truly shows the magnificence and creative genius of our Father. Driving past deep green fields covered in beautifully shaped trees,  I marveled at the artistry of our God. Then it dawned on me--as much as i'm amazed by God's beautiful handiwork in creation, He delights and marvels in us--His favorite creation. You, me, the people of Gulu, the people of the world. We are His art. And this may sound a bit off because we know that God is the all knowing God, but I can't help but think that when God looks at us, we take His breath away so much that even He doesn't have the write words to use to express how much He adores us. Leaves you speechless, huh? We live on the very canvas of our Masterful Artist. The Creator creates and is pleased with all which He has made. He's pleased with us!

I think a common thread we've experienced in the day and a half we've been in Gulu is this. Humility brings us closer to the heart of God and of His image bearers. There is much pain, grief and brokenness here; but there is also great joy, worship and love in the hearts of the people. During the times when I feel like I have nothing to offer because I haven't been through anything close to what the people here have, I'm reminded that the Spirit of God is unifying. In my silence, He speaks. Madeline says it best: "Communication implies sound. Communion doesn't." Sometimes it's the simplest act of sitting with someone that speaks the loudest.

My internet time is limited, so I apologize for the all-overness of this post. Thank you so much for your prayers thus far. He hears and is faithful! I'm blown away by your love and your prayers.  Please be praying for our next few days. The New Year's service (today for us) is an all-nighter. Pray fo the Spirit's guidance of what will be shared (both our team from Rock Harbor and the members o GBCC will be leading worship and sharing messages). Also, continue to pray about the upcoming women's conference (Saturday). We're so excited so see how God will bring healing and restoration to the spirits of our sisters in Gulu as well as in ours.

HAPPY EARLY NEW YEAR!!

Signing off...see you (here) in a few days!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Passport Packed--Almost Ready To Go.



That's a lie. My passport isn't packed. In fact, that's what i'm going to do right when i'm done with this entry. I can't believe what a whirlwind it's been. This past week with no school, Christmas, visiting family, and preparing for my trip to Uganda--has seemed to fly right on by.

Nonetheless, the day has come. I leave for Uganda tomorrow. I'm excited/nervous. If it weren't so cold, i'd have sweaty palms. At this rate, i'm wondering if i'll get any sleep before our 11:30 AM meeting time.

I go into this trip with no doubt in my mind that there will be joy. God has spoken that to me time and time again. The anticipation of experiencing a greater depth of His Body is just overwhelming. I feel like something's on the brink for me. It may not happen during the trip, but the trip may be a catalyst for whatever is around the bend.

This passage was given to me this evening, and it is perfect. It calls me to be a posture of waiting for, trusting in, and claiming God's promises:

       "For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
       it speaks of the end
       and will not prove false.
       Though it linger, wait for it;
       it will certainly come and will not delay." -Habakkuk 2:3



I go into this trip with an openness--and from now until I get onto the grounds of Gulu, I pray for a further opening of my heart. 


Pray for these things for the team, for me, and for the people of Gulu:
-Boldness/Authority in His Spirit
-Patience
-Healing
-Humility
-Team Unity
-Increased love for God's children over in Gulu
-Whatever else He leads you to pray for :)


The team and I will keep you posted on the trip's happenings through Rock Harbor's Uganda blog:


http://www.rockharbor.org/blog/uganda/


I'll also occasionally post here, so feel free to check both!




I really should be packing, so i'll leave you with a rough itinerary of our time, so you can be praying :)


Sunday 12/27--Depart from LAX ~ 4 PM

Layover in Dubai

Tuesday 12/29--Arrive at Entebbe ~ 2:45 PM

Wednesday 12/30--Depart for Gulu/Arrive at Acholi Inn/Worship @ Gulu Bible Community Church/New Year's Planning Meeting/Jesus Film Crusade

Thursday 12/31--Alero Cuku Medical Mission

Friday 1/1--Alero Cuku Medical 

Saturday 1/2--Women's Conference/GBCC Model Farming

Sunday 1/3--Break Out Groups (Marriage/Youth)/Worship @ Pastor Ron's

Monday 1/4--Langol Medical/Jesus Film/Testimonies

Tuesday 1/5--Guru-Guru Medical/Jesus Film/Testimonies

Wednesday 1/6--Hospital Ministry/House of Hope/Heals/31-Bits/Krochet Kids/Appreciation Dinner

Thursday 1/7--Depart for Murchison Falls National Park

Friday 1/8--Safari/Depart for Kampala

Saturday 1/9--Bethany Village (Orphanage)/Dinner @ Pastor Fred's

Sunday 1/10--Church @ Ggaba Community Church/Depart for Entebbe

Monday 1/11--Arrive @ LAX



Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Almost Full Circle



With only one more week of school left, I found myself overwhelmed--by how crisp it's getting outside when it was in the 80s just the other day; by how much I still have to get done, by how badly I had to use the ladies' room (again within a matter of minutes--silly coffee); by how quickly time has flown by; and by how on August 26th, I had experienced a great sense of awe and wonder at the thought of the mightiness and greatness and the intricacies of God that i'm experiencing again in the same class today.

It's been about 16 weeks since my first semester of grad school started. I remember sitting in my first class and experiencing a feeling of great warmth as tears welled up in my eyes as the teacher opened up the class time with prayer. This may sound strange, but I had spent 4 1/2 years acquiring and applying knowledge at a secular campus prior to this experience where my encounters with God at school were not so blatant and forthright (I don't mean to say that I didn't see Him there--He was there, alright :)). Here, I wasn't inviting God into my class, into my studies and into the of these materials seemingly alone. This was my first encounter, since my last experience as a senior in high school (at a time when I didn't appreciate it nearly enough), that a teacher was caring for me as a student in aspects of spiritual as well as professional development.

It really does feel like I just started a few days ago, but so much has happened since the end of August. Countless ups and downs, sprinkled with smatterings of both expected and unexpected changes--all through which I kept on being reminded that I was truly loved and fully pursued by God. Mind you, this wasn't always at the forefront of my mind or my heart. In fact, sometimes it took mildly deep lows to bring me back to this truth. This semester has been marked by great breakthroughs, times of numbness, as well as times of wrestling with what I know as true and what my flesh is inclined to without the power of the Holy Spirit. It has been stamped with times of astounding joy and speechlessness as I was overwhelmed by God's beyond skillful orchestration of my life.  I have been blown away by His provision, but in the midst of acknowledging Him, I've also been deeply disappointed with the posture of my heart. Too quickly inclined to choose myself before I choose Him. Immediately reminded by His grace as opposed to a spirit of condemnation. These thoughts with many others swirled around my brain--the ones worthy holding on to, traveling sometimes rapidly and other times a bit more slowly to my heart where they now reside and will hopefully continue to be cultivated.

More than anything else, I have been shown and reminded of my immense and undeniable need for our God. The most striking reminder is that I need Him for every breath that comes into my nose and out of my breath. He sustains my everything. Deep breaths become more and more powerful with that thought in mind. Not only does He sustain my everything, He is everything. It's all about Him. this story is His story, and we are vehicles--honored and chosen vehicles to demonstrate His grace and His character. We are made in the image of Almighty God. We were created to receive His revelation, to integrate that into our lives and to be changed more and more into the very likeness of Him.

"I'm taking this class because God's been revealing Himself to me through the Old Testament, and I really just want to see more." That's what I told my professor when he asked us why we were taking the OT Survey class. Needless to say, that happened. He is in every word, on every page, and repeatedly reveals himself despite the shortcomings of the people we encounter in the respective books of the Old Testament (Good for us, right? Despite our shortcomings, HE will be made known). All scripture is revelatory because our God is a revelatory God. He showed up the first day of class when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, every day in between and today as I was over-caffeinated and a lot more than just a little bit tired.

Psalm 34:8 says "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Whenever I read this verse, I think "Yes! I have tasted and He is good!" Though, what has come to me over and over in the past few months. God gives His children access to an ever-increasing, sensitive taste palate. The first taste is WOW/Whoa!!, and the next taste can be even WOW-er/WHOAAA!!!, etc... Using those terms probably isn't doing this justice, but there aren't the right words, you know? There will always be more of God's goodness to be tasted--to be beheld and internalized and transformed by. We don't deserve it! My mind spins when I think about this.

I don't know how to end my thoughts. They've seemed all of the place since the beginning of this entry. The only thing that seems appropriate is embodied by a sound that is often packed with a meaning of great satisfaction:

Mmmm.


Unchanging, almighty, holy, indescribable, constant, gentle, piercing, loving, caring, patient God. Thank You. We may need to be reminded at times, but You are all we need and You are far more than enough. You could have made our lives black and white, but you chose to paint them with rich colors, great perspective and much depth. Your subtleties give dimension to our lives. Seriously, Thank You. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leafy Songs Surround.



Casting a moving shadow over my shoulder
As it's neighbor, the breeze, gently skips across
The back of my head--rousing tendrils and curls to
Freely dance and sway,
The Fall sun now lingers on my face
Masked partially in Summer's garb.

Bursts of cool air interspersed with rays of warmth--
The quintessential marriage between heat and allusions of cold.
Few but boldly colored leaves paint the air with delicate strokes
As the wafts of wind fight to keep them dancing for as long as
They can before they rest on grounds below.
Freefalling--a short-lived escapade.

Dry, crisp and peculiarly loud, the crackling leaves
Under my feet are surprising.
Strange that such decibels could be reached
By such unassumingly sized leaves.
Heel to toe, heel to toe,
Leafy songs surround.

Side by side and without motion--
My feet.
No crackling leaves.
The sun seemingly still by the horizon.
Eyes closed and kept closed by
An invigorating dance of air
Coming from the heels of my feet
around and up to the crown of my head.
Arms stretched out to either side,
Palms upward and receiving
With the rest of me,
The glorious gift of Fall
In its many forms.







Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hold up!





" Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God's footsteps. Waiting on God is an active, alert--yes, joyful--waiting. As we wait we remember Him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember Him we create a community ready to welcome him when He comes." H. Nouwen 




** Waiting is active--not passive. It is preparation for His coming but also preparation for us to become more of who we are made to be in Him.

I was reading a passage yesterday that stood out to me differently than it has before:

"Abide in Me as I abide in you." It may be that the translation I read struck a different chord. "AS" I abide in you. It doesn't say abide in me, then I will abide in you. It's a simultaneous abiding; it's mutual. It's a place of constant connection. This is a place of simultaneous abiding in which the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives. Actively waiting gives us greater vision of what it means to be constantly abiding.

As we wait, the Vinedresser is pruning us. All the while as parts of us are cut away because they don't bear fruit, we are still very much a part of the vine. Pruning doesn't cause there to be a separation between us and the Vine; rather, it's the Vinedresser removing lifeless limbs. Those fall away, and there the branches are given room and freedom to bear the intended Fruit.

**An active waiting also allows us to be interruptible.

This is something I've been praying for more of--room in my life to be interruptible. All time is His time, but I treat it as my own, precious commodity. I've seen much grace here as I trust Him to provide time to do what He knows I need to do (also for things I get to do :)). This idea of being interruptible has been very closely tied to the idea of worship for me. Being interruptible implies that there is a constant awareness of the Spirit of God actively moving in and through all seconds, minutes and hours of our lives. I want to be present for that. I don't want schedules, for busyness, and for routine to squelch the possibility for being really alive in moments when He is clearly wanting to move and make Himself known. If we're aware of His movements and what He's up to,  we can (we get to) respond appropriately, even immediately, in worship. In other words, if we are constantly waiting on Him, we can constantly be worshipping Him.

I love God's creativity--being open to God's time instead of mine can take shape through unexpected conversations, through stopping long enough to be amazed by a delicate flower, to pray, to sing, to play, to be still, to do someone's dishes, to ask someone how they're doing, etc...

Though the idea of being interruptible might drive us to think in terms of sacrifice (which may very well be true at times--dying to self, placing others before ourselves, etc...), it is freeing; it breaks off the chains that have been a part of lives--those places which have been deeply enslaved to our own desires. Asking God to move in our lives this way removes the shackles of selfishness. To be interruptible means to be free to worship.

This semester, I was able to meet someone quite special-- a classmate of mine. She is of quiet and gentle spirit, full of joy and worship. The words I choose here won't do justice the work that God has done in this woman's life, but she is constantly worshipping God--in word and in deed. At any given moment regardless of what's going on, if she senses the Spirit at work, she will stop to thank God for His provision, for His goodness, and for His ability to blow her mind time after time. Never is it done in the look-at-me sense. Anyone around her can simply tell that it's a natural response; she knows nothing other than to thank God. It's almost as though she knows she'd explode if she kept it in. Often times her genuine responses to God move me a great deal--this morning I was moved to tears as I thought about the way she worships. I'm humbled, and I desire more of that kind of life. I'm blessed by her faithful heart of worship; it is contagious! Hiromi, you live a life that is interruptible, and I praise God for your lovely heart.

***

Father, give us Your strength as you incline our hearts to wait on You. Free us up to see you, to serve you, and to respond appropriately to you. As we still ourselves before you, May we see the weight of your glory. 


Friday, November 13, 2009

If Ice Cubes Could Talk






Imagine yourself as an ice cube 
simply resting on the sidewalk.
God is with you.


This was a prayer/silence exercise that my friend took us through during our small group last night. We sat there in silence, some more still than others, for a whoppin' four minutes (It amuses me that four minutes of silence can cause people to become so uncomfortable, fidgety and anxious. It's so odd). As we sat there and prayed and visualized, we were encouraged to ask God how the imagery spoke to us. Did it bring a sense of rest? A sense of anxiety? Where is God during this time and in this image? 


I was a glistening, square cube melting slowly into the cracks, pores, and grooves of the sidewalk. The warmth of the sun was gently but persistently transforming me into an altogether new substance--rays of sunshine bouncing and ricocheting off of some surfaces but being absorbed by others--including me, the ice cube.  Hardness became a substance that flowed freely into its surroundings. There was a sense of release as I melted away. I didn't have to try; there was no striving. I was simply being and the strength of the sun was doing the rest. As I continued to melt, there was a moment when I was the small little remainder of an ice cube that was wiggling around in the puddle that had formed around me, dancing and swirling but never straying far from that place. (This spoke to me because I feel that often time stillness can be restrictive, but in reality, it is freeing.) 


The image of the melting ice cube affected me deeply because I often get pictures of myself falling into a pile of pillows or sitting in the Father's lap when I'm in a state of rest, but the imagery of the melting ice cube took me into a greater place of understanding. I don't just want to rest on top of something. I want to lean into and become a part of what supports me--to melt into, to become one with the rest that is only found in my Father. To simply be in His presence is a form of worship, and that just blows my mind. 


"Come to me, all you who are troubled and weighted down with care, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28



Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Touchy Feely Matter.



Some of us are naturally inclined to being rather in tune with our emotions, while others of us are not. On occasion it seems like we feel everything with the sensitivity of that of a flower petal--completely exposed and aware. Other times, we are numb to everything: nothing feels like anything, and it almost appears as though we fear feeling. Too many of us make all of our decisions on the basis of our feelings, and others of us don't take them into consideration when making decisions.

We dance on extreme ends of the reality of emotions and feelings. Neither end of the continuum is healthy, and we really are challenged constantly to find the balance. Neither end is safe or sound. A number of us feel ashamed for feeling too much, and others of us think we're weird for not feeling enough.

Feelings and emotions help us find commonality, but they also have the capacity to be a mechanism that brings about ostracism. These feeilngs can be rooted in believing lies that we've been told or that we have believed about those around us, but they also have the immense power of affirming what is true!

In the midst of experiencing what we feel when we hear the lies, it is imperative that we ask ourselves what is true. Emotions in light of these moments too often lead us into a posture of wallowing and thinking that is very narrow-minded, self-centered, self-degrading, and self-destructive. Those emotions completely undermine the freedom and truth found in the powerful work of  Jesus that has already taken place in our lives. Lies and defeat have no room in our lives--and absolutely no power in our lives.

The beauty in emotions is found in the very moments when they affirm what is true.  This is not to say that all that is true is joyous and a cause for celebration. Tears from one who grieves, laughter from one who rejoices, sorrow from one who experiences death of a loved one, joy and relief from one who has experiences freedom, righteous anger towards injustice, etc.. These are all very real processes. We aren't meant to ignore what we feel but rather ask the Lord what it is that He wants to show us through them. What is He trying to teach us? What is He trying to show us of Himself?

We are not to live without emotions, but our emotions should not drive how we live. Emotions are a gift--that which allows us to experience and feel and be very much alive. They weren't meant to reap and sow destruction. The combination of emotions and sound mind produces a lovely depiction of a healthy and thriving soul whereas the combination of emotions and confusion produces a portrait of chaos and angst.


Father, show us Your heart. Give us the strength to sit in what we feel as you teach us to surrender what we feel to You. Give us your strength so that we don't run from what we need to face. Teach us to walk in the freedom of knowing You--that we would see ourselves as You see us. Refine what we feel and the ways in which we feel, so that our actions and our responses reflect your Spirit in us. We pray for clarity and sound mind, and we ask for hearts that are sensitive to You. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lovely webs.





I got up this morning--cheery and bright. The airy, somewhat fog-infused light of morning was dancing through the blinds, and I found myself ready for today. 6:30 AM. A little unheard of for me? A bit. I don't mind being up that early, but I don't know if i'd use the word cheery to describe my innermost feelings.

Whatever the case may be, the cheer and delight continued throughout my day: there was a consistent feeling of peace, of steady-pacedness (yes, it's made up), and the sense of being in a relaxed but intentional dance. It felt very natural to rest, to breathe, and to enjoy being present. A very common thread for all of the days activities and encounters could be summed up in one word: connectedness.

This word is loaded, and I experienced multiple of its facets today. Where I found it most was in the lovely webs that I have found and continue to find myself in--the web of individuals and community. The webs that He's so carefully weaves as He continues to leave me dumbfounded.

I visited my old occupational stomping grounds today at the Learning Assistance Center at CSULB. It feels like home there; I loved/love the people I worked with, and the environment is one of encouragement and warmth. There's a project I have coming up for one of my classes and it required some information from second language learners. What better place to go, right?

Even before I got inside, I caught the eye of one of my old bosses and flashed the biggest smile ever. Immediately, I was flooded with hugs and "How are you's" and was incredibly blessed by the love. My former boss, Erik, then proceeded to clear his desk as he offered it to me while I worked on some of my research. Every five minutes or so, an old co-worker would come by and say hi. In some special instances, we'd catch up on life. Each story was like a hug to my heart, and each interaction reminded me of what amazing relationships i've been given in the last few years of my life. I hadn't seen any of these friends since graduating in June, but the joy in reuniting was incredibly sweet.

Opportunities came up for me to share of God's faithfulness in how he trained me at the LAC, through very specific people and situations for what I was going to experience in grad school/life.  I realized that He has shown me great favor in my relationships with others--bosses, co-workers, friends, those I tutored, etc... This is completely His doing, and it is altogether humbling. It's  undeserved, and I know that it is out of His love and mercy that He's allowing me to go through life seeing this gift from Him so clearly. I left the LAC with more research than I came with, a heart full of love and with a refreshed spirit.

(Sidenote: As I'm writing this, my Melatonin is kicking in big time; what you read in this post may be interesting =p)

Becks picked me up, and we closed the night with some more connectedness: to each other, to our home, to my schooling, to God, etc...

This post doesn't do what I experienced of connectedness justice; it's but a mere glimpse of His always masterful orchestration of our lives.

I'll leave you with these (pictures from 1st dinner w/ Becks back as a roomie!):




















Goodnight!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

P.s. [to Jaunt Down Memory Lane]

Though we're sad as Natalie transitions out of our Long Beach home, we also joyously welcome our sweet Becca (Becks and I have been roomies of the literal kind before, so this is a reunion of sorts :D).

Who knew at the time that these pictures would be so telling :) ?
[Time period of photos: Fall 2008]









God, you are the Master Painter, and we delight in seeing more and more of your brushstrokes in our lives--may we see fuller expressions of You.

A Jaunt Down Memory Lane

Gosh, let's see. We've been through various haircuts, hair colors, relationships: giddiness/ heartaches/ learning experiences, encounters with strange people that have made for good stories, tears, countless cups of coffee, confrontation, kitchen-counter conversations, clothes-borrowing, strange-habit experiencing, prayer, laughter, meals, jokes only roommates can be open with, and memories that will continue to pop up and surprise us for the rest of our lives (and we'll remember them at the strangest, most wonderful times :D). The most humbling part of roomie-hood for me is experiencing growth with each other. Each of my roommates has been nothing short of a gift--teaching me more of myself, more of them, more of God, ultimately more of what it means to be in community as His Body. Girls (women, really) , you have refined me, and I'm so grateful that you are a part of the genius orchestration of His that allowed/allows us to live life with each other. 


Here's but a glimpse of what sharing living spaces/life has looked like in the past year plus some:








The pictures will do most of the talking; I'll just be the provider of needed context.



August 2008 (First Roomie Picture-Train trip to LA)



December 2008: Kelly @ the Dresden



December 2009: Walk in Long Beach
(Amber, we already know what you're thinking!!!)




December 2008: DT Long Beach Roomie Day



New Year's 2009:Orange, CA



Wes' Birthday



January 2009: Bike Riding Downtown Long Beach

(quite literally picking me up while I was down)





March 2009: My birthday
(An attempt at a totem pole--sort of successful)





July 2009: Ray LaMontagne in LA



October 2009: Amber's Birthday



November 2009: Roomie Dinner





I can't believe how time flies. Those were only some of the pictures we've taken over the time we've known each other. There will be more taken :). Thanks for marking a really special season of my life, girls. It seriously would have been utterly different without the specific combination of both of you. I'm proud and blessed to know women of your caliber. You are full of love and grace, and your hearts are bigger than what you know to do with. I'm not trying to toot your horns, I'm just sayin' it like it is. 


Transitions are bittersweet, but they are exciting. I look forward to seeing what this next season holds for us. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

First and final.

I was reminded of this verse today through various thoughts and ponderings as well as a drive.

Thought I'd provide it in two versions (Matthew 6:33):

    But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


But first be concerned about God's kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be provided for you as well. 

  


I started typing a reflection to this, and each time it took away from the beauty and piercing power of the passage. 




That's all. That's it. That's all we need. That's all He asks. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swimming in a Sea of Pattern & Texture

Today breathes an air of levity. I decided to stay home and work on some big things due tomorrow and the rest of this week at school. Usually, I end up distracted and not getting any work done. Today I decided to integrate a creative release into my day while being at home, so that I could function appropriately :). Oh, and the creativity also entailed me getting around to organizing some things which have been set on the back burner for a while now.

There are patterns and textures everywhere!
  A visual trip to some of the "places" my eyes have been today:



Hooks for some of my decorative strands :)


Necessary points and flats.


First one up.


I finally brought out the crock pot last night: White Chicken Chili.
I'd be more than happy to pass along the recipe! 

(Enjoyed some for a mid-morning brunch)


These necklaces have been sadly resting on a hanger in my closet for months. I loved organizing them onto their new hook homes; I was reminded of the stories behind some of them 
(some date back to high school). 


Since I already had the hammer out, I decided to work some more on the frame wall (Each piece of art bears unique meaning, and each frame was a thrifty find :D). Excuse that gaping hole; I'm still waiting for something just right to put up. 

 
I love the creases that add character on this bit of fridge art. It reminds me of how beautifully made we are--creases, "flaws," and all. 




These three just served as a reminder to me that I'm immersed in pattern, in colors, in textures all the time. My hope is that in being sensitive to my surroundings, my "mundane" never becomes dull.



To end on a good note, here's my coffee for the day. I forgot (don't ask me how) to make coffee this morning and thought it'd behoove me to do so before I kept working on my school work. I really enjoy the varying textures in this shot, even that somewhat annoying, unidentifiable crumb.



The song lyrics for the day:

Your love is like the ocean; 

I'm drowning in Your presence.

("Your Love is Like" by Rick Pino)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A different art...


Much of our culture succeeds too often in molding its inhabitants into masterful Artisans of Trying.

Trying/striving in this worldly sense only succeeds in allowing us to:
-hide what we perceive to be flaws
-mask our insecurities only to give ourselves a false sense of worth
-outdo others' perceptions of who we are
-outdo our perceptions of ourselves
-one up the people around us
-smack on band-aids over wounds that need the exposure to heal

The danger in this type of living isn't so much the desire to be something or someone else; rather, it's the lack of understanding and conviction in who we already are--who we are made in and through Christ's love and redemption: new creations, justified, adopted sons and daughters of the King, heirs. 

Trying and striving are incredibly tiresome and draining. I liken this to what I wrote many blogs back--it's that tension that you feel in your gut when you can't be yourself around people. It's debilitating. There's no freedom there, and everything seems to be done in vain.

The shocking thing in the midst of all of this is how this manifests itself in the subtleties of my life. It's not at all blatant, others don't always notice it, and it's deeply personal. In fact, I often don't see this junk until it starts oozing in other places of my life.

I hate how I feel when I'm in the trying/striving mode; it's the result of many things, I'm sure. I perhaps am feeling off, not good enough or undervalued. It's in the very moments when I take my eyes off of Love and onto myself. My eyes then look through a faulty filter rather than the filter of the Perfect Lamb given on my behalf. How quickly my eyes shift! Someone mentioned this the other day in a conversation--it's like taking your eyes off one of those Magic Eye pictures. If you look away for even a split second, you lose the ability to decipher or see the image you're supposed to see. It doesn't take long to lose focus. Staring and being still enough to look intently upon that image--upon Him--requires discipline. 

Sometimes I feel as though my life is lived out in a fog of ADD, and I just want to be sedated. Therein lies the danger--masking an issue rather than countering it with something far more potent. I want to continue to learn a very different art--the art of being still.

Being still lends itself to:
-an awareness of our surroundings (esp. the needs of those around us)
-an environment where we can fight the lies that come about in chaos and hurried lives
-an understanding of our present state (maybe even the ability to cry out, "I need You!")
-the ability to reverently come before Him in a posture of worship
-appropriate perception of the greatness of God as we're not walking before him, but waiting on Him
-feeling what we need to feel, so that healing can come into those places of pain
-feeling what we need to feel, so that thanksgiving can be offered unto Him who is worthy
-knowing that HE is GOD

It's when we know that He is God that we live in a greater, fuller understanding of who we are. There--we find freedom to be who we are. There--we can worship. There--we can see Him.

There are moments when being still seems second nature and other times I suck at it big time. God knows I can't do it by myself--I've tried and that's when I see that I suck at it :). In my need and in my acknowledgment of it, there His strength facilitates room in my heart to simply be.

May we be inclined to lives of steadfastness and stillness--in times of suffering, joy and everything else that's in between so that we can see Him because He's worthy of our attention.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

P.s. [to Who & Whose]


After I finished writing my previous post, I went to class and was there until 9:30. I come home from class to find an email from a dear friend/dad-figure that he'd actually sent yesterday. He's been prompted to pray for me a lot lately, and this is what God wanted him to share with me:

My daughter i am training you in steadiness training to not let too many things interrupt your awareness of me--I know the world you live in,  I know your commitments, I know the sights and sounds even the things you do for me! Do not let them throw you off course..calmly and confidently remember I am with you. You more than ever must know that I  designed you to need me moment by moment. As your awareness of your neediness increases so to will your realization of my abundant sufficiency. My peace will dwell in you in greater measure. my peace, however, is in the moment.this causes you to seek my presence at all times you are precious to me daughter...you need not do another thing to please me. You are loved just as i have made you.
 
Verbatim in some parts! I shouldn't be surprised because I know this man hears clearly from the Lord, but still... zing!!

Here's what I had written: I can't measure how I am day by day. If I did that, I'm sure I'd feel like a crazy person--ups and downs all over the place. I also can't just wake up and say once at the beginning of my day, "God, I need you." My mind isn't strong enough and my will isn't formed enough for once to be sufficient. I may say it once, but hours later, I'm already in a flurry of worries or concerns. This only brings about a kind of lifestyle that's lived out in a blur. I want clarity; I desire a rhythm of stillness and silence to be integrated in my life.

My walk, this process, all of it--it's moment by moment. It's a dialogue. It's constant interaction--constant conversation--between someone who can't do anything alone (me) and Someone in whose palm I sit. The constant interaction and dialogue really do act as safeguards for my heart.  
 
It's absolutely no coincidence that Papa Shark (Mark) shared this with me. God's timing is beyond my comprehension (orchestrated genius) and He knows my heart, and He chose to speak through Mark to minister to me. This was incredibly encouraging for me as it's confirmation of the things that I've been learning and sifting through.

Thank you, Lord...for pursuing me the way You do.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who & Whose

I can't measure how I am day by day. If I did that, I'm sure I'd feel like a crazy person--ups and downs all over the place. I also can't just wake up and say once at the beginning of my day, "God, I need you." My mind isn't strong enough and my will isn't formed enough for once to be sufficient. I may say it once, but hours later, I'm already in a flurry of worries or concerns. This only brings about a kind of lifestyle that's lived out in a blur. I want clarity; I desire a rhythm of stillness and silence to be integrated in my life.

My walk, this process, all of it--it's moment by moment. It's a dialogue. It's constant interaction--constant conversation--between someone who can't do anything alone (me) and Someone in whose palm I sit. The constant interaction and dialogue really do act as safeguards for my heart. The moment by moment detracts, on some levels, the unnecessary discouragement that might find it's way in.


Discouragement, I don't want you. More often that not, you're lies that I don't like, that I don't need to hear, and I too quickly believe. You don't define me, and I don't want to be defined by you.

Though it may sound cheesy, this phrase always hits home with me: We knew who we are when we know Whose we are.


I find the most rest in His presence as His daughter, as His beloved, but sometimes I forget that. Or, I'm so in the thick of other stuff that I can't see Him. Even then, there are times when in those dark places I choose not to see Him, but yet--He's holding me. He's singing over me.


I love this song because it's from the perspective of God singing to us:

You're My Beloved
You're My Bride
To sing over you is My delight
Come away with Me My love

You're Beautiful to Me
So beautiful to Me

Under My mercy
Come and wait
Till we are standing face to face
I see no stain on you
My child

You're Beautiful to Me
So Beautiful to Me

I sing over you My song of peace
Cast all your cares down at My feet
Come and find your rest in Me

I'll breathe My life inside of you
I'll bear you up on eagle's wings
And hide you in the shadow of My strength
I'll take you to My quiet waters
I'll restore your soul
Come rest in Me and be made whole

You're My beloved
You're My Bride
To sing over you is my delight
Come away with me my love




Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Surprised Surprise?



There's no doubt that our God is a faithful God. I constantly think back as well as presently on all the times He has provided for me and lavished me with His love. He continues to show me how He pours out love into the areas of my life I call insignificant--giving them worth and value.

He values all of us, which is why in His death, we were made new creations. We were wholly made new because he wants wholeness for us.

I need to be careful because I can go easily on a tangent with this post, which wouldn't come as a surprise, but I want to get to the point. The theme of this is more so framed with a question than it is anything else. How is it that I'm constantly surprised that God is the way(s) He is? When I see His goodness, I'm almost taken aback. The truth is, He is that good, that loving, that gentle, that kind, that joyful, that just, etc... On one hand, I feel as though I shouldn't be surprised because I should "know" how ridiculously amazing He is. And on the other, I'm glad I'm surprised because it keeps me in a posture of awe and thankfulness. I know full well that I cannot fathom the greatness of God; I guess that explains my surprise :). Ah, the joys of circular reasoning; it just cracks me up. I get it, but I totally don't--contentment found as this sentiment hangs in the balance.

An aside to those last few thoughts: I'm amazed that I find myself not trusting when I'm constantly blown away by His faithfulness. I think, "Really, Liz? Seriously?!" And to think, He loves me despite me being the occasional idiot, and loves me into a deeper trust :).

I was listening to a song this morning, and this line caused my ears to perk as I was in the midst of being boggled by God's favor and His love: "There's no language for what we've seen." It's true. My words pale in comparison, and I feel like I'm a two-year-old whose senses are so stirred but I'm at a complete loss for expressing myself because I don't have the words; the ones I do have are far from sufficient.

I just got an image as I was writing this that settles the circular reasoning a bit. You know that feeling you get when you're about to successfully surprise someone? It's almost a sense of bottled up joy and sheer delight as you know the person is going to be totally wowed. Part of me thinks that's how our Father feels when we're in sheer delight of who He is and what He does for us. He likes that we respond with such awe and excitement. He likes to surprise us; it makes His heart happy.

I've found myself taking a lot of deep breaths and exhaling with equally deep sighs lately. They allow me to stop long enough to somewhat process what God's up to in my life as well as the life of others. Wow. That's all I've got.

Let me end on a positively amazing note :). So, this is the first time I'm really updating on the progress of my Uganda trip fund raising. I was a bit concerned because I've never had to raise $4,000 for a mission trip. They've always been significantly less for short term trips. Anyway, at a training meeting on Sunday, I was informed that I'm already at 104% of what's needed (it's only been about a month in a half since I sent out my letters) !!! It gets even crazier; I know more is coming in, and this is going to be a huge blessing for the rest of the team as well as for our friends in Gulu. See? I shouldn't be surprised, but that's all my heart knows to feel. I am humbled and in nothing but awe of Jehova Jireh-- our Provider!!!!

If you haven't seen it yet and would like to be in the know about my trip and different ways you can be praying, please go here: http://alittlebet.blogspot.com/2009/09/uganda-bound.html

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where All the Good Happens.

This past weekend was an obvious reminder of where most good things happen :)

In Community!

Friends gathered to worship and pray on Friday night, and there God met with us and we saw various expressions of freedom, love and healing.

On Saturday, a group of ten friends came along with me to visit my parents in Santa Clarita. There, we enjoyed food, conversations, and the highlight for me was probably all of us around the piano--singing Blessed Assurance in 3 or 4 different languages. There must have been at least 7-8 countries represented!

Finally, Sunday came around--and again, I was reminded of the beauty found in Community. I shared my testimony at my Uganda trip meeting and it was received with nothing but love. I could say so many things, but ultimately, there is just great freedom in Love. There was no judgment--rather, only an environment where there was a deep understanding that we are all His children made right through His death and resurrection.

There is a constant theme that God's been trying to teach me more about-the unity of the Body. It's simple in many ways, yet the implications of being in intentional community run so deep. What a gift it is! We need each other.

I wish I had pictures from all of these community experiences, but I only have some from Saturday:









If you'd like to see more, you can go here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/alittlebet/sets/72157622532307031/
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