Work and prosperity

“Daughter, by you working hard and excelling in the talents I’ve given you, that is how I will provide for you and cause you to prosper — and not just for you, but your church, your relationships, your city, my people, my kingdom. Pray hard to this end. Even if you don’t ‘get it’ right now, or out of fear wait, I will still provide. I am rich, I am love, I am your Father. Yet I want to use you and perhaps in order to spur you to do this I need to shake up your life so that you don’t feel secure anymore. Because if you felt secure, you would never do anything. Comfort is a dream killer. When I want you to move, to do something, to prosper, I will make you very uncomfortable. And the end purpose of all this is my glory in your joy. If there’s no joy, it’s probably not for my glory.” – God

This also is what the Lord Almighty says:  

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Chill out

I’m in this season of life right now where I feel really fragmented. It’s rather ironic, though, looking back to where I was a year ago having just moved back to Greenville and starting to live on my own for the first time. Let’s see, what did I do: I worked full-time, did swing dancing, was involved with church stuff, and, if there was money to spare, I ate food. I didn’t have many options as a result of my limited resources. I was also in this post-college honeymoon phase of “whoa I can come home after work and do … nothing.” Which, um, was quite frankly what I typically did. No TV, no internet, living off Kashi granola, bananas and peanut butter. So this is what 20 years of school was preparing me for. Mom, Dad- I knew you’d be proud.

Now my life is overflowing and I honestly can’t say it’s in a unified fashion. Praying about that. But let’s not bore you. I do too much of that with this blog.

What am I really here to muse about? Well, when I’m feeling fragmented and busy, my mind starts to go a million miles an hour and I have to keep up, be one step ahead. And with those moments often come confusion and fear of the unknown. It quickly bogs me down.

I know you’ve been there, so I won’t elaborate. Ok, so in those moments (whether you’re overwhelmed, confused, insecure, fearful- you name it), what words of comfort from Scripture come to mind to calm the troubled mind?

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I’ve read these words in Matthew 11 somewhat recently as I’ve been progressing through the book of Matthew. for the past year. ah yes, my reading comprehension abilities are staggering. Actually I try to work slowly and typically get stuck on phrases like 9:1, “And Jesus, getting into a boat…” and I can’t go any further. Why the boat? Why at that moment? Why is Jesus always getting in boats? Why was this connecting thought even put here in this chapter? Is he speaking to me to get in a boat and spread his kingdom? Royal Caribbean? Yes, Lord, your child hears.

So I was stuck on this “Come to me and find rest” command for a while. And you know what I found? I think I’ve viewed it all wrong the entire time. Or at least had only a partial view.

Step back. Jesus was on mission, spreading his fame, telling everyone that the Law and rules they’ve been working so hard under will now be fulfilled. He thanks God for opening eyes and hearts to know him. So come and find rest in Jesus! Your weariness is over.

And here’s the good stuff– what happens next. Chapter 12: “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath.” At that time- what time was it?

Jesus had just declared himself as the chosen one, the answer they were waiting for, and then called on God to spiritually open their eyes and to give them rest in Jesus, to lay their burdens down on him. It was at that time that Jesus, always on mission, went through the grain fields to pick up food…on the Sabbath day.

This is Jesus. He could’ve overturned a stone and pulled out a fattened calf and had a feast with his friends. He could’ve done anything to provide food for his hungry friends with him. After all, they needed physical rest and restoration. But Jesus had a different rest to teach them about, so he took them to a field to get food, and in that culture it was a blatant breach of rules to pick up grain on the holy day. Kinda like streaking through a Baptist sanctuary. There are just some things nobody questions.

Then- this is where is gets edgy- he allows them freedom to take food from a field to eat even though there was a rule against it.

It was a cultural no-no. It was a denominational no-no. It may have even been a personal conviction no-no.

Tell me, why Jesus would do that?

He of all people should’ve been the one enforcing the rules.

So why? Cause he’s the Master of the Sabbath. He owns it.

It is not an irony that this happens right on the heels of him calling his children to “come unto me and find rest.” He’s showing them that he is more concerned about the heart of the law than about the letter of the law. “Friends, are you hungry? You can eat and be ok with God still being satisfied with you, because I’m here, and I’ve satisfied God enough for all of us.”

Do you see this? This is what Jesus was telling me: “Chill out! You can rest now. I’m here and actually the purpose of Sabbath rules were all about me in the first place. Now you are free from this rule because now in resting from this pressure it’s still all about me. You get to eat in this unconventional, radical manner and that’s good. I want to feed you because I’m good.”

So, friends, pick up the grain and eat. Those things that used to hold you away from God, enjoy. Find joy in enjoying and be at rest. Nothing has dominion over you now except the law of love.

So in those moments when you’re striving in your mind about doing or not doing something because you’re afraid you’ll lose the favor of God…chill out. Seriously. Test it against the law of love, and then live in freedom. You’re free either way.

So this “come unto me and find rest’ isn’t just about calming the soul in hard seasons of life or in the busyness of circumstances around you (though I do believe it includes that). There is a much much bigger picture though from what I gather looking at the whole context.

And the story gets better! The Pharisee’s reaction are just so typical in response to Jesus’ radical command to rest. But, I have to stop and hold you in suspense until followup thoughts later about the Pharisees because I don’t know how anyone can have grace enough to read through this entire post. Reel it in, or, as a mom-quote comes to mind, I just need to take a chill pill.

Stop telling the truth

I can’t think of any roundabout way of saying this.

I’m a very direct person.

Tried to deceptively slip that by you, didn’t I?

I don’t know when or where this came about. When I was a kid my dad would refer to me as “spit fire.” And I don’t think he was referring to one of my spiritual gifts. I’ve always been pretty strong-willed, yet this directness and woeful transparency hasn’t been really noticeable to me until recently.

Maybe it’s because people weren’t transparent with me in the past and I had to learn things the hard way. Don’t you sometimes wish someone would just give you one big gun shot of the truth so that you would have to be shredded by a hundred mini-bullets later down the road?

But recently I’ve been rethinking things. Sometimes I just need to stop telling the truth. Hold off on all the upfront direct statements.

You know what direct statements can possibly do? Cause blind followers. Surface listeners. Head nodders.

When were the moments of your deepest thoughts and times of real discovery and illumination? Probably during the questions. When the reasons why you believed you existed and everything you said you believed in were stoutly challenged. And the questions came.

During those moments you can’t borrow someone else’s experiences. You must work through your own beliefs and purpose. Some things simply can’t be borrowed.

I mean, I totally get this to an extent. Don’t you hate it when someone makes a direct statement about your life and heart and they really have no idea what you’ve been through? You’re thinking, “You don’t even know me.”

But boy am I full of truth statements. Hey, nice problem– now let me solve that for you. Prepare yourself…. Truth Bomb!! And I feel justified in speaking the truth this way because, it’s just that: truth. Ok so sure, it’s been real truth for me and real lessons I have learned. But, hello, I’m not them. Maybe this is about approach. Maybe it has something to do with love and placing someone’s perceptions before mine.

I’ve been thinking recently about this man who seemed to have had some real impact in people’s lives (his name is Jesus). What did he do? He told stories. He asked questions. Ok, so tell me, why did Jesus, ie God, ask questions?? He knows everything. everything.

Maybe he actually cared about people and wanted their hearts and not just their heads. Maybe he used indirect means to get to direct truth.

Am I encouraging people to be blind followers and head believers by spouting off truth statements at every red flag that comes up? It’s easy to do, cause most people don’t want to point-blank argue with truth. But did it really answer any core questions, or better yet, did it even cause core questions to arise?

Do we just borrow someone else’s truth or do we own it personally? Does it terrify you to think for yourself? to stop turning to books, articles, status’s, friends, blogs, music? When was the last time you were real with yourself, with your circumstances?

Why did God answer that prayer and provide $5 for laundry but didn’t come through when the school bill was due? Why was it that you worked so hard to make the basketball team and the final cut only to sit on the bench the entire season? Why did you finally get pregnant after praying for years and years, only to be in a car accident when you were 8 months pregnant and have your baby girl stillborn? Why did you give yourself in self-sacrificing love to a coworker that seems to finally be accepting you, only to have him stab you in the back and ruin your reputation? Why did you so confidently pursue in real passion your career dream only to have it shatter to pieces in your hands? Why did God cure your 17 year old brother of cancer only to find out that it’s aggressively returned and is inoperable and that they are simply doing chemo to ease the pain before he dies? Why did you so clearly follow God to that church for the purpose of serving in leadership only to have the people maliciously rip your family apart and scar your heart for years? Why did you so assuredly marry that man who was leading you in godliness, joyfulness and purity only to have him divorce you for another woman, leaving you with 3 small children to care for?

Why do I even exist? Does God even exist? Do I really have purpose in this life? Does anybody care? Is it really worth it?

Everyone is talking, but is anyone thinking?

Are you going to settle for darkness or will you pursue the truth? Will you keep borrowing truth, or will you search out your questions yourself? Is it too painful? Are you frightened of what you might find? Will you search for truth in yourself, or will you go to a real source?

Are you taking my word for it, or have you even questioned this?

I got a love letter!

Have you ever received a love letter?

Like, a real one. a genuine, hand-written, college-ruled, snail mailed, cologne scented love letter?

Let me tell you– It’s quite an experience.

I open the mailbox. the initial rush of personally picking it up with my own hands and realizing what it is and who it’s from. Smiling stupidly is my specialty, so thus the side glance to see if anyone else notices my odd reaction. and the fact that it’s gotten really warm in here all of a sudden. awkward yawn. ok relaxed and safe to move on.

First things first, I don’t open it right away. No, something like this waits for solace and full attention. I could rip it open and feverishly read it immediately, but… that’s just not me. so I wait. but obviously not too long. really people.

I love to read outside so I search out a destination. Random rock, patch of grass, rusted bench- whatever. Just get there.

Letter in hand, heading to my “spot,” can’t get it off my mind. What’s he going to say? Of course, you know, I’ve already anticipated in my mind of what he’s going to tell me. I know him pretty well so I already have a good idea what kind of stuff he will say. But, what if he says something new? What about that “next level” thing I keep hearing about? Every time I think I’ve figured him out, there he goes surprising me yet again with another crazy awesome attribute. And is it possible he’s been thinking about me as much as I’ve been thinking about him? highly unlikely. but we’ll see.

At my spot. Looking at the envelope- yep, addressed to me. to ME! I still can’t believe he actually loves me. Even saying the word “love” just causes awe and wonder. goosebumps. undeserving.

Attempt to open slowly. Proceed to shred the envelope (because that’s the only way to open an envelope– why so difficult?!).

Dear Angela. Actually he addresses me differently, but that’s a little too personal to share here.

And then I read.

The first time through I read rather quickly, catching the highlights, just overjoyed that I actually get to hear from him! Whenever I read a letter from him, it really is almost like he’s here. with me.

And then the second read-through. A little slower, a little more methodical. And a third time. and a fourth time. It’s like each time I see something different. And because I’m weirdly analytical, I begin imagining about what he really meant with that sentence. What’s he actually saying when he writes that phrase? A special meaning just for me?? From what I hear though, typically guys mean what they say (ie, “I’m fine” actually really does mean “I’m fine.” Mind blown!). But still, I think he might be trying to lead somewhere deeper with this…hm, need to chew on this more.

Of course I have to reread my favorite parts. The ones that to me are the most endearing, truthful, beautiful words. Sure, I’d prefer for him to be here RIGHT NOW, but the next best thing are his words.

So then I sit back. stare aimlessly into space. and think about the letter. and him. I can’t stop smiling. I can’t stop longing. hoping. And anyone that walks by has no doubts: she’s in love.

What happens next? Well of course the letter is in an easily accessible and often-viewed place. Dashboard, bathroom mirror, desk drawer. And almost without thought the words of this love letter tend to spill over into conversations. You know what I mean. You’re at lunch with friends, in the middle of the the organic foods discussion, and “that person” keeps talking about the random non-topic related foods he likes to eat. “He totally loves tomato soup and grilled cheese and that’s what I’m making tonight– good recipes anyone?” Yeah, the day of the letter, I’m “that person.”

If you talk with me at any point during the day I read that letter, it’s inevitable– somehow a part of him will rub off on you. He’s just that awesome. and I can’t hide it because someone this amazing has stolen my heart, and honestly the only downfall is that he isn’t here next to me right now for me to introduce you to him. But the words of the love letter will do just fine for now. But trust me, meeting him is TEN TIMES more awesome!


So that’s my love letter story.

Ridiculous, huh? C’mon, I know you’ve been there. little smile?

And I’m smiling because, well, this really well-developed, thought-provoking, borderline embarrassing story may very well have been from my own imagination. yep, I’ve never actually gotten a hand-written love letter from someone. Was that a major letdown? do you still respect me? (Oh, and I’m not married yet though, so there’s still time bro!)

But, actually, this is a world rocking moment for me.

have experienced this.

I have a love letter.

like, for real. and it’s from God.

Use your imagination. I think you can connect the dots.

What he’s been teaching me the past several years? The reality of what this “love letter” connection means and the depths of it. This is an illustration I’ve often used with my teen girls at camp, in random talks with friends about God’s words, and it came up in 2 separate conversations one day this week. I’ve been mulling over it. Been rebuked by it.

Do something- go back and reread this post and imagine Jesus as the “he” I refer to and make the setting one of personal time with Jesus. Why would the God that created us give us different love experiences, expectations and emotions on earth with another human than what he intended us to have with himself? Radical, I know, but really. think about it. God came up with Song of Solomon stuff. And it’s pretty radical and free and without fear. (and if you haven’t read the Song of Solomon story, you really should. It’s off the chain.)

Honestly, I don’t get it. This is so far from my reality I don’t even know why I’m writing this. I don’t understand this “love letter” connection stuff much right now, maybe somewhat attributing to being single, which is probably why marriage is attractive to me. But one way or another, on heaven or earth, I’m gonna experience that kind of love. There’s a wedding waiting for me.

So I’m thinking, if you’re not of the mind of a bride getting ready to walk down and meet her groom, maybe you don’t really know Jesus. Because he’s just that awesome. and he’s stolen my heart. and once I read his words to me, I can’t help but smile. and tell everyone about him. And I hope that some day people will walk by when I’m reading His words and say, “No doubt about it– she’s in love.”

What Saved Me

I just remembered.

I just remembered what saved me.

A year ago, in the midst of my purposelessness and confusion and frustration, right before I moved back to Greenville, somehow this video came across my path.

and I haven’t been the same since.

I’ve never before wept over the Gospel like I did when I saw this. God speaks to us in different ways at different seasons in our lives. And this is one way he did for me, and may do for others.

But in the middle of my hopelessness, when I felt I had lost everything, my dreams, plans, hopes, drive, personality, desires– when all seemed lost, the Gospel walked up. And, it seemed, for the first time in my life, I wanted it. I needed it. I had to have it or I would die. I couldn’t go on living defeated. I am a victor in Christ. I wanted it so badly and I knew it was my only hope to make it to the next day. and the next. and the next.

Did it encourage me? yes.

Did it excite me? yes.

Yet was I then completely at rest and secure and “in the light” and happy? no, not really.

It took a while. a long while. He showed me the feast and then has slowly piece by piece fed me over the past year so that recently for the first time in a very long time, I’m actually at rest. Yes I’m different, yet I feel like “I’m back.” Some sort of recovery maybe. I guess those prayers I prayed 1 1/2 years ago actually were effective. It just took longer than expected. and more than I dreamed.

Oh, and it’s not over yet. just wanted to clarify that for you. This one’s got a ways to go, that’s for sure.

Confessions of a Tire Obsessionist

Hi everyone, my name is Angela (hi Angela) and I have an obsession with tires. Whenever I see I car, pass a car, or ride in a car, I always default to inspect the tires. Does that look like a slight leak in the front left there? Are the tires even? Tread’s looking a little shabby. Whoa, that back one is way too wobbly for highway safety, you hazard to mankind.

And there it goes. The nature of someone’s tires now becomes a personal reflection on their character.

Michelin= High maintenance.

Spinners= Too cool for school.

Bridgestone= Ooh just like me. Maybe we can be friends.

Monster tires= Sucker for affirmation and/or lack of masculine identity.

Mud on the tires= A little on the wild side. let’s race.

Low air= Irresponsible driver.

Perfectly filled, completely balanced tires= I highly respect you and where is your blog that I might follow.

Before you completely discredit me, take a moment to walk into my life, allow me to explain, and get to the heart of the situation. I believe I can trace this destructive behavior back to the nucleus (that’s right Nacho) of this tire obsession:

  • Jolt 1: When I first bought my 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe 2 years ago, I noticed some odd issues with the tires. Just… weird thumping noises. Instead of taking it to the shop, I thought I’d ignore it and allow it to work itself out. But reality started shouting, and quite frankly the tires were louder than Ryan Stiles’ shoes. It impeded conversation and left my friendships and personal sanctity on the brink of diaster. So to save face and my throbbing head, I took it to the shop. Ah, needed new tires. Let’s do it. So new tires on, peace ensued, and the Angela/tire relationship settled.
  • Jolt 2: Last year I visited a close friend in North Carolina and on my way back, out of NO WHERE, my tire fizzled. on the side of the highway. in the woods. in the dark. Now, I have extensively traveled alone since I was 15. I love to travel and driving is a pleasure. But I have never truly been alone and stranded before in my life, much less on a cold empty forest predator-laden highway at night. I may have whimpered. Yet thanks to the help of my amazing dad’s advice and a policeman’s kindness, I was able to eventually dig myself out of the situation, though not without a slight reprimand to check the air in my tires on a regular basis, you girl you (emphasis mine. words mine).
  • Jolt 3: Recently I noticed that my front right tire was depleting. Filled it up. 1 week later deflated again. Repeat. Repeat again. Finally I took it to the tire shop for the obviously needed repair. Somehow a screw got inside? Weird. But got ‘er patched up and good to go.

Because of these frequent experiences I’ve become a bit of a freakazoid and legalist about not only my tires, but EVERYONE ELSE’S.

How ironic. My whole life I could have cared less about tires, until my own were giving me problems. And as I found solutions, I began to be super introspective, very analytical, and reactionary to the slightest possible issue with my car’s tires.

Is it not the same way with the faults and sins that have surfaced in my own life? It’s not like tires are a new thing. And neither is pride. or arrogance. or gossip. or lust. or selfishness. or lack of self control. or self righteousness. or anger. But when that certain sin is exposed in my life, I recognize it and seek to deal with it, yet all of a sudden, I see it. Everywhere. I see my selfishness, my coworker’s selfishness, my brother’s selfishness, my best friend’s selfishness, my outreach leader’s selfishness. Since God has revealed my sin so clearly, I am now keenly aware of those same shortcomings and failings of everyone around me. That one’s off balance, that one leans to the right, ooh that one to the left, oh my word those morons are driving on flattened almost shredded tires! Can’t they open their eyes and realize the issue?? It’s destructive!

Earlier this summer I took notice of my friend’s car as she was leaving church– all of her tires where basically dragging the ground. I called her and said, “Hey, you reeeeally need some air. Believe me, I’ve been there and you don’t want to go through what I did.” She didn’t know how to put air in her tires, so although I was hungry and it was raining and I really wanted to put it off until later and send her a youtube link, we drove across the street to the gas station. I took a dollar inside to get quarters, filled up all her tires, and then gave her some tips that I had learned about taking care of tires. Afterwards? I was so happy. Something so simple gave me so much joy.

Simple conclusions here. You sin. all the time. period. And your sin is not uncommon. So once you are exposed to the depth and grossness of it, be prepared to see “yourself” in other people and to be blown away by the same amount of sin and blindness in them that you yourself are prone to.

But ok HEY, stop being so distracted! I see a car and all I see are tires. I see relationships and all I see are faults. That’s totally missing the point and this is why grace is so key. Default to grace-eyes and help your brothers and sisters in their weaknesses so that they may not have to fall as hard as you did. Your experience with past sin makes you sensitive so that you can call out and say, “Hey you reeeeally need some help. Believe me, I’ve been there and you don’t want to go through what I did.” Then take your dollars and time and grace and invest it in another life. To live in secret victory over secret sins steals growth from others and joy from you.

Oh, and by the way, I currently have a nail in my front right tire. That’s right. a whole freaking nail. It’s been there, hm, probably 3 weeks. But hey, I’m still driving smooth and the tire doesn’t look too bad. But boy when I saw that other Santa Fe on the highway this afternoon with a wobbly back tire did I get offended.

Maybe I need to take the massive nail out of my own tire before I start pointing out the insignificant air leaks in the other tires around me. Direct quote from Matthew 7 (version mine).

what I look at every day. my obsessionary stumbling block, as it were.

Look at what I’ve accomplished! I’m worth it!

and then this straight-up slapped me in the face.

I read this specific section about 1-2 weeks ago as I’ve been progressing through Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The book in itself has been rocking my system of thinking and God has used it recently as one of the many means to show me my legalistic thought patterns.

Identity has been a huge struggle for me, specifically during the past 1 1/2 years. Who am I. What is worth. Where is my purpose. What must I do. How much is enough. Where is freedom. Is there hope.

Who will deliver us.

Paul Zahl authors his book with those exact words and Tullian uses this section in his book to knife deep into hearts obsessed with performance:

If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth.

Identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth. There are infinite ways to prove our worth along these lines.

The basic equation is this: I am what I do. It is a religious position in life because it tries to answer in practical terms the questions, Who am I and what is my niche in the universe? On this reading, my niche is in proportion to my deeds. In Christian theology, such a position is called justification by works. It assumes that my worth is measured by my performance. Conversely, it conceals, thinly, a dark and ghastly fear: If I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy. To myself I will cease to exist.”

Do you see any freedom in that kind of thinking? Nope. nada. zilch.

Honestly, I am still wrapping my mind around this. I haven’t arrived. But I don’t really think that’s the point. We read that and think, “Ok, so I guess I need to work on my identity and find it in Christ alone.”

That’s. Impossible. There is no hope in that thinking and the whole phrase is a ridiculous oxymoron.

But, really, what am I to do? Who will deliver me if I can’t “make” my identity to be only in Christ? God, if you don’t step in and intervene, then I am lost. I cannot be free from performance unless I with broken hands cling to the performance of Another. Teach me what this mindset practically looks like because I cannot go in to work tomorrow with the perspective that I have been believing for so long now.

Somehow, someway, I want my life to stand up and shout, “Look at what Jesus has accomplished! He’s worth it!”

25 years.


It’s a pretty good number. It’s the cost of obtaining a treasure from the gum ball machine. It’s the year your car insurance goes down (supposedly). 1925 was the year Scotch tape was invented!

It’s also a great time for everyone to remind you that you have crossed the quarter-century threshold.

thanks friends.

It’s been a great time to think. remember. I clearly remember the day I turned 24. If my calculations are correct, that would be 1 year ago.

1 year ago. I had just graduated from grad school.

The next day I was leaving for a 2 month missions trip to Spain, England and Italy. My life was very simple. and condensed. like Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. And I had about 5 banana boxes and 3 suitcases to my name packed away in Greenville.

All I knew at that moment was that I was going to Europe to live with broken people and serve where needed.  After that there were no plans, no job, no income, no “direct revelation” about next steps.

I would not in a million years dreamed up what has happened in 1 year. 1 single, solitary year. Can I even begin to describe…? A couple thoughts come to mind about this past year.


The 5 months after graduation were a little out-of-hand, borderline ridiculous: 14 homes, 9 churches, 4 countries, 6 cultures, 15 couches/beds/mattresses, 7 ministry offers, thousands of dollars. And when it was all said and done I was still broke, jobless, homeless, and directionless, without a clue of where in the world I was supposed to be.

Even when I got a job (check that: when God gave me a job) and came back to Greenville, I had a huge struggle with financial instability. I had to wait 3 weeks before getting paid, on top of being unemployed for 5 months. Back to my mathematical insight, when you add $0 + $0, you get a very stressful life transition.

It took a long time to recover from that, longer than I wanted to wait. Through tears and faith-straining, God taught me patience and trust. I was horrible at it, but He was teaching me none-the-less.

He taught me to practically boot strap.

He taught me to not feel guilty about saying “no” to certain activities or opportunities.

He taught me to pray, and to love Him more than money by thinking about Him more than money.

He showed me I’m actually a very fearful, controlling person that is in need of a Savior every single day.


This descriptive overlaps with the previous one, yet focuses more on my emotions. My emotions were up and down, and tended to stay down for long periods. Then I’d go through deep, soul-stirring moments of Jesus-love and be soaring, and then I’d be discouraged about a difficult situation or sin. I knew that I wanted Jesus more than anything, but this war kept raging in my heart more than I’ve ever noticed before in my life.

Identity Crisis

Actually, it was more of an identity loss. crushed. God piled up everything that I loved and was finding my identity in and called it “Idolatry” and that was really hard for me to take, so I fell flat on my face. He told me to burn my idols and turn from them before they turned on me.

But, everything? Even my mind? My thoughts, my dreams, my passions?

God: “Yes, they have become idols. Your heart is an idol factory. You sacrifice them and I’ll give them back when and where I decide, if I ever do. You say you’re ‘Complete in Thee’, but you’re not. So let go and cling to Christ. Do you love me more than these?”

That was a very dark time for me because I had for the first time truly come face-to-face with my wicked heart of idolatry. And it was not fun. And then I wasn’t sure whether I had ever truly loved Him, or wanted Him for the gifts He gives. Yes, Jesus became more precious to me that anything during that time, but it took months to “recover” and fully understand the hope, promise and victory of the Gospel. It’s still a struggle.

By the way, yesterday (after I wrote the first draft of this post) a friend sent me this sermon from T4G to listen to about God’s plan in disappointments and dashed hopes. HIGHLY recommend it. Disappointments are purposeful!


Always remember that it’s not about the quality or quantity of faith, but WHO IT’S IN! My faith was often with fear and trepidation and cold sweats, but thank God it never was or is about me! How relieving!

This past year I was more often that not in situations where I had no other alternatives but to pray for God’s protection, guidance, and provision.

Obstacles included traveling alone, finding correct buses and trains in foreign places, language, money for travel, money for bills, money for moving, money for gas, a job, place to live, a table to eat at, a bed to sleep on, a friend to encourage me…the list is endless.

Yet here I am. Still sane. ish. And full of praise to Him because HE DID IT! Don’t forget that. Don’t praise me. Just stop. I mean go. Go praise Him.


Yes, I just said the bad 6-letter S-word. Let’s face it– it often awkward and/or inferior, and not only in our culture, but also in the church. I mean, have you ever seen a movie where this awesome person is going about life, trying to find this missing piece that will make their world complete, looking for that true love and affirmation…and then they find it! They get to be single for the rest of their life!!

Highly unlikely.

Yet– watch this– isn’t it awesome that no one has to “wait” for fulfillment and completeness and purpose?? Please read the Gospel! Jesus fills that empty hole and missing piece in our hearts! every. single. time.

So…. anyway, on this earth, I am experiencing challenges that naturally come as a result of living alone and being single, not married or dating. The main one has been the need and desire to talk about something discouraging or exciting or even mundane, and there’s simply no one around to share that with in the moment. In particular I have had many discouraging times coming home from work, and I often just wished I had someone to talk to. I found myself keeping things to myself and mulling over it in my mind.

But I soon found that to be unhealthy and, actually, ungodly. That’s why the Body of Christ is so important. I now make it a practice to immediately text or call a very close friend if something happens that I need to release and be open about.

It’s also been challenging not having another person closely peering into my life and challenging me. Not many people challenge me, question my intentions, point out inconsistencies, reveal my laziness. I’m always unsure if I have gone as far as I could’ve, because I’m the only standard to my standards.

Again, I’m finding that I shouldn’t just “accept” these things, but need to do the extra leg-work to seek out others in the Body to meet those needs of mine. And it’s ok to admit need, weakness, insecurity. Christ DIED for His Church, so it’s pretty important that I work hard to involve them in my life. And practically, if I practice keeping to myself while I’m single, then that is how I’ll eventually live out marriage.

So that just about sums it up. I’d like to think that this time next year will be full of stability and normality…but, eh, that is pretty unlikely.  Actually this past week right before my birthday God has been specifically guiding my prayers about a next step and/or phase in my life. Scary, exciting, fearful, invigorating, challenging…

I can’t wait to see what next year’s post “26” will be. Praising Him for 25.

The day of my birthday. 25 years ago.

A Bitter (refreshing) Taste of Humility

The Italy saga continued…

I had made it. I was in one piece, I had all my luggage, and I still had (some) money left.

Like the previous weeks of the trip, I entered into this new county, new culture, and new people with no previous experiences or expectations to guide me. Everything was completely fresh and I was pretty naïve. Such a good place to be. It really makes one be a student of every person, experience, and group I saw. I had learned to be nobody of any importance and to enter into conversations and settings with an open mind, placing my perceptions and opinions lower than those I was coming in contact with. Part of that is well attributed to the language barrier. Even if I disagreed, I usually couldn’t express it in an understanding way; I was forced to constantly listen and observe. Being a foreigner gives one a responsibility to be respectful, not a right to lord one’s personal, cultural opinions over the native people. Americans, and specifically American Christians, are so domineering and harsh about our beliefs. I saw it in myself, and I felt it when I returned to the States. It made me cringe and slightly uncomfortable whenever I sensed it, because quite frankly it is normal and expected. By God’s grace may we become humble people, because in such a state as we are we may never be able to effectively spread the Gospel to His kingdom; our insistence to be “right” may very well paralyze any effort to extend the arms of the Body to place the Truth into the hands of the unreached people groups.

Personal practical lessons and applications of humility:

  • Approach each conversation and interaction with the thought: What can I learn from this person? Can I be the one that has the wrong or weak view/understanding?
  • Become a person of unending questions. Asking questions help reveal why that person believes what they believe. Dozens of factors come into play here: background, culture, family, tragedies, experiences, relationships, etc…
  • NEVER assume. Each person, place and experience must be a blank slate. Assuming can ruin things and you can be looking for something to happen while all the while you are missing the new, unique aspects transpiring right now.
  • Be wise. To balance off the previous point, allow a blank slate to be present, but allow it to add on to and complement your previous knowledge and experience. For instance, I had been living with those that had extreme pasts of drugs and violence. When I entered into a more “normal” life in Italy, I actually got to meet others in the church that had been saved from a similar life style. In wisdom, I could speak and listen knowledgably and walk in love towards that person, knowing past temptations may still be strongly present with them. And then I also had a choice: take over the conversation with “I know what your saying and this is everything I have to say about it!…” or I could store up what I was hearing, ask questions, and be blessed to build on to the mountain of amazing stories of real lives radically altered by the grace of God. More often than not we just need to shut up.
  • Shut up. But seriously, shut up. Quit talking about everything you know, that church planting article you read on twitter, recent revelation, what you read in your Bible, saw in your church, all your blessings, all your sins, awesome Piper book, God’s working in your life, blah blah blah. Sometimes we talk so much about what we “know” about God and all our spiritual stuff and insights that we totally miss out on the real soul in front of us that is dying for lack of real ministry of mercy. If only we would listen. and keep listening. and keep listening. Until we reach the core of the Jesus-need that resides in their pain-seared heart. Oh man I need this lesson—so convicting. Because haven’t I myself been that very person?
  • Do not be afraid to fail. While in Spain, I especially had a major back-lash of culture and language immersion in which I skyrocketed initially, and then fell straight rock-bottom. It was a very humiliating experience because it all was a lot more difficult that I expected. Instead of humbling and rising up, I humbled myself and stayed there, too afraid for a time to venture out in the language because I couldn’t effectively communicate; not trying and withdrawing was a whole lot easier than trying and imminent failure. I regretted that, and if I could go back and change anything, I would persevere in communication and language despite set-backs and humiliation. Some things are just more important that my perception before others. This even wore into my time in Italy; I constantly struggled to express myself and felt a huge disconnect of who I was as a person and how I fit in. I struggled to participate and invest myself while feeling like I was failing at it.

I look back and see a life-lesson: go hard after failure, because you just might happen to succeed. Because even succeeding at failure is still success, right?

Why was I born in America?

Why was I born in America?

Of all questions that I anticipated would run through my head during my European travels, this was not one that I expected.

Some background: The biggest obstacle I came across in all the countries I visited and with all the people I met is summed up in two words: cultural communication.


If communication were really just about words and grammar and sentence structure, then anyone could really live anywhere, given enough time to learn a new language structurally.

But if you have nailed the language (reading, writing, and speaking), you honestly have just skimmed the surface. Put that at about a 4th grader’s level. What about expression, double meaning, sarcasm, humor, idiosyncrancies, body language etc… Understanding a country, a culture, is so much more than language. What about history and how that affects feelings and emotions of people of that nation? What about different sub-cultures within a country (North, South, etc…)? And to top it off, the varying sub-cultures of Christians within all those sub-cultures?

Light bulb moment: Being an American gives me a communicative advantage to other Americans over anyone else in the world. Yes, meeting Spaniards and Britains and Italians and Filipinos have been very exciting, and it’s always an adventure trying to figure out each other’s past and life experiences and connect with each other. Yet if I were to put myself into the middle of their community and live with them, I would literally have to re-learn culture because I’m not in America anymore; I’m in their land so I adapt to them. And the same would happen if they became my neighbor in South Carolina and if they really did intend to be involved in community.

This is where I really struggled. As a foreigner, not only did I have to mirror those around me in order to simply participate, but I had to also search for some avenue to communicate who I was as a person in a way that they would understand.

Problem is, I only know how to do that in American English. Who I am as a person is how I express myself in my language and my culture.

I was faced with many questions at this point. I know that God does and will continue to place and move people around the world for the purpose of the furtherance of His Kingdom. History testifies this mobilization of the saints. I believe in mission and how God is using it, but what about this cultural barrier?

Realization: I have 24 years of American experience. If I travel within any part of the U.S., I would have a pretty developed understanding of the history and type of culture diversity in any given location. I could communicate fluently and could understand that if they said a certain sentence with the right inflection, they may be either content, or bitter. Sarcastically jovial, or demeaningly pessimistic. We all have a varying degree of social awareness (painfully, some less than others), and this is often derived from culture.

Enough of the rambling.

Here’s the point.

Why was I born in this country?

Unfortunately, I think Christians only start taking culture seriously when we strategize about missions in foreign fields. We give all these encouraging strategies about cultural transition and celebrate being able to share Christ while speaking and understanding in the same language—at the same time! And that is exciting, please don’t get me wrong! But why don’t we think this same way about our own country? Missionaries are simply praying about opportunities to meet people and tell them about Jesus, and then actively looking for those opportunities every day. If you’re looking for something extraordinary about the mission field, don’t ask me about it. What I observed on this trip was very ordinary and real. Loving God, loving others. They plant, God gives the increase.

Missionaries have to learn about a country and culture, and it’s exciting to relay to supporters how they were finally able to use that understanding to start a conversation, which led to a new friend, which led to a Bible study in the apartment complex, which led to a family being saved, along with all the relatives.

Why would we expect less in America? Is this only “missions” stuff? Is the Gospel only more effective in godless cultures? Is it not the power of God unto salvation to all who believe?

Maybe it’s because we don’t have the same dependency on God that they do, because cultural transition is really hard work. Without the strength and help of God, it would drive most to despair. (take a moment and thank God for His children living out the Gospel outside their culture. No seriously- right now. Do it.) And since (at first) they only know how to communicate personality in their own cultural language, they are forced to rely on God, and not abilities and personality. How humbling is that?

God didn’t have me to be born in America to waste it. Because of wealth and resources, maybe I could be more effective in Kingdom growth by supporting a national that is already culture savvy. Or maybe His intent is that I go and preach the Gospel where there is not a soul that knows His name. American or foreigner, it doesn’t matter—it’s the drive in the heart to live a life that’s not wasted.

I realize that when I was born in America, that it was part of God’s Kingdom strategy. None of this “I’ll go but I’m willing to stay.” We’re all to “go.” Or perhaps we’ve already “went.” Going does not mean simply moving. It means dwelling somewhere with a purpose of living, sharing, breathing the Gospel. America is not homebase, and neither is any country-of-birth. The only country-of-birth that matters is the country of our 2nd birth, our birth into God’s Eternal Kingdom.

So why was I born in America? Maybe I need to realize that this really isn’t my country; maybe I need to start living like a foreigner. After all, isn’t my passport just… paper? Live in light of the permanent citizenship you truly eternally have.