Tag Archive | Inspiration

Of Bugs and Women

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When I was a freshman in college, my worst enemy was science, and the most evil science of all was biology. On a really good day I might be able to be talked into tolerating chemistry or even physics, but all my politeness escapes me when you put a preserved frog in front of me and ask me to pull out its tongue to see how long it is, or when my teacher serves me a plate of dead worms and asks me to dissect it with a couple of straight pins. So it goes without saying that the only reason “Environmental Biology” was on my class schedule was because it was a mandatory class. I tried to tell myself that since it is environmental biology, we might just be looking at things like weather and not have to take any body parts out of dead animals. Halfway through the semester, I still didn’t need to dissect anything so I figured I was safe. Still, I had to work to find positive aspects of the class, and on one particular night, I didn’t have to work that hard (at least at first) to find a positive. The class was doing a field study in the park a couple blocks down from my mom’s house. That meant I didn’t have to drive thirty minutes to class, and I didn’t have to leave home that early. When I got to the park and received my instructions however, I would rather have driven two hours than do what my teacher wanted me to do.

 

“Now I want you to walk down to the edge of the pond and start digging with your hands and collect any insects that you find into this cup.” The woman was actually serious about this! With our hands?! You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m the one that uses the kind of glue where my hand is a foot and a half away from the glue so that I don’t get my hand sticky or dirty, and now you want me to stick my hands in the mud to find those horrible loathsome crawlers? However, I was in college now, and grades mattered so I held my breath and did as she asked. The first few minutes were gruesome, but as the class went on, it wasn’t as bad. Now don’t get me wrong. It was still bad, just not as bad.

 

Afterwards, I made a point to forget about that night, or at least pretend I forgot about it. Then one night I saw a huge bug on my bedroom wall. Normally I would have screamed bloody murder (yes, even in college) and run downstairs to make my brother kill it before I would even set foot in my bedroom again. This time, I just took a tissue, grabbed it, threw it out, and went back to what I was doing. I had seen and picked up so many insects at the pond that they don’t have the same effect on me as they used to.

 

I am reminded of that change in me regarding insects as I think about what God has done in the past few months. If you have been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that God has performed some marvelous victories on my behalf and brought me through several breakthroughs. I remember my church cheering when I told them about my victory against suicide and the thrilled smiles on the faces of those who care about me when I told them God had defeated depression and the pain resulting from the sexual abuse I endured as a child. A few weeks after I’ve given those testimonies of victory however, I’ve often sat in stony and painful silence (or sometimes wailed in agony) over a suicide temptation or a horrible bout of depression or anxiety. Sometimes God would bring me to another victory, and I would blog about it, but the enthusiasm (both mine and my hearers’) would wane as we think to ourselves, “But we thought she was already over it. How do we know this isn’t just a ‘good spell’ until the next crash comes?” I know I may be putting thoughts in your head, but I know these thoughts have definitely crossed my mind, and maybe, if you’ve been along for a good portion of the journey, it may have crossed your minds as well. That is what I’d like to address today.

 

Remember my field study at the pond? Did that experience guarantee that I would never see another insect again? Of course not. I have seen lots of insects more frightening than any I saw that day. Sometimes I still gasp and cringe as I pound it with my shoe, but the bottom line is I go after it instead of run from it. This is not because I’m all of a sudden braver than I was before that field study. I just saw the insects for what they were – a lot smaller than me, and very ugly, but very defeatable.

 

After I got my hands dirty and dealt with the ugly insects of depression and suicide, it didn’t mean I was no longer going to see those insects again. It just means that when they do show up, even though I gasp and put up a noisy (and sometimes clumsy) fight, I now see them for what they are – a lot smaller than me because of Christ in me, and very ugly, but very defeatable. That is the real victory. Even though the emotional crashes still come (I had an ugly one today) and they’re painful, I can thank God that in his wisdom he has chosen some healings to be a process instead of an event, and that in his infinite love and power he has defeated all my enemies and and put them under my shoe, I mean feet. This must be why they call the Christ in me thing the hope of glory!

I Can’t Help It!

I’ve always had a major issue with the disciple John, until today that is. The issue I had with him was that he called himself, “the one that Jesus loved.” Every time I read that, I wanted to strangle him. “So you don’t think Jesus loved any of the other disciples?” I wanted to ask him. “What makes you better than all the rest?” Even when my professor at Moody Bible Institute explained that John was just stating a fact and that he wasn’t comparing himself with anyone else, I still thought of John as a bit arrogant for saying that. After tonight though, I understand perfectly where he’s coming from.

 

I’ve talked at length about the love that I’ve received from my church. Tonight though, as I drove home after Bible study, I really began to connect the pieces and truly own the lessons that God has been teaching me through their demonstration of love. I was driving along as usual and then I suddenly had a deep rooted understanding that I was safe, I was cared for, and I was valued, of course first and foremost by God but not only that, by other people too! As that understanding grew, a light bulb went on in my head as I added the parts of the equation together. I thought, “Wait a minute, if I’m safe, cared for, and valued, why, that must mean I’m loved – a lot!”

 

You know what’s the first thing I wanted to do after I realized that in the core of my being? You got it! I wanted to tell everyone! I hesitated a bit because I thought it might sound stand-offish, but then I thought, “I’m so excited I have to share this! I can’t help it” Then I thought of the disciple John and I understood. He wasn’t arrogant, he just really gets it, and when you really get it, you can’t stop talking about it because it’s too amazing to keep to yourself.

 

I’m quoting the entire song “When I was Lost” because it’s the first thing that erupted from my mouth when I understood how loved I was in a fresh way tonight. It describes the exhilaration perfectly.

 

When I was lost you came and rescued me
Reached down into the pit and lifted me
O Lord, such love: I was as far from you as I could be
You know all the things I've ever done
But Jesus' blood has canceled every one
O Lord, such grace, to qualify me as your own

There is a new song in my mouth
There is a deep cry in my heart
A hymn of praise to Almighty God - hallelujah!
And now I stand firm on this Rock
My life is hidden now with Christ in God
The old has gone and the new has come - hallelujah!
Your love has lifted me

Now I have come into your family
For the Son of God has died for me
O Lord, such peace: I am as loved by you as I could be
In the full assurance of your love
Now with every confidence we come
O Lord, such joy to know that you delight in us

Many are the wonders you have done
Many are the things that you have planned
How beautiful the grace that gives to us all that we don't deserve
All that we cannot earn but is a gift of love

Hey wait a minute, this is the same song that erupted out of my mouth on the night of my salvation! I told you! Every time you start to understand this kind of extravagant love, you can’t help but open your mouth and shout, “I am the one Jesus loves!”

Lessons From a Bad Hair Day

Somethings are so horrible you have to blog about it, namely, my haircut. If you are a guy reading this, please excuse the drama, for there’s no way you could understand. Ladies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Last night, I looked in the mirror and got disgusted with my previous haircut which wasn’t even straight and grabbed a coupon and headed to a local salon. When I came home, I was in tears and vowed never to leave the house until my hair grew out and I had it fixed. I didn’t even want to go to church this weekend. To make it worse, I had a wedding to attend today.

 

It’s strange how one spark can ignite a whole house. All of a sudden I became convinced I was ugly and worthless. I didn’t have a job, my finances are a disaster and now I look disgusting. When I went to bed, God tried to tell me I was beautiful but I wouldn’t hear of it. “Ugly, ugly, ugly,” I lamented and started thinking about how I could excuse myself from all activities like the wedding and church.

 

You know what I did next? I went to the bathroom and tried to avoid the mirror while I washed my face. Then I went online and looked up Tricoci University. Part of me wanted to learn to bring out the beauty in everyone and make sure no one ever went home calling themselves ugly over a haircut. I dreamed of one day volunteering my services at a women’s shelter so that ladies whose lives are falling apart can look in the mirror and see the beauty that God created.

 

Is this new career choice just a “fad” like all my other pursuits and desires? I don’t think so, but time will tell. However, I have learned a valuable lesson about hope. Several weeks ago, God told me that he has placed a strong seed of hope in me, and that seed has kept me alive thus far. If I let him, he will cultivate it so that it will bear much fruit. I doubted God then, because I’ve spent most of my life feeling depressed and in despair. However, I learned last night that hope is not a feeling. I still feel horrible about my haircut and still wish I didn’t have to go to weddings and church. However, Biblical hope speaks of expectation. All throughout the Bible, God has shown himself to be the redeemer, redeeming what has been lost and making new all which has been destroyed. Even before giving my life to him, I have known that somehow he will make things right in the end. It is that expectation that causes me to “prepare my fields for rain” even in a drought (as quoted in Facing the Giants). I know God will send rain in his time, and when he does I want to be ready. Besides, it would be just like him to turn a disastrous haircut into a ministry, don’t you think?

Are You In?

Ever since I was five, my parents decided that they were going to turn me into a stereotypical Asian if it was the last thing they did. Of course they didn’t say that exactly, but that was my interpretation of the “We want you to be well-rounded” explanation they gave whenever I asked them why I had to take so many music lessons, ballet lessons, ice skating lessons, and so forth. For most of my life, I had very little say in what I learned and whom I learned it from, especially whom I learned it from. They would pick the best teacher they could afford and make me submit to whoever it was who greeted me when I walked in those doors. Whether the teacher gave me candy or called me names, I was to wholeheartedly follow whatever they said. Such is the life of the stereotypical Asian child.

I remember one exception to that however. I was a junior in high school, already pretty “well-rounded” as far as my parents were concerned, and I suddenly developed a intense fascination, okay, maybe more like obsession, with the oboe. The second I heard the oboe solo in one of our orchestra pieces, I knew I had to learn it. My mom was willing to pay for lessons, but I had to find a teacher on my own. I asked around and got referred to a teacher who lived not far from my house. The minute I stepped into her home, I felt warm and welcomed. She had strange methods of teaching, such as making me lie down with a book on my stomach to make sure I was breathing properly. However, her methods worked, and her encouragement was so refreshing I couldn’t wait to practice and get better so that I could hear her words of praise. I was willing to do anything she asked me to do, because I knew she wanted me to be the best that I could be, which was what I wanted too.

Thinking about my oboe teacher reminds me of a lesson I learned this weekend. I had been continuing to read the book The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee when I stumbled upon a chapter that made me want to throw the book against the wall…again. It was the chapter about presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Nee discussed how our lives and our bodies do not belong to us, and therefore we should not treat them as our own. Instead, we should for one, take really good care of it, but we should also be willing for God to do with it as he pleases.

All at once I felt myself recoil and sink into despair. First of all, I thought, there are certainly things that I would not be willing to do if God were to ask me to do them, so I guess that must mean I’m not a very devoted Christian because I’m not willing to do whatever God asks me to do. Furthermore, since our presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is an act of worship done out of gratitude for what God has done for me, then I figured I must not be grateful enough for what God has done to save me.

After a reassuring conversation with my pastor, I felt God say, “If you’re thinking in your heart that I would ask you to do those scary things that you dream up, then you still do not know my character. I am not one to make my children do scary things to prove their devotion to me. That does not come from me and is not my heart for you. Those who know my heart and my character gladly follow me because they know I love them and will only ask them to do what is best for them.” I thought of the slaves on the year of jubilee who had the option of going free or staying with their master permanently. I figured the only reason a slave would want to stay with his master for life is if the master was kind to him. I also thought back to my oboe teacher. Unlike my childhood years, if I didn’t like my oboe teacher, I could just look for another one and never return to her. I chose to stay with her and do whatever she asked of me because I knew she really cared and wanted the best for me. So I realize that once I truly understand the heart of God towards me, I will have no problem presenting myself to him to do as he wishes, because whatever he wants for me would be what I want for myself too, and abundantly beyond that.

My college pastor once said, “Jesus’ ways are opposite of the ways of our Western society.  When someone asks us to follow him, we want to know where he’s going first, then we’ll decide if we’re in or not.  Jesus wants us to follow him first, and then he will tell us where we’re going and what we will be doing.”  Of course the disciples were not so clueless that they would abandon their lives for any stranger.  They have seen Jesus and known enough about him to convince them that trading their lives for his would be a good thing.  So I am convinced that as I continue to learn more about the heart of God, I will soon say with joy, “Count me in!  I’m all yours!”

I Have A Treasure!

They call it the Marley mumbo. If you’ve read the book Marley and Me, you know what I’m talking about. The author of the book gets this adorable yellow lab puppy and soon finds out he’s quite a handful, or should I say, mouthful? In other words, it wasn’t long before the majority of the author’s household possessions have come into contact one way or another with Marley’s mouth. Even though many dogs are supposed to be smart, one thing that Marley definitely has not figured out is how to keep a secret. When he is concealing some forbidden object in his mouth, he gets so excited he cannot hardly contain himself. The result is the Marley mumbo. He dances and wiggles so fiercely his limbs look like they’re going to fly off any minute. Whenever the author sees Marley doing the mumbo, he pries open Marley’s mouth to retrieve the hidden treasure which has ranged from paychecks to gold necklaces.

If you have been following my blogs or my life, you know that one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced in my spiritual walk is trying to understand and believe that God loves me more than anyone else ever could. Although my pastors, teachers, and friends have tried to tell me over and over again that God loves me infinitely and completely, I never got it. To me, God always seemed upset with me over something, and I may not always know what that something is. So I was always scared to approach God because I never knew if he was going to be happy about me approaching him or if he was going to wield a rod over my head for something that I did wrong at some point. At my best moments, I might venture into thinking that God loves me, but never would I dare believe that God delighted in me.

As a teacher, I know that with certain students, timing is everything. You can say the same thing at two different times and one would generate blank stares while the other would turn on a light bulb. Today God provided the perfect timing and environment for which to communicate the precious truth that he has spent the last nine years getting me to understand. I had just been visiting my pastor and his family. His granddaughter was with him today, and as usual, I felt the sting that often comes when observing fathers/grandfathers with their daughters/granddaughters due to my past history. After I left my pastor’s house, I felt the hole in my heart burn from the sting of observing a loving interaction between a grandfather and his granddaughter that I wish I had. Suddenly it was as if the Holy Spirit splashed refreshing, cold water into that hole as God once again told me of his love for me. Unlike the countless other times however, this time seemed to be the right time for my heart to receive that message deep down into its core. Later back home, God completed his love song with a glorious vision of his ear-to-ear smile and outstretched arms sweeping me off my feet and spinning me in the air in pure delight over me.

Returning back to my introductory story, having this treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7) hidden in my heart made me act completely different than I have ever acted in my life. Don’t worry, I did not dance and wiggle fiercely, instead I walked different, smiled different, and talked different. My main mission this evening was to go to the mall and find places that were hiring and get applications from them. Halfway through the mall, I began to realize something was different about me. I walked with dignity, smiled at stranger, friend and foe alike, and talked with confidence and delight in my voice. You wouldn’t have to pry open my mouth to find the hidden treasure, because, as evidenced while I sat basking in God’s delight, my mouth erupted in songs of praise and adoration.

Those of you who are close to me know that once I receive affection from someone, I tend to bombard him or her with handmade gifts, cards, and other trinkets. God once told me that the day I want to give him a gift is the day I will know I have received his love for me the way he wants me to. Tonight, I found myself longing to make God something. As I pondered that thought, I heard God’s delighted laugh as he said, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Instantly my heart erupted in excitement as I thought of ways to share my talents with “the least of these” that God has and will continue to place in my life.

I get it!!! And it’s glorious!!! As the song so eloquently puts it, “I am loved by the king, and it makes my heart want to sing” (and maybe do a little mumbo)!

Dancing in the Desert

“ICE??? ICE???”

“Well, it’s kind of a winter sport, you know.”

“You mean winter as in ICE???”

“Maybe”

“You mean winter as in igloos and Eskimos and penguins and ICE???”

That’s one of my favorite dialogues in the movie Cool Runnings, a story about a bobsledding team from Jamaica. You don’t have to see the movie to know that bobsled and Jamaica don’t usually appear in the same sentence. Well, the story goes that the four unlikely athletes from Jamaica get a former champion to coach them in bobsledding. However, they soon find out that they are not the only ones who have to overcome some difficulties. Their seemingly infallible coach is hiding a regretful secret that makes the team even more the object of ridicule than they already are. Yet on the night before the competition, the coach speaks to the driver of the team and they’re talking about gold medals when the coach speaks from experience and says, “If you’re not enough without it, then you’ll never be enough with it.”

Today has been a very goofy day with my emotions acting like bipolar on steroids. I’m actually starting to think that peace and joy are as elusive as ice is in Jamaica. Sometimes I really wonder if I’m going to actually find lasting relief this side of heaven, or if this roller coaster ride is to be my destiny for life. However, tonight I received a powerful lesson about worship. I still remember how my worship changed the night I got saved. Prior to that October evening, I barely stood during worship, and even though I liked music, I would only mouth the songs that I really liked and enjoyed only the rhythm while the words flew over my head and at times tasted bitter in my mouth. That night however, I could barely contain myself in the bookstore and couldn’t wait to get home where I jumped up and down and sang on the top of my lungs. Since then, my jumping and clapping and singing have been the source of many sermon illustrations and many Sunday dinner discussions, not all of them enthusiastically affirming, mind you. However, soon the style came to be so much of what people expected of me that it became a performance in front of others instead of worship before God. When I went to church, I felt that people were watching for the jumping and clapping and raising my hands like I was a number on a program.

When I came to the church that I now call home, I had been bouncing between so many churches and trying to stay away from suicide that I forgot all about my performance act. By the time I remembered it, I realized that no one here had heard a sermon illustration about my jumping or clapping or off-key singing and so no one was watching me expecting to see a show. I didn’t know it then, but stripping me of the performance aspect of worship really set the stage for what I learned tonight.

As I watched the movie Joyful Noise, I looked into the eyes of each member of the choir. Each of them was no stranger to pain, yet they sung and danced their heart out like it was the last day they were going to be given breath. As the movie ended, I realized in my heart what I had often resented others for saying, that God is worthy of our praise regardless of anything and everything we’re going through. He does not owe us an explanation, though he sometimes gives one out of his patience. He is worthy of our praise simply because he is. I looked at the weird day I had and thought, “if I have a thousand more days like this or worse, God is still worthy of my praise.” If God never did one more thing in my life or said one more word, if I’m out on the street tomorrow and if all my friends reject me, God is still worthy of my praise. In his great kindness he is working in my life and speaking to me. I am not out on the street, I have a roof over my head and friends who love me so much I’ve got to scratch my head in amazement. Yet all these blessings do not make God more worthy of my praise just as the lack of these blessings do not make him less worthy of my praise. He is always and forever infinitely worthy of my praise just for who he is.

That’s where the bobsledding coach came in. I heard the truly infallible coach, the Holy Spirit say, “If you can’t praise him when you’re in want, then you’ll never be able to praise him when you have plenty.” That struck me as odd at first. I thought, of course anyone would be able to praise God when things go well. It would be easy, wouldn’t it? And then I thought back to the times when I’ve been bitter towards God during my suffering. When in his mercy, God brought relief, the last thing on my mind was God during that season of joy and comfort. I became quick to indulge in selfish pleasures and fill my days with activity so as to crowd out any time to think about or be with God. However, when God has led me to praise him during difficult times, when relief comes, the first thing I do is run into his arms with gratitude and praise. What an eye-opener!

During these times when the emotional roller coaster flies between the extremes of heaven and hell, I can rest in the assurance that one thing will never change. God always has been and will always be worthy of my praise. One day, I will be able to walk on that elusive refreshing ice, but whether that day comes here on earth or in my eternal home, I will make sure the doorkeepers of joy see me coming with a skip in my step and a shout of praise on my tongue.

I Don’t Pay for Water!

Remember when I said I hated taking showers? Well, summer has a way of changing that. I came in this afternoon from walking my dog in 95-degree weather and my dog beelined to his water dish and I to the shower. I turned the water on as cold as I could stand and after the initial shock, I basked in the refreshing downpour as I felt my body temperature drop. As I stood there enjoying the cool water, I thought, “I can stay in here as long as I want. In fact, I can come back here as many times as I want because I don’t pay for water!” Having had to go light on the air conditioner because it will be on my electric bill, I was glad that water was not one of the utilities I have to pay in my apartment.

Then it hit me. I don’t have to pay for living water either – it’s already been paid for! In John chapters 4 and 7, Jesus talks about giving us the living water which is the Holy Spirit. Just like it is with my shower, I can enjoy the refreshing water of the Spirit all the time because it has already been paid for. I don’t have to check my clock and count minutes when I sit under his counsel or receive his comforting embrace because Jesus already paid for me to have as much of the living water as I could ever need or want! What an awesome gift! Thank you Jesus!