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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Relief

I recently shared a struggle with some close friends. It was scary, at first, since it's something that I've never openly shared before. But now that I have exposed the lie I was believing, it is quickly falling apart. Praise God! The real test will be a bad day. I thank God for sisters to help carry the load. : )

As for school, a resolve may have come or may be coming soon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ooooh, videos....

Both of these videos were made in a class of mine at UCF. This first one is a short autobiographical video.

video

This second video was part of a group project, in which we had to create an educational video. Ha ha, I still love it!

video

Praises and frustrations

Wow, a lot has been going on recently. School is really rough. I don't really understand what I'm doing wrong, but it's not going well. I wish God would tell me how to make it better.

As you can see from my last few posts, God has been telling me some cool things.

Support raising has been interesting. The first month the support flooded my mailbox. After I sent in the checks for my first deadline, it stopped. I didn't get any responses for a few weeks. Then I started to get a few. I'm not worried so much as I am confused and just wondering what God is doing (or what I'm doing wrong). On a better note, I received an email from our project director this week saying that he fiddled with the budget and now we only need to raise $4,200, a difference of $500. So, I guess my new goal is $4,600. With that new goal I am at 58% of my goal, with $1,920 to go. Amazing.

One of the tasks the project directors ask us to do is to write our testimony, memorize it, and then practice sharing it in a group setting, large or small. Well, I've worked on my testimony quite a bit, and actually just updated it recently. I've memorized it pretty well and practiced with friends over lunch or dinner. The practice was greatly needed. The first time I practiced with a friend was horrible. I kept stopping, messing up, laughing. It just took way too long to get through it, but I appreciate her patience with me. The following day I practiced two more times, and there was great improvements. Then, that night, I shared my testimony with our Summer Crusade meeting of about 100 people. Everyone said I did really well, my voice wasn't shaky and I had everybody's full attention. I feel good about it. I had class right beforehand, and as class was coming to a close I started to get nervous. Immediately I began to pray for God's peace. I placed it in His hands completely and rested in Him being in control. I put on some music as I walked across campus to get my mind of the nervousness and to help me keep praying. By the time Summer Cru started, I wasn't nervous at all. Praise God for hearing my prayer and answering me. It will be interesting to see if and how God will use it in the coming weeks. My prayer is that He use it to break down walls that people have built around their heart. Some of the things I said are taboo in the church and no one has ever really mentioned it at Crusade before. It was scary to be so vulnerable to judgment, but I know that ultimately God is my Judge and He sees me blameless and pure. At the same time, it was really exciting, because these are real issues that exist that need to be talked about and discussed. I hope that by my vulnerability those taboo barriers would be demolished. I want to see people freed from their pasts so they can worship God with their whole hearts and whole lives, not just the parts of which they are unashamed.

That night, Matt (our speaker), talked about what a disciple is. He said that a disciple finds their identity in Christ, and that that identity expresses itself in worship, community, and mission. I found it perfect, because the theme of my testimony is identity and how God has changed my identity. I could easily see in my life how my changed identity has impacted my worship, community, and mission. I hope others could have seen that concrete connection too.

But more than that, our church communities need some serious help. It's not a community at all. How many times do we run into someone and say that everything in our life is peachy keen, when in reality we are in a deep struggle with pain and/or sin. How can we welcome in broken strangers, when we are unwilling to be broken before each other, our brothers and sisters, family!? How can we expect strangers to come into our church bodies and be real with us when we are fake with each other? I freely share my testimony, first of all to praise God and give Him the glory, and secondly, to be real with my brothers and sisters. There is great encouragement that comes from knowing the struggles and weaknesses of others. We realize we are not alone. We can talk about our lives and experience healing. I praise God for the life that He has touched already by my testimony. There is too much judging that goes on in the church. That is why we are often fake, because we are afraid of judgment. If a member of the body is afraid of judgment, why do we even wonder why new people never come to church, they are just as afraid of that same judgment. We need to get off our high horses, admit our own faults and weaknesses, and welcome in those who don't know the forgiveness of God. It is not our place to judge, but it is our place to love like Jesus loved. It makes me so sick that people don't want to go to church because they think people would look down on them for their lifestyle and choices. Who do we think we are? The saddest part is that they are right. There are so many Christians who look down on others and think that they are so much better. Are they any better than the pharisees, whom looked down upon the "sinners?" We have such pride issues. I tell you the truth, that those who look down on others are worse off than those upon whom they look. We are a bunch of idol worshipers. And you know what that idol is? Ourselves. We meditate on ourselves and all that entails, rather than God and his goodness. Who cares if we are broken? I'm glad that I'm broken and I want to tell the world about it because all the more will God get the glory for fixing me. I think I better stop ranting now.

So as for prayer requests for me, please please please please please pray for whatever is going on this semester with school. Ask God to reveal to me what I need to be doing to be successful. Continue to pray that He provide financial and prayer partners for me and for those on my project. Also pray for the relationships I have in which God is working right now, a friend and classmates. I feel like we're on the brink of breakthrough in someone's life and am so anxious for Him to just hurry and get on with. I guess I need some more patience in waiting on His timing. One of my biggest struggles right now is giving up time on schoolwork in order to spend time on these relationships, which is one reason why school isn't going so well, because my work is not getting done like it should be. So frustrating. Pray for encouragement, because I am getting discouraged. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Breakthrough

Here is a conversation I had with God today. I thought I would share it because 1) I love to show how God is working – I just get so excited when he works in me, I can’t help but share, and 2) I thought maybe you needed to hear it too, and know that you are not alone in this struggle.

The blue is me, the purple is God, and the black is a song that God put it on my heart to which to listen – obviously to help my thoughts.

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Lord, I am burdened.

I do not see your will and have begun to take on the decision myself. What shall I do?

I’ve come to your Word in hopes of finding some guidance.

Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (Isaiah 54:14b-15, italics added)

I resisted my attacker, the devil, and I feel that he is gone.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I do not think like you God. I know this full well. Yet I began to rely on my thinking and human rationalization to make this decision. But that is not how you think. I became discouraged and felt that I cannot do it. But that’s it…because, I can’t. But with your strength, I can. I don’t see your plan, I don’t see the possibility of it, but I trust and have faith that you can do it.

My mom kept telling me that I am on the edge of my breakthrough. God, I don’t want to be stuck here any longer, I want to break through. It’s either my way or your way. Mine is comfortable and easier, I feel I could do it. Yours is overwhelming and will be hard – a lot of work and not much rest…

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. (Isaiah 58:13-14)

…but I know that rest in you is all I need. If I keep holy your Sabbath I can soar through the week and be satisfied in all my needs, feasting even. Though I must be careful of what I do, for I am learning what a true Sabbath is and that it’s not me chilling and doing as I please. I must not go my own way or dismiss things I said I would do – which I have done in the past. Your Word says that your rest will be enough to get me through. I am trying to trust that and let go of my anxious hesitation and human ideas.

Your plan is a bigger step of faith. One to which you may have called me, and if so, this would be my crisis of belief. That being the case, I must step out of the boat and believe that I will not sink, that you will not let me sink – fail. A friend said that I can’t make a wrong decision if it is made in faith. She said you will give me grace either way I choose.

Oh God, I want to break through! I want to move forward, move deeper, trust you more. But I am so scared of sinking.

I want to trust you.

Why can’t I trust you, why is it so hard?

I want to say I will do it…but then I hesitate to dive in.

Here I am in this familiar place again
Standing on the shore of my complacency
Ankle deep in love I once was swimming in
Shallowness has taken over me

But the current pulls the sand
And moves my stubborn feet
From the dryness of the land
To where the wave pound over me

CHORUS:
Take me deep enough where I can see
The bottom of Your heart
Deep enough that I can know Your will
Deep enough to know that we
Will never be apart
And when I get there
Take me deeper still

Take me through the wonders of Your faithfulness
Help me see the depth of my own need
Lead me to the water where Your mercy is
For You and You alone can set me free

I am covered by Your grace surrounded
Far away from shore
As/and You’re taking me to places
I have never been before

CHORUS

I want to drown in the water
I want to drown in Your truth
Take me all the way under
Where I have to trust in You

CHORUS

[“Deeper Still” Scott Krippayne]

My complacency – I’ve been leaning a lot on my own strength rather than yours. Shallowness has definitely taken over me – we used to be so close. Rip tides are scary and pounding waves aren’t pleasant to endure, but if that’s what it takes to bring me back into your ocean, that is where I want to be. I may not know which way is up, but will it matter if I’m surrounded by your love? Rip me away from this life I’ve been living, I’m finding it hard to let go of the dry land that has become so comfortable. Only you can set me free. I’ve never been here before, but what’s so great about where I’m at now – I want more of you. I want to drown in the water, drown in your truth. But I’ve got to trust in you.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

I can do it.

B R E A K T H R O U G H !

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So for you friends that are reading this, please keep me encouraged when I get down and want to quit. Keep me accountable in keeping my Sabbath, as will be so necessary. I guess this is that to which I was looking forward – what God was going to do this semester. Exciting as it is, I didn’t think it would be this sort of challenge, I thought it would be pleasant…but then I wouldn’t grow as much would I. I would much rather have this.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rainbow blessings

I took a bike ride out to a favorite spot of mine, where I like to go to be alone with God. It was beautiful outside. The temperature was comfortable, the sun was bright, but setting, so it was a soft light, and the sky was blue with white clouds. The pond that I overlooked was still, looking like glass, perfectly reflecting the trees on the other side. I wrote in my journal, then sat there singing love songs to Him. I began to see little circles of ripples all over the pond, like when it rains. I didn't feel any drops hitting me, but I saw a little rain cloud coming. I wasn't concerned. I just continued to sit and enjoy God's show. After a while I began to feel the drops, but they weren't much. They were cool and fresh upon my skin. It reminded me of how God uses the rain to wash the earth and make it clean. I felt like he was washing me too, hehe. : P Then it began to rain harder and I stood up to ride away so I wouldn't get soaked. In a moment, I thought, "Why should I leave? I won't make it to shelter in time, so what's the difference. Why rush away from God's blessing?" I sat back down and got comfortable, enjoying the sound of the rain drops popping on the surface of the pond. I could feel the different sizes of the raindrops as they fell, dropping bigger and harder. Then, they lightened up again. Another small cloud passed and I thanked God for the cool, refreshing wash. As it began to lighten up and pass ahead of me, I thought, "Maybe I'll see a rainbow - I've got the right angle and the sun is shining." A few minutes later the colors began to show up. It started at the right side and after a while, it was a full rainbow stretching across the sky. Such a beautiful sight! I continued to notice something peculiar about the rainbow, however, that I never noticed about rainbows before. The rainbow seemed to form a dome of sorts, inside of which the rain fell. Outside of the rainbow you could see the blue sky and white clouds, but as your eyes passed over the colors, to the interior, the sky became blocked by the wall of rain, giving it a gray look. "How peculiar," I thought.

I thought about the beauty of rainbows and how people get so excited when they see one. Then I thought about life and how rainbows can signify something good and pleasant - a good day or season of life, blessings, healing. But it takes rain to make rainbows, which in life is never fun. Rain often makes me think of hard times, with tears and pain, and unpleasant things. When you are in the rainstorm all you see is the gray sky and all you feel is the rain beating on your skin, often getting cold and unhappy. We often times can't see the blue sky beyond the clouds or the rainbow that could be hovering above our shower. But as time passes, and the storm moves on, we begin to see the beauty that results from the storm, the good, the blessings, the healing. Only after the rain cloud travels a distance can you see the rainbow.

So if you feel like you're in a storm right now, hold on tight. With the Son shining there is a rainbow of promise hovering above you, you just can't see it right now. Keep holding on, enjoy the cool cleansing flow, bask in His downpour of care. He doesn't want you to stay dirty forever, he wants to clean up His child. Sit tight knowing that your good Father is lovingly and tenderly washing your dirt away, just like your mother once did when you were young. Once the storm passes, then you'll see God's great blessing to you.

The rainbow is sure worth the rain.

Sisterhood

I just returned from a Women's Discovery Weekend retreat with my home church. It was great. I think the biggest thing God showed me, is what it is like to have big sisters. I've been the big sister for so long, supporting others, and I've never felt the other end of it - being supported by a big sister. It was such a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Catching up on this past semester

So today was my first financial deadline for my Australia summer project. My personal goal was around $1850. I sent in around $2300. God is so amazing! Now, I am almost halfway to my total goal...halfway!

So school has been over with for almost a week and I have about another week before I start my three summer classes. Yeah, three, I'm crazy. Anyway, I'm not enjoying my "vacation" too much. I feel like I have sooooo much to do, and I already have homework. That's right, I already have homework! I can't believe it. Well, I guess I'll tell the long story...here it is from the "beginning." This past semester has been my most difficult thus far (and hopefully ever).

Emotionally, I felt like I was on a roller coaster. One day or hour I was bounding with happiness and joy, the next I was sulking with gloom. I realized that (and this is hard for me to admit) my battle with depression is not completely over (though there has been some progress, about which I will talk shortly). It mainly reflected whatever was going on with my mom, although there has been a lot more going on with my family, in general, that has been weighing upon my heart. I like to think of it as a line graph - overall a positive slope, but spiking up and down, all over the place. The inconsistency took a toll on me and I became very exhausted. Things seem to have leveled out for a bit. I had a good talk with my mom a few days ago. I got to cry in her arms and let go of so much that I had been holding in. It was such a relief and felt soooo good, even though it was scary at first. I feel like God put some more pieces of my heart back together. I know we are not out of this completely, but I have more hope onto which I can hold, to get me through the tough times ahead. I feel stronger and more ready to handle what comes. So finally, after all these years, God is taking the depression that plagued me and is replacing it with hope. Ahhh, what a good feeling it is!

Spiritually, I feel like I've been living two lives. In one, I got really involved with Crusade and enjoyed doing regular evangelism on campus, as well as some prayer. But at the same time, my own relationship with my Father wasn't doing so well. My quality, quiet times were few and far between. I really struggled to get much from reading His Word, though I found other books to be great resources. I've really enjoyed expanding my desire for reading for "pleasure", but I missed being fed by the Word. And in that same life, I failed to honor God with my school.

Academically, I did not do so well, though my grades may not show all of it (because God is so kind). God opened my eyes as to how lazy I was in regards to school. I struggled to do homework and often turned in assignments late or not done well. I am very disappointed in my behavior.

But God has shown me where I've gone wrong and I pray that I make the necessary changes before summer classes start. I will have three classes and no wiggle room for mistakes, much less anything else. God finally answered a question of mine, today, and told me that I have been keeping school and ministry separated (which is probably why I've done so poorly). Especially this past semester, I viewed school as an obstacle to what I really wanted. My perspective really needs to change before next Monday. He showed me that instead, I need to weave ministry through my everyday life, including school, and that school isn't an obstacle for ministry, but an opportunity. I don't really know where my sights got mixed up, but they definitely did. Slowly, I'm giving it to God. It is harder than I thought, I guess because I've been holding onto it for so long and it's just habit.

So this leads me to this coming semester. Like I said, I will have three classes, that's 24 scheduled hours of class a week, not to mention study time in addition to that. So as you can see I won't have any time for the prayer and evangelism I had hoped to start and continue. It's hard to let go of those desires and embrace the change that God has for me. (Man, where did I go wrong?! I'm realizing more and more how my focus has been all wrong, and usually on me, even though it seemed like it was on God.)

I guess God has been showing me this for a few weeks now. A couple of weeks ago God brought up this passage in Revelation that really spoke to my heart.
Yet I hold this against you; you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:4-5a)
He showed me that I too had forsaken my first love, and instead was driven by different things. I reflected upon the place from which I had come and the things I did "at first." It was so sweet to look back at the beginnings of my relationship with God and how in love I was, and how satisfied I was, with just Him. He was my only desire - innocent and pure.

So that is where I'm headed - to God, to God and to school. I feel like there is a lot of change coming to my life and much of that is simplification. The clutter is beginning to be removed and I pray that all that is left is only what God wants. I don't want any selfish desires of mine on the side because that will only lead to more exhaustion and frustration, not to mention spoiling of the fruit that God is trying to produce in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Well, that was a lot, and it's late now, so I'm off to bed.