Monday, January 25, 2010
New location: after a lot of consideration/ praying, I have moved to Merced, Ca... to live with my family and be apart of their ministry to college students... which means...
New school: I will now be attending Moody Bible Institute online... hopefully lots of my EBC credits will transfer over and I can continue working towards a degree in Biblical Studies... oh, also...
New Status: I am now happily courting an amazing best friend of mine, Kyle Kurth. He has shown me so much grace in the last month (ok well... over the course of all our friendship... but in a new and huge way this last month...) which God has used to lead me to the next new in my life...
New Realization: Grace-in-my-face. I am very hard on myself... always. I am a perfectionist who can never reach my own standards. I create them not only for myself, but for others, situations and anything my mind tends to wander towards. I have expectations, ideals, and they all revolve around my performance, abilities or reactions... which usually always leaves me feeling like a failure. Its pretty hard to admit, but, I try to do everything, all of the above and more, on my own strength. Not only do I desperately try to control my own reactions and emotions, I also tend to try to control my relationship with God and others based on my ability to be a certain person or fill a particular role in the relationship.
Let me explain: if I have a clearly defined role in a relationship of any kind, I have no problem rising to whatever the situation demands to fulfill it as best I can. But when I am in a relationship where I am not clearly "needed," not the leader, not the one pouring into, giving advice, supporting... I tend to collapse.
What does this have to do with grace?
In my relationship with God, my biggest hang up tends to be my frustration with being unable to understand Him. You laugh, and we both know its impossible, but there is something inside of me that refuses to give up the notion that if I simply try a little harder, I will finally find the peace of understanding. ( Woa! Time out, you say! Emily, didn't you mean the peace that surpasses understanding? Me: "But that does make sense to me!!" You (and God chimes in on this), so, everyone together now... "THAT'S THE POINT!!" Me: 'o' )
Yep. I still don't get it.
My role in my relationship with God is not clearly defined as anything other than I am to believe Jesus came and payed the penalty for my sin, accept His grace, and live in obedience to His commands because He loves me and His commands offer blessing.
Simple enough right?
False. Well, for me anyway...
The fact that I cannot understand God means I cannot get to the bottom of who He is, and figure out who I should be to please Him (through my actions and words). He doesn't want that, from what I read in the Bible. He wants my heart, and the only way to give it to Him is for me to accept His grace.
But, the catch is.... I don't get to do anything in order to earn it. In fact, I don't even get to understand it. "SIGH!!"
Also, there is nothing I can do to please Him, because He lives in the state of being pleased.... God doesn't need me. Shocker... I know. (You would think after all this time I would already know that...)
As casually as I present this, its really hard to me to actually accept. It means I have to completely trust God... I can't depend on myself. I cannot depend on my understanding. I can't even depend on my abilities to please people, or encourage them, just so I can feel needed. No, the simple truth is that He did this because He wanted to display His love. That is so crazy to me, and, for some reason, really, really hard to accept. Why? Maybe because grace is a beauty that extends my ability to produce, replicate, understand or contain... and so, I am intimidated and feel the desire to run away.
Even in my relationship with Kyle... he is so beyond sweet and compassionate to me, showing me grace beyond what I could ever dream... and...yet, I find that my instinct is to diminish myself, find my faults, and run away. I think I am not good enough for him, that I will only slow him down... I am nothing but an illusion of greatness to him, and once he sees the real me, if he ever does.... i will just exhaust him. He has told me over and over again of his tender care for me and proven his love toward me... yet something still stands in the way.
I think its the same something that keeps me from accepting the grace of God.
Right now, this is a list of a few parts of that something...
~Doubt/ not enough faith
~Lack of understanding
~Memories of Pain
~Desire for control
~The nature of grace
These are the punches I throw at my savior as He offers me grace... these are the obstacles preventing me from trusting Him right now.
The nature of grace is that I do not deserve it... which is the very reason I think I should not receive it...
What about you?
What keeps you from accepting grace?
Friday, October 2, 2009
She’s dressed in white
He’s standing there, waiting for his bride
The music starts to play, softly
The guests all rise
Here comes the bride
It was the perfect wedding and
It seemed it couldn’t be better and
Yet she strayed
She stole his promises
Took his heart and
And she took the dress he made her
And sold it for a favor to a stranger
Who took his bride
There was crying in the church that day
As he watched his precious bride walk away
And as he looked at her one last time
He searched for his reflection in her eyes
Walking the streets
She lit her red candles every evening
A tempting harlot
Brazenly charming all who passed by
A voice like wine
Caressing the lusts of the city each night
She cries out
Her scarlet ambitions
From temples adorned with the beauty
He gave her
And with tears he watched
His harlot play
An alluring flower,
Obsessed with her fame
Weary and jealous
He let her go
And there was crying in his house that day
As he let his precious bride slip away
And as he looked at her one last time
Gone was his reflection in her eyes
Yet despite the pain she gave him
He couldn’t let her go
Though disgrace had embraced her
He appeased the debt she owed to the strangers
Through a gift in a manger
As he claimed her once again
And with blood and tears
He set her free
Absolving the debt of her harlotry
He adorned himself in her scarlet red
It cost him everything to make her clean again
She’s dressed in white
He’s standing there, waiting for his bride
The music starts to play, softly
The guests all rise
Here comes his bride
And as he looked at her one last time
he saw his reflection in her eyes
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Ah man, so much has changed in my heart this past summer. The transition from a Bible school to daily ministry in Japan was SOOOO HARD! Way harder than I thought it would be... blah! But, I learned a ton, and God brought many things to my attention.
There are a few huge things I have walked away from this summer with, and millions of little things. I would love to share everything that God has done in my heart.... but that would take forever, and really... there are some parts of the process that even I don't understand enough to explain...but I will try to give some of the highlights so you all can maybe catch a glimpse of where I am at, at the moment.
1. God is real. The reality and implications of this statement... I am only beginning to touch. There were moments this past summer, when everything seemed so hard, and life was so crazy, that this simple truth became a terrorizing question mark in my life. It was a terrible yet rewarding truth to wrestle... and now that it is set firm in my heart... ah man... who knows. All I know is that its pretty much the craziest greatest news of my life
2. God is good. God really can't be anything but good honestly. This is beautiful to me. I forget this a lot. There are just too many lovely things He has put on earth to display his beauty and His goodness for us to ever think something else of Him. Think of the love you feel towards a dear family member, the hope you feel at the anticipation of something fun, the presence of laughter in your soul, even though it is merely a sound that escapes your mouth. Think of how pretty colors are... how diverse humanity is, and how intricately the cells in your body function, how your heart is beating right now, and how a big soggy mess in your head, your brain, allows you to experience emotions, unmeasurable aspects of life that can break a person down, or inspire them beyond all else. All of these things show the beauty of God, and His unspeakable goodness.
How often do I say, "God is teaching me this" or pray aloud in a way that simply is religious at best? How often to I casually or passionately live a life bound by what looks right, or what sounds right... like being 'politically correct' only... a 'christian' version. That's not what life is about. Life is about a real God who is passionate for reaching out to His creation in a genuine way. What this looks like....
4. God knows me.
What does it look like? How am I supposed to portray the genuine love of a real God? We throw His name around so casually... and yet... man... He is what life is all about. Inside of His existence, and His goodness... I find that He has made me quite different from everyone else. I have weird struggles, different passions, big weaknesses and unique strengths. God did not make me anything like you really... and hallelujah! He made me who I am, to the last cell in my body, and you who you are, for a reason. He gave me my weaknesses specifically, and same with my strengths. They all will play perfectly together to allow me to pursue the life God created me to live and display His glory in the most radiant of ways. I like it. I don't know who God has created me to be quite exactly yet... but, I am okay with that.... which brings me to my last big point (for now...)
5. I don't know.
This simple statement has been the bane of my existence the last few months of my life. Never has such a small understanding of so many great things taken a hold of my mind and my heart. I first found it terrifying when I realized I could not understand God fully (sometimes... at Bible college, I think I can if I just study enough, but then He does things that remind me... I will never figure Him totally out.) I freaked out when I found that I did not understand life, really... and that sometimes, when people have different opinions on theology or whatever, I don't know who is right, and what I even think! I don't know who I really am yet, I don't know what I am supposed to pursue specifically... I DONT KNOW.
And yet... slowly, I am becoming okay with that. In fact, when I am not careful, I even catch myself being delighted by it. How? Simple, I don't know, but God does. If I knew everything I would walk through, every path I had to take... oh my gosh would it be overwhelming. Taking life one second at a time is hard enough!! Since God is there, and He is good... and since He knows me, and genuinely loves me... I figure that... well...
its pretty much sweet.
and I am excited.
the end... hehehe
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
It has been a very eventful last few months for me, and I am savoring some down time.... to say the least. Usually I have a very hard time just relaxing, and while I was home in Merced, I found myself stressed out and unable to take advantage of the opportunity to relax with my family. It was really hard, but brought out some really good conversations with my parents, and I was able to share with them many things that had been building up in my heart.
After coming back to Simi, and being able to just spend some alone time in my apartment, I have been feeling the stress slowly melt away. Every day has held something new, and today I have just found a beautiful relaxed peace in my heart.
I feel like this is a time of restoration for me, and in my heart I hear a faint whisper that something great is to come. Maybe soon, I will get to share the gospel with my neighbors, or perhaps, God will reveal something beautiful about himself to me. Until that time though, I am learning to patiently wait for Him and have busied myself in learning more about my Savior Jesus, and the great love he offers all those who come to him.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I will try to fill you all in....
My team got back into Japan last Monday after a wonderful trip to Hakone (just outside of Tokyo) for our team retreat. Hakone is known for it's Japanese style baths, as well as Yunessun, the 'Disneyland of Spas' http://www.yunessun.com/english/yunessun.html You can enjoy a coffee scented/flavored hot bath as well as one with green tea, wine or even Sake. It was a unique experience our whole team truly enjoyed!
Before we left for Hakone though, God worked in our last few days on campus in some beautiful ways. Although the spiritual climate of Japan is extremely hard, we were able to build into friendships that will hopefully, if not already, be used to express the gospel through the love of God. I had one particularly awesome experience with a girl named Chika who was very interested in learning more about Christianity, though just for academic purposes. I was able to share the gospel with her however, and she came to our last outreach (the American Party). It was there that we had a wonderful talk, and I discovered the potential for a beautiful friendship with her =)
Also, while we were in Hakone, getting dinner one night, God opened up an opportunity for me to have a spiritual conversation with a Japanese mom who was there with her Husband and son on vacation. She has already emailed me with an expressed interest in learning more english... and more about the Bible! So awesome!
As for being back in America, the transition was easier than I thought at first, and then, over the last few days, has been pretty hard. I have been wrestling through many things these last few months, and have found that many of the basic principles of having a realtionship with God to be challenging...
Through the process of sharing my faith, and the gospel, almost daily, I came to realize that there are some parts of having a relationship with God that I am not as confident in as I would like to be. I have found myself questioning some very basic truths, which, although can be very scary, have opened my eyes to a desperate need for faith which I am asking God for. My natural tendancy in this is to become anxious and really discouraged, but my prayer is that God is working something great, and that He would lead me to a new found confidence in Him. I ask that you would please pray the same.
I will be trying to keep you all updated as I continue to email contacts I have in Japan, and I would love some updates on how all of you are doing, as well as any way my trip to Japan or praying for me/my team/our ministry has impacted or encouraged you.
I sign off with love
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The week before this last one was challenge week. We had to get up an hour earlier and stay on campus an hour longer. To be honest, it was exhausting and a really hard week for me. I was able to have some great conversations... but overall I felt tired and worn out mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
I will try to write more on that week, but its hard to remember too many details at the moment... sorry! The week did end well though with our Discover Friends Party.
The party was planned so that we would have a fun atmosphere to invite students to as we ate together, played some games and presented the gospel. I was the Emcee... which went great (for the most part... there was a slight hang up when I announced we were all going to dance, when really a dance team had prepared something for everyone to watch... oh communication through a language barrier... fun stuff...)
This week seemed to hold the promise of a bit more sleep, and shorter, easier days on campus. While the week started out pretty well, by the end I was completely done emotionally, physically and spiritually. I has been a great week through, and many fun events took place.
On Wednesday night, our whole team went out to dinner, and then did Karaoke... which was a blast! Thursday night I got to go out with one of my teammates, and a girl she has been reaching out to. We went to Shijuku for food and shopping... =)
Friday night was... awesome as well. The guys on our team planned a creative date, which included a mysterious invitation with flowers and chocolate, an evening of delicious food (which they made), poems, skits and more... all provided in love from our dear brothers. It was so sweet!!!
That brings us to yesterday... and insane... not-so-restful-rest-day. Haha... okay, so Saturday is supposed be our rest day, but usually we end up going somewhere fun, and spend the whole day doing things. Yesterday was no exception, as our whole team went to Tokyo Disney Sea. It was a very loooooong day (we met to leave at 7am... and did not arrive home until after midnight). Needless to say, I took a few naps during the day... usually while we were waiting in line for a ride. One line, that lasted about an hour and a half, provided me with the oppoturnity to learn how to sleep standing up, and walk every5 or so minutes. I am pretty sure I don't remember much of that line... haha.
Anyways, today is Sunday, and in about 30 min we will be leaving for church. I am excited to go, and am praying that it will be a good re-charge time for me. My heart feels completely spent, and I feel like I have been wrestling through a lot of things that...well... I am tired of wrestling through. Even yesterday, I found myself unable to just relax and enjoy the day becuase I have been trying to find out different things about my relationship with God. I know that my relationship with Him maybe shouln't be stressful, but, it has been and is... and I am tired and looking forward to just spending some time resting at church during worship and the sermon.
As we enter our last week here in Japan, I ask that you please lift up my team. We are going to have to push hard to hand off relationships to staff, and share the gospel as much as we can these last few days we have on campus. Pray for the leaders, that we would not feel burnt out, and that we would feel full of excitement and joy.
Thank you so much, and I will try to post some more pictures and stories soon!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Last night, after blogging, I had a wonderful time of prayer and reflection. It is amazing to me, because when I started to pray, I found amazing peace in my heart, and a curious absence of everything that has been making me anxious these last few weeks. It was beautiful. I am realizing the preciousness of God's love. Though I felt like the last few weeks were difficult, God's love proved stronger, more beautiful and faithful than even my greatest moments of hardship. I cannot believe how much He loves me. I remember praying a few nights ago, in the shower (great place for prayer... haha) asking God to please open my eyes to His love...
Sometimes when I think of God, the picture that comes into my heart is of a God who is big, strong, all powerful... and somewhat frightening. While those qualities can prove comforting, it is only through the realization that this God, more powerful than all else, loves me with a love as great as His power. I forget that.... a lot, but God is faithful to remind me, that I am loved... and precious. And, that quiets my heart, fills me with thankfulness, and makes me smile.
I am so thrilled to be sharing this love with students in Japan... most of whom do not even know this kind of love exists, aside from their dissapointment in relationships and life...and yet even in that, while they may desire or hope for something more... they do not know where to turn. But, God being so great and loving, has tenderly brought a group of students to them, just to let them know.
How great is our God.
Here are some pictures from the day my campus team went to ICU High School. This day turned out to be such a great blessing and I was encouraged beyond words at the responses of some of the students. I posted a more detailed blog a few days ago with more detailed stories.. but here are some pictures for those of you who have already read them.
Here is one of my teammates, Amy, sharing her testimony to a group of Sophmore students. It was a powerful time, and in the course of two days, over 110 students heard about God's love.
And finally, this is fun, I got to see my friend Andy yesterday. He is on staff with Crusade as a STINTer in Nagoya (one of the 3 largest cities in Japan) and among the first team of Australian STINTers to Japan ever. I met Andy when I was in Australia a few years ago, and he stopped by when he was in the states. We have now spend time together on three different continents... so awesome! Pray for his team...they are reaching the lost in another part of Japan so desperate to hear of God's love.
Finally, my love to everyone who is reading this. God is doing some powerful things in my heart, and...I am experiencing Him in ways that are direct answers to prayer. The gratitude in my heart, and love for the lost... God has grown in my heart beyond my ability to express. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life... I can think of nothing else, nothing that even comes close to the passion I have for telling others about God's love.
Thank you all for your prayers!