Saturday, December 24, 2011

In Love

He says, "Abide in me, and I in the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love."
What a curious thing it is that our human hearts resist to be abandoned to this kind of love. And, yet, we'd hopelessly splurge and give ourselves away to anyone and anything on earth that asks for it, at whatever loss or cost. And, even when those things don't satisfy, or perhaps lead us to life-long misery, we still continue to give to them. What a grieving cycle the human heart lives in! No matter what "good intentions" we may have, it is all vain and unfulfilling. I look around at my generation and it is no wonder why so many are disillusioned and miserable. It's no wonder why I was once the very same.

I remember when I had resisted this love, calvary love. I resisted because I knew it was going to mean the death of me. Because it would mean I would no longer be free to do as I will. Because it would mean He would be ruling and I would be submitting. But, why does that sound so terrible? He is so trustworthy. To be free in His will is vastly more wondrous than being free in my own will. Only a repentant heart learns this, though.
Now, on the other side of that breaking and awakening, I feel like a child. I closely resemble the apostle Peter. I don't have anything to boast of in this life. But, I'm on a love-journey, and have been for quite some time now. This love-journey is massively unpredictable and a little topsy-turvey. I am walking with my Maker; how much more strange can it get? Sometimes, I sense that the Lord keeps me in a perpetual state of disillusionment in regards to all things earthly. When frustration has drifted in and out, I seen more clearly that He would have me free from the illusions of my own making. He would have me disrobed of all the expectations that seem "normal" in order to lead me to happiness. This is why I was significantly moved by the lyrics to a Misty Edwards' song: "And happy am I, to live a hungry life/Blessed am I, to thirst/Disillusionment, it is my gift within/I am blessed/I am blessed among men!" Disillusionment, a gift? Yes, one of the best gifts that He has given me. I have heard Him whisper into my life, "I want your heart. I long for it and I will have it." So, I don't run anymore. I'm a little stuffed up with Self at times, but He makes His way in. It is a beautiful gift to belong to Him, to take His name, and to no longer be identified in anyway with myself.
At the start of 2011, I remember prayerfully asking my Lord to take me deeper into His love, to grow me up into Him. In every way, this year has appeared to be more of a hindrance to that prayer than an encourager. It has been the weight of so many things pressing in at all sides. My heart was desperate because I couldn't even sense His presence and love at times. Yet, it was all necessary to this love-journey. And, I remember, His love is so unlike this world's love. His love leads us through many deaths and resurrections. His love leads us through tempests. One of my favorite lines of poetry even testifies to this unearthly love:
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116)

So, I am in love. Living in it, searching it out, yielding to it. And, this love has a name...Yeshua.

I'm in love with a Man
I'm in love with a Stranger
I'm in love with my Maker
Whom I have never seen
I'm in love with a Lamb
I'm in love with a Lion
I'm in love with my Savior
Whom I have yet to know

There is no shadow of turning in You
No rebellion or pride
You don’t know greed or envy or strife
Your intentions are pure and holy

Delighting to do the Father’s will
You don’t have a thought against Him
But humbly You live in perfect restraint
Waiting for promises given

You’re gentle, You’re meek, yet Your heart is strong
Jesus, Your gladness is contagious
You are not selfish, You can’t compromise
You are the truth, You can’t lie

You don’t hold a grudge or have a cynical eye
Bitterness has no part of You
But You’re quick to forgive, let me back in again
Your kindness is so liberating

Jesus, You have a beautiful heart
Jesus, You have a beautiful heart

For I am in love with you,
and there is no cost.
I am in love with you,
and there is no loss.
I am in love with you,
I want to take your name.
I am in love with you,
I want to cling to you, Jesus,
Just let me cling to you, Jesus.

For a long time, I’ve been waiting for You
You have won my heart, and I am following
For a long time, I’ve been crying out for You
Tears make my heart soft
And I am ready for the return of the Lover

Fashioned from the very fabric of God
At the start of time, set free to decide
I will love You, ’cause You’re the One who loved me first
Just one look from Your eyes
I’m captivated by the eyes of the Lover
Take my heart, my mind and strength too

I was made for loving You
I will wait, and I’ll be faithful
I was made for loving You

Bowing low in the presence of the One
At the end of time, I’ll hear the bells chime for our wedding
It will wait no longer now
Oh how I love You
I’ll finally fall into the arms of the Lover

Come as close as You want,
Consume this heart that longs to burn
I know Your fire can hurt,
But I would be worse here without You

For I was made to dwell with You,
And how I ache until I do

Holy God, Take my heart,
Purge with flame and truth!
Holy heart is all I want,
That I may live with You!

Come and take all this chains
That get in the way of what You want
And as I stand in the flame
Still I will say, “I trust You God!”

And then I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
He was looking at me, looking at Him, staring through me
I could not escape those beautiful eyes
And I began to weep and weep

He had arms wide open, a heart exposed
Arms wide open; He was bleeding, bleeding

Love’s definition, love’s definition was looking at me
Looking at Him, hanging on a tree
I began to weep and weep and weep and weep

This is how I know what love is, this is how I know what love is

And as I sat there weeping, crying
Those beautiful eyes, full of desire and love
He said to me:

“You shall love Me, You shall love Me
You shall love Me, You shall love Me”

(compilation of lyrics by Misty Edwards)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feed the real hunger of Christ

It has been over 14 years since my family and I last celebrated Christmas. For various reasons (many of them Scriptural), we decided it would be best not to observe it as a holiday in our home. And yet, we're not anti-Christmas (okay, well, maybe I am a bit Scrooge-like, hehe!). Christmas has never held meaning for me, but I, honestly, don't mind going to holiday parties with friends and taking part in Christmas-related gatherings. I don't really have anything against it other than for the fact that it's terribly commercialized and watered down. It's never appealed to me...except maybe for the opportunity to have wonderful food, gifts, and family around. But it just doesn't hold much for me, personally. Nevertheless, I love an authentic, Gospel-saturated Christmas-related message when I hear one. Or, in this case, read one. And, these are words that are meant to touch and move in us on a daily basis. Isn't this what it means to be His disciple? I want to live simply and less self-focused so that I find His fullness.

I’d rather only fill a child’s tummy than fill my house with anymore things.

Maybe that’s always the only choice we have to make every Christmas: feed our own fickle wishes or feed the real hunger of Christ?

Nothing can be claimed, taken, received, had; everything we have is gift to us from heaven. All that we have has no other source but the hand of God (Jn 3:27).

So “Christian hands never clasp and He doesn’t give us gifts for our gain because a gift can never stop being a gift— it is always meant to be given.”

When we pass our gifts on — the gifts from Him remaining a gift and being given again — we are the ones given even more of the source of all gifts — more of God Himself. Filled.

When we give to Christ in the hungry, He satisfies our own hunger pangs.

A decade of this, our little family turning the Christmas tree upside down and letting gifts all fall into the hands of the poor.

~Ann Voskamp

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I will be
The gladdest thing under the sun.
I will embrace
A multitude of joys and not miss one.
There -
In that field where hidden lies
The Pearl of great price.
Haven of my desires,
Encompassed in Thy holy fire.
I trod Thy sacred ground
Where full delight is found.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Living from the inside-out

A new discipline that I have recently been attempting to re-instill in myself is songwriting. I feel like music is always the last thing on my priority list, always wondering when it will find its way back near the top again. Something that I have found helpful is to sit down and just write...whether it be in the format of a song, poem, or merely prose. It enables me to seize the moment. It forces me to be still. It stirs me to let out what is held within.
Since this past May, I have had continued hindrances with my throat. This feeling of tightness and discomfort has kept me from singing and keeping strength in my singing. While I can still sing to an extent, I am unable to maintain consistency and control in my voice without straining. Music has been on the back burner since I released it to the Lord in spring '10. And, since summer '10, life has taken me on a completely different path than I ever could have imagined. All of it is good and necessary, just hard. Very hard. So, once can imagine the immense discouragement that this has been to me in the midst of an already difficult year. Even after running tests at the doctor, the issue remains unsolved because the tests came back good. I have nothing to explain what is wrong with my throat because, technically, there is really nothing wrong with it. This can only be targeted to some intense stress, mainly emotional, that my heart has undergone this year. I can kick against it, but that has not proved to be useful. So, this has led me to reflect on some things...basic concepts that I mentioned in a recent note on pausing, slowing down, and gaining a more holistic approach to health and life. It is too easy for me to become overwhelmed and stressed. Emotional implosions are what I call them. Sometimes, I just cry with frustration because anxiety comes so easily and peace does not. That inward collapse, that emotionally violent all comes too naturally. In thinking upon this, it is no wonder that this is physically manifested in the tightness and discomfort I feel in my throat, hindering the flow of vocal expression.

So, I'm searching...grasping...groping in the shadows for that sacred ground that Jacob spoke of in Genesis 28 when he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it." He set up a pillar there and called it Bethel, the House of God. Every moment is a "God-moment," a chance to worship Him. A sacred opportunity to give thanks. And, I think, this may prove to be the very healing balm that I need for a fuller, Spirit-given peace. This, too, may bring that strength to my voice when I learn to be still and praise from within.
So, this is why I sense a draw to write again. Snippets of poetry. Bits of melodies. All pooled together to erect my own "pillar" as I learn to be still in every season, moments that house Him. And, in thanksgiving, to stumble across the divine...the sacred...the very presence of the Lord, brooding over the waters. I will trust Him with this. I choose to trust Him in this. He is only ever faithful.

You keep near the dust
Of my being
To the underside of Your wings.
You bestow life,
Impute righteousness,
Lavish affection,
Upon this earthen jar,
Chipped and faded.
Faithful to an infidel.
Jealous for a harlot.
You remain.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I am a garden enclosed
A locked garden, a fountain sealed
I am Your resting place
I am Your resting place

Here oh Lord have I prepared
A place for You to dwell
Here in the reservoir of me
That You would dwell in my heart
That I would be in You and You would be in me

That I could fellowship with God
Here where it's You and me alone
The very glory of God on the inside of me
I want to fellowship with You

Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone
Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone

I am Your resting place
For You said that You would be in me
If I would abide in the vine
Christ in me the hope of my glory

You and me alone God
You and me alone
Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone

And You hedge me in with skin all around me
I'm a garden enclosed
A locked garden
Life takes place behind the face

Where it's You and me alone God
Here it's You and me alone
Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone

So come into Your garden, come into Your garden

I'm no longer my own, I'm Your garden

I don't wanna waste my life living on the outside
I'm gonna live from the inside out

So come into Your garden
Come into Your garden
Come into Your garden
Come into Your garden

~ Misty Edwards

Monday, November 28, 2011

Visionary Monday ~ cisterns of counsel and teaching

“Get books into your houses, when you have not the spring near you, then get water into your cisterns; so when you have not that wholesome preaching that you desire, good books are cisterns that hold the water of life in them to refresh you.... So when you find a chillness upon your souls, and that your former heat begins to abate, ply yourselves with warm clothes, get those good books that may acquaint you with such truths as may warm and affect your hearts.”
—Thomas Watson (1662)

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~ Charles W. Eliot

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations – such is a pleasure beyond compare. ~ Kenko Yoshida

“Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

Francis Bacon, 1561-1626

Friday, November 25, 2011


Excerpts from One Thousand Gifts that are carrying His light and joy into my soul:

All my eyes can seem to fixate on are the splatters of disappointment across here and me.
I don't need more time to breathe so that I may experience more locales, possess more, accomplish more. Because wonder really could be here - for the seeing eyes.
So - more time for more what?
The face of Jesus flashes. Jesus, the God-man with his own termination date. Jesus, the God-man who came to save me from prisons of fear and guilt and depression and sadness. With an expiration date of less than twelve hours, what does Jesus count as all most important?
"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them..." (Luke 22:19)
In the original language, "he gave thanks" reads 'eucharisteo."
I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace." Jesus took the bread and saw it as a grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.
But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy." Joy. Ah...yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about - that which Augustine claimed, "Without exception...all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy."
I breathe deep, like a sojourner finally coming home. That has always been the goal of the fullest life - joy. And my life knew exactly how elusive that slippery three-letter word, joy, can be. I think of it then again, that night if nightmares, the flailing, frantic, moon-eyed lunge for more. More what? And this was it; I could tell how my whole being responded to that one word, I longed for more life, for more holy joy.
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving. I sit there it that simple?
Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?
So then as long as thanks is possible...I think this through. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.
I whisper it out loud, let the tongue feel these sounds, the ear hear their truth.
Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanskgiving.
Chara. Joy.
A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black.
A threefold cold that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life?

...I open my Bible, the red pen in hand, hunt down the trail of eucharisteo through Scripture. Where it leads barbs, and I am suprised and I reel.
"On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces..." (1 Cor 11:23-24) Jesus, on the night before the driving hammer and iron piercing through ligament and sinew, receives what God offers as grace (charis), the germ of His thanksgiving (eucharisteo)? Oh. Facing the abandonment of God Himself (does it get any worse than this?), Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound Him and yield a bounty of joy (chara). The mystery always contains more mysteries.
Do I really want this way?

"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, and praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan." (Luke 17:15-16). Yes, thankfulness, I know. Next verse.
Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:17-19)
Wait. I trace back. Hadn't Jesus already completely healed him? Exactly like the other nine who were cured who hadn't bothered to return and thank Him. So what does Jesus mean, "Your faith has made you well"? Had I underinterpreted this passage, missing some hidden mystery? I slow down and dig. I read Jesus' words in Young's Literal Translation, "And {Jesus} said to him, 'Having risen, be going on, thy faith has saved thee.'" Saved thee? I dig deeper. It's sozo in Greek. Many translations render sozo as being made "well" or "whole," but its literal meaning, I read it - "to save." Sozo means salvation. It means true wellness, complete wholeness. To live sozo is to live the full life. Jesus came that we might live life to the full; He came to give us sozo. And when did the leper receive sozo - the saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. I lay down my pen.
(Voskamp, pg 31-33, 36, 38-39)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My reflections on thanksgiving...

There are two articles/blogs that I came across this week. They set words to this year for me. Words that I am often grasping for and mainly pouring forth in broken sentences of emotion. Thankfully, these ladies are much more eloquent than I in capturing eternal spiritual treasures. These came at such an appropriate time.

The Real First Thanksgiving by Ann Voskamp

God Do Something! by Anabel Gillham

I am learning how to live simply. To live thankfully. To live fully. To live full of Him.

And the life that counts blessings discovers its yielding more than it seems.Why don’t I keep an eye on the number of His graces? Why don’t I want to know that even though it doesn’t seem like there’s been enough rain, He reigns and He is enough and the bounty is greater than it appears? That the thin places might be the places closest to God and the skinny places might be fuller than they seem and who isn’t full with Christ? (Ann Voskamp)

More and more, through every new and deepening trial, I see His hand at work in my life. Set to strike in every place that is not bowed low before Him. Set to push. Set to inflict a pressure. All this only to then set His hand to heal, to bind up, and to hold. Everything in me wants to be done with this. To be through with the "winter" season. But He doesn't withdraw the harshness of this season. It remains. And in it, He wants to make a child of me. Ridiculous? Yes. Everything in His kingdom kind of seems absurd. He wants me to receive the harsness and not just the "sweet" stuff. Yet, I fail to do so....everyday. My patience wears thin into nothingness. But His doesn't. In the seemingly vast nothingness field of my life, I just want to cry and cry. I think that I probably cannot easily recognize the obvious blessings around me because I'm just so intent on crying all the time. The tears blurring my vision. And He counts the tears, reminding me that tears are good for the soil of my heart, and those prayers spoken for those hurting souls in need.
Concerning the passage John 13:15, Maria Von Trapp once wrote, "In His great understanding of human nature He uses the word "become"; unless you become as little children....He knows the way of the world is this: A little one is hardly out of the diapers when he is told approvingly: "But now you are a big boy." When he goes to kindergarten: "Now you are not a baby any more." When he is in the first grade: "Well, you are not in kindergarten any more; you are a big boy now." This goes on until in high school he doesn't have to be told that he is a big boy now. He knows it himself. Then one day sooner or later he will be banged on the head by those words of our Lord, and all the growing up and growing up will not seem like an achievement any longer, but like something which has to be undone. That is when the "becoming" starts. After we have grown up in the eyes of the world, we have to "grown down" in the eyes of the God. We have to. There is no way out as long as we want to go to heaven. Heaven is full of children; Our Lord Himself said so."

Today, I am thankful that He is undoing everything and growing me down.
Today, I'm thankful that I walk with a fully-sufficient Lord who brings life from total death.
Today, He is enough and I love the Lord, oh my Strength.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Visionary Monday ~ symphony

A perfect quotation to follow up my recent post.

To live content with small means,

to seek elegance rather than luxury,

and refinement rather than fashion,
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich,
to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages,
with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely,
await occasions,
hurry never,
in a word to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common,
this is to be my symphony.
- William Henry Channing

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A pause

A dear sister of mine wrote something quite significant to me last month. In seeking to glean further fruit from recent blessings in her life, she wrote, "I am still trying to process all that took place...and now I have some more layers of processing to do. I’m really trying to pause (as hard as that is in this season of life) to think deeply and integrate what I have read, experienced, etc. I think that this helps it to “stick” to my mind and heart. It’s so easy to just be moving from one thing to the next (whether books, conferences, conversations, etc.) and not really think deeply about it or to hear/respond to what God is saying in it all."
This made a deep impression me. How many times have I sought to live more slowly, not allowing the flow of everyday life to snatch away my times of reflection and meditation? How many times have I been intentional about thinking over conversations that I had in the past week? How often do I press in to learn more from recent encounters or experiences? While I often do find my mind reflecting on these things, it's usually within the flow of the day, when I'm easily distracted by needs at homes. In addition to abiding with Christ in private, I am learning of the necessity to pause in life. I want to embrace the simple moments and think upon the various circumstances, conversations, and lessons that the LORD is weaving in and out of my life. I look back on my life and feel that I have tried to live too fast. In almost every facet of my life I have pressed too boldly: education, experiences, relationships, and various creative pursuits. The result of such strong pursuits have been wasted energy, time, and emotions, which have all brought a negative impact on my physical health. I remember clearly how, as a young girl, I would plow through everyone and everything that stood in the way of something I wanted. My father would often remark, "Here comes Erika! Don't stand in her way!" While this often carries funny memories, I look back with a bit of sadness on the amount of heart and soul that I poured into everything I sought after. This wasn't always terrible, if that thing was necessary for growth and learning, but in other areas it was quite damaging. It has been to my own detriment and shame that I never sought to glean true gems from merely living, which is, in itself, a divine gift! It comes to no surprise that I am still the same way. The careful, intentional discipline of slowing down to reflect doesn't come easily. But as I begin to see, with more clarity, its affects and influences upon my spiritual/emotional/physical health and relations to others (and how effectively I can pour out to them), I begin to place more value on it.
This past week, I have been doing some reading on holistic lifestyles, mostly in regards to health from a Christian approach. However, in application to every aspect of life, these articles/blogs were inspiring to me. To summarize a definition of holistic living, I found these:

A holistic approach to faith, life, and wellness sees interconnection and integration everywhere—because factors are not fragmented, but are intended to work together and influence each other.

A holistic way of life means that every part of life complements the others instead of competing against them. Rather than one part vying for attention at a given time (though sometimes extra attention is needed), all parts are helped to move in the same direction with interdependence and integration.

As a point of reflection near the end of one of the articles I read, the author concludes: "Ask yourself if your long term desires for good health, for multi-generational relationships, for strength and ability, and for peaceful emotions are being encouraged by your lifestyle habits today."
I sense how very much in the beginning stage I am of gaining God's vision for my future and how He intends to use me, all during a presently busy and, sometimes, intense season of my life. The Lord seems to be slowly pressing in a lot during this season, but it's clear that this time might bring forth some of the richest fruit, through the Spirit, as long as I continue to walk this path of surrender to Him.
There has been array of thoughts that have burst forth from some moments of pause. The musician-artist in me wants to express them in tones or prose, but I feel pressed to sift through them some more. I resolve, in my innermost being, to be Christ-exalting, turning to look for traces of His hand-prints upon the smallest details of my days. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD (Psalm 104:34).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My recent readings...

I'm so behind on trying to keep up with my recent reading material. However, I decided to pick the three that stood out to me and summarize their main points, as well as my own opinion. I have found it healthy, both for my memory and spiritual/mental cultivation, to review books that I have read. It allows for the wisdom to penetrate deeper, I think.

The Beauty of Modesty {Cultivating Virtue in the Face of a Vulgar Culture} by David and Diane Vaughan
It seems that there are a million books touching upon the subject of modesty. I wasn't particularly in the mood to pick up another one; however, since this title has been on my to-read list since I saw it in the Vision Forum catalogue, I thought I should pick it up. I have never been disappointed by the selections from VF, so it shouldn't have surprised me that I would love the depth of research put into this book! Books on modesty, especially when targeted towards young women, are usually a bit cliche, cheesy, and predictable. While the message is Biblical and encouraging, I tend to find them somewhat repetitive. Though I have a couple of favorites outside of this one, I would definitely place this first in the hands of anyone seeking for a more Biblical view of modesty and the body. I would even recommend it to young men because this book is more of a cultural and Biblical argument for the cultivation of modesty {first in heart and attitude, secondly through dress and demeanor} in a very sensuous culture. Due to the mainstreaming of sexual deviancy today, the authors began to build, chapter by chapter, how the way "we dress reflects our worldview, our spirituality, and our virtue." They began to peel off the layers of certain secular worldviews and thought processes that have overtaken the Church, leniency followed closely by sheer deviancy. In truth, we truly are experiencing the cultural captivity of the church. As John Whitehead noted more than a decade ago: "As a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. He accepts religion -its morality, its worship, its spiritual culture." And, yet, the modern Christian rejects "the total view of life which sees all earthly issues within the context of the eternal; that relates all human problems - social, political, cultural - to the doctrinal foundations of the Christian faith. As a consequence, the faith ineffectively fails even to minimally raise the ethical standards of the American population." While extreme intellectualism is often a hindrance, it is still to be emphasized that we, Christians, are "thinking beings" and should, through intensive study of the worldviews, be able to recognize and target false mindsets and practices through a logical and Biblically renewed standing. In quoting Gertrude Himmelfarb, the authors aren't afraid to label the succession of intellectual downfall within western culture, and thus been allowed to take root within the Church: "The beasts of modernism have mutated into the beasts of postmodernism -relativism into nihilism, amorality into immorality, irrationality into insanity, sexual deviancy into polymorphous perversity." This "polymorphous perversity" is nice phrase for the utter sexualization of our culture." And this "sexualization of our culture" is forcibly finding its way into the Church, homes, and families, whether it's invited there or not. Through the beginning chapters, they address not only the influence of porn in our society, but also the high crime of adultery seen within the Church. At the same time, they are also sure to address objections and errors to mindsets found within the Body, such as legalism, pietism or subjectivism, Christian relativism, parochialism (all very intriguing - I highly recommend a study on each subject).
After discussing the need for modesty, they begin to provide basis on the nature of modesty. They delve quite deeply into the Word in this section of their book, as well as research from some old Church Fathers. One of my favorite chapters of their book provided a great study into acquiring a Biblical view of the Body, knitting together passages from the Old and New Testaments. Most of this material was a bit repetitive to me, since most of it addressed the reason for the Law, the Gospel, as well as our basic beliefs on man's nature, sin, the flesh, and the Spirit. Nevertheless, it was beautifully laid out and, without a true spiritual awakening and mind renewal of our Creator, ourselves, and the the purpose for which we were created, one cannot move on in the subject of modesty.
Modesty was once defined as "that lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor." This definition is truly authentic! However, modesty is really a virtue of our Father's heart, expressed through us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Modesty is that divine loveliness and reserve of a God-fearing, God-honoring, God-dependent heart, which willingly rests in the happy lordship of the One who rules and governs that life to reflect its Maker. I must emphasize "happy lordship" in relation to the governing of our lives by Christ our Lord. It's easy to be super-spiritually pumped about Christ's supreme lordship over our lives, that we're rigid about everything. And, it's also easy to super lenient because His lavish grace. Thus, causing us to be lax in our representation of Him here on earth. I have erred in both, but have, more recently, found much freedom in the "happy lordship" of my Father over my life. His lordship is not a prison, but it's also not like He's letting us loose in a candy shop to pick as we please. In searching out the love of the Father through Christ Jesus, I think we can truly begin to relish His sweet lordship. This is something that the Vaughans carefully devote time to in their writings: growing in a genuine, Spirit-filled relationship with Christ and seeking for Him to be first in our hearts. Out of this flows the delicate virtue of modesty in our hearts and lives. After all, it is only in knowing this Love that "the soul eagerly cleaves to, affectionately admires, and constantly rests in God, supremely pleased and satisfied with him as its portion; that it acts from him, as its author; for him, as its master; and to him, as its end. That, by it, all the powers and faculties of the mind are concentrated in the Lord of the universe. That, by it, the whole man is willingly surrendered to the Most High: and that, through it, an identity, or sameness of spirit with the Lord is acquired -the man being made a partaker of the divine nature, having the mind in him which was in Christ, and thus dwelling God, and God in him." {Adam Clarke}
Lastly, the Vaughans devote the final three chapters in their book to nurturing modesty in homes {not only through dress, but through media, i.e. internet, movies, etc} and the corporate body. As always, application is a great challenge. And yet, the Vaughans aren't afraid to lay down the Biblical overview and guidelines, as well as giving specifics for women. Specifics are important for us as women. We simply should not be allowed to make up excuses or justify this or that. Also, there are many subtleties in dress that many young woman cannot easily discern, but through proper training and discipleship will be able to distinguish. This also pertains to young men as well, but a special emphasis is placed upon the young women in these chapters. I see this also as great material for fathers who need assistance and training in how to properly raise their daughters. The Vaughans are definitely not supporting the super-Puritan and plain-Jane mindset. They make a good argument for a balanced approach to dressing. But, as many young women know today, it does take some extra effort to find modern, comfortable clothing that is pretty and appealing, without it being ostentatious, androgynistic, sensual, or even associated with certain, questionable name brands.
In conclusion, modesty matters. We suffer too greatly without it being cultivated from generation to generation.
It matters to men. It matters to women. It matters to children. And last but not least, it matters to God. Though tossed aside as an ugly old rag of distant culture, modesty is really a beautiful virtue of the finest fabric that never does go out of style. We have only forgotten how beautiful modesty really is. Or perhaps, we have never had the opportunity to look at modest for what it is really worth {pg 11}.

Christians come to church to worship a glorious God, to humble themselves before his holy presence, and to hear his Word, not for display, not to attract notice, not for vain-glory or worldly vanity. It is, therefore, quite out of place for either men or women to make a parade of finery in church. The ornaments best suited for persons professing godliness at all times, but especially when they approach the throne of God, are those of a pure heart and a meek spirit, and an abundance of good works. It is the hidden man of the heart which needs adorning for its access to the court of heaven. ~ A.C. Hervey

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

I'll admit that I was quite hesitant about picking this one up. I am often wary of popular Christian titles, particularly ones addressed to women. To be frank, I find a lot of them are written in a rather babyish, irritating tone. Maybe I have snobbish tendencies in this regard, but I have an aversion to goofy, Christian self-help books with silly stories to illustrate spiritual principles. Yuck. Okay, I got that out. haha! Thankfully, with my cousin's prodding, I decided to give it a chance. And, I am quite thankful for this book!
The title really says it all. This book is a must-have for ladies who are struggling within their relationship with Christ. Also, it's for that stubborn perfectionist who is constantly on the go, with ten million goals to reach before the end of the week. Joanna gets very practical and, I feel, she covered all bases in seeking to disciple young ladies. She helps her readers to see how unrealistic our expectations are that lead to "servant burnout," as she calls it. In addition, she addresses those fleshly disturbances that come about due to "servant burnout" and lack of abiding in the Vine. Upon defining "kitchen service" and "living room intimacy," she opens up the lessons found in all the passages containing Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, drawing out a deep, steadfast, theological basis for young women struggling through trials, lack of discipline, lack of direction, continual spiritual exhaustion, etc. She captures the spirits of Mary and Martha so well in relating them to the issues that arise for the 21st century woman. For those longing to experience true communion with the Lord in their lives, I would most definitely suggest this book!
Oh, and yes, Joanna had some silly stories....haha! Nevertheless, she balanced them with lots of simple, but profound wisdom. Although the lessons in her book weren't anything new to me, I still found it immensely helpful and encouraging. Sometimes, it's good to have a different voice share the same basic, Gospel truths. There were so many chapters that stood out to me, addressing specific fruits of the flesh that I often find myself wrestling with time and again. Her words are comforting for those who find themselves in seasons or spiritual drought, when the darkness will not lift.
Lastly, I read a review on amazon that stated: "This book takes you from churchianity to Christianity..." I couldn't have summarized it better!

Japanese Version of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my pace setter...I shall not rush.
He makes me stop at quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity.
He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all importance, will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk the pace of my Lord and dwell in his house forever.
~Toki Miyashina

Memories Before & After the Sound of Music: An Autobiography

I have a lot of seemingly random selections on my to-read list. This was one of them. However, it's really not so random as I contemplate my renewed love for biographies.
In her book, Agathe Von Trapp chronicles her life from beginning to end, giving the reader a detailed look into the daily lives of the Von Trapp household and adventures throughout the years. All I could think upon completing this book was, "Wow, what a full life!" The Von Trapp family were visionary pioneers. They lived through some rough periods of the 20th century, but their faith in the Lord and character are astounding! And, to top it off, they had some incredible skill sets to to share, which took them all across the world. From sewing, to painting and various art mediums, to singing, weaving, calligraphy, photography, etc, the Von Trapps were artistically-inclined in almost every sphere. Their family is truly inspirational and their story is even far more epic than the story shown in film. You can seek the mark of the hand of God upon their lives in every little detail! And, Agathe's wonderful narrative provides such an intimate look in their lives at home in Austria, as well as during many years of traveling and the challenges that arose from living on the road.
I grew up on The Sound Of Music, thus it's only natural that I should read the true story. Little did I expect it to be so vastly different from the film! I found it interesting to read Agathe's reaction to the film and Broadway musical. It appears that the Von Trapp family were quite appalled by both of them. But while it is disappointing to find out that great liberties were taken in the adaption of their story, it still doesn't change the fact that the film is a classic! Near the end of her life, Agathe describes how she overcame her bitterness and began to accept the film and show due to the genuine fans, whom she greatly adored.
In conclusion, I discovered an intriguing article listing details of the movie and reality that differed: Movie vs Reality: The Real Story of the Von Trapp Family by Joan Gearin
Also, one website that is worth checking out is the Trapp Family Lodge (a mountain resort in the European tradition) that they established decades ago in Vermont. I never even knew such a place existed until reading how they founded it in Agathe's autobiography! Their webpage is filled with information about their resort lodge, as well as details on their family. It seems quite pricey, but the lodge and the surrounding view takes your breath away! I'm sure it's a refreshing resort in which one can learn lots of history.

Monday, November 7, 2011


There is no doubt about it. November is my favorite month out of the entire year. I love the way the sun falls at this time of year and the chill that overtakes you when you step outside. It's not just because it's the holiday season (although, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday). It has to be the feeling of anticipation one gets when looking forward to the new year, coupled with a sense of humbling fulfillment as the present year draws to a close. So much learned and still more to be sought out and experienced! Life is so vastly interesting, trials, struggles, and all! Especially when you're living it through the eyes of Yeshua. I may have a "bad" day every now and then and choose, in my stubbornness, to allow little things to vex me. However, the truth is that, within the next day, God will have enlightened my mind with something wonderfully comforting about that silly struggle or that worrisome burden.
Last weekend, during a short get-away trip to Payson, I was blessed to hear my uncle's amazing worship leading. I sensed the Spirit speaking comfort to my heart through the lyrics of a song, You're Still God. It was written by a British worship leader, Godfrey Birtill. I wasn't particularly wrestling with anything in that moment, but the words certainly calmed my soul. Also, I found that I was able to sing it with hope and confidence, which is something I want to seek to do every day in Him!

Where O where's Your presence O God?
In this dry and weary land
So many people drifting away
How we need to understand...
You're still God
Even when we're unbelieving
Still God
When we're desperate for our healing
Still God, still God, still God.
You're still God
Even when our friends desert us
Still God
Even through the things that hurt us
Still God, still God
So I will be still, and know You are God.

Where O where's Your kingdom O God?
We have let holiness go
So many idols litter our land
We've got to let this nation know...
You're Still God
When the government has no answers
Still God
When the media lowers the standard
Still God, still God, still God
You're still God
When the plans we make are worthless
Still God
When we lose our sense of purpose
Still God, You're still God,
So I will be still, and know You are God.
When will Jesus really be seen
Through the church that bears his name
Agents of his kingdom, his peace
In the world for which he came
You're still God
Even though You were rejected
Still God
Though You were ridiculed, deserted
Still God, still God, still God
You're still God
Though You suffered execution
Still God
You’re alive and Christ our champion
Still God, still God
So I will be still, and know You are God

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Testimony of grace within conflict

There is a question that relentlessly pounds against the interior of my soul: How could I ever, EVER doubt or distrust the One whom my soul loves?
There are points in my life where this just leaves me in tears. I know the Lord doesn't expect me to follow or trust Him perfectly. After all, that's why He is so amazing. Our God is dear and merciful to us. I know that He is instructing me in this, which is a life-long process. However, while there are all sorts of basic answers throughout Scripture for this that give a measure of comfort, the truth is that I do doubt my Lord all the time. And this brings me much grief and anguish.
I love Him so much that I want greater measures of all that He is welling up inside my soul! Yet, within the next second, I can be so downcast and discouraged, due to some circumstantial disturbance, that I begin to dwell on all the needs that aren't yet provided for or all the struggles that have not yet found a resolve (and not just the concerns of myself and immediate family, but I will begin to think upon all the needs of friends or those within the Body, all of whom I know are struggling spiritually/emotionally/financially/physically), though prayers have been lifted up for months. I think on all the ways that He has been silent, and all the days that He didn't answer (or, at least, not in the way that I thought He should) when a great and terrifying need arose. And, it's in the moments, when I'm confronted with harsh surroundings, that I turn away, in fear that the lie that He is silent and uncaring will entrap me. I immediately start filling myself with the reality of who He truly is. Psalm 145 and 146 makes His character so wonderfully clear to me in the struggle. Yet, at times, it is as if my soul refuses to feed on Truth. And those are moments that are hardest to bear. How can I be so frustrated with Him and, yet, so frustrated with myself for being frustrated at Him? It feels like an airway to my soul is so stuffed with the garbage of emotions and thoughts that I have to take the time to cry it out. Where I initially sought to do some "real" praying, I soon found myself doing a lot of crying. And, it's then that I realize that tears are prayers, too. God doesn't want a bunch of good words and scheduled prayer time to intercede for others in the place of a humbled and contrite heart. Intercession will usually flow from that time and not always precede it.
Even as I write all of this (and still wrestling through bits of this), I am remembering a special way in which my Lord did bless me recently. Since leaving college, I have felt confused as to what I should pursue in regards to a job. Everyone knows that I'm almost-incapable of holding a real job, due to the fact that money is not a great enough motivator for me, as well as the fact that I don't handle certain types of stress very well. I'm also much too old-fashioned and particular for my own good. I'm a person that needs a meaningful job. A job that involves serving. A job that doesn't feel like a job at all (thus why missionary stories attract me so much). Not that 9-5 dull-drum. So, I found myself in a rather complicated situation. I was wondering if I should just learn to do the things I don't like to do and learn how to be "normal" like everyone else. Naturally, as soon as the thought entered my mind, I shut it down.
Self, I will never be normal!!! NEVER. Oy.
Thus, my next goal was to find myself a job that did involve serving and caring for others. Nanny was my first choice, since I have more recently felt a draw to find more experience with children. Care giving for the elderly was my second choice, since I have done a bit of that before and found it quite rewarding. Recently, some dear friends of mine have been pursuing CNA classes and sharing with me about their endeavors. After doing some extensive research on how to become a certified nurse assistant (it wonderfully involves ZERO college experience) and what the actual position entails, I found myself torn for awhile, not sure if this was something I should eventually prepare to do. However, months slipped by with no direction or answers. I made some small preparation and pursuits toward becoming a nanny, but I was not met with any available positions that matched my schedule. Since a friend of mine was visiting this month during the weekdays, I knew that it would be best to wait to secure a job position after our time together. Well, over the months, after being a bit flustered with having to pursue a part-time care position, I knew God was pressing me to wait.
Yep. Just like every other department in my life right now. Wait.
Naturally, I wasn't happy. But His pressing was firm and I knew I was only going to continue running into a wall of frustration if I attempted pursuing a job on my own. Also, apart of me was still torn about pursuing a nanny position versus CNA training. All I could do was learn the virtue of patience.
The Sunday morning of the week that my friend came to visit, I received an e-mail request from a mother of three (through a care-giving network website) if I would be interested in taking care of her sons. She provided some details and the location, all of which fit very well into what I had been hoping and praying for. In addition, she mentioned that she was Christian, which was a pleasant blessing. I immediately responded and within a few short hours we connected over phone and planned to meet near the middle of the week. From her first e-mail, I had a good sense that this was the position for me. However, it wasn't until our first meeting that the Lord confirmed this. As she spoke to me about what type of caregiver she hoped for her sons, it seemed like everything fell neatly together. She wanted someone who would become part of their family and not look upon this position as a job, someone who is willing to pour into her kids' lives and seek to be dependable and faithful. All I could think was, "That's exactly my heart!" Then, after I answered her questions, she shared that she had been lifting up prayer for this need. It took me a second to react, but I immediately shared with her that I, too, had been praying for the Lord to reveal the family He purposed me to work with. We both became quite elated.
God is good, and there is never a need to small or seemingly petty to Him (e.g. the axe-head story in 2 King 6:1-7)
What a wonder it is to think two people, who didn't even know each other existed until a week and a half ago, were lifting up the same prayers, prompted by the Spirit! And, how wonderful it is that He chose us for each other and pressed me to wait until He should lead her to find my profile-page and contact me at the appropriate week, when I would be finally available for a part-time job!
This is the desire that the Lord placed in my heart while I was at Ellerslie in Summer '10. Tired of living a life after my flesh and disappointed with friends and people, I wanted to find a new approach to life and relationships. During my time at Ellerslie, I not only witnessed answered prayers, but I heard testimony after testimony of God faithfully providing and leading His children when they were fully surrendered to the will of His Spirit. Whether it was for a small, "insignificant" matter (like finding someone's lost ring in the sand at the volleyball court! True story, haha!), money for this or that, knowledge and answers to pursue the correct path for jobs/education/ministry, wisdom for matters concerning relationships, etc etc.
Yes, I thought, this is right. Christ must be intimately orchestrating every detail and we must be fully bent to the Spirit.
I finally found the true life of faith that I had been looking for all along. But this life of faith continually dwells in the state of surrender. Post-Ellerslie, this has been rough. I don't have a large church body to wake up to every single today and pray or worship with. I don't have sisters who will come alongside me and wrap me with prayer every day. I don't have leaders who will help keep me accountable. To be honest, Ellerslie is such an easy place to learn surrender because of the spiritually-soaked environment there. Now, that's good, because that is exactly what Ellerslie is about. However, Ellerslie-living isn't real life. It's just a set-apart season to prepare souls for real life. Nevertheless, there has been so much I have had to learn over and over again since returning from Ellerslie. I have found that surrender isn't a one-time thing for each particular issue or struggle. Surrender is the state in which a Christian abides and deepens in over time, swallowed up into the will of the Father.

In seeing the way He led me through this job struggle, which I'm sure I will encounter again throughout life, I was humbled. I left the meeting with the mother very much in awe of my Father's faithfulness. All I desired was an answer to the matter. I wasn't expecting Him to write out these lovely details. Yet, He did, because He so loves. His desires for us are only the best.
Oddly enough, I still found myself with plenty of questions after His orchestrating of all this. I know how wrong that sounds, but the questions remained: Why does our Father provide for the "small" things over the larger, more pressing, immediate needs (the ones that involve the health and healing of hurting hearts and souls to find peace)? Why does our Father seem to tarry for those who need SO much of Him, and yet He seems quicker to provide for temporal issues?
He has good purpose to work this way. My heart is sad because I want to see Him work the "big" things, but, as I wait, I'm filled with joy by the "little" blessings and provisions. He reminds me that my desire for Him to work the impossible is right and good, and that He is willing to do it. But I must wait, because the story is coming together in all the appropriate details that His hand has written.
Today, He gives me faith enough to trust Him for the big things. O Yeshua, that alone makes me love You so!
I find a great deal of comfort in the story where Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit. I often feel like I'm the father of the boy. There are many times when I believe in who He says He is and what He can do, but with all the uncertain circumstances and conflicting emotions/thoughts within myself, I find myself crying out to Him, "I believe, help my unbelief!"

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”
(Mark 9:17-29 ESV)

The ironic part of my whole "job" story is that I am caring for the three most difficult boys I have ever encountered. They have given me nothing but a rough time since I started last week. But it is so fitting! I am learning a lot about myself in my Father's eyes by caring for them every day.

I desire the heavenly stamp of His design and approval upon all my earthly affairs, so that I may always tell of His wonders to His others. I want every detail of my life so divinely composed that it will be completely apparent as to Who rules my life and has won my heart.

Abba is righteousness in all His ways. He keeps faith forever.