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For The Days When I Don’t Love You

Dear Jesus,

This letter is for the days when I don’t love You.

For the days I don’t feel You.

For the days I can’t hear You.

This is for the days when I seriously wonder if You really love me as much as I’ve heard.

This letter is for days like today. There’s nothing really wrong but there’s nothing really right. Days like today, I miss You but don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.

Today, I can’t accept the fact that this all feels like work. And I know, it’s supposed to be work. Relationships take work. Growth takes discipline. You never promised it would be easy like that. But days like today, knowing that doesn’t feel like enough.

Because page after page, my diary is full of entries about how I wish I loved You more. How I wish I’d love You better. Days like today are more common than I can bear to admit. But there it is. The ugly truth looming in my heart. The unbearable realization that there are so many things I love more than You.

You ask, “Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”

A sharp pang in my heart as you ask a third time. Because I know… I know. Most days, I don’t.

So I’m asking You… is Your love enough for the days when I don’t love You?

Can Your love fill up all that is lacking on the days when I don’t love You?

Could Your love still save me on the days when I don’t love You?

If at the end of my earthly life, if at the end of my diary, all You can find are entries of wishes and hopes of loving You more, does Your grace cover all of those days?

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Facebook Stalking God

If you took a poll amongst my friends, I’m quite certain that whether best friends and acquaintances (I’d just like to note here that I do NOT know how to spell that word without spell-check), if you asked them to describe my top two characteristics, they would say: Facebook stalker and awkward human being.

I LOVE to Facebook stalk. I mean.. for the most part I think everybody Facebook stalks, I’m just way more public about it. But I do it so much and I’ve gotten so good at it that it’s become sort of like a game to me. Like… How much can I figure out about a person through Facebook? Also, our timelines aren’t finite sources of information. We update, comment, like, etc. everyday! There’s always something new to learn about someone! In a way, it feels like Facebook is saying, “Are you up to the challenge??” And to that I say… Challenge accepted, Facebook. Challenge. Accepted.

The thing is… I’m never really satisfied with just Facebook stalking. Most of the time it makes me want to hang out with that person in real life more and more. Like.. “I see that you like eating popcorn and watching Mean Girls… I too… like eating popcorn and watching Mean Girls..” or… “I see you have a Doctor Who poster hanging up in your room… in that picture you posted… last year… I too… like Doctor Who..” And after hours of creeping on everything there is to creep on their timeline, I’m left to face the fact that…. I do not actually know them.

I’d like to say that I do draw a line between friendly online creeping and actual watching-you-from-a-tree-outside kind of stalking. I do have some sort of self-control that allows my friendships to happen organically (even though I most likely have Facebook stalked them prior to meeting them in person) rather than trying to contrive them. ..generally… yea… anyway.

When Facebook Stalking moves to Actual Relationship

It’s a magical moment when I finally get to hang out with someone I’ve only ever known through Facebook stalking.

I’m thinking about the people in my life, some really close friends that I had stalked like… two years ago and now are some of my best friends. As much as I love creepin’ on their pictures and finding really random things they liked on Facebook, it’s nothing compared to the things I find out about them through real life interactions…

Like the way she can’t make eye-contact with you when you complement her. The way he addresses you by your first name in situations where normally, people wouldn’t think it necessary to because of familiarity but he does so because he so respects and cherishes your company. The way she has a facial expression to go with everything and anything she says. The way she naturally facilitates group activities, not because she doesn’t think what we’re doing is fun or feels excluded, but because she’s used to being the big sister and she loves her role as being the one who gives the opportunity for others to have so much fun. (I’m referring to specific things about a few different people here)

These are just a few examples of the little things I love about my friends that I only know because we actually spent time together face-to-face.

Creeping on Jesus

Another important thing to know about me is that I love to read. I don’t really read fiction… but about 3 or 4 years ago, I started to really love studying theology. I love to read books, articles, blogs, journals, etc.

Now and then I wonder, at what point am I just knowing things about God rather than actually knowing Him?

It’s like saying you’ll go on a coffee date with a friend… but you only ever talk about getting coffee, and like.. you only end up reading customer reviews about potential coffee shops where you could have this coffee date… and then you like… only ever end up talking about what kind of coffee you’ll drink at your coffee date.. and.. whether or not that coffee is fair trade or whatever…. and brainstorming what topics you’ll discuss during the date… You get the point. You never actually gain any ground in your relationship and most importantly, no coffee has been consumed. (Maybe not most importantly… but still…)

Now and then, I get worried that my knowledge of things about Him is disproportionate or takes precedence to my intimacy and knowing of Him.

How many of us can say with a definiteness, if all things go to absolute crap, that it matters not because we know God. Many of us have a testimony we can share… we’ve practiced the 2-minute version of our conversion story to whip out if occasion called for it… but how many of us, without hesitation, could say that we have known God throughout our ups and downs in life?

When I think about knowing my friends versus knowing things about them, the difference lies in the knowing them that goes beyond a list of facts. There’s this transcendent knowing of them that goes like: I know you. The deep down inside you. The things that break your heart. The things that irritate you. The things that make you laugh. The things that make you smile that have no significance to other people. 

I get to knowing these things about my friends through stuff like spending time together, staying up till 5am talking to each other, butting heads but figuring it out with each other. Sharing life together.

And so it should go with our relationship with Jesus.

The point in which my relationship is less like Facebook-stalking the son of God and actually knowing Him with that definiteness is:

– When I’m regularly spending time in His presence, in His Word. It’s actually going on that coffee date. That “partaking of His cup” thing that means to partake in experience. (Which in the Bible, eludes to sharing in Christ’s suffering) It’s both experiencing Him in silent meditation and the actual active-doing of Kingdom things.

– Talking to Him. Spilling my guts, laying all that’s on my mind and heart at His feet in prayer. Being real and honest about the things that piss me off, the things I don’t get about Him.. working out WITH Him the conflicts of interest that arise when my own wants, preferences, and desires are at odds with the things of the Kingdom.

It’s in these things where you get to know the heart of God: sharing your life with the Divine in both time spent just-being and doing. Perhaps that’s why Jesus asked us to, “do as I have done”. “Knowing” requires a shared experience.

The Bible is not a Timeline. It is not just a thing we read that gives us more facts about God. It is the Word of God. It is alive. Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood! (John 1:14, The Message) He talks. He listens. He responds. He’s real.

It’s okay to “Facebook stalk” God. Theology, knowledge of God, gaining better understanding of Him, that’s all good. But don’t stop at Facebook stalking. Know Him face-to-face. Enter into that magical moment: when Facebook-stalking becomes actual relationship.

When we’ve moved from “Facebook stalking” God to knowing God, perhaps we’ll be better acquainted with His heart.. what grieves Him… what delights Him… and perhaps not only will we be acquainted with what His heart is like, we’ll begin to be grieved and delighted by the same things in our own.

Challenge… accepted?

Wasting Time with God

It was a late, hot, and humid night during my summer as an intern with InterVarsity’s Urban Project in St. Louis. I was in the kitchen when our director, Gerry, (a man who became like a spiritual father to me) stepped in.

Gerry is naturally very fatherly to many people. He asked me how things were going. I had sort of a traumatic experience at the start of the internship and had wanted to quit the experience afterwards but chose to stay. We talked for a bit on how I was doing since then.

He got to talking about how his affections for us interns were of that of a father and sharing about his favorite moments with his own biological daughter. Throughout his eldest daughter’s childhood, he cherished the times when he just got to “hold her awhile”. Gerry said even on her wedding day, he asked to hold her for awhile before he gave his baby away. He put his arm around me and gave me his signature sloppy, wet, stubbly kiss on the forehead. “I’d like to just hold you awhile, if that’s ok” he said to me.

I treasure Gerry’s relationship with me. My father was never physically affectionate nor have we ever had a close relationship. So the way I relate to male authority figures is a bit strange and Gerry’s handling of our relationship should’ve (at least I would’ve expected) been uncomfortable to me but that night, I just felt like a truly cherished daughter. I’ll never forget that night… wasting time with my “Dad” and letting him hold me for awhile.

“When was the last time you wasted time with God?” -Calisto Odede at Urbana 2012

When was the last time I wasted time letting God’s presence hold me for awhile?

It’s a thing that I have to choose into. That kind of intimacy, security, and safety I found under Gerry’s arm that night is something I’ve yet to really get used to. But I’m thankful for the tangible taste it gave me of the unconditional loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. And the good news is our Abba Father is always asking, “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to hold you awhile.”

It might sound counter-intuitive but it’s hard to say yes to sometimes. Unfortunately, I think that’s the case for many of us who’ve never felt truly cherished. It’s scary. It doesn’t come as natural to us. But could I encourage you today, as I encourage myself, let Him hold you awhile tonight.

Letter to the Little One 01/22/2013

I’m currently working at a cafe/gift shop in a hospital. Tonight before my shift ended, a baby was found abandoned in the women’s bathroom.

I know that they make this an option for people who want to give up their baby for whatever reason but… I suppose the reality of it never hit me until tonight and I’m not sure how to take it all in. I spent much of the ride home in tears.

I guess in my own life and experience, when a baby is born.. that’s cause for some serious celebration. Balloons, gifts, a crowded room full of smiling faces… weird pictures that end up on Pinterest of the newborn in weird positions… I’m ashamed to say that the reality that this isn’t the norm for all babies didn’t really hit me until tonight.

Can I just say that I don’t think it’s in God’s good plan for the world for babies to be left alone in a dirty bathroom?

When I was born, I had people. I had a loving father, mother, and older sister followed by a whole team of extended family and friends who rejoiced over my birth. I was born into a community of people on my “team”. They would love, support, and pull for me all the days of my life.

Someone should be on the kid’s team. That baby should have a team of people pulling for them. There should be a team of people who care that they’re born and alive and healthy today.

This might be completely futile but… I’ve got some words on my heart tonight for this kid. Perhaps just a prayer but we believe in a heavenly Father who cares right? We believe that our Abba Father not only hears but is present and at work in our lives every moment of every day right? Even if not very often at all, would you consider joining me in lifting the child up in prayer whenever it comes to mind?

Dear kid,

Talk about a rough start little one. I’m sorry it went down like this. But I don’t mean that to say that you’re going to finish a little short behind everyone else as a result… because I think.. You’re gonna do just fine, kid. I’ll bet on it.

For whatever reason, your mother thought it was better this way. That’s hard, but I’m willing to bet that she whole-heartedly believed that this was to give you the best shot at life. I’m willing to bet she’s hoping with everything within her that you get adopted by a stellar family who loves you and gives you every good opportunity they could possibly muster. And I hope that too. I pray that for you.

The truth is, I believe you have a Heavenly Father. An awesome Father who knew you before you even took any form in your mother’s womb and He’s loved you from the beginning of time and will hold you till the very end. I believe that you were created in His image so you are NOT nothing. You are NOT of less value. You are NOT less wanted. The truth is: You are a beloved child. And you have a Father who is jealous for you.

Kiddo, you might never know. But you got at least one person on your team right now. I’ll pray for you. I’ll think of you. I pray that God, our Father, pours out His grace and mercy in your life and that love, joy, and mercy would follow you all the days of your life.

The possibilities set before you are endless. I’m excited for you! And… maybe this is abuse of prayer power but I hope you become a big nerd.. because nerds are awesome. Or don’t.. that’s weird. I won’t tell you how to live your life and you’ll be perfect no matter what. I guess what I’m saying is, never be ashamed of who you are.

Little one, you’re gonna be just fine. This is only the beginning. Wherever you end up, consider me on your team. I’ll be praying for you. I’ll be thinking of you.

Aunt Vicky.

More Dying To Do (01/04/2013)

“In a way, I said ‘yes’ to following Jesus into the slums. But I was shown that I have more dying to do, more losing of myself. I learned that conversion to Christ is a process. Many more yes’s are needed after the first yes. But when everything wasn’t quite what I expected, I wanted to say ‘no’ so badly and I realized just how costly the invitation of Jesus to discipleship is.” -Karen Ngooi, international student from Malaysia studying at the University of Wisconsin

This past week, I attended Urbana. Urbana is a 5 day student missions conference held in St. Louis that cultivates in the current generation a love for God and for His purposes in the world.

I first heard about Urbana fall semester 2007 of my freshman year. Urbana 2006 had just taken place a year before and I have been anticipating my own participation in this conference ever since. As someone who has been out of college for about a year now and struggling with the post-graduate transition, I went into Urbana 2012 hungry to hear from God and for some inspiration.

I was not disappointed at Urbana.

God really spoke at Urbana. What I was hearing from God this week was that He is asking me to trust Him with my fears. Since I’ve graduated, I think the thing that has most kept me from moving forward with my life, among many other excuses, is fear. Fear that my family will not accept my decision to go into full-time ministry and fear that I will fail in some way. But throughout the week, I really sensed the urgency and the call to surrender our whole lives to Jesus. As Platt said in his talk, what in this life is more significant than this? What is more worth giving our lives to than this?

I found that during the week, I was running out of excuses. I found that I was getting tired of talking about the uncertainties of this stage of life and tired of my own excuses to delay being proactive about entering into what is next in life whether that be an internship, overseas missions, or full-time ministry in the states. I was tired of talking about how I don’t know and how I don’t know how to know. I believe that Jesus is saying, “Child, trust me. I am faithful. I am worth it. Come and follow me.”

In the end, I’m realizing that I want to follow Jesus but I really don’t want to lose anything in the process. I know it costs to follow Jesus. But, I don’t want to lose my security. There are so many things of this world that I love. I don’t want to lose them. But at Urbana, I fell in love with the Lord all over again. His heart for the world, for the lost, His invitation, His mission, His kingdom. It is all so unlike anything I’ve ever come across. So much more magnificent than I could ever hope for. My excuses, which were once all I could see before me became like tiny specks of dust making futile attempts to distract my eyes from the glory of His great invitation.

One thing that has really resonated in me throughout these past few days is something an international student from Malaysia said in her testimony before all of Urbana. “I have more dying to do,” she said. I am governed first by my fears and my petty desires. Instead of Jesus, I’ve let other factors set the agenda for my life. Jesus is not the center of my trust, dreams, and affections. I am learning just how much I don’t love Jesus. I am learning just how much I love my worldly reputation. I wonder, if I didn’t have people watching or if my actions did not result in some sort of reputation, how concerned am I for God’s glory? If He called me overseas, if my friends never saw me again or heard of anything I did for the rest of my life, would He still be worth it? Would His mission alone still be enough? If at the end of my earthly life, if I gained nothing in this world, if I lost it all, would I be satisfied with Jesus? If I had to be perfectly honest, my answer currently is, “No.” I still have so much dying to do.

My post-Urbana prayer is this: “Jesus, help me to die. Help me to know that you are worth all my trust, plans, and affections. Help me to die that I might live for you. Help me to die that I might have true life in you. Where You want me, where You lead me, help me to get there.”

I am learning that the hardships I might endure for His name’s sake is nothing compared to knowing Jesus. I am learning just how many more yes’s are needed before the end of this life. The reality of the hardships of following Jesus are starting to sink in more and more but I’m learning that His love makes it worth it all. There is nothing in this life more worth giving my life to than this. I need to leave the boat. I need to drop my nets. No more excuses. He is worth it.

Phil. 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

05/05/2011

Dear Jesus,

I know I’ve been struggling a lot with my relationship with You. And of course, You know I’ve been working through my feelings and wrestling with my disappointments. You know where I am and You know what I’m struggling with.

I don’t know where I am with all of that still. I don’t know what my next steps are and I don’t quite know how to know.

But there’s something bigger that I want to ask of You despite all of this.

It’s for the people I care about. I try too hard sometimes to try to be You to them. During their hardships and trials, I try to do whatever I can, whether that’s serving them by listening or just being with them or buying them things (because it’s my love language), I obsess over trying to fix things for them or doing whatever I can to ease their suffering. In the end, I know I have a hard time trusting You with them. That You will do for them what You have promised in Your Word to do for us. I’m sorry. I just… I care about them but have not yet understood that the most important part in caring for them is to pray and entrust them to You.

Meanwhile the needs of more friends pile on, I find myself completely unable to care for all of them in the way that I want to. I am inadequate. Not only am I not able to serve them in the way I want to but I am growing weary striving to serve more and more.

As I come even more to the realization of my complete inadequacy and the impossibility it is for me to do these thing out of my own strength, I am crying out to You, Jesus. Be what I can’t be to them.

 Be their comfort in times of loneliness and pain. Be their strength when they are weak. Be their peace in times of doubt. Be their light when things go dark. Be their hope in times of despair.

Speak Your truth in times of confusion. Sing Your love to them in times of hurt. Hear their cries to You and be quick to answer. Give them healing in times of hurting. Show them their worth in times of shame.

Be their everything.

And maybe.. along the way.. I’ll learn to let You be these things to me. I need Your grace as I learn to trust and love You in the same way. But for now, I pray these things and I entrust the ones I love into Your loving hands.

Amen.

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