Blessing of Obedience

The Blessing of Obedience

There will always be a longing of the soul

For something more, for something whole.

And in an attempt to satisfy

We have to ask the question “why?”

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Why are we here?

Why now?

What are we supposed to do?

And how?

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Will obeying two commandments be enough?

To simply love…

The One true God with all we’ve got

And our neighbours a little bit more than a lot.

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Even if it’s hard

To fight this battle of the heart

Where selfishness wants to reign

And compassion feels like pain.

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Because to truly care

Is to get out there;

To love the lonely and the lost

No matter what the cost!

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Religion in its purest form

Is so far from the norm.

To serve the orphan and the slave

Such a different kind of brave.

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We may be filled with good intentions

However, faith without obedience

Is an unfinished sentence…

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Love without deed

So incomplete!

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And yet it’s worth the sacrifice,

Because God already paid the price

He loved as first and set us free

To shine His light for them to see;

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That there is only one way

And we have a simple choice to make each day

To say ‘yes’ or ‘no’

To stay or go.

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The blessing of obedience

Is a gift in itself

As we become less and He becomes more

And our lives make more sense than ever before.

Today is a page

Today is a Page

All our days may be written in His book, but the only page we get to read is today.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will]go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” [James 4:13-15]

If someone told me four years ago that I would be married, pregnant with my first child, living in Vietnam, and teaching English to five-year-olds, I would have laughed in disbelief.  And yet, the unthinkable has become a reality.

I used to be a dreamer, and dreamers often live with their minds in the future.  My current reality has taught me that dreams are good, but it is far better to let go of re-living the past or waiting  to live in the future in order to embrace and really relish life in the here and now.  Instead of dreaming, I’m learning to trust—-“To trust an unknown future to a known God” as Corrie ten Boom would say.

I’m realizing that knowing all things about tomorrow could steal our joy in the present.  Moreover, like a dark cloud, all the problems and troubles ahead of us would overshadow all the good things – the joys, victories, and glorious moments – waiting for us in the future.  We would not laugh as hard at jokes if we already knew the punch lines.  

Faith is to believe in what we cannot see.  Trust is to allow the unseen God to take care of what we do not know…to take care of tomorrow.  It’s hard, because we want to see and we want to know.  We err in thinking that the present would be more bearable if we could just get a peek into the future.  We ask:  “Who will I marry?”  “How many children will I have?”  “What is God’s plan for my life?”   

So often, we have all been guilty of uttering statements based on our own predictions:  “I’m going to marry this guy.” “I’m going to Canada.” “I’m going to keep this job forever.” Convinced by momentary feelings and wishes, we forget to add “…if it is God’s will.”

And then, everything changes, as happens in the natural course of life.  One morning, you wake up and realize that you were living a false reality, telling the world one thing in an attempt to convince yourself of it.  You shake yourself and admit the truth:  “He was never the right guy for me” or “I don’t even like winter, so why on earth would I want to live in Canada?” or “There’s a better job out there waiting for me.”  You also begin to understand that some friendships are seasonal and death might bring an end to your idea of “being inseparable”.  Everything changes, and that is the natural course of life.

One of the hardest things in life is to look the world in the eye after a false prediction turns to dust, and you have to admit you got it wrong or just don’t understand it all.  It is not easy to explain a returned engagement ring, a divorce, a failed business endeavor, or an obstacle that prevented your plans from coming to fruition.   What do you say to those around you when you return from the hospital with an empty womb and empty arms?  Your loss, disappointment, and grief is shared with the same people with whom you would have otherwise rejoiced.

When I started this blog, I thought I would never run out of new stories of hope to share, never realizing that one day I might get stuck on a page where everyone around me was speaking another language;  and even if they could tell their stories, I would not be able to understand them.  So, I am left to share my own story of hope:  that there is a time, reason, and season for all things, and God’s timing is perfect.  When we wait on the Lord, we can look forward to the “unveiling” of His will for our lives, and His will toward us is always good. 

Believe me, I would love to know what on earth I am doing here, except for the dishes and the washing that seem to pile up (no matter where in the world you live).  However, I trust that there is a reason for being right here, right now, in the story of our lives which is yet being written by the hand of God.  Out of context, one single page in life may not seem to make much sense;  but when the next chapter has been written, everything in the past and present will make perfect sense.

Today is a beautiful page in a story, and hope is often found in the middle of what feels like a very ordinary day, hidden between the dirty laundry and the secret morning prayers.  I know I can always rest in His love and fall into His arms, knowing that He will never let me fall because “love never fails”.  I also know that hope never disappoints us if it is well-placed in His perfect love and will.  Therefore, I will rejoice in today, knowing who holds my tomorrows.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?   Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  [Matthew 6:25-27]

Pregnancy and Faith

Pregnancy & Faith

It is mind-boggling to consider that we all began life as tiny microscopic packages of DNA, invisible to the naked eye.  Such small, seemingly insignificant beginnings have miraculously brought forth some amazing creatures like you and me.  A small seed has tremendous potential to grow into so much more in the same way that faith can bring that which is unseen or non-existent into visible reality. 

 That brings us to the heart of this article, namely:

 THE PARALLELS BETWEEN PREGNANCY AND FAITH:

 #1 You cannot see it, but you know it’s there.

 I’ve only been pregnant for about three months and, though I cannot see my unborn child, I am fully persuaded that there is an amazing creation in progress within me.  The signs and symptoms are there that new life is forming.  I anxiously await that which my eyes cannot see at present, while waiting on God to complete His perfect work in me. This is faith…that that which is not visible in the present will ultimately become a visible reality.

 For FAITH is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  This is the essence of faith:  you have to believe and hope that something you cannot see yet will be manifested in the fullness of time.

 # 2 It will change your life.

 Whether it’s giving birth or being reborn in Christ, a new life doesn’t come forth without change: “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  Some changes might be externally visible while many others are occurring internally.  You can feel the changes, but you can’t always see what’s happening.  Some changes might be hard to endure when our flesh resists the adjustments to something new within; but the changes will certainly bring forth something good, something better, if we don’t resist them and remember what we will receive at the end of the journey, whether it is a 9-month or 5 –year journey we are facing.  And, with every change that occurs, there is growth.  It is often said that change is a natural part of life; and if there is no change, there is no life.

 #3 And you will grow.

 A woman will grow in ways she cannot even comprehend during pregnancy.  As she looks in the mirror, reality sets in.  Likewise, as we grow up in Christ, we can look into the mirror of the Word of God to see who we are and who we can become through Christ.  Only time will reveal the changes that we allow the Holy Ghost to make in our lives. 

 #4 Growing pains

 Pain is also a part of this package.  “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” There is pain, discomfort, and tears associated with pregnancy and childbirth. We also endure pain and sorrow resulting from sin in the world we live in. It is part of the curse that made the blessing of our Saviour so much greater and His grace the most undeserved reward. We will experience pain and sorrow, but through the pain and the tears there will always be hope. In time, our wounds will be healed and our scars will only be there to remind us of God’s abiding presence and power to turn ALL things into good for those who love Him and keep His commandments.    

 #5 You will be stretched.

 And you will probably have stretch marks to prove it!  Stretch marks on your body and stretch marks on your soul!  Love can stretch your heart to reach out to those halfway around the world, in the same way that a tiny human being growing within a mother’s womb will stretch her skin to its limits.  Our skin might have its limits, but our faith doesn’t. We serve a limitless God and there will always be room for our faith to grow.     

 #6 It’s not only about you anymore…

 When I learned that I was pregnant, I started to think twice about what I put into my mouth.  If I want my baby to be healthy, it is essential that I take care of myself, too. Now I am constantly reminded of my own selfish desires and ‘cravings’. In the same way we all need to carefully consider what we’re putting into our minds and hearts to nourish and nurture our faith.  As followers of Christ, walking in faith, we need to resist the “junk food” of this world and all of its empty attractions.

 #7 And then we ask ourselves: “What if?”

What if something goes wrong in the pregnancy?  What if I have a miscarriage? What if you lose your faith? And the enemy whispers a million other “what if” questions that can foster doubt and fear to drive you insane …if you allow it.

Doubt and fear will always be the enemy’s 2 most powerful weapons.  If we receive his words, he could steal our joy, then our strength, and he knows very well what he is doing.

What if we allowed perfect love to drive out all fear instead?  What if we decided to trust God above everything else?  What if we could trust that even if something ‘goes wrong’ in the eyes of this world, He still holds everything in the palm of His hand and it will work together for good for those who love Him?

# 8 We will make mistakes; and it’s okay.

Imperfection is part of our progress. You cannot be pregnant and have a perfect figure at the same time. Sometimes you have to learn to let go and admit, and accept, your own imperfections.  In life, it’s hard to forgive yourself for your own mistakes.  Sometimes the only way to breathe again is to first drown in grace.

 #9 It will teach us how to pray.

If you realize you’re not in control anymore, it becomes easier to pray.  And I have a feeling that, more than anything else, being a parent will teach me more about how to pray.  Prayer is the oxygen that our faith needs to grow, and I’m pretty sure that much of the growth in my own life is the result of my own mother’s prayers.    

#10 Because we are not alone…

We often feel like we are going through this alone and it is a lie. Pregnancy connects us with billions of woman through the ages and beyond borders, culture and skin color just like faith connects us with believers all over the world—with other people going through the same struggles, facing the same obstacles, and experiencing the same joys.  We are not alone, and if we feel alone, it’s simply because we are not reaching out to others. 

THEREFORE, today, I would like to reach out my hand in love by sharing this with you.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or what you are going through, you are not alone!

If anyone has a prayer request or would like to encourage others who might be going through similar struggles, please feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment below.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU!

The Reason Why

The Reason Why We Are Here

Every life is precious and planned
Skillfully knit together by the Masters hand.
Deep inside of wombs where no eyes could see
He created you and me.

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I know our purpose doesn’t always seem clear
But there is a reason why we are here,
Why our hearts are still beating,
And there will always be hope as long as we’re breathing.

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Because love will keep us alive
Far beyond this life
Through the love of the One
Who gave His only Son.

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The One who forgave,
So that we can forgive,
The One who gave us faith,
So that we could believe.

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It was never up to us,
And it will never be,
Because nothing we can do
Will truly set us free.

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We can rest in the cross
And trust that He will complete
The good work He began in us
As we become His hands and feet.

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We might have a long way “to go”
And we’re not promised “no sorrow”,

Only true love, that will drive out fear

Until that day when it will all be clear.

 

The Best Marriage Advice Ever

In two simple sentences, a single guy nailed marriage 2000 years ago. It wasn’t a theory, but wisdom straight from the heart of God.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Ephesians 5:22, 25

Those who are already married will fully realize the practical implications of these two sentences; those who are still single should not be fooled into thinking that this occurs “naturally” in marriage.  Though it may take many people a lifetime to yield to these words of wisdom, simple obedience results in peace, joy, unity, and strength in a marriage.

I will be the first to admit that I often struggle to submit, and I am afraid I am not very lovable when I resist…

For twenty-five years before marriage, I was being prepared by my family and culture “to leave the nest” and to become a responsible, independent citizen of society.  Furthermore, there were many dynamic women in my family whom I looked to as examples of strength.  Unfortunately, the men in my life did not match my perception of what strong leaders should be, especially in areas of life I considered most important.  My faulty understanding of leadership models only added to my misconception that men are weak, requiring me to be strong. 

Unlike millions of women throughout history, and in many societies and cultures around the world, I grew up as an equal to my brothers.  I had the opportunity to get an education and voice my opinions as a woman.  I could choose my own career path and even decide who I wanted to marry. In contrast, multitudes of women in the world today are still forced into submission, arranged marriages, and even slavery from birth because of their sex.   

After years of being groomed for independence, submission in marriage doesn’t come “naturally”.  Quite the opposite, it is contrary to the will of our flesh, so we have to choose to willingly surrender our own will to the law of love.  And, more often than not, we are not exactly sure what it means to “submit”.  The Bible is not as clear on the matter of submission as it is on love, and I cannot help but wonder if our own misunderstandings stem from our error in separating the two.  Consequently, men try to force their wives into submission when the Word commands them to “love” their wives, and wives resist submission when it is all part of the nature of love to submit to the Lord.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Paul spoke right into the heart of the problem when he told women to submit and men to love.  Normally driven by emotions, women have to learn to be led by the truth and practicalities rather than by feelings. To follow someone else instead of our own stubborn ways and to learn the art of when and how to keep our mouths shut is a challenge. However, simple submission brings respect and honor to our husbands which makes them happy and content, and the husband “blossoms” in the same way that a wife does when she feels unconditionally loved.  

Ah-h-h-h….I know that I still have a long way to go and a lot to unlearn and re-learn.  We know to do good, but we don’t do it, so we don’t reap the benefits.  In the end, it’s all about simple obedience.  Perhaps marriage was instituted by God to give us practical training in loving one another.  After all, marriage is ultimately a metaphor of our relationship with God.  If we struggle to submit to our earthly husbands in love, it might be a reflection of our struggles to submit to His perfect will and plans for our lives.  If we struggle to love our spouses, it is a sure sign that we are lacking in love and need to go to the Source for a new supply.

We might liken our life on this earth to a time of preparation to become a bride – the bride of Christ.  We are engaged to the bridegroom who has gone away to prepare a place for us, as was the tradition of the Jews.  After all things are prepared, He will return to claim His bride and take her to be with Him forevermore.  We might even say the marriage of the church to Christ is a “pre-arranged” marriage, planned long before we were born by the Creator of the Universe Himself.

Divorce is not an option to the Lover of our souls, neither would we desire to annul our engagement contract, or run away, if we could only comprehend the perfect love of God, our true “soul-mate” who alone completes us.

To submit to God is the only road to true happiness and true love.  Therefore, we should be careful that we do not give more power to our culture, society, thoughts, and opinions in shaping and molding us than we do to the Word of God.  As we struggle to maintain control as the “captains of our own ships”, pursuing our own happiness and pleasures in this world, we might be steering towards an iceberg and certain shipwreck.

The perfect love of God love is easy to submit to; voluntary submission makes us more lovable.  Love and submission are therefore intertwined. 

Do you also struggle to submit or to love?  Then, let submission be an expression of love.  We all need to encourage one another to be better companions, wives, husbands…. and to ultimately prepare ourselves to become the bride of Christ without spot or blemish.

Photographer: Michelle van Wyk