Belly Laugh

Belly Laugh

I am sure there is no better sound in the world than a baby belly laughing… especially if it is your baby.

And for a moment you become more than willing to be the clown, to make silly sounds and funny dance moves, because sometimes we need a bit of crazy to find our normal.

We all need more laughter, more joy. ” Do you still laugh,” my one friend asked in an e-mail, and I’ve had to admit that I do, but not often enough.

I watch a fair amount of funny clips on YouTube and funny things happen in daily life as an expat in a country where most people cannot speak English very well.  (For example when they send someone to cut your “glass” instead of your “grass” because you pointed at the window when you tried to explain.)

However, laughing at something is not the same as the laughing that comes from a place deep within. Selfishness is stealing our ability to laugh at ourselves, and pride makes us laugh at others instead of with them.

I used to love metaphors and puns – now I’ve learned to just let it go, because a joke is not so funny if you have to explain it, and a lot of humor gets lost in translation.

Instead, I’m learning to belly laugh again without needing a reason. To embrace the moments of silliness’. To have my mourning turned into dancing as joy comes in the morning.

Because a new day dawns each morning, as it always does. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had to get up during the night, or how many times you failed yesterday; your perspective changes as the new light breaks.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. –  Proverbs 17:22

Even better than laughter – there is joy to be found.. True joy that will fill us up and make our lives full and overflowing.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.  - Matthew 13:44 KJV

I hope that your life will be filled with this priceless joy and a lot of belly laughing!

Letter of Hope to myself

A Letter of Hope to my 24-Year-Old self

Dear Hopeful One

I know that you have just arrived in a new city – still single, flat broke, but excited about the new possibilities. Your plane ticket is already booked for one last trip with your old teammates for an adventure race in Swaziland. You’ve just started writing a book and hope that God will somehow use your love for writing to reach out to others. Marriage is a fleeting dream, especially since you have met “Mr. Right” for about the tenth time. Having children is somewhere on the bottom of the ”to-do list”, way below scuba diving and travelling the world.

Now, fast forward five years, and you will wake up one morning realizing that the most adventurous thing you have done in five months was to allow your seven-month-old baby to explore the backyard.  You will still be nearly broke but debt-free. Your time to write will be limited to baby naptimes or when you are not helping out at the local orphanage. And no, you did not end up marrying the guy you have a crush on now, or the next one, or even the “perfect guy” you will be dating in a few months.

You will see the world and learn a new language, live in Vietnam for the first few months of your pregnancy, and eventually give birth in a local hospital in Thailand. You will stop racing, especially in the “rat race” of life, and you will deliberately choose a life that is slower and more intentional. You will keep on writing until you finish the book you are currently working on, but afterwards, you will decide not to publish it. Instead, you will start a blog and have the opportunity to share with others across oceans and continents with the press of a button.

The good news is that you will never stop dreaming, but you will also learn to live the not-so-perfect reality that is today. If I could gave you some advice knowing what I know now I would have told you to:

- Keep on believing.

There will be a few hard days ahead, and faith will be the only thing that will sustain you. You will also need it on the good days to remember where your strength comes from and to keep you humble.

- Keep on falling in love because one day you will find true love.

However, until you find that guy, do not give your heart or body or soul away, and do not make promises you cannot keep. Until you finally say “I do”, you can never be sure that you have found your “forever love”.

- Keep on persevering.

Endurance is the one thing you will need in every season of your life, even if the only mountain you have to face is the never-ending pile of laundry. Never give up.

- Keep in touch.

Treasure your family and the friends you now have close to you, because one day, you will be miles and years away from them.   Every investment you make in relationships now will continue to enrich your life in more ways than you can ever imagine.

- Keep on embracing every season of your life.

Good memories are always better than regrets.  Do not think that marriage or having children or a new job will ever fulfill your life, because they won’t. Instead:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes: but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”

- Keep on seeking God with all your heart and mind and soul.

That is where your fulfillment and purpose lies, and all other good thing are simply blessings out of His hand.

- Keep on writing.

Through writing, you will always learn, grow, and remember. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your prayer journal or a letter to a friend. Words will always have the power to build up or break down, whether written or spoken, so choose your words wisely.

- Keep on praying.

Prayers get answered, and miracles happen every day. Never tell people you will pray for them. Take their hands and pray with them.

- Keep on learning.

Ask questions. Google answers. Do word searches in your Bible. Read. Observe. Listen. Learning doesn’t have to involve a degree or a diploma.

- Keep on hoping.

Place your hope in the One who can do all things. The right kind of hope never disappoints. Do not confuse hope with expectations. Hope gives God the freedom to give us His dreams instead of working our lives out the way we think they’re supposed to be.

If you could go back five years and give yourself advice what would you say?

 

coming out

Coming Out

“Hi, my name is Yiskah* and this is my confession.

Often homosexuality does not come as a conscious choice. It is a consequence of experiences, strong emotions, needs and dire straits we live through and endure, some of which we might not even consciously be aware of.

What I write, I write out of love, out of the need I see for this and the nudge I sense regarding the topic. All my life I have felt this urge, this urge to be accepted, this urge to be loved, to be hugged, to simply “be”….just who I am. And throughout my life, this natural urge has been violated – sometimes consciously.

I remember these moments of sweetness, with my father and mother, where I felt completely safe and loved. I remember the awe of who I am, as I recognized it, as a little girl. I still remember all that. All I had to do was look at my parents and I found affirmation of being wanted, of being accepted and loved. I could just be ‘me’ and that made me a hero already, in their eyes, in Gods eyes.

As I grew up things changed. I felt the need to earn the love I yearned for. Why, I am not sure but I did…and sometimes still get confused and do. I felt insufficient the way I was, felt insecure of who I was. As a teenager I looked for something most likely to guarantee such affirmation: a boyfriend. Somehow I never ended up with one though. Instead I found affirmation in adults…many of them men. It was just natural and easy for me to socialize with men and boys. I had wanted to be a boy for some years of my life and it somehow just came natural and at ease and that made me feel at home; it uncomplicated my life to some extent. I was so not into all that girly stuff, I wanted to be a hero (like in many books I read), wanted to be looked up to, acknowledged, praised for the good I did, celebrated and yet I didn’t want to push others towards finding me that way. I lived up to the highest standards I could set myself (even though I often failed), I became the best friend I was looking for, myself, I became the help others needed, the shoulder to cry on, the strong fortress and protector, the one who’d understand. Yet my own heart remained empty and longing.

I longed for all I became… a friend, someone to affirm and protect me, someone to love me and hold me and allow me just to ‘be’. Sure I had my family, but we all know teenage years complicate matters at times. So while I became what I myself needed, inside of my soul I withdrew…I became alienated from others (though it wasn’t showing much) and from myself (which only at times I recognized).

Experiencing 10 years of bullying in school and sexual abuse from adult male acquaintances did not help the matter. It merely reinforced the thought that I had to look out for myself. I was convinced by now that the only way to survive was to be in control as much as I could.

Throughout my teenage years there had been this attraction to certain women; women that seemed strong enough for me to just ‘be’ when I was with them. They seemed gentle and yet strong, sensitive yet not girly. I tried being close to them but it never occurred to me (it wasn’t that common in the 90’s) that I might be attracted to the same sex. In my last year of school two classmates had their ‘coming out’ and I was confronted with such an option for the first time. I remember the first time I longed to be close to a woman in that way. It was scary yet contained the strongest surge of longing I had ever known.

In the years that followed I had first homosexual contact with another woman. In her arms I felt safe, I felt accepted, I could cry and hurt and yet be considered strong and not lose face. I got to know lust and love. And most of the times they were intertwined in a way that made them inseparable. The lust I experienced was true, was rough edged yet sensitive, strong yet vulnerable and all of the time it was a strong physical reaction of longing and need.

The true satisfaction I found was in the love, not in the lust. The arms that held me, the close proximity and safety I experienced when being with the person I loved. The knowing even when the lust subsided the emotional safety experienced was existent and in vulnerability my soul tied to hers’.

My ‘coming out’ was a violent struggle... I had it in a time of not being in a relationship, it cut away the bond I had always experienced as a security and had had with my parents. It was confrontational and many words were said that were meant to hurt and to build a safety wall around me.

And once these walls were up, I would cower and seek refuge the only place I found left, in the community of others that understood – the homosexual community.

From the beginning my faith in God and my love for women seemed to repel each other. I desired to reconcile them, but to be honest, always failed and in the end the lust-love-bonds I experienced were stronger. Struggles would arise and then subside like tides crashing against the coastline. Sometimes I found the tear and wear of them close to unbearable, at other times I was able to push these feelings aside and laugh them off.

At some stage – I was not in a relationship – my personal needs for a refuge and a creator, that had some direction and hope for me, got me ended up in a church again. Finding the living God in the midst of my needs enabled me to cut loose from my lust-love-bonds and I started walking the path of a Pentecostal Christian. Some few months into it all, I backslid and returned to my lesbian life; clearer than ever I felt the incompatibility of my faith and my feelings for a woman.

To be honest, like most times, the relationship didn’t last. However I ended up in another relationship and that looked very much like a life-changing one. I truly loved her; I loved her as much as I lusted for her. I wanted to marry her….this seemed to be the one.

It was no church that pulled me back to God…it was no people…it was God.

Somehow the desire to be affirmed, to be vulnerable and not be strong, to be who I am, to get to know who I am, to fill that hole of longing and drawing emptiness, made me realise: I didn’t want to live without my woman, but I couldn’t live without God. Crazy as that might sound.

I ended up in turmoil of emotions, struggling this out. When I decided to walk the rest of my days down the paths of God it was not a decision based on a condition I set, it was surrender. I couldn’t help but recognize that a life without God was without the essence of what I needed to truly live. I surrendered not knowing if God would ever change my affections for women to a desiring of the opposite sex. It didn’t matter at the time. I had found love…love without lust.

Lust had always been the strongest motivation and the love that I had in the relationships kept the lust alive and addictive while creating the delusion that I was safe and could just ‘be’.

Now I had found a love that was gentle and specific, yet not lustful and addictive. It didn’t enslave me to the pornography I knew involved; it didn’t leave me empty and not wholly fulfilled after its best shots. I had found faith – a faith still vulnerable, tentative and yet quickly becoming an urge voluntary, yet necessary just like the air we breathe.

It was a struggle for many months, changing addictive patterns and habits due to a change in my mind and spirit. My soul didn’t always want to obey… I had many moments of failure in the process but I decided to stick with it for my own sake.

What happened in a process that took 10 months is not easily described sufficiently in words. In short: my sexual attraction to women got changed to one for men. Not due to conditioning (If you have been there, you know that will never work if you are honest), but due to God’s divine intervention. I was no longer a lesbian. I wasn’t even bisexual. I was now a heterosexual woman. This was a scary path; it was painful and most of all, it was unknown to me.

The church I joined was unable to walk the path of healing and mourning with me that followed my decision to split up with the woman I considered the love of my life. They were unable to see the hurting heart beyond the bright shining outside screaming ‘sin’. It was thus a lonely path...one with many well meaning people around that prayed and taught me to change habits and re-calibrate my life, that decided to accept the woman, they saw as sinful, in their midst and love her none the less.

I decided to stick with my decision, and it’s been more than 12 years since. I had nothing more to lose. I decided to cling to Christ, rather than the people. I did not trust the church people fully; I decided to trust God instead. I became strong, wilful and determined. A Christian with direction and hope, determination and knowledge and I succeeded in doing so. Lust got replaced by religiousness at first and throughout the years is slowly changing to authentic and vulnerable yet love-motivated faith.

I only recently discovered some causes that I addressed in my first paragraph as unconscious dire straits. I was sexually abused for many years as a child (- my parents didn’t know). Such experiences cause a need for control over one’s own life and let a survival mode set in. Working through such trauma is never easy as it illuminates parts of a picture to clear to bear, that suddenly explains paths chosen subconsciously – such as homosexuality.

Homosexuality is often not a conscious choice. It is a survival mode that kicks in due to some possibly even illogical reason. It is a yearning for love and a discovery of lust-love-bonds that are stronger than one’s will and ability to stay away. Homosexuality is always at least partially connected to pornography. It is a silent yet abundantly loud cry for the need to be accepted, to be affirmed, to be celebrated for who you were created to be, to be protected and loved. Either way, it IS a choice… one that we can choose to stick with (no matter under which conscious or unconscious circumstances it was made or not) or we can choose to leave as lifestyle. We are not victims in our decision-making.

Homosexuality is not the root-cause but the fruit. The fruit of a broken society, of broken people (even when they come from good and solid homes) pretending to be independent, to be in control and pretending most of all to be happy and being lord over their own lives.

Living a homosexual lifestyle is not compatible with the Bible – no matter how you try to turn and twist it. Yet it doesn’t eradicate the deep and inherent longing for a Saviour and unconditional love.

I say I have been healed of homosexuality because I no longer desire what I lusted for then…the idea or even pictures of women don’t turn me on and the causes of my subconscious decision to choose a lesbian life have found healing through Christ. I know many who considered themselves homosexuals and now no longer do – due to God’s intervention and healing power. I also know a few who earnestly desire to be released from their homosexual desires by God but have unto this day not been. Why I cannot say.

One thing I know: We all yearn for acceptance, for true unconditional affirmation and love, for a place we can consider the safest place on earth where we can just ‘be’ as raw as we are, as sore as we are, as vulnerable and broken and crippled as our souls are and yet not fear.

There is only one place to find it: at Jesus feet, in surrender and rendering control to Him. It is a decision of immense trust, a decision of sacrifice and it feels like walking on water many times again and again. Yet there is nothing that can compare and it is SO worth it.
May you experience this love and dare to take the first step.
Yishka*.”

*For privacy purposes, names in this article have been changed. Please contact me if you would like to get in touch with the author.”

 

Born That Way

Born That Way

Dear Friend

Gay rights has been in the forefront of social news for quite some time.  The past few weeks have given us a lot to think about with flags waving, laws changing, fingers pointing, and scriptures being quoted.

As a Christian, I feel backed into a corner with a choice:  confront or compromise.

If I stand up for what I believe, I know that no matter how carefully I choose my words, someone will be offended.  It’s so easy to be labelled as “judgmental” or a “hater of gays”.  When some people use scriptures to validate a stand against a gay lifestyle, I’m not even sure if they are trying to use the Bible to win an argument or to win souls.  It has never been more difficult to speak the truth in love.

It has also never been so easy to conform to this world without even realizing it.  The enemy is trying to pass off lies as the truth.  Not calling it out is too close to agreeing.  What do we do when it feels like we have to choose between the truth and making the people we love feel accepted?

I wish I had all the answers, but all I have is an assurance that somehow the truth is supposed to set us free.  So, I’ve decided to be real honest, to open closed doors and admit that I could also do with a bit more light in this little heart of mine.

I confess:

  • That I am scared of what I do not understand.
  • That it is easy to judge others for “coming out of the closet” while trying to hide my own dark deeds behind closed doors.
  • That I also crave intimacy and acceptance. I want people to know who I really am and still love me despite all of my faults.
  • That I’m harder on people who call themselves Christians which makes me feel like a hypocrite.
  • I also struggle with pride.
  • That I, as many others, fail to recognize the root of the problem which is a basic need to be loved.The TRUTH is, that each of us is seeking love, and the only perfect love is the love of God.  If we don’t receive that love, we will spend our lives seeking an alternate, imperfect love.

The TRUTH is, that it doesn’t matter who we are, where we live, or what we have endured in life to bring us to our present state of existence, we were all born in sin. That is why we need to be born again.

The TRUTH is, that each of us is seeking love, and the only perfect love is the love of God.  If we don’t receive that love, we will spend our lives seeking an alternate, imperfect love.

The TRUTH is, that we all are seeking our identity, but that identity is in Christ, who loved us and gave Himself as a ransom for our sins so that we could find our true identities in Him as we are transformed by His love and forgiveness into His image, the image of true love.

john 3

  • “Love the sinner, not the sin” is not a Bible quote.  I believe it’s just an excuse men came up with to wink at sin and to justify it in our lives and in the lives of others. Instead, we need to draw nigh to the One who is love who has the capacity to convict us of sins so that we can confess them and receive forgiveness and the power to be changed from darkness into light.  Those who are free from sin have no need to hide their deeds or to justify them to others.

All sin separates us from God. I do not want to be separated from God, and I do not want to stand by and watch those I love become separated from Him either.  Light and dark do not mix any more than oil and water.  When we cannot approach the Light of the World, or seek to avoid it, it is a sure sign that we are living in darkness to avoid God’s conviction.  The enemy of our souls knows very well that dividing us from God’s light and love will be the trick to destroy us.  That is his fulltime objective.

It’s easy to forget that God already loved me while I was yet in sin, that every step on this journey of walking in the light has everything to do with grace and nothing to do with my ability.  I know I’m still far from perfect, but I still wish I could be better…do better. I wish we could stop arguing about details while failing to live the basics of Christianity.

If left to my own ability, it’s hard enough to love the people I love – those who are somewhat similar to me – and it’s even harder to truly love those who are very different from me.  But when I bow to the will of God, He gives me His capacity to love myself and others.  I know it’s only possible to love others because God first loved me and gives me His love to love others. 

At the same time, it is tempting to idolize people, whom we see, instead of submitting to an Almighty God whom we cannot see. We tend to forget that even marriage and motherhood are temporal and not eternal.  Natural love of man is not to be compared to the eternal love of God

I understand that the gay rights issue has everything to do with people and relationships.  It is about people seeking to be loved, even if it is not the way God intended.  A lie is not always the exact opposite of the truth, but it can be a twisted version of the truth made to appear less obvious.

I have no right to stand up for what I believe in except it is according to God’s Word.  He is the final authority of TRUTH.  Spiritual pride is a hard battle and not one we will win by pretending to be holy.

It’s hard to believe that people can change. I still have a mental assessment of people I formed ten years ago and measure everything they do against it. I’m slowly learning that it is easy for God to change people radically; we’re the ones who are doubting or preventing it from happening. If it wasn’t for hope in that power to save and change me, I do not know who or where I would be today.

I truly believe that there is not only hope to be changed but also to be made new. Being born AGAIN is the only way to be saved from the way we WERE first born into this world.  It’s the beginning of the process, and, just like babies, we also have to grow into maturity in Christ.

Therefore, as we encourage others to seek the TRUE love of God, He will help us find our true identity in Him as the Sons of God –not as gay or straight – not as married or single – not as white or black – not as rich or poor – not as beautiful or ugly – etc. OUR IDENTITY is in Christ.  When we find Him, we find the true lover of our souls who will change us, day by day, into His glorious image.

May you find who you are in Christ.

Dear Sheep

Dear sheep

Dear Sheep

I grew up in a society where it was normal to believe that the best way to hear from God was to go to church on Sundays and listen to the Pastor.

I am confident that God speaks to us through others.  However, His voice is not limited to one person for one hour on Sunday mornings. I am also grateful that God can speak to us through other means:  the remaining 167 hours of the week He speaks through music, nature, dreams, visions, etc.  His Word is being spoken without ceasing; if we could only learn to tune in and listen, we would hear Him speak all day long, even without sound, as He speaks through His creation all around us.

Sometimes, we try too hard to find “the right church”, “the right pastor”, or “the right fellowship of believers”.  The most important thing is to know the Voice of the One True Shepherd.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” – John 10:27

Hearing God’s voice and being in His presence are not for a few select Christians.  God is revealing Himself to each of us daily so that we might come to know His love and forgiveness.  When we finally find Him, we need to stay close to the Shepherd under His protection and guidance.  We are all “sent out as lambs among wolves”, so our only defence in life is to stay near Him.  Drawing near to God is the best thing we can do for the ones we love as well, especially for the little lambs following close behind.

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” – Isaiah 40:11

Sometimes, I think we are confused about the idea of sheep and shepherds in the church.  That is, we often shift the responsibility of knowing God onto the shoulders of those who are our pastors, elders, and leaders in the church and sit back and fool ourselves that we can know God “by association” with others who know Him.  In fact, we need direct communication with God to really know Him.

I’m sure all “shepherds” would agree that the only way to be a good “shepherd’ is to lead other sheep to the One Good Shepherd. To disciple someone is to teach him how to listen to God’s voice even when you are not there. God has only One Voice and we’re always walking away or towards it.  Those who follow us will be guided in the same direction we’re moving.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…”  – Matthew 7:15

If you feel like a lost sheep, stop trying so hard to find all the other sheep and start seeking the Shepherd who can lead you home safely to your heavenly Father.  Remember that the Good Shepherd will leave the 99 other sheep to come looking for you. If you cry out to Him, He will come to find you, and when He does, He will rejoice over you and take you back to his flock.  To be found by Him is to become part of the church.   

Or perhaps you feel like one of the other 99 sheep. Jesus shared a parable about an older brother who became jealous at the feast celebrating the return of his prodigal brother.  Although he remained faithful to His Father, he never realized that everything was already his. Perhaps you “feel left behind” during the search for the one little sheep who wandered off or got lost. Remember that His passion for the lost is always the reason why you have been found. Hold on to your hope and keep walking in obedience because the world needs light for others to find their way home, to the flock.

Also remember that one day even the sheep and the goats will be divided. You might be a far cry from being a wolf but you do not want to live your entire live thinking you are a sheep only to find out you were a goat in the end, do you?  Simply going to church doesn’t make you a sheep any more than living in a hole will make you a rabbit.  In fact, “going to church” does not distinguish a sheep from a goat according to Matthew 25. (I suggest you read the entire chapter.)

I pray that the Lord will be your shepherd, that you shall not want, that He will make you lie down in green pastures, that He will lead you beside still waters, that He will lead you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, and that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil because He will be with you. May His rod and staff comfort you. May He prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies; and anoint your head with oil.  May your cup run over. May His goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life; And may you dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”