Thursday, December 23, 2010

Psalm 92:12-15

Dec. 23rd (Thursday) 2010
8:03 a.m.
My best friend called me last Saturday--which is not unusual at all--to verbally process/rant some newly formed spiritual questions--which is especially not unusual for us. You know in Mark (or is it Luke?), in the garden, when Jesus specifically prays for himself, his disciples, and his the believers? She told me how it made her think, "Why were the disciples and believers separated? Is there a difference between simply believing and following? Does it only take believing to get you to heaven and to have a relationship with Christ, or do you have to follow, too?"
I agreed with her absolutely in her questioningly, but I couldn't really answer her. (She actually thought I might be able to, hah!) Ever since I could comprehend salvation, I've thought that all it required was one prayer proclaiming a belief in God and His ability to forgive and--basically--erase sins. Who cares if it never goes farther than a prayer induced by guilt on the foot of an altar? The Lord is gracious and loving, after all, He would surely accept it and not reject the poor idiot, condemning him to burn eternally in hell. But, but, but then I read in the gospels how if you didn't change the way you thought and lived and EVERYTHING after "becoming a Christian"--for a lack of better words--it didn't count? So like, do some people have to give up everything to follow Jesus and have a personal relationship with him; but then others can just believe, their life not be impacted by their belief at all, and they still get to heaven, too?! I know that's merciless of me, but... That's...not...fair...

5:37 p.m.
But do I REALLY just want to believe? I know that there's so much more out there than ere acknowledgment; don't I want to live it? Do I want to spend my entire life rereading the adventures that are possible once you leave everything to follow Jesus, as accounted by his TRUE disciples? I can pour over them from the safety of a life I'm in control of, but eventually they would grow stale instead of delicious and I would grow to resent these passionate brothers and sisters in Christ.
Don't I, Betsie, want to be passionate instead of just BELIEVE in passion? Don't I want to go, instead of sitting back and observing others with secret jealousy as they go? Do I want to clutch the steering wheel of my life, knuckles white from gripping too hard, TRYING--and fighting--to keep things as normal and road-most-traveled-on without actually swerving into it? Or would it be worth it to let go, allow someone who knows better than I to take control of EVERYTHING and radical up my life?
I'm already losing in the world's eyes because of Him. Maybe it's finally time I accept it, embrace it, and begin winning victories because of Him...

"Righteous people flourish like palm trees
and grow tall like the cedars in Lebanon.
They are planted in the Lord's house.
They blossom in our God's courtyards.
Even when they are old, they still bear fruit.
They are always healthy and fresh.
They make it known that the Lord is decent.
He is my rock.
He is never unfair.
-Psalm 92:12-15

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Were Never Promised Popularity.

Maybe I'm the only one, after all, I can only speak for myself. But was it ridiculously arrogant of me to think that when I truly began to seek God's will for my life, things would get easier? And that I would be happier? And that, oh, I don't know, I would lead like, a million and one people to Christ and have a million and one new bffs? I should have known this was a wrong assumption after reading books like Isaiah and Jeremiah, who were abandoned and rejected because of their passion for the Lord and longing to obey Him. Or even Jesus, the Savior of the world, the only person on earth to live a life of true love and purity, was abandoned...and rejected...and killed. Even Jesus. But I'm not Jesus, and he loves me, so he would never ask me to be alone, right?
Not right, but not exactly right, either.
I will never be alone, because he will always be in my heart. I will never be alone because he is withing everything around me, all around me. I will never be alone because he promised to never forsake or leave me. But he didn't promise me popularity, either, and he only spoke for himself when he said he would never leave me. But he didn't promise me I would be mobbed with friends, either. He promised me unlike many of my peers, filled with more than just beer keg parties and late-night clubbing, but he didn't promise that I would never spend a Friday night at home (or two, or three). Maybe he never promised me these things because he wants me to spend my Friday nights with him, I don't know.
I do know, though, that he never promised me popularity. Just himself.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Do it Anyway."

One of my team leaders on my Romania mission trip was this dude (the only other male on our team of eight), Bryan, who looked like Jesus...with an afro...and who shared facial similarities with Alex the lion off of Madagascar. Not even kidding. Bryan's a pretty cool guy.
So my team did this thing where we all wrote each other encouragement letters. (Which were really just letters filled to the brim with ego-boosting compliments, scripture verses, and sometimes taped on pebbles or drawings of...poop--I'm not going into that one. We weren't allowed to read our encouragement letters until the trip was over. Needless to say, someone was appointed to take care of my encouragement letters for me because the temptation was too much. (I spent my time concocting plans like how I would say I needed to get something out of the person's backpack who was "taking care of my letters", snatch the letters, hide them somewhere on my person, and then read them secretly in the airplane bathroom on the flight home. Don't judge, OK!)
When the trip was over and the letters were finally in my rightful possession, I rushed through each of them, simultaneously "awh"ing, laughing, and crying. (It was like The Hills on steroids.) Even though each individual letter was a treasure, Bryan's was one of the most impacting. Even though it's been nearly five months, every time I read it, I'm convicted more and more. He took Mother Teresa's famous "Do it Anyway" prayer and Bryan-fied it. It now happily lives on my mirror and I take it down constantly take it down, lay out my life for examination before me, and then mentally place the letter's message over it and see if things line up. They never do, but the words are wise instructions that help motivate me to strive for a better life and way of living.

The "Do it Anyway" prayer--Bryan-fied:

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If your are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be show down by the smallest people with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for the underdog anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help, but may attack you if you help them.
Help anyway.
Give the world the best you've got and you'll get kicked in the teeth. [Oh Bryan.]
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's a Love Story -- Just Say Yes

On September 26th, at like, 1 a.m., my view of how my relationship with Christ was supposed to be was radically altered. And I wrote a post about it later on that day--in the reasonable hours. The title of that post was "So I'm in Love", and it was a heart confession of my realization that I needed to be in love with Jesus (like He is with me), and that I actually was in the form of four paragraphs.
September 26th, seventy-nine days ago, that was the beginning. The beginning of a more intimate relationship with my Savior, the beginning of learning to trust Him, the beginning of learning how to have faith--I've never really had any before, and the beginning of falling in love...again. Last night I lay in my bed awake way into the night, conducting an interrogation with my heart. (I don't know about anyone else, but I for one never actually know what I really feel or why I feel that way until I sit down with my heart and ask all these very tough questions until I've scrounged the answer out of myself. And that's what I was doing last night.) I was laying there, earbuds in--of course--listening to an instrumental version of Love Story by some Jon Schmidt dude. I wasn't really paying attention, it was just nice background music while I sorted through my thoughts and stared out the window at the bending pine trees in the night wind. I had a lot on my mind.
God, I know you love me. I know you love me in a way that no one else can because you are love and everyone else is just...human. But come on, where's the catch? I don't understand. There must be some days when you don't love me, or some ulterior motive for you loving me. So what is it?
Does this conversation sound sacrilegious to you? Because it does to me! Really, my impertinence towards the frickin' creator of every molecule of my body, of every thousands of leaves, of every mountain range, human organ, and entire universe is appalling! But...I can justify myself--sorta. I'm distrustful, I've been disappointed, I've learned to be wary of people because they usually end up using you. I didn't use to be so jaded, I used to absolutely love and blindly trust everyone, but a few really bad relationships will change that. And it did.
God was asking me to fall in love for the second time this year, and after the first time went so awfully wrong, I was hesitant and reluctant at the least. So now my distrustful, bitter, and questioning view of life and any form of relationships with people has influenced my relationship with my Maker, and I'm beginning to ask Him, "Are you really for real?"
I lay there, thinking over these things that have been on my mind for about a month now? two? And I felt like there was an answer, or something I was missing.
Come on, God, say something.
I thought in the silence.
Except it wasn't silent. Like I said, I was listening to this instrumental version of Love Story by that Jon Schmidt dude, and I began to focus on it. I remember how this used to be my favorite song, especially the line, "It's a love story/baby just say 'yes'" That was my favorite part because it's like, the peak of the song. There's a decision to make, is the guy going to say yes? He better say yes, he'd be an idiot if he didn't! Hello! Why wouldn't he say yes? Taylor frickin' Swift is telling him she's in love with him, he better not pass up this love story. (Yes, I get very passionate about this kinda thing.) And then, it was as if, I guess you could say the Holy Spirit, but it was as if something inside of me asked--
Why don't you say 'yes'?
Say 'yes'? To what?
There was that voice, that voice of perfect calm and reasoning--so obviously it was God and not me. Say yes because I love you. I love you, but you're afraid. Why don't you love me, and trust me? Say yes because I'm extending my hand to you, I died so that you would take it. If you take it, you will walk hand in hand with me throughout the rest of your life, through everything. Say yes because even though it's frightening and out of your understanding and control, it's worth it. Say yes to believing that I love you and never leave you or hurt you. Because I never, never will. Say yes to giving up your life and your self every single day so that you will love me. Say yes because I have SO much more for you than this. Just say yes.
Of course, when you put it like that God, there's not much else I can say, is there? On September 26th something huge happened, and it forever changed the way I felt about God and how our relationship should be. I realized that He didn't want a partnership with me, He really didn't even need me to begin with. But he wants me. He doesn't need me and I really can't do anything for Him, and yet He still wants me? Even though He had to lose a lot so that I could be with Him? This is crazy love! It is love, but you can't "fall in love" in just one day, reasonably speaking. You can be in love with the way someone looks in one day, but you can't even physically see God without dying because He's SO beautiful, so you can't exactly be in love with God's great looks. (Plus, that's just weird.) He wants something different, deeper. He wants us to genuinely love Him. That love began in me a long time ago, in a very premature way. I knew God loved me, and I liked that He loved me. So I kinda liked Him back and would come to Him whenever I had a problem, and I would tell Him the latest gossip among my circle of friends, but the way I felt about God never changed me. When I fell in love for the first time with an actual boy, I completely changed. I thought about him 24/7, I talked about him 24/7 (that is, whenever I actually talked because usually I was thinking about him too much to even do so), and I smiled whenever I did either. So that was 24/7. People could look at me, and say, "Oh my, you're in love with him."
No one has ever walked up to me, and by just the ridiculous, hopeless expression on my face said, "Oh my, you're in love with Him." No one. But they should have, because I was " in love" with God, right? Right, that's why I totally dumped Him when I was "in love." That's why my dashing Romeo became my god. That's why I convinced myself that it was fine that I never spent time with the Lord--unless it was to talk about Romeo--anymore. I AM SUCH AN IDIOT. THE END.
I don't love God like that yet. But I want to. More than anything now. I want people to look at my face and know, I'm ready to be in love again, but with God only, please. This is a new chapter, this is the point A of this journey. But it's not so much a journey to a place, but rather a journey through a complete life transformation of redemption.
Last night I lay there still awake even after the song had ended (after I had listened to it, like, a bajillion times). I hadn't said anything yet. I wanted to, but what I wanted to say would be a promise that I would need to be willing to follow through with. Not just last night, but tomorrow (now today), and the next day, and the day after that, and so on until my life had no more days. And I don't like commitment, I never have. But if I can't commit to God and this relationship, what will or can I commit to? I know God's love for me will never end (1 Corinthians 13:7-8, anyone?). I know it won't.
So I said yes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

God of Even THIS City?

While I was at the Lancaster's yesterday afternoon with my family (a homeless outreach--or really, just church how it SHOULD be--in downtown Jackson), Mrs. Amy shared the story behind the well known song "God of This City".

A band and a few other members of their church went on a mission trip to Pattaya, Thailand recently. In Pattaya, there are over 30,000 female prostitutes over the age of 18. (That is not counting the ones under 18, or even the male prostitutes there) While they were walking around the town, they walked into a local bar there called...."The Climax Club", which was looking for bands to play. They agreed to give it a try and asked how long the owner wanted them to play. The owner said, "As long as your friends continues to buy cokes." So they ended up buying cokes for 2-3 hours.

So for over 2 hours this band sang Jesus over these prostitutes who had no idea what they were singing! All of the sudden this song "came down from heaven," as one of the band members recalls. Then spontaneously they started singing:

You're the God of this city

You're the King of these people

You're the Lord of this nation

You are

You're the light in this darkness

You're the hope to the hopeless

You're the peace to the restless

You are

For there is no one like our God

There is no one like our God

Greater things have yet to come

Greater things are still to be done in this city

Greater things have yet to come

Greater things are still to be done here

I had heard this story before, but I somehow forgot that it took place in Thailand. Thailand, y'know Betsie, that country you're going to next summer. The words and the meaning behind them hit me so hard. These words were sung over Thailand, in a place so dark and hopeless it was a tangible substance. As I've been researching Thailand and asking missionaries I know who have gone there on mission trips over the past few years, I learn that Thailand is more dark, more hurt, and more hopeless than I could have ever imagined. What am I getting myself into?! When I read the stories and heartbreaking statistics of its poverty, I am filled with this sense of fear and overwhelming helplessness. How can this ever possibly change? It will never change! I asked God to let me see the hurt around me like He does, and He has been opening my eyes, believe me! But I have forgotten to ask God to let me see the hope, beauty, and possible redemption around me, too.

Greater things can come to Thailand. There is nothing, and no one--not one prostitute, pimp, brothel mother, abusive crack addict father--that the Lord can not redeem and transform. If we allow it, greater things can come to all of us. Even Thailand.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Now I Understand.

In the very last scene of Voyage of The Dawn Treader, Aslan tells the children that they are now too old to come back to Narnia. Lucy, through her tears says, "It isn’t Narnia, you know. It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?" To this Aslan replies that they will meet him there. And when Edmund asks whether he is there, too, Aslan answers, "I am. But there, I have another name. You must learn to know Me by that name. This was the very reason WHY you were brought to Narnia. That by knowing me here for a little while, you will know me better there."

I have a huge soft spot in my heart reserved specifically for the Chronicles of Narnia. Cheesy? I know. But you have to understand, I grew up listening to my father reading all the books aloud. My siblings and I would spend hours running around outside like ragamuffins, each playing a role of one of the Pevensies--or a wolf. I spent my days daydreaming about stumbling across a magical door that would hurl me into another world, one filled with wonder and beauty. In that world I would be a queen. (I was only eight...ten...eleven, OK?) And then in--what was it?--2005, Andrew Adamson's "The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe" was released. My Narnia obsession skyrocketed. (<--Understatement.) I mean, how could it not? Aslan's sacrifice made me cry, and Skandar Keynes made me swoon--yes, I am that shallow. It really couldn't get better. Fast forward five years and I'm not sitting in a cinema chair, anticipating an epic movie while my sister squealed next to me. Instead, I'm sitting on a bed, in a spare room, not in Mississippi, but rather thousands of miles away in Romania. And instead of the buzz that you here before a movie begins, Imogen Heap is singing in my ears while I savor an hour alone (which is priceless on a mission trip). I had just sat through an overwhelming worship session with my team, and I needed to process all the emotions my heart was being bombarded with. I knew Jesus was asking something of me, and I had an idea of what it was, but the raw realization scared me. In fact, ROMANIA was scaring me. Unlike back home, no one knew me here, it was like first impressions every single day. God had taken me away from everything and everyone I knew, and when you are called to walk away from your day-to-day life, you discover that you no longer are in control.
So there I am, criss-cross applesauce on a spare bed in a tiny spare room, my Bible opened before me, my journal beside it, and my palms face up on my knees, trying to think. Like I said, I was listening to Imogen Heap, it was a song that she wrote which is on the Narnia soundtrack.

Can't close my eyes
They're wide awake
Every hair on my body
has got a thing for this place
Oh empty my heart
I've got to make room for this feeling
so much bigger than me

As I listened to these words that I had heard over a million times and had become more than familiar, I was surprised by the depth of them. How was it that they perfectly expressed the way I was feeling about Romania and God? Yeah, obviously Imogen Heap has a time machine in her possession, checked out my journal in June 2010, and then went back to whenever she wrote that song. That sneaky girl! Just kidding...but kinda really. Romania terrified me, but I was also taken by it. It was beautiful...wondrous, even...and everyday exposed me to more and more incredible things. It was all so much! I couldn't hold on to the things that were going on as they were thousands of miles away, I needed to live in the moment, where I was. It was just for a month, right?
Except. I became lost in Romania. I became lost in God's magic and crazy love. And when I left, I felt as much sorrow as if I was leaving an awesome kingdom in which I was a princess. Maybe it's because Romania was awesome, and there I learned that I was God's princess. I didn't understand why my Father could be so cold, how could He allow me to go somewhere like Romania, allow me to feel the things I did and see the things I did, how could he allow me to meet the seven beautiful people I did...and then just drop me back in my life?! I used to think it was fine, I got by like everyone else, whatever. But after I encountered my True Lover and all that He had to offer--which was so much better!--I wasn't fine anymore.
WHY, WHY, WHY? What was the point? There was no way I could hear God in Mississippi like I did in Romania. Why? Why let me see what I did, become broken like I became, and then just be expected to come back here? Why? Three months after being home, just about half an hour ago, I read that above paragraph, of what Aslan said to Lucy and Edmund. And I know God is saying the same to me. I saw what I saw, met who I met, encountered God the way I did, I felt what I felt there; so that now I can see, meet, encounter God, and feel the way that my Father wants me to HERE.

Now I understand.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Learning to Obey...AND DANCE AND SING!

Through you my heart screams
I am free
Yes, I am free


While I was in Romania, my team leaders encouraged both I and my teammates destroy our comfort zone boundaries and obey when the Lord tugged on our hearts, whispering in our ear crazy, radical and possibly awkward things. This sometimes looked like speaking in churches with only a ten minute notice, preaching the gospel, striking up conversations with people that could hardly understand me, etc. etc. It was intimidating, but not impossible, and I have many incredible memories because I listened (and then some that aren't so incredible). But then one of my leaders in particular, Jessie, began encouraging me in one specific way: To find freedom in worshiping my Maker.
Oh God! I literally cringe as I type that. When I think "freedom in worship" I picture crazed people--so crazed, they're practically foaming at the mouths!--dancing around and shouting praise lyrics. Is this wrong and judgmental? Yes. Do I still think it? Absolutely. And what was my reaction when Jessie told me that I should express my worship "Um, ha! You're funny! Like that's going to happen. No thank you." And that was the end of it, done deal, I wasn't comfortable with it and I justified myself by claiming that it would be "distracting" for anyone around me. (Cop ouuuuuuut!) But I was determined and like I said, that was the last of it.

Or so I greatly wished.
And so--of course--it wasn't.
I found verses like Psalm 149:3-4 legitimately haunting me whenever I was in a worshipful atmosphere.

"Let them praise his name with dancing.
Let them make music to him with tambourines and lyres,
because the Lord takes pleasure in his people.
He crowns those who are oppressed with victory."

I tried to stifle the pressure I felt that if I wasn't out of my comfort zone and willing to worship my Savior in the way He led me, then I wasn't really worshiping at all. Unfortunately, I couldn't stifle it, but I sure as heck didn't act upon it.
Fast forward to October 24th (last night) and I'm at Coffee House. See, Coffee House is something that my friend's church does. It's just a night in which a bunch of people come, they put on a worship service of some form, and whoever wants to get up and perform a skit or Christian song (usually, it's original Christian rap), then they can. The whole focus is to provide a worshipful atmosphere in which there is complete freedom--and coffee, duh. You will always find me not on the stage, but in the mosh pit, front row, center, enjoying all the excitement from where I am. Now, during the night there's a time called Free-Style, and this is a time specifically set aside for by-the-fly performances; the band--if there's one there that night--gets up and messes around while brave, confident people with talent take turns jumping up and sharing what God is speaking to them, either by saying it, rapping it, dancing it, or singing it
Needless to say, I have never been one of those people.
And then last night happened, and it was free-style, and everyone that got up seemed to have the same theme of their message: The freedom that you can find in Christ. And it was as if, as I stood there, looking on, comfortably clapping my hands and dancing around, someone placed a song in my head that wouldn't stop playing, and it was that song by The Newsboys "I am Free" that talks about being free enough to run and dance and live, and live in God. It was definitely one of those, "Really God, really?" moments, and my comfort zone was getting a little shaken.
And then this questions, "Why don't you get up there and sing it?"
Why don't You shut up?! ME, get up there and SING, in front of about sixty people? That sentence seriously shouldn't exist. Me sing a song I don't even know the words to, only the chorus? Me sing on a stage? Me sing period? My comfort zone was screaming. I can't sing, I don't sing, especially not with a legit band playing behind me and people staring at me from the front. I found myself beginning to hope that someone else--someone with talent--would get the same idea and get up there for me. Someone got up...and rapped about being as free as a bird in Jesus. Someone else got up...and sang about letting go. REALLY? Come on!

"Why don't YOU get up there and sing it?"
But...but...but what if my voice messes up? Or I look like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming eighteen-wheeler instant death? (I have the tendency to look like this when I'm in a state of terrorizedness.) Or I might stumble over the words? Or forget the words completely! Or what if everyone just stands there awkwardly and stops dancing and clapping and it's a fail? Or...or...why am I running out of excuses?!
"Just do it."
I acknowledged and saw the mass of impenetrable fear that was before me, took one step to the side, and walked right past it and onto the stage before I could think and puke. I was handed the mic. Everyone was gaping at me. ("Why are they all staring at me like owl-y things?") So I opened my mouth. First I was speaking, or yelling, either one. "Can anyone say, 'I am free to run!'"
Everyone said it, no, shouted it back.
"And I am free to DANCE!"
They echoed me.
"And I am free to live for you!"
"I am free to live for you!"
"I am free!"

I was singing! And I wasn't dead! If anything, I was more alive than I had been in months. The band was playing along with such energy, and the crowd just took over and all in all it was nearly deafening. I was so liberated, and I really, really liked it. What Jessie had planted in me over three months ago grew and grew until I was so uncomfortable with it that I had to overcome it. And because of it, I got to taste the ultimate freedom that we can only experience when we shake loose the chains of comfortable and fear from off around our hearts and throw our unwilling hands in the air or even whoop with shouts.
So I am learning to obey my Father and....DANCE AND TWIRL AND SING AND SCREAM!
And I really, really like it.

Through you the kingdom comes
Through you the battle's won
Through you I'm not afraid
Through you the price is paid
Through you there's victory
Because of you my heart sings
I am free
Yes, I am free


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I am Going to Thailand.

October 6th (Wednesday) 2010
7:54 a.m.
I'm going to Thailand.
I'm going to Thailand.
I'm going to Thailand.
I'm going to Thailand.
I'm going to Thailand.
I'm going to Thailand.
I'm going to Thailand.
I prayed that God would send me somewhere hard, to minister to orphans beaten and starving. I prayed that He would send me somewhere outside of the USA and for longer than a month. I prayed that wherever He called me, I would go;and I asked that He would just absolutely break my heart for the people He would be putting me among. I never guessed that my many, selfish prayers would take the form of Thailand.
I picture skinny Asian people with bowls filled with ramen noodles.
Thailand. I think of how Mrs. Chrissy told me that less than one percent of the ENTIRE country is Christian, so the few that ARE are ON FIRE. I imagine us dancing in through the streets, rejoicing in the freedom that Christ gives.
Thailand. I picture little girls dressed in red with numbers pinned to their dresses being sold for sex five to seven times a night--if not more. Some as young as three. Three. They've been brutally stripped of not only their childhood and freedom, but of their VERY NAME. There only a number among many in a dark brothel. Unspeakable horror stories smother their young hearts.
I'm going there? If I had known, would I have prayed so ardently for all those things? My courage--or lack of--doubts it. And now it quavers.
Because I am going to Thailand.

I am still so stunned that basically almost all my prayers on what I would like concerning where God sent me were answered. But really, my idiocy stuns me even more! I prayed that my Father would send me somewhere hard, where I could love on orphans beaten and deeply hurt? What...what is that?! I'm only fifteen, and in my arrogance I thought that God could drop me in some messy, uncomfortable situation that would completely wreck and break me, and I could handle that? Geez, I even asked for it.
I think I have a habit of believing more in my--suppose--abilities than is wise. But still. I asked for this, and the Lord has called me, what else can I do but answer and go? I want to go, I do. More than anything. Even though the thoughts of how unprepared I am and what I will see while I'm there scare me more than Criminal Minds--which is a lot. But the Lord is kind, and oh so gracious, and He is igniting within me a passion and longing to embrace and love the Thai people that was never there before. I've been doing a lot of research on the stats and needs of the country. Like I said earlier, less than ONE PERCENT is Christian, there are approximately 75,000 prostitutes at the moment there and everyday at least 45o,000 Thai men visits those beautiful, hurting prostitutes. I don't know about you, but I can't even process these numbers.
A little information: I will be staying with good friends of my family, the Espys, who are moving there in just a few weeks. I will be leaving near the end of May and returning home sometime in August. While I am there I will basically be the Espys slave (which, I'm cool with because they are A-W-E-S-O-M-E), and possibly helping with English classes and at an orphanage that has rescued human trafficking victims. The more I learn about Thailand, the more my Lord breaks my heart apart for these people and the more it becomes apparent that they as a whole just need to run into the Father's arms and except His redemption that redeems ourselves and our lives.
I'm excited, because I'm going to Thailand.

In case you're interested--which I hope you are--I strongly recommend these videos which will open your eyes to Thailand's needs even more:


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Candace Jeffcoat on Injustice.

Candace Jeffcoat ( is by far my oldest friend and an incredible person. God has been doing some pretty radical things in her life lately, and the passionate revolution that has begun in her has quickly influenced me. She's done a lot of research on fair trade and the injustice of sweatshops and this is what she's found:

In the last few weeks I have become very aware of where my clothes/food come from, and the more I have looked into it the more I want to change it. Most of the stuff we buy is made in sweatshops. The truth is sweatshop workers are incredibly exploited; they don’t earn a living wage, or receive any benefits. They have very poor, unhealthy working conditions often working 60-80 hours per week (with no overtime) and receiving verbal and physical abuse. Most sweatshops employ children. I know most of the people reading this are probably appalled to hear this, and most people have no clue what is going on, but 85 percent of the following stores’ items are made overseas, often in Third World sweatshops:

The Gap
Old Navy
And Kohl’s

These are just a few stores/companies that mainly use sweatshops. After finding all this out I was on a mission to find stores that do not use sweatshops; it is A LOT harder than you would think. After hours of googling I have only found a few online stores, and

are pretty much the only sites I’ve found so far. Pretty sad? I know! And a few days ago I found out the Chaco shoes were made in the USA but have now been moved to a sweatshop in China because it is cheaper for the company. This problem is getting bigger, and bigger. Sweatshops are everywhere China, Nicaragua, Mexico, Asia and many more places.
I know I’m just beginning to understand the injustices involved in the creation of many of the things I use and buy. It makes want to do something about it.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” – Edward Everett Hale"

"Let it be Said of Us..."

"...That we gave to reach the dying

let it be said of us

by the fruit we leave behind

let it be said of us

that our legacy is blessing for life."

The month I spent living with a Romanian family and playing with beautiful, lice covered gypsy children taught me more than just how to live on two showers a week and make Earl of Grey tea. It taught me a different way to minister. How so? Well, when I let the five day AIM training camp in Gainesville, Georgia I was PUMPED UP. As my team and I got our last bit of Starbucks in the Atlanta airport before leaving the country I was literally SHAKING from excitement--and the caffeine. I had just spent the past five days getting to know my awesome team better, sitting in during multiple sermons and ministry workshops a day, praying in a completely new way, and worshiping God in on the freedom you can have when you're surrounded by your brothers and sisters in Christ. I was ready to take on Romania!


My look on ministry has always been that you go somewhere like Jesus calls us to do, and then verbally share His story. With absolutely EVERYONE. Everyone. And if I didn't, I had failed in someway. But then you get to Romania, and hardly anyone speaks any of my language and besides my limited Romanian vocabulary (which consisted of the valuable words "bashina" which means "to pass gas" and "forte buen" which means "very good"), I had ultimately no way to communicate to these people. Problem. How was I going to shove the gospel on these people when I had basically no way to hold a conversation with them?! That realization created frustration and the feeling of uselessness in my heart. What was the point of me being here? What could I possibly do?

Plus, all the things we PLANNED to do in the country while we were at training camp (create a VBS program) didn't happen. At all. A lot of my days in Romania were spent helping our host family out around their house, cooking, cleaning, exploring the village, and watching lots and lots and LOTS of Romanian soaps while playing lots and lots and LOTS of card games.

This was not what I was expecting. What of the gypsy families and their caravans and campfires? What of meeting new, different people and sharing the gospel with EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM? But then, I saw...I was expecting something completely opposite of the situation I was in and I was only expecting God to work in the way I had planned. That wasn't what the Lord had in mind, in the least. My amazing leaders began to tell me and my teammates about just loving and serving people, not holding an emotional revival. All that is good at the right time and place, but Romania wasn't the time OR place. My team and I were called by our Father to just simply love and serve our contact family and the people in the village around us, to die to ourselves every single day and SWEEP that room for the third time that day or PLAY that same game of cards with the same two boys who always cheated. It sounds so easy in retrospect, but it really, really wasn't.

And I failed and failed over and over again. My laziness and flesh battled with me nearly every single minute. I was tired, I just wanted to journal and process...but if I had just journaled and processed the entire month because I was exhausted, I wouldn't have the good memories I do of me cleaning the kitchen with Sanda and Rita and Laura, or playing games with Lisi and Beni.

And I finally saw that I wouldn't be remembered by the Romanian and gypsy people by the way I shoved Jesus' story with them every opportunity that arose, but I would be remembered by the way I tried to shove Jesus' LOVE through my ACTIONS every opportunity that arose.

"And they'll know

we are Christians

by our love, our love

yes they'll know

we are Christians

by our love"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So I'm in Love.

So I'm in love, just in case you didn't read the title. I truly am, it's weird.
Let me explain.
Last night I flirted with sin; and some things that while I was in Romania, the Lord showed me I was making my idols and then convicted me to give them up and devote myself to Him. But it's hard to drop things cold, and it's likely that you'll mess around with them even after you're determined not to. Thankfully, even though I was looking back, God didn't strike me and turn me into a frickin' salt pillar or something like that like He did to the wife in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah who looked back while they were running away. And thankfully, no damage was done. I should have been in a mess; but I couldn't freak out. I felt...I felt very calm. Strange. Why did I feel calm after what I had just done?
And then I realized. I was calm because I had no interest in doing what I had just done ever again. Ever. Period. Why? Because I have had a chance to experience the perfect love of Christ, and everything else compared to it is such a let down. Nothing else is sweet, or like it. Nothing else will do for me, now. And with this realization came the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach, and the knots in my insides; I wanted to yell and dance and tell somebody (my best friend was asleep and her phone turned off, though, so that was a fail). It was all familiar, I've experienced the butterflies and screaming insides and craziness of being in love before, but never like this. This was like nothing else. Because this was finally something perfect. And my heart wouldn't stop beating at nearly an alarming rate.
I'm totally in love with Jesus. And I really, really like it.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Because of Him, I Can be a Small Boy With Fish.

I recently read the book Radical by David Platt (I recommend it, it will shake you). The book was beyond incredible--I could kinda go into a monologue--and it really opened my eyes up to new views and the extremity of what it means to live like Christ demands us to. In the back of the book, David Platt has a thing called "The Experiment." It's where you promise to try something for a whole year, like praying for the entire world. Or reading through the whole bible. set a budget for each month and give all your money that doesn't fit into that budget to ministries, or wherever the Lord leads. That means no unnecessary purchases. *Sharp intake of breath* I don't like that one. So, of course, that was the one I promised to do for an entire year.
I sometimes do things that I regret later.
Little fact about myself: I'm a shopaholic. Really. Don't laugh. Shopaholicness is just as extreme as alcoholicness. I love to buy things, very expensive things that I don't have enough money to pay for and end up in debt over. It's fun. But after I saw the scars and hopelessness of poverty firsthand in Romania, I couldn't sit around and do nothing to prevent it anymore. I couldn't buy that cute white, t-shirt to go along with my five other cute, white t-shirts without thinking of the little, beautiful children I danced and played with who--some--wore the exact same thing the entire three weeks I was there.
So I made a budget and promised God that I would stick with it.
Now, confession. I didn't honestly think that this "giving up unnecessary purchases" was going to be hard because I didn't think I was going to have any money. My dad cut me off from my monthly allowance this summer, and since I'm too young to have a real job, my only income comes from when I occasionally babysit. So I wasn't worried. Until I made that promise, and then I was worried because...ALL OF A SUDDEN I WAS VERY RICH! (For me.) I was getting babysitting jobs, we got some money from the insurance company for cleaning our house after the fire, I was noticing spare change lying around everywhere, etc. etc. Crazy things! It was obnoxious because it was like, "Oh, of course this is happening NOW. Thank you, God!" (Are you catching the sarcastic edge?)
So I hid all the money away in the back of a drawer and wouldn't even look at it, because I didn't want to be tempted. And it worked, I knew I would be led by the Lord to give my money to something eventually, and I could hold out until then. Except, nothing came along...really, nothing. I mean, sure, I could have just tithed it all the very first Sunday after earning it, but I was sure that my Father had a specific thing in store, if I would just be patient.
Another confession: I'm not patient. I hate waiting. I hate not knowing why I'm even waiting! This was a struggle.
And then, I found out that someone that knows a person I know--isn't that complicated--was leading in a week from then a ten-day mission trip to Villa Tecii, the same village I stayed in while I was in Romania. And they were going to be ministering a lot in the exact same gypsy village that I fell head over heels in love with this summer. And if I rushed, I could get my money to him before he left and then he and his team could use it it buy the children of the village clothes and food, or toys. AHHHHH! This was impossible; this was incredible; this was GOD. I couldn't stop smiling, I was beyond happy. Not buying those really cute scarves had been totally worth it. Totally.
That night that I found out that my money would be able to help the beautiful children I miss so much, I read verses like Matthew 6:20-21 "
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." And then also the story in Mark where the little boy gives Jesus' disciples his lunch, then Jesus blesses it, miraculously multiplies his tiny offering, and feeds millions. So I started praying, really hard, that God would do something ridiculously crazy, like tell a millionaire to walk up to my house and give me thousands of dollars within the next two days. Or that the money would double over night, or something weird like that.
But it didn't happen. And I couldn't help but be a little disappointed as I mailed it that week because I was sad that the Lord hadn't doubled my measly $80 so that it could help those kids. I mean, didn't He want to help them?
Fast forward nearly three weeks and the team returns home. It turns out that they used my money to buy the kiddos fruit--which is kinda a rare treat there, we didn't have it nearly at all the whole three weeks we were there--and secondhand clothes. But that's not all, there's more...I was told that me sending my pretty much pathetic $80 inspired the team to use their own money to help buy the Posmus gypsies $200 dollars worth of food! OH MY GOSH. Just as I desperately prayed that God would take my offering and multiply it, He did! And in a way I never expected, too--isn't that how it always is?
How great is our God? SO GREAT. That's how great. In His greatness, He uses me and my offering, a small child with a few loaves of bread and pieces of fish, basically, to feed the multitudes! Yeah, that's just how great He is.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I've got my memories
They're always inside of me
But I can't go back
Back to how it was
I believe it now
I've seen too much
But I can't go back
Back to how it was
Created for a place I've never known

This is Home
Now I'm finally where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it,
Yeah this is home
Yeah, this is home

Belief over misery
I've seen the enemy
And I won't go back
Back to how it was
And I've got my heart set on what happens next
I've got my eyes wide and it's not over yet
We are miracles
And we're not alone

This is Home
Now I'm finally where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it,
Yeah this is home
Yeah, this is home

And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
I've got a brand new mindset
I can finally see the sunset
I'm gonna call it home

This is Home
Now I'm finally where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it,
Yeah this is home
Yeah, this is home

Now I know, yeah this is home
I've come too far
No, I won't go back
This is home.

I miss Romania. That's all.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Somewhere in The Middle.

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle you'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who you're making me
Somewhere in the middle you'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender
'Cause I'm losing all control

Have you ever given great notice to the fact that Jesus Christ has always been a completely sell-out kind of dude? Because I never did before. But, you can't read the gospels and specifically the callings of each of the disciples without it finally clicking. "Oh! ...So when he said sell everything and leave everyone and follow me, he actually meant sell everything and leave everyone and follow me. I would've never guessed!"
Sometimes my selective comprehension or just pure stupidity amazes me.
Of course, it might not have ever hit me what the cost of being in a relationship with Jesus would be like, because until now, I've never been open to knowing. Now, I can't read my Bible for longer than ten minutes, or pray for longer than two, without getting very, very uncomfortable. It never used to be like this! Since when did He become so demanding? But then, something else hits me, an actual profound thought among all my stupidity and selective comprehension, "Yes, He is demanding a lot of me; He's demanding my life. That's His right, though, since I gave it to Him years ago..." When we accept the Lord into our hearts, we pray that He will forgive us our trespasses and that He would take our life--it's our sacrifice to Him.
But now I see, my sacrifice isn't on the altar before my God, it's in my open palms...which are not stretched out towards heaven, no, more like pulled close to my sides as I try to turn and put my body in between God and my life.
If it it not all His, is any of it at all?
Thanks to Romania, I learned that my relationship with Christ isn't supposed to be all comfortable and feel-goody. Oh no. Apparently it's supposed to be all consuming and very uncomfortable. And at first, that revelation blew my mind and excited me. Until the inspiration required some action. And cue the whining starts, "God, are you sure that you want to ask that of me? I mean, it's harmless! You don't need to overreact here."
If it distracts you and keeps you from Me, then it's not harmless.
"But, but...I want this!"
And I want it, too! Now, give it to Me.
I'm stubborn, though. And I can never just do the easy thing; no, I have to fight it. So I do, and soon enough I'm walking hand-in-hand with that "thing" I'm unwilling to give up, just pretending to be oblivious of my Father's obvious hurt and displeasure.
What is it in me that wants to be called, but doesn't want to answer? What is it in me, that can begin something with such zeal and passion, but then somewhere in the middle, burn out, become bored, and then discard the entire thing?
Will I always be caught in the middle?

Lord, I feel You in this place
And I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights
When I am caught in the the middle
Caught in the middle


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Am a Loved Prostitute. Really.

So have you ever asked yourself, "Why does God asks so much of us?" Because I do, and am. No, no, I'm not asking like this, "Gee God, why do you always want me to do so much stuff?" More like, "Um, why God do you demand that I give You all of me? Why do you want my heart? All of it, yes, I know. Why do you want me?"
I have many friends who are happily dating semi-wonderful guys, and their whole attitude on the relationship is very carefree. But I can't be carefree, because all those verses in Hosea about the prostitute leaving the prophet Hosea again and again to return to previous lovers and a life of slavery, practically are branded permanently into my mind. And when I think of those verses, it's not the prostitute who is leaving Hosea, no, it's me leaving God for empty things and people. But why? I whine in my selfishness. Why can't I overlook those verses like so many people I know and they not have the affect on me that they do?
I can't comprehend why Jesus wants all of my love when I am so reluctant to give it! It's ridiculous, doesn't make sense. So I'm just going to leave it alone and do my own thing and everything will be OK, because he loves me and is forgiving. And then he literally smacks me in the face with Matthew 8:19-22, in which Jesus tells two potential disciples that in order to follow him they have to drop everything, be willing to not live anywhere, and not even attend their own father's funeral. And then there's Matthew 16:24-26 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me. Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them. What good will it
do for people to win the whole world and lose their lives? Or what will a person give in exchange for me?"'
And I read that, and I get all excited and passionate about completely selling it out for Christ; until he points out something in my life and says, "Now, give that up. Just be consumed with me." And the whining and questioning begins all over again.
I just can't understand why he wants to much...of me. Until I remember, oh wait, he wants me because he loves me; and he knows that other people and objects will not satisfy me, or even make me happy. So that's why he wants all of me, because nothing else will do.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Something Different

July 8th (Thursday) 2010

9:59 p.m.

"My heart feels as if it has broken out of my ribcage and is spilled over the endless roads, fields, hills, and poverty stricken people of this country. Oh my gosh, the people! The gypsies! They are an incredible race. Yesterday, the Bible Study we attended fell through because nearly the entire village was so hungry that they had all went into the forest in search of mushrooms to eat. The mushrooms here are gas-y and gross; but that the only edible thing they can afford. (Mainly because it's free.)

In the past twenty-three days I have seen hungry children sing and dance. I have seen orphans with the ever present possibility of being turned out of their only place they can call home loom over them as they play and embrace one another. I have seen young sisters begging, shoeless and their holey garments hanging off their skinny frames. I have seen too much.

"The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." -Psalm 34:2

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." -Psalm 147:3

One morning, a week or so later, while I was praying and my heart was heavy, the Lord led me to Psalm 113:7-9. It was morning and I was sitting silently on a hill as the sun rose over the villages beneath me. The verse says, "He lifts the poor from the dust. He lifts the needy from the garbage heap. He seats them with influential leaders of his people. He makes a mother who is in a childless home a joyful mother." I was reminded that even when no one seemed to care or see, our Father saw and cared. Just because no one else seemed to noticed the broken old grandmother begging on the corner, she wasn't unnoticed. Even when no one was holding and playing with the Posmus children underneath the trees, they weren't unloved. Our Father in Heaven has watched over them since the day they were conceived and He will continue to until they breathe their last breath. My leaving Romania wouldn't change that.

And after that, I could bare leaving. For a time...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Applies to me?

Dear diary,

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
"Love never fails..."
1 Corinthians 13:1-8

I could probably recite this entire passage to you just because of the fact that I have heard it repeated and read aloud all my life (a lot of times, it was used to scold me), and because of it's familiarity, it eventually lost its power and impact on me. Sure, love is patient, love is kinda, etc. etc. Same old, same old. They became well known words to me, just words.
Until this summer. I spent a month in Romania with an incredible team of eight other people who took quickly took the role of my brothers and sisters and awesome role models. Each morning of the entire month our leaders had us do a quiet time for at least an hour. I have probably never read the Bible or prayed as much as I did in that one month. You can't truly read the Word without finding new meaning in the verses you've known all your life. As you dig deeper, it takes on a whole new form to you--or at least, it did to me. I realized that the lie I had believed that only some were called, was just that; a lie. All the words that Jesus spoke to his chosen disciples applied to me, too, for I am a disciple. And if those words, didn't all the others, too? Maybe?
As I reread passages that had grown stale to me, I was shaken. My favorite chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, was no longer a feel-good read about this awesome love. All of a sudden, it was a challenge, and command that I realized I didn't meet. I love people, really, I do. But I love people selfishly, I love them on my terms in my own way and when I want. My, my, my. But wait, aren't I supposed to no longer live, but Christ live in me? And I'm pretty sure that Christ lived patiently...and with kindness...and even unselfishly.
Whoa. Revelation.
So hold on, if Christ loved and loves like that, aren't I also supposed to? And then it hit me; I was called to love. Absolutely everyone. My family, my friends, Maurice the homeless man, my enemies, and even people who hurt me. And oh yeah, I had to pray for them, too. Uh-huh. ...No way. Because it feels like every time I pray for the people I despise the most, God shows me something within my own life that is wrong! And I struggle, and I fight because after all, aren't I the one who's being good, the better person, because, I mean really, I'm praying for those people and getting over myself. But it's not enough, because it's of me.
I never fathomed that I would be called, to hard things and awesome things. I never thought that I would be called in the first place.