Dinner with Prati

Prati walked up to the porch looking like a queen – her golden sari shining. I never imagined I would see her in the USA – let alone in my childhood home!

She hugged each one of us and remembered details about our lives. Oh, how could she? As the wife of the president of a large ministry in India, they have teams from the US over there all the time, but she remembered. 

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There are some people that you connect with, but then there are those that change your life. (I know, I can be pretty overdramatic, but this is true!*) She is one of them. Prati is married to Sam Stephens, president of a flourishing ministry in India that works in rural villages. They reach some people who have literally never heard about God before or never heard the name Jesus. And then they get to see God transform their lives, person by person, ignited with new life. And Prati is God’s vessel for ignition. She heads up “Women With a Mission,” a ministry that serves women in India by giving them the ability to spread the Gospel through training and discipleship. This is TOTALLY revolutionary – women in rural Indian villages most of the time have no purpose.

Prati’s mission is to preach the reality of the new life in Christ. Her ministry is with women who have been told they are nothing their whole lives. They are viewed as objects or inconveniences to those around them, they have no confidence. So, Prati LOVES telling them about their new life in Christ. When they ask God to come into their lives and take away their sin, everything changes. They can put off completely their old identity of nothing and take on this new identity of being everything. She says, “These women need to know that they mean everything to Jesus.” 

This is profound to me. In the USA, whether we try to or not, we’re all about works and success. Even those who have a relationship with God for years can get crushed when we look around and see we don’t have any ministry or that we aren’t highly esteemed by our peers. That’s what we want: recognition, pride, confidence – in what we’ve accomplished. 

So, I think what Prati says to those women in India is very humbling to a woman in the US to hear – instead of trying and striving and shame in failure, the only thing that should have that much impact on my life is Christ in me. The only thing that matters is how He views me. It doesn’t matter what I think of myself, or how I view my weaknesses, I should celebrate Christ in me. He’s the only thing about me that matters… He makes me EVERYTHING to God, and that changes EVERYTHING. 

This is what I want to preach to those around me, too. So many are broken, defeated and left with no hope. I’m seeing it younger & younger as I get to work with high schoolers – they feel they are nothing since they are treated as such and they look for significance from anything. It causes much more hurt when they do this. (When I do it, too!) I don’t think I do this enough: preach new identity in Christ. I want to! Just having this reminder has pushed me to pursue God on another level – it connects the gap between us because there is no gap! He is in me! I want to pursue who is my heavenly Father and what he wants to do through me! It’s Ephesians 1:1-14 – all of those blessings, all of those truths about Christ and what he’s given to us. It is a powerful fact that changes entire lives. 

—> The time with her was warm and honest. Were we back in India, again? We ate, laughed, caught up a little and then she told us about how the Lord is moving in India. She spoke of four new regions of India that God has allowed India Gospel League – and specifically her ministry, Women With A Mission – to enter to spread the Gospel of Jesus. She spoke of amazing things such as women never knowing that they could have a purposeful relationship with the Lord, never knowing of their significance to Him, and women’s prayers answered left and right. She spoke of God giving her the ability to preach in a language she only studied in school 40 years ago! 

Someone should write a book about this lady. This was the second time I have met her, but the more I learn about her walk with the Lord, the more profound my view of Him becomes. She is so faithful to God because she has a very deep, emotional, close relationship with Him. She is human – she has been through many struggles! She has encountered many sins! But she always seems to go to God first. She’s been through much hurt, too. The way she speaks to the heart of the insecure makes so much sense. She’s seen her lot of hardships. But she also knows how diligent the Lord is to come through on his promises. 

—> She shared with us what she has been learning about prayer. She is always learning something as she walks with God! She realized that every time she prayed, it’s as if she swiped her credit card – “God, I need this. Please & thank you.” But as she studied Luke 11:1 and Matthew 6, it became more apparent that what God wants from us in prayer is constant, honest, reliant communication spurred from a close, intimate relationship with him. Not only asking for our daily needs, which are SO hard to see past! But for the greater things! Because if we really knew him, we would be ABLE to SEE that HE is ABLE to accomplish MUCH more than just: “Please, help me pass this test, provide me a job, etc.” He is able to change eternities. 

And then, we got to pray with her. Her prayers are deep, emotional, hopeful, and encouraging. She knows God so deeply. She prayed for so many things I never thought to pray for. But she had such confidence God heard her and already had a solution because that is how much he cares for us. 

My goal is to be like Prati. I want to know God this closely – close enough to pray to Him like she does. Close enough to want his glory more than my own. Close enough to kneel before him in reliance. Close enough to have joy in EVERY circumstance. Close enough to praise him for every good thing…

Close enough to be able to look a woman in the eye, as she did to me, and tell her: “You are significant and important. You are right, not because of who you are, but because you have a Father that invested into you. You are here for a very great purpose – DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?” 

*Prati changed my life in a few ways, no lie. But the largest way is this: while we were in India, she had all the women at the conferences pray that I find a good husband and get married. At the time, Zak & I had been broken up and going through much breaking. She told me this later, but she knew Zak from his time in India and prayed we could be together, if in God’s will. So, I owe this lady a LOT! – Isn’t that cool?! 

Getting caught

Voices shoot past, incomprehensible.

Screams, laughs; flying by so fast.

Some faces you catch, others keep going

Always moving, never slowing.

 

Lives, just ending. Running into darkness.

No one can stop us, no one can save us.

Here we go, into the dark.

To death we race, our lives we pace.

 

But I got caught.

Before the pit, was a net

And it caught me in its soft threads

Before I hit that endless pit.

 

I landed and there were others

All around me! Looking around, free.

We laughed, we leaned, we breathed

It was so good, so good we could.

 

Suddenly, I remembered again:

The fast faces, missing the graces!

Others thought, too. They reached, grabbing

Hoping for some to just grab and come.

 

Few did, more didn’t.

It was hope making, and heartbreaking.

Some rejected, but some grabbed hold,

Happy to stop, happy not to drop.

 

And so we are, safe, but sad.

Reaching for those who reject,

Hoping they wake up,

And stop soaring to death.

January

“Positive Poison”

 

Stop poisoning ourselves!
Unfortunately, this may be seen as an anthem
for the poor & beaten down
to rise up for themselves
and own their thrown.

But it isn’t.

Who else is sick of ppl
Lying themselves into a “better” reality
Who should rather take a look
Into what their actual reality is —
Really closing down this fake reality —
And realizing — reality is needed.

The way it really is.

So, please stop.
Stop “changing today” and
“Choosing good vibes only” and
“Cutting out negative people” —
Aren’t we ALL negative ppl ?? —
That’s why we hit against each other oh so hard
(Didn’t we learn about this in high school?
Two negatives don’t attract –
I think. Never was good at science)

Negative can’t fix another negative
Without an extra-outside-positive source
(Sounds like I passed)

Why can’t we all stop PRETENDING
and admit, we need help.

We ARE NOT strong enough to face everything.
LIFE SUCKS – stop painting it prettier
DEAL with your problem.
SEEK help –
From someone
who can actually
help you,
Son.

I May Be Creating Fireworks on a Blank Page?

Recently, I’ve been looking forward to a trip I am taking to – drumroll – ISRAEL! I cannot believe we get to go there in less than a month – and by “we” I mean with around 40 of my friends! I have always wanted the opportunity to travel to another country with a group of my friends. Whenever I have gone somewhere, I think of how certain friends would react. So, going to Israel has me so excited for that reason… SO excited that I thought I’d write a pre-Israel blog, like the one I wrote before going to India last summer, but different.

When this trip was first proposed, the above excitement was all that I had: I was excited to go somewhere with all of my friends! But that’s it. I never felt the desire to go to Israel… I mean, in all of the children’s books and portrayals of Jerusalem I’ve seen, it seems like a dusty, plain place. (Although, that’s the reaction I had to India before going: it wasn’t anywhere I could imagine myself enjoying.) Since actually and financially committing to this trip, I’ve started to do some research into what this land is that we are travelling and spending much mula to go. Why, again? I know Jesus was there, or whatever, but why?

And so, this is what I’ve been asking God lately – what’s the point of going to Israel?

I’ve started reading this book (I am not nearly done, but will finish!) called “The Israelis”. It’s not about Israel’s past, rather, about its present. How do people live day to day in Israel – a country full of history, culture, and turmoil. What surprised me is the tremendous amount of differences you will find in the people of Israel… I forgot – they’ve come from all over the world! Literally! Even Lithuanian Jews moved to Israel when it was birthed. This is amazing!

As I thought about it, why I want to go to Israel now: to be where Jesus was.

Life’s been hard, lately. Not anything tramatic – just, hard. I’ve found myself looking to the past with longing – why can’t life be as exciting or fun as it was two years ago? Why can’t I go back to India and stay there? It’s been a suffering-ish long, low period with little to look forward to, except this trip. On my desk I have Psalm 9:1 posted so I must see it every day: “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds!” Sometimes I read it and laugh – HA! Nothing is wonderful right now! Everything is hard. Nothing is going the way it should. Life lacks excitement. It’s hard to keep hope without having much good news in ministry.

But, as my wise, younger sister reminded me: Paul didn’t have much good news, either. Neither did Abraham… Nothing they really wanted to happen actually happened. Paul was in jail for a few years at a time – that must have been bleak. But he kept hoping! Even Peter, messing up so drastically, (same, Peter, same) was able to rebound and continue in triumph.

What makes me different from them? I’m only looking at the surface results while they were able to experience the joy of being suspended in God’s plan of goodness. They were able to know God so closely, they celebrated everything because he was worth fighting for… And that’s what I’m looking forward to with Israel. I look forward to getting a deeper understanding of the life of Christ, which could not have been filled with many “good things” – I mean, we know this. Yet, in the midst of a world that hated him, he pressed on knowing how good his Father was. That brings me to tears. I see how hard it is to continue when it looks like everything’s falling apart. I see the doubt creeping into my day to day. I see how enslaving these thoughts and feeling are – how restricting they are in keeping us away from knowing the true goodness of our Father – I WILL give thanks to you! I WILL tell of all your wonderful deeds! I won’t let my faith in His goodness die just because it’s getting harder.

I wrote this a few weeks ago and since have started the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 4 I was reminded that entering God’s rest means having faith… Rest in the midst of hurt, pain, storms – all happens from faith in who God is, what he wants, and how he has created us to be. I want to get there. Every time I read it, I realize I’m so far away from resting in God, but it’s comforting knowing that’s an option.

Thank you, Lord, for dealing with me so gently and so patiently. Thank you for giving me a chance to learn what I need to learn – even if it takes awhile. Thank you for showing me who you are again & again & disproving my thoughts that affect my life that say: you are not good. Because you are so, SO good.

 

 

Well, that kills my one-blog-per-month goal… so here’s a pic of the cutest kitten you’ll ever see:

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Look at that fuzz….

A whole LOT of UNFINISHED thoughts

When I run, my feet don’t hit
When I prod, it stays put
When I throw, it doesn’t zoom
When I hit, no impact.

It’s like I’m S U S P E N D E D

Like my feet don’t touch the ground
Like the air won’t fill my lungs
Like my fingers won’t curl

But I can think & feel
& everything is so fast around me

But IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII am suspended!
EYE can’t reach!
AYE can’t hit
I CANNOT GO.

I’m looking around at E V E R Y T H I N G
On me, in me, that IIII do.
So concerned, so consumed.
“Why can’t I hit? Why can’t I go??”
Repetition on & again
Examining every piece of me to find freedom

I cannot stop!
I must NOT be suspended any longer
My feet can’t take it
I need the solution. I need to solve this.
I need to move.

I flail & jerk & bend & scream & kick,
but I’m still suspended.
Unrelenting my anguish, unforgiving of my captor
My flesh, it’s crawling & yelling & hating
& I burn because I…
I’m suspended…

fullsizerender

Come here, stupid sheep

Last night was one of those extremely wonderful nights that you don’t get all the time. I started the evening in a sour mood. I got home from work, ignored my husband, and just cleaned/cooked/folded to get my pent-up rage work usually brings out of me. I felt that way even when one of my sisters walked in, 15 minutes earlier than the rest. She was sweet and could tell I wasn’t in the mood. Then, the other girls showed up. This was my high school cell group meeting, so these days require a bit more energy and fun. I was NOT feeling it.

Brenda started sharing what she had studied out of the book we are going over prior to the school year: “Crossing the Line of Faith”. The content arrested me: people matter to God. 

Lately I’ve been hooked on how amazing it is that we get to know God and how life changing it is to get closer & closer to Him. This was definitely an addition to my findings: as you get to know God, you see how remarkably people matter to God. Yes, it seems so obvious: God loves people. I mean Jesus died on the cross for us, didn’t He? But the passage we went over just focused on the weight of God’s care for us so well. The passage was Luke 15 – finding of the lost. 

There are three examples of things that become lost in Luke 15 – a sheep, a coin, and a son. As we read through the process of each thing being lost it was SO relatable! A woman loses her coin and she begins to carefully search EVERYWHERE for it even sweeping! HA! How funny. When I lose something important to me, I lose my shit. It’s on my mind ALL day if I do not find it and if I want it right then & there. Such great efforts, emotion, and time is spent looking for things we care about when they are out of our reach. We think, we strategize, we PRAY for that we could just find what we are looking for – whatever it is! (I think I search for lost items of clothing weekly. Oh, the frustration and turmoil I go through over a pair of pants… How funny.) 

Luke 15 includes my favorite passage from when I was a child: the lost sheep. Oh, how unreasonable the shepherd is!! He has 99 fine, smart sheep, but he leaves them to look for the one lost sheep. How STUPID did that little sheepy have to be to leave the comfort of his flock and the safety of his shepherd and get himself lost? He must’ve been the idiot sheep. I think I’ve always related to this little dull sheepy… What does the shepherd do when he finds his lost sheep? “Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!’” I have found my stupid little sheep! YES! He cares so deeply for the little, stupid sheep that he gathers a party for its return. 

Lastly, there is the prodigal son. He has everything: wealth, comfort, love… But he was ungrateful, demanded money, then left. How heartbroken his father must have been. (I think of my parents watching me go through my various spurts of rebellion… How much more could I demand of them when they had given me everything?!) Then, the world drags him through shit, and he returns home. Upon his return, there his father sees him and throws a celebration! He did not care what he had done, only that he is home now. 

When we were done, one of the girls voiced a concern she has: that even though she has a relationship with God, she thinks that something will happen in her life to make God look at her after death and reject her from entering into heaven. At this point, I knew I could relate. How often do we think this way that my status with God is conditional?! That if I mess up, he must really be upset with me or annoyed with me or he will ignore me! He won’t be there for me anymore. This is SO sad.

Something I realized during the pain of a brother committing suicide was something beautiful. I wasn’t even too close to him, but I felt the weight of his absence. The body of Christ is so built upon each other, his death left a glaring hole. But then, as a friend and I spoke, she said: “I wonder what he did when he got to heaven… I bet Jesus walked up to him, threw his arms around him and said: ‘This is why I died for you. You are home.”

No matter what we do we have an amazing standing with God. That is how much we matter to Him. He will go to great lengths for us even if we’re as stupid and naive as a sheep or as demanding and rebellious as the son – he will ALWAYS welcome us with open arms. 

Seeing this teenager get it, seeing the tears well in her eyes as we talked about this made me realize I was getting it, too. I had to be reminded. I had to rejoice in this. I forget too often. And we cannot forget. We CAN’T FORGET how solid grace is, how unshakable God’s love is because it affects the basis of our relationship with him. If I think he judges me, it will not be a good relationship. It will be based on pressure and fear. But with the freedom to come to the Lord as David does and voice whatever concerns you have – that’s a real relationship! That is why your best friend is SO cool. No matter what my best friend does, I will always be on her side. Even if I’m mad, even if she annoys me, even if I’m being a jerk: we committed to being best friends. If you mess with my best friend, you better watch your back. She’s my person. (Silly, but for real.) 

God is staggering. 

The second part of the lesson is this: as you get to know God, people start to obviously matter to you.  15:1-2 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”

During our discussion, one girl said: “This is something I struggle with, though, is caring about people…” Although, as she spoke she came to the realization that she has started to care more about people. One of the greatest motivators for caring about people enough to invite them to Beta or tell them about God is heaven. She realized that maybe I don’t care about them, but how much of a bitch do I have to be not to tell them about heaven. 

I really loved her honesty. Yeah, it isn’t natural to care about people – especially this deeply! I could TOTALLY relate to her. As I thought about this, I realized how important people have become to me. Not all the time, obviously, but how much joy I’ve realized I have in others.

I believe this comes with getting close to God. As you see his value in other people, you start to value them yourself. Also, it must be the right thing to value if the God of the universe values it, right?! 

Anyway… this is long and I could go on & on, but I’m so thankful I matter to God enough for him to love my sin-filled being and teaches me to value others. 

Thoughts on Knowing God…

For the past few weeks I have been writing down every encounter I have with verses that mention “knowing God” in the Bible. Yeah, I could probably just do a word search or whatever and they would all come up, but I decided to do it this way out of curiosity… Well, it just sort of happened. I think I really started this list because, for the first time, I started really noticing how OFTEN the NT authors mention the IMPORTANCE of knowing God!

These verses have so much passion to them. When I read them, my heart started racing. I read them out loud to myself, and tears would gather. They read like words on fire, like poetry, like the most important truths in all of the world throughout all of time… the words about the importance of knowing God.

I made this list out of curiosity because, when I began, I was a little confused about knowing God. I knew that He was important to know, but I was not sure why it was mentioned so often just that we should “know” him. I mean, really, you’d think the passion that swirls and surrounds these verses would be better around a different topic. Maybe one like serving God? Or evangelism? Yes, these topics do have their fair share of passion, but I realized that knowing comes first. It must.

I’ve been through a few changes in my life. In fact, 2016 has been the craziest year and we’re only in June! I started the year looking forward to a wedding, I was hospitalized, I started a fast-paced full-time job, friends have left, I got married + moved in with my new husband, and I have been trying to juggle functioning, submitting, and keeping my thoughts centered on God. It has NOT been going well. My walk has been suffering a little and weeks go by where I do not feel even an ounce of passion like I did before for the Lord. I feel like I’m dragging behind, and often forget the involvement of my creator in my own life. I feel pretty forgotten, left out, and keep piling expectations on myself that I keep failing to meet. Being a grown up sucks. See, I’m still a kid – just in an adult body.

So, in the few times I have reached out to God through his words for comfort, direction, and help all I can see is the importance of knowing God. At first, it was frustrating. But now, I know why this is all I can see: if we do not know God, then we burnout. We act apart from him, which is not how he intended us to live. We start reverting back to our own ability and forget his power.

There is no action here… Maybe just opening a Bible and flipping pages. It is a mindset change, a commitment to remember your need for the Lord. A humbling experience that reminds me I cannot without him. A restoration of hope in who He is and what He has done for us. Getting to know God is the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced.

Over the weekend, we got to hear Keith talk about David – the man after God’s own heart. He spent all of his time getting to know God, didn’t he? He still fell, he still experienced fear and sorrow, he still failed miserably… But he knew God well enough to give his life to him – over & over. His knowledge of God took him to great heights and made his life complete. When you read the Psalms there are mixed emotions, but there is an overall sense of security and hope. David knew the breadth, depth, width, and height of God’s love and stood in it. God was his best friend, his rock. What an amazing best friend.

I want God to be my best friend. I feel like I’m starting over in this phase of my life. Everything has changed. But one thing I know is the same is God’s love for me. How patient and kind he is with me. How much He wants for me. I want to be like David. I want to be like Howard. And Martha. It’s possible to know God without getting swept away in the insanity of life.

Knowing God intimately, as a best friend, propels us into a relationship that results in the outpouring of love. That results in peace in our own lives. That results in answered questions. That results in security and stability in every situation, even the bad ones… Because: we know God.

Maybe I’ll post again about more of my findings… Until then, what are your experiences or encounters with getting to know God better? Anyone else have this sort of revelation?

(Didn’t list the verses bc it might be fun for you all to find them yourselves! Keep an eye out while you’re in your word, maybe?)

If I had died on Monday it would’ve been okay…

I’ve lived such an amazing life.

I don’t mean to brag, or anything, but my recent life has been pretty exciting. From getting engaged, losing my job, facing a health scare, and then finding another job… You could say the past few months have been extreme up and downs.

However, today, I sit here, my fifth day in a bed at my parents house, in tears.

I’ve been trying to process everything that’s happened. I’m so thankful for a week at home to recover and to be lazy, but mostly because I’ve had time to think through all these things that have happened to me. (This is unusual because I’ve been too lazy or “busy” to think about what God’s been doing in my own life recently. It just hasn’t happened.)

But then, I remember Paul in prison. His beautiful revelations and thoughts conceived while reflecting on the glory of God in his own life, then writing it down to give to others/us, has been truly awakening to me in my idleness (granted, I haven’t read nearly as much as I could in my laziness).

Anyway, he has inspired me to look back at my own life as I’m imprisoned (lol, not really, but kinda unable to move about).

And I realize, in wake of possibly dying if I hadn’t gone to the hospital, that I have been given such an amazing life. More amazing than I have ever realized before. Seriously, I’ve been crying for days at the beauty of it all…

Yes, my circumstances are awesome. I’m the most spoiled person I’ve ever met – what with growing up in a christian home, never lacking anything I need, traveling to remote/beautiful locations, having amazing relationships and an amazing fiancé… But I’m talking something deeper. I’m in tears because God has truly given me a refuge, a life full of hope, a light in this dark world… He’s preserved me in His grace. He’s never let me out of His site. Even at my darkest moments I was never out of His grasp. For some reason, He has never let me go no matter how hard my kicks and thrusts of rebellion/selfishness come against him.

Jesus Christ, He is good. I’m speechless. I am seriously speechless…

If I were to die today from a pulmonary embolism blocking my veins, I wouldn’t be sad to hear the news because I believe I’ve lived so much more than I have ever thought I could in God’s grace… and I can’t wait to meet Him face to face – the one who has saved me from my pit of depression and self-absorption. The one who has given me so much to live for and a true purpose that isn’t myself. The one who has protected me and chosen to use me despite my inadequacy. The one who continues to reveal himself in all his glorious goodness daily. Oh my, I am so in love with Him.

I think I feel a smidgen of what Paul felt when he said, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” No, probably not, but something to that effect. I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for my life and for other’s lives. I hope I can relay the beauty of who he is for the rest of my life.

*Bed-ridden thoughts over.