Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just Put One Foot In Front of the Other

I started running again this week for the first time since last spring and the unfortunate dog bite incident.  I am not a super great runner.  Even on my best days I'm pretty slow.  Part of my problem with running, well, any exercise, is that I played so many sports growing up that exercise has had no meaning for me outside of the realm of competition.  I never learned exercise for the sake of being healthy....it always had to have some greater or grand purpose to it than that.  I remember one calendar year I ran track in the spring, played softball in the summer, played volleyball in the fall, and then basketball in the winter.  This was then followed by playing on an elite softball team the following spring.  I literally went almost a year and a half with no breaks from sports.  Is it any wonder I went a bit on exercise burnout for so long after quitting competitive sports for good after university?

One of the things I notice when I do re-start an exercise program is my old tendency to push myself just like I would have been pushed playing sports.  It's not enough that I am just out there doing it.  I have to go longer, faster, better.  I can't just be content with going two miles, even if I walk a bit. No, I have to go two miles, run the whole thing and then the next time I go running I have to go further or faster.  I am learning to give myself grace and just be happy to be out and moving and forget everything else. 

One of my other issues with running is my tendency to focus too far ahead.  If I am running down a street, my eyes tend to be waaaaay down the road.  The problem is that I start thinking about how far away that is, and how tired I am and how I'd like to stop and walk for a bit, until eventually I actually DO stop and walk, or at least slow down.  I have actually realized that I do better if rather than focusing too far ahead, if I just concentrate on the road just slightly ahead of me and around me (taking looks further up ahead only periodically to make sure I'm headed in the right direction) it makes the run easier.  I just put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, I'm at the end of the road which seemed so far away at the beginning.

I find a lot of spiritual parallels with this.  Matthew 6:34 says "Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  I think the running analogy applies here.  If we start looking too far ahead in life we start thinking of how far we have to go, how tired we are, how we are going to get there and how much we'd like to stop until we eventually do.  Or, we start worrying about things that haven't even happened yet!  We should keep in the back of our mind the prize (the finish line), that's our motivation.  But we should be focusing our fore-front thoughts on what's in front of us today.  If we are obedient and wise and diligent with what we have today...tomorrow takes care of itself.

Obviously this is not a prescription for just frittering today away or being frivolous or procrastinating with our todays....we still have to be wise and responsible....but, tomorrow will be taken care of. That's a promise.


PS For those who are wired with a visionary ability, this is a whole other category of "tomorrows" and I am pretty certain that this verse was not speaking of this type of "thinking ahead."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Humility or Acknowledged For What You Do?

My birthday is coming up.  In fact, I'll be in Turkey on the big day.  And, I say "big day" because it's one of those birthdays with a 0 or a 5 that the world determines means it's important.  However, I am not excited to celebrate this at all.  I am secretly relieved that I'll be out of town and won't be around for folks to make a big deal out of this.  I even emailed a friend, who is super gifted at blessing people on their birthday specifically to tell her that I don't want her to plan anything.

If this was just about my birthday, I might think this was nothing more than feeling poorly about getting older.  However, something else happened recently that makes me wonder if there's more going on.  Let me explain.

I am a part of a few ministries.  One of them is local, the other, global.  One of these ministries would like to put my picture with a short bio up on a website.  I literally want nothing to do with this.  Others already have their bios and pictures up.  I was hoping no one would remember to ask me for mine.  I literally could care less if my name or bio is anywhere on this website at all.

This feeling is totally and completely foreign to me.  I usually swing in completely the opposite direction, demanding that I be acknowledged for what I have done and feeling overlooked and unimportant if this doesn't happen.

It has surfaced some questions within me about the difference between in all humility not caring whether others know what you've done on one hand, and being genuinely honored on the other.  Bob Sorge wrote a book called "Fear and the Praise of Man."  I think I need to re-read this and glean some answers.

I am certain there is some small issue there, especially regarding my birthday, about already feeling forgotten and not wanting to get my hopes up (actually this theme plays out in a lot of areas, especially in romantic hopes) and then being disappointed.

Any faithful readers have any thoughts on this subject?


Turkey Lurkey

I am headed to Turkey in less than a month.  I am, as of today, only $135 short of my half of the plane ticket.  I probably, realistically, need to raise just a little more than this because I am headed over two days early and will have to stay somewhere on my own dollar for those two days.

I am super excited about going early and seeing things like the Haghia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, and the Bosphorus Bridge. There is a fabulous archeological museum there as well that sounds grand.  I was hoping to sight see with a friend who lives in Egypt.  He needs to renew his visa for the country and was thinking he'd fly over to Turkey and spend a day or two there so he could fly back and get a new entry visa.  However, he found a much cheaper and easier way to do this.  So, it is looking like I'll be spending two days in Istanbul by myself (just don't tell my parents...they'll freak out). 

I am not too worried about this.  I have spent a lot of time in foreign countries and Turkey, while muslim, fiercely protects its secular government and is about as tolerant as a muslim country can get.  However, the reality is that I will be in a foreign country as a single, American, young female alone.  So, I am trying to be as wise about it as possible. 

Today I went to Goodwill to buy some longer skirts.  Apparently many Turkish women embrace western culture and wear shorter skirts or even bare their midriff.  I just don't want to take any chances, however.  I want to blend in as much as possible (well, as much as I can with my blonde hair and blue eyes).  I am also staying in a hostel instead of a hotel.  This is both cheaper and a possible way to meet other folks touring through the country alone or in small groups who might be willing to let me tag along with them.

It really is starting to feel as though this was a "trial run" to a full-time job.  If I were to do this full-time, I would be travelling to the country of upcoming conferences 3-4 weeks ahead of time.  Alone.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I'd be housed with a host family or person, so I wouldn't be completely alone.  But, in a lot of ways, I would be without community and probably spending time by myself exploring cities and countries.

I had coffee today with a friend and her mother who's sister is a flight attendant.  This is one of the things that this sister loves most about her job: showing up in a new city or country, putting on her walking shoes, grabbing a map and setting out.  In a lot of ways, I love this too.  I have spent of time traveling alone.  It does not inimidate me to do just what she describes her aunt as doing.  In fact, when I was 14, I spent a week with a tour group in Madrid and Paris and met my aunt, uncle and cousins who had been living in Germany while I was there.  I had, in just one day, managed to figure out the subway (metro) system in Paris to navigate us everywhere we wanted to go for the day. 

However, the biggest difference between my friend's aunt and myself, is that at the end of the trip, she has someone to come home to.  I do not.  I would be returning to Kona and to a ready-made community there, but with the last few years of loneliness and isolation I have had, I am just not sure where I am at with diving head-long into more loneliness and isolation.  Just something more to ponder.

I also had lunch last week with a friend who is joining Youth With a Mission by doing a Discipleship Training School in Tokyo Japan.  He had a lot of good advice about just taking my decision-making one day at a time (hmm...doesn't the Bible say something about not worrying about tomorrow?) and being OK with saying that my decision is X today, but might be Y tomorrow....This felt like such a wise council.  Today, I am in Tacoma.  I might still be in Tacoma tomorrow but I am OK with not knowing much beyond that and allowing the spirit to lead and guide me in a new direction down the road...whenever that might be.

So, still waiting.  Still praying.  But, OK with that for now.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Fear Has to Do With Punishment

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I have been having revelation lately just how ingrained my way of thinking about the Father's love for me is.  We talk about strongholds and pulling them out by their roots, rather than just chopping off branches so that they end up growing back.  This area feels like I keep pulling and pulling and the roots just keep coming and coming.  These roots are so tangled around my heart that I have a hard time determining truth from lies.

I grew up in a house with a father who traveled a lot for work.  Due to sleep apnea, when he was home, he was tired and grumpy.  Both of my parents were highly involved with my life and I always felt loved.  I also felt a lot of pressure to succeed and do well in all I did.  My parents pushed me and prodded me to do my best.  The problem was that I was already wired to want to please.  I was already wired with my own perfectionist tendancies.  Add all of this up and you end up with a recipe for disaster. 

I felt my whole life as though I were only good, pleasing and acceptable if I was succeeding.  I don't think my parents intentionally did this, but I received a lot of praise when I did do something well.  I was actually pretty good at almos everything I tried.  Soon, I became addicted to earning the praises of those around me.  Try harder. Work harder.  Meet expectations.  Perfection. Perfection. Perfection.

The battlefield in my mind started young and was reinforced at every turn. 

Fastforward to present day and what you have is an adult woman who has been working for years to pull this way of thinking out of her brain.  This way of thinking: that performance equals praise, pleasure, and blessings, is exactly how I see the Lord.

I wrote in my last post about having the faith to follow the Lord even if He asks me to give up everything. But, I am also only human.  There are a couple of things on that list that at this point would feel more like punishment to lay down than anything else.  This is especially true because I feel quite a few of those things are major heart's desires, if not outright words from the Lord that they will come to pass.

It makes the thought of giving them up that much harder...it feels like I've done something wrong.  There is a real part of my way of thinking that needs rewiring.  This is the crux of my earlier post about 1+1=932.  I simply cannot wrap my brain around a God whose economy does not include earning His love/approval/blessings and who does not withold those things when you've missed the mark.

I also know, that for me to fully be able to lay my life down, I must understand this in a deeper way so that I don't try to hang on to things for fear of losing them or try to make my heart's desires happen because I am afraid that I won't be able to be "good enough" to earn them.  It makes the verse about fear having to do with punishment that much more understandable to me.

Romans 12:2 says:  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."  I feel like this is so appropriate.  If I have a worldly mindset about who God is, if my mind is not transformed, then there is no way I can know what God's will for my life in any area is...not in my decision about Call2All nor anything else.

At the end of the day, this is probably more of my wrestle than anything else I going on. This is the one thing that all of my struggles boil down to. This one thing: what the character of the Lord is.


Though He Slay Me

"Though he slay me, yet I will still hope in Him." 

 Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds. Faith being worked out into reality must experience times of unbroken isolation. Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, "I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do." The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

What if this is as good as life gets?

If I never get married, have children, go to the nations, teach, preach, disciple, see people healed, set people free from bondage, will the promise of a future spent in the presence of God worshiping be enough?  Or, do I have an expectation of something from God beyond ALL that He has given me?  Is eternal life (truly living) enough of an exchange for me in exchange for this temporary life, which is not really living at all?

If I lay down my life over and over and over again and yet gain nothing in this life from it, will I still follow, will I still say "yes Lord, all I have is Yours?"

If I am overlooked by everyone and everything, will I believe that I am not overlooked by the one who matters?  Will that be enough for me?

If I never see one promise, word or dream fulfilled, will I still trust that God is good, that He knows what He's doing?  Will I still believe that He has my best at all times and that THIS is His best for me?

What if I lose everything?   What if my health gets worse, I really do lose my house, have no friends, no ministry, and no job? 

What then?  Will I quit? Give up?  Curse God and die?

When I initially got saved I thought giving my life over to the Lord was just a one-time and you're done kind of thing. I am realizing more and more just how backwards that way of thinking is.  In reality, giving my life over to the Lord that first time was really just that: the first time.

In our lives the Lord takes us to a point over and over again where He asks us: "Is your life really mine?"  We are forced through circumstances and trials and decisions to decide once again.  The thing is, it really is a choice. We have the choice to answer Him again and again, "Yes Lord, it's yours."  We also have the choice to say, "No Lord, it's not."

Initially, that first response was pretty easy.  I got to exchange a life of death and destruction for eternal life.  That's a no-brainer.  I gladly laid down my life as best I knew how back then.  That's the joy of salvation.  That's our first love.

I have found that the further in the race I run from that initial starting gun my legs start to get fatigued, and I am asked to carry more weight, and I'm shown more clearly just what this race I'm in looks like. I can get to a point where I just want to slow down just a little, or stop altogether.  Sometimes, I'll be honest, I'd even like to go backwards just a little.

I hear the Lord whisper to me: "Beloved, are you going to quit?  Are you going to stop?  Or, are you going to continue to lose what you cannot keep?"

If He asks for everything, I will still trust in Him.

If everything points to His character being anything but perfect, I will still believe that He is.

Though He slay me, yet I will still hope in Him.

That is my prayer.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


I am starting to understand more and more why Jesus, when faced with cross-roads in His life, went away to pray.

I am still faced with this decision about what to do this fall: DTS?  Call2All without a DTS? Stay in Tacoma for a while longer?

Practically, I can't make the decision yet.  I am still waiting to hear back from my mortgage company, though the answer there could be as early as this week some time.  However, I am finding myself increasingly distracted.  I am distracted by things that have no bearing on my decision whatsoever.

The problem is that in the past, I have made decisions based off of these things.  It is a part of maturing and growing in Christ that we refine and whittle down our criteria for making a decision until it is Christ alone whom we follow and not circumstances, nor people, nor feelings/emotions, nor anything in this world.  I'm giving myself grace for previous decisions I've made based off of similar distractions to those popping up right now.

However, that does not mean that it isn't tempting to fall back into old patterns.

I find myself frequently literally chopping the air around me to break off thoughts (which is probably pretty funny looking to people who don't know what I'm doing) or praying fervently to take thoughts captive (by the way if anyone  has practical tools for how to do this, I'd love them) or having to repeat to myself over and over again the truth about what is happening around me (out loud, which is also pretty funny probably to people).

Anyway, continue to pray for clarity on my decision, that I would not be distracted by things that should not affect my decision!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Real St. Patrick

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  Since my heritage includes a great-grandfather straight off of the boat from Ireland, I thought posting this about the real St. Patrick was appropriate.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Deep Thoughts, by Erin in Tacoma

Scene: At a restaurant with a large group of people, both male and female.

Boy #1 makes an observation about women that is ridiculous (in girl #2's opinion).

Girl #1 giggles and agrees.

Girl #2 smiles politely, but gently disagrees with Boy #1.

Boy #1 says how he loves how girl #1 is being so honest.

Girl #1 giggles again.

Girl #2 wonders to Boy #1 if he's saying she's not being honest because she disagrees?

Boy #1 backtracks and says that he does think girl #2 is also being honest.

Who gets asked out by boy #1 in this scenario?  I can tell you, it won't be girl #2. 

I know that this is a gross over-generalization, but it sure seems like most men seem to be looking for a woman who is like a mirror; reflecting them back to themselves rather than like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together, or a piece of velcro, whose hooks and loops connect together to make each other stronger. 

Why is this?  Why does it seem that to be attractive, it requires some sort of simpering, flirting, batting of the eyelashes?  This was never really my forte anyway, but the older I get, the harder I time I have mustering up the energy to wear this mask.  I mean, I know that most people, when they are interested in someone else, try to put their "best foot forward."  I certainly don't want to be an argumentative, defensive know-it-all that I could be in the above scenario...  Just trying to figure out the balance here.

Scene: my house on a weeknight, reading emails.

I open an email from the Call2All people, and hey, they want me to come to Turkey to help with a conference in April.  If they pay half my plane ticket, can I come?

I have not written about C2A in a while because I am still chewing and wrestling over the whole thing.  I am set to probably hear from my mortgage company this week (be praying), so there's not a lot I can do till then.  But, the answers I seek, outside of the practical things, still elude me. 

So, this opportunity to go to Turkey seems ideal: go, see what I'd be doing, and that will help make my decision.

Right now, plane tickets to Turkey are running about $1100-1200.  I need to come up with half.  I have already raised about $260.  If anyone who reads feels led to give, please let me know and I'll let you know how you can help me out.

I will say this: more and more I am starting to think I will end up doing a Discipleship Training School with YWAM first if I end up saying Yes.  I am looking into one in September that could be a possibility.  Please be praying for clarity on this decision.


Sunday, March 07, 2010


I used to not like Jacob.  He was a momma's boy.  He was a deceiver (his name actually means this).  He blackmailed his starving brother into handing over his birthright.  He lied and schemed his way with the help of his mother into his older brother's blessing.  The 'black and white' person in me just didn't like that he a lot of what he got the way he got it.  I never thought this was fair. 

However, after all of this, Jacob receives a little bit of payback.  He has to flee because his older, bigger brother finds out what he's done.  He spends 14 years working for his father-in-law because he himself is deceived by this man into marrying the wrong woman.  (I wonder how in the world Jacob could possibly NOT know who he was marrying!!??) Jacob agrees to stay another six years working for this father-in-law.  He builds up his own herds and then suddenly decides to deceive his father-in-law by leaving with his family in the dead of the night. (Even one of his wives gets in on the deception game by stealing her father's idols and lying about it when confronted.)

At this point in Jacob's life, he's at a bit of a cross-roads.  He's been a deceiver and run away when times have gotten tough, but now he's headed back to his home town to try to reconcile with his brother.  His whole life has been about deception.

So, Jacob leaves his father-in-law and it is during the journey back home, that he meets the Lord at a stream.  He has sent his family on ahead and and remains alone at the side of the river.  We are told that he encounters a man who wrestles with him.   A lot of biblical scholars believe that this was the pre-incarnate Jesus or an angel. 

I have heard a lot of sermons interpret this wrestling match as a wrestle over Jacob's identity.  They point to the fact that his name is changed after this match is over.  I believe, however, that the wrestle is not just over WHO Jacob was, but it was also about HOW Jacob was going to walk into his identity....his way or the Lord's?

Jacob loses this wrestling match. This man allows Jacob to wrestle with him all night until finally, Jacob is exhausted.  The man simply touches Jacob's hip to end the match, perhaps as a permanent reminder of what he's been through.  Smart man that Jacob is, he seems to know just who it is that he's been wrestling and asks for a blessing.  Jacob is, in my opinion, exactly where the Lord wanted him: at a cross-roads, alone, wrestled to the point of exhaustion, hurt, and with no where else to turn.  Jacob is truly at a crisis point in his life. 

The Lord then asks Jacob his name, as though to remind Jacob who he has been: a deceiver (because of course the Lord knows Jacob's name already).  He wants Jacob to acknowledge who has has been.  He wants to see if like the last time Jacob received a blessing and was asked this question, he'll lie.  Jacob simply humbly acknowledges his name.

The Lord then changes Jacob's name as an even more permanent reminder of who it is that Jacob serves and blesses him.  Jacob is radically changed from this encounter with the Lord in every way. He no longer lives a life of a deceiver, but walks into his calling and identity submitted to God.

I know, like Jacob, I cannot win my own wrestle with the Lord.  I know, like Jacob, the Lord will allow the wrestling only long enough to get me to a point of exhaustion.  I know, like Jacob, the end result is a permanent change within me.  I know, like Jacob, the Lord ultimately wants me to see that it is not my doing that will get me where I desire in life, but it is only Him.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Outside of the Box

I have been wrestling the last few weeks over this decision of whether to move to Kona and work for Call2All or to stay here in Tacoma for now.  Initially, as is typical for me, my excitement over the opportunity was my driving force.  Now, also typically, some logical and practical considerations are making me take a step back to evaluate whether this is something I'd really say yes to or not.   I have taken a lot of comfort in Jacob, who also wrestled with the Lord.  (I'll probably post a blog in a day or two about all I have been gleaning from his wrestle.)

On the one hand, there are lots of really good reasons to go.  Those to whom I have talked to about this say things like, "You've been talking about the nations ever since I have known you." "You should go, why wouldn't you?"  And, it is a REALLY great opportunity.  I'd get to be a part of an organization that is doing some amazing things.  Getting to go to the nations is also a big plus.

On the other hand, I'd be doing administration.  Administration.  This is something I am gifted at, but for sure not the fullness of my heart.  To this, I have a whole other group of friends who warn me about not settling for Ishmael, when Isaac is the promise.

(As a side note, I love when people share their opinions with me.  This isn't because I am going to actually make my decision off of other's opinions, but rather that there is SUCH good wisdom and truth that comes out of these conversations which will help me make my own decision.)

I have noticed (and this is not a knock on any one organization/group etc.) that because so few people are actually *good* at administration, as soon as it is discovered that someone is gifted in that area, it's all people can think about.  People who are good at administration tend to get placed into this box.  The problem is that for me, I don't quite fit into the box.  I'd probably have a head and an elbow sticking out.  It would become uncomfortable for me after a while.

The thing is, that when I look at all of the reasons to say yes or all of the reasons to say no, neither list feels like the overwhelmingly obvious answer.  It would take a step of faith for me to go, and it would require the same step of faith for me to stay.

There is a big cost to saying "Yes" to this.  And, if I am honest, that scares me.  The cost of following the Lord is always there, but until you are actually confronted with "putting your money where your mouth is" and you actually have to give up real, tangible things, it is easier to *say* yes than it is to *do* yes. In my opinion most people truly never really *do* yes fully.  They have a whole list of things that they won't give up.  It becomes clear when the Lord actually does ask them and they won't do it.  Anything we say we "won't give up" prevents us from being fully obedient to the Lord.  It places US firmly on the throne of our lives instead of God.

For me, at minimum, I would be giving up:
    1.  the security of a place to live, my house
    2.  the security of a job, instead living off of support
    3.  having family near by
    4.  the area of friendships, I'll need to start over in developing community in Kona, and I'll be gone from Kona so much, that this will even be a challenge
    5.  my stuff, including pets and perhaps even family heirlooms
    6.  my calling-specifically my teaching and counseling gifting
    7.  my desire to be a wife and mother

I think it's number six that is pressing me and causing the most wrestle right now.   Because doing administration is not my calling.  Do I relinquish even the dreams and  hopes and vision of what *I* want for a dream, a vision and a calling that could have a greater impact on the world than my own personal desires in this area?

If I went, I'd have to go trusting the Lord to meet my every need.  I'd have to believe that though I would be doing administration, it would be a stepping stone to something else (what that "else" is, I have no idea) or that at a minimum, being a part of what is happening would be enough for me.  I'd have to trust that by laying aside *my* version of what I feel called to do for the bigger and greater purpose of serving Call2All that I will be blessed.  I would have to trust that by giving up everything (and I do mean everything) I'd gain something eternal.

In Luke 9 (and Matthew 8), Jesus talks about the cost of following Him:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."  Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."  Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

Sometimes I wonder if all of my rational, logical reasons for doubting are just excuses.  Like the men in Luke, am I saying "Yes" with my mouth but not with my actions?  Are all of my fears just really things that I am idolizing and putting me first on?  Or, is this a real discernment on my part about settling for second best rather than holding out for the best?

I am not certain of the answer.  And, so, the wrestle continues....