Letter to Epic Student Missionaries

Our Epic (Asian-American ministry of Cru) international summer mission teams are currently taking part in project briefing. The teams are receiving input, participating in team building activities and preparing for six weeks of: Loving the Lord, Loving their team, Learning a New World and Launching Movements. Here’s a letter I’ve written to them about some Scripture I read this morning.

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Dear Summer Mission Project Participants,

Each of you has a different story of how God led you to apply and how you ended up here on the Vanguard campus preparing to embark on an international summer mission project with Epic. I have to be honest. I’d give a kidney to jump on an airplane and join you and your team.

God has used these past several months to prepare your hearts for the task ahead. And just like how it felt to prepare to attend college–all the books/blogs you read, the stories you heard, even the campus visit you might have taken–all those things could not and did not capture the experience of actually being a college student and attending classes, living in the dorms, etc. Our staff have drawn from their past missions experiences to come up with helpful content, but actually arriving in country and walking the streets, breathing the air, smelling the smells–that’s when the change begins. The next six weeks will grow you and transform you as you experience life and dependence on the Lord with your team.

I’ve been reading through the “One Year Chronological Bible” this year. Currently camped out in the time of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings. I was reading this morning and wanted to share a few thoughts as it seemed to pertain to God, missions, perspective and stuff I would share with you over a cup of coffee if time allowed.

  • 2 Kings 6:8-23 Elisha in the city of Dothan surrounded by a great army ready to take him out. His servant sees the troops, horses and chariots everywhere and freaks out, “Ah, my lord, what will we do now?” Elisha responds, “Don’t be afraid. For there are more on our side than on theirs.” And Elisha prays for God to open the eyes of his servant to see what was really going on…The LORD opens his eyes and he sees the hillside was filled with horses and chariots of fire….

Remember: you are not alone. God has got your back. People back home are praying for you. There are spiritual forces at work all around you that our human eyes cannot see. You and your team plus God is greater than any earthly opposition.

  • 2 Kings 7:3-11 Four lepers are starving because of a great famine that has taken over the land. They decide to go and surrender to their enemy, the Aramean army, because they figure they have nothing to lose. Turns out the army abandoned their camp and the lepers have a heyday going from tent to tent eating and plundering. They realize they can’t keep this good fortune to themselves. They return to the city and God provides for all the people from an unlikely source.

Remember: you and I are poor lepers who have found the True Bread and Living Water. We cannot keep the One who is the true treasure to ourselves. He has the Words of Eternal Life. Sharing our lives, sharing our stories, sharing the Gospel is one humble beggar who has discovered unlimited resources pointing another humble beggar where to find Food. Keep an attitude of humility and point people to Jesus, not the Christian life or a moral ethical code, but to Him who is Life.

  • 2 Kings 8:1-6 Earlier in 2 Kings (2 Kings 4:8-37) Elisha becomes friends w/ a woman from Shunem. He performs a miracle and brings her boy back to life. In this chapter Elisha instructs them to leave to the land of the Philistines because of the famine. They are gone seven years. She returns back to Israel, hoping to get her house and land back. The king had been talking to his servant about Elisha and the woman and her son appear at that exact moment to confirm the story of the son. Not only is her land restored, the king also compensates her for the value of the crops that had been harvested during her absence.

Remember: there are no accidents. God has determined the exact places we should live (Acts 17:26). As you engage in conversations, know that God has been orchestrating events before you arrive on the scene. Also remember: you can never out give God. He is able to provide from unexpected places in unexpected ways. Seek Him first.

I’m so excited for all God will do in you and through you. I will be joining so many who are praying for you and look forward to seeing you back on this side of the ocean.

Proud of you, excited for you, expectant with you,

viv

feel free to add additional comments about missions or encouragement for the epic summer teams….

Halfway Around the World

The jet lag and cold medicine worked together in tandem. At different points during our four hour bus ride out of the city I would find myself suspended between a dream state and the reality of being halfway around the world. And there, in the half awake, half asleep state with my eyes closed, I would hear women speaking different languages, or speaking English with different accents. Now back on this side of the world, I find myself wondering: Did we really travel halfway around the world? Was it all a dream?

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I stop during the times when it feels like Central Asia was a lifetime ago and close my eyes. My heart returns halfway around the world and I picture the faces and hear again their voices. Beautiful women, women of character, courage and depth. Their different accents represented different countries: Brazil, Finland, countries in the Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Australia, Trinidad, Canada, Central Asia, England, Russia, and from all across the United States. Fifty-two women. Six infants. Different sending agencies, different life stages, teachers, business women, expats in the oil industry. The group was mostly composed of women who had lived and worked in a different land, for different lengths of time. They were at different places in their spiritual journeys, carrying various life experiences, some carrying deep pain and disappointment.

I was tasked to teach from the Bible and share my life and journey with them. I taught from one of my favorite passages of Scripture: John 15. The theme was Abiding in the Vine: Revive, Renew, Remain. I taught about all the things closest to my heart.

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Leila, wondrously gifted in asking questions and listening, met with women during the afternoons for spiritual direction and led times of guided prayer during personal reflection time. Her years and experience studying Spiritual Formation at Talbot Seminary blessed the women with both space and skill in navigating the deeper places of the heart.

Before we left this side of the world, we invited a group of prayer warriors to pray and fast for us. We sent them our schedule. Their prayers and the prayers of so many made all the difference on the other side of the world. My cough kept me up most nights. I coughed through meals, conversations, everywhere, all the time…EXCEPT for when I spoke. Several women commented their surprise about the talks being cough free. It was as if an angel covered my throat and kept the cough at bay.

Unlike here, on this time conscious side of the world, where conferences are broken down to the minute, and speakers have time keepers, I never once looked at my watch when I got up to speak. This gave room and space for me to go off on rabbit trails, elaborate on stories, and not feel rushed to squeeze everything in. It was pure joy to speak at this retreat. I was reminded so clearly, with a room full of women from countries around the world, that God is not an American. And I was also reminded that the truths from the Bible transcend language, time and culture. I felt honored and humbled to have time with these heroes of the faith. And in my heart I sensed God giving a nod of confirmation in this international setting to continue to teach in different capacities with different audiences and contribute to Kingdom building through speaking and teaching.

943241_514625625240758_3823783_nOur accommodations were top notch. Turns out, because it was off season, the five star hotel was cheaper than staying in the city at a Ramada Inn. Both our husbands thought we would be at some kind of campsite using outhouses. Leila and I were giddy with happiness as we sunk into our comfortable beds and looked out at the view of snow capped mountains outside our balcony. Meals were prepared by the hotel. I tasted flavors I had never known.

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The initial invitation to come and speak at this retreat came from Jenni a year ago last May. Darrin and I met Jenni almost 20 years ago when she was a student. Now she is an incredible mom of four girls, speaking the language, driving like the nationals and skillfully dodging potholes and cars that don’t really use lanes. She has lived through winters with frozen pipes and no hot water and has come to love this country she lives in. Jenni took Leila and me around the city for several hours after our bus returned and before our flight took off. Time with Jenni, seeing her world, watching her warm up soup in her kitchen, overhearing her conversations with her kids and husband, seeing how God has worked in her life and the woman of character, depth, maturity and excellence and beauty she has become was my personal highlight. A close second was traveling and ministering with Leila.

IMG_1777Thank you to all who prayed for us. Thank you especially to Darrin who not only took care of me and the kids the entire week before the trip while we were all sick (seriously, it looked like a MASH unit downstairs with me passed out on the bed and each kid on each couch), but then he came down with the same virus the week I was gone and still held down the fort.

IMG_1891This trip, and the many wonderful people I met, the country and all the sights and sounds will be treasured in my heart all the rest of my days. I’m thankful for the blessing of photos, souvenirs, and the ability to close my eyes to return again and again to a beautiful land halfway around the world.

Use Whatcha Got Weeks 9-11: Change the World Party Follow Up

“Completely on her own, she dedicated her 11th birthday to helping others. Rather than amassing more stuff, she directed all her birthday gifts to help the less fortunate. It sure would be nice if You would work it out for us to win the lottery to get orchestra seats for $25 for the Wicked musical. It’s something she would LOVE, it’s something over the top we normally wouldn’t be able to afford. I would see it as a gift from You. A “well done, atta-girl”–a perfect way to top off her birthday celebration.”

I prayed silently, without sharing my thoughts with her, with Darrin, with anyone. I didn’t tweet or post on Facebook asking others to pray with me. I just prayed and held my breath.

She finished homework in record time, got dressed, packed her purse with treats and we stopped off at Cold Stone and used a gift card I rediscovered in one of my many, many, MANY piles….probably a great trove of other untold treasures still yet to be unearthed await me!

We drove into the parking structure and found perfect parking. Stood in line. Only 20 others in front of us. Twenty orchestra seats would be given out to the winners of the lottery. We were accustomed to waiting and standing in line. Our hope level was high. We made friends with the person in front of us and the ladies behind us. They had all tried for the lottery several times, but had never won. We reconnected with a mom and her daughter we recognized from a baseball team Michael was on when he was in elementary school. When the half hour was up and everyone gathered for the announcement of the winners, my heart sank as I looked around us. Easily 250 people stood waiting and hoping for the same outcome. Ten names were called. We were not among the ten.

We ventured down to the box office to see if any seats were still available. Only one seat remained.

I stroked her thick, blackish-brownish silky hair,

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out. It’s such a bummer we didn’t win. Since we are out, would you be interested in seeing “Les Mis?” It’s showing not too far from here.”

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She smiled and nodded.

She had asked to see the movie when it first came out Christmas day after I shared with her it was my favorite musical. I waited and polled several of my mom friends after they saw the movie to find out if the subject matter surrounding Fantine was too mature. We both knew there was one scene where she would need to cover her eyes.

Back in the car, on the way to the movie theatre, Julia asked me to share the story of “Les Miserable.” My words spilled out with increasing fervor as I shared the story of how grace can transform a person’s life; of the parallels of the Gospel when Jesus lays down His life for those He loves and how the same theme is played out with Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Eponine. The choices they make in the story came out of the selfless place of genuine love. I contrasted how Javert could not allow himself to receive the gift of grace, which, just like the Law, led to death. I shared about the silver candlesticks and what little I knew about the French Revolution.

We settled into a nice table for a quick bite to eat at the Nordstrom Cafe. Julia looked around with a sincere and grateful attitude and smiled,

“Mom, this place is really nice. The food is really delicious. I’m glad for this time with you.”

We finished up our dinner and walked to the movie theatre. Like everything else at the Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach, the movie theatre looked posh and expensive. Our hearts sank again when we learned they served wine in the movie theatre so no one under 21 could be admitted. We had no way of knowing. The gentleman behind the counter apologized and pulled out a list of other nearby movie theaters.

I quickly scanned the sheet and saw the movie was playing at the UC Irvine campus. We had just enough time to make it.

When we arrived in the theatre, every single seat was empty. We had the whole theatre to ourselves. Eventually three others joined us. We watched. We wept a bit. When the movie ended she leaned backed and sighed,

“Wow. That was an amazing story.”

I shared with her in the car,

“Julia, this side of heaven you won’t know exactly how your gifts helped others, but I trust that the projects you selected are going to help families and will keep some in real life from having to be like Fantine in the movie. I am so proud of you.”

Through the generosity of Julia’s family and friends she was able to donate nearly $400 to the Hope Venture. One of her friends even gave five weeks of her allowance to the Hope Venture. Julia’s birthday helped provide:

  • 17 blankets for those in Northern India where the cold weather has been the cause of death
  • 6 goats for widows or families in Narok, Kenya, who have been ravished by drought in recent years
  • 16 sari’s for widows living in the slums of India
  • 3 “mama’s kits” for mothers in Uganda. Thousands of children become orphans because women die during childbirth. The mama kit contains everything needed to help provide a clean and safe delivery.

images-1I think the story of Les Mis, more than the story of Wicked, fits with what Julia intended for her birthday. God has used Julia to challenge and teach me what it means to live out a life of compassion and generosity. I’m inspired by her life and her choices. Sometimes in life, our prayers seem to go unanswered. But I trust that God’s bigger purposes are being accomplished even when we don’t understand.

P.S. For those of you following Use Whatcha Got, there’s not much to report. I’m holding strong these past three weeks. Enjoying what I have, and gaining increasing gratitude for the sheer abundance of our blessings. How about you?

 

Use Whatcha Got Week 5: Change the World Birthday

I have studied her face even before she was born. My eyes would trace and retrace her profile on the flimsy black and white ultrasound paper I kept in my Bible while my belly grew and grew. Over the months and years after she entered the world on Valentine’s Day, I logged thousands of hours watching her face express a thousand emotions. Two weeks ago I could tell she wanted to share something out of the ordinary with me. Her eyes were bright and her head tilted slightly. She looked both mischievous and triumphant.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking about my birthday.”

I braced myself, ready to talk down some over the top party theme. Birthdays are a big deal for Julia. She starts talking about ideas for her next birthday sometime around August, before school starts, and I repeatedly request we get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year before we talk about her next birthday. I took a deep breath as she went on,

“I was up in my room and looking at all my stuff. I have so much stuff. I think for my birthday this year instead of getting gifts and more stuff, I’d like to ask my friends if they would be willing to donate to kids and families who actually need things. Maybe buy some goats or chickens or something.” 

I swallowed hard.

wow.

Was she sure? She smiled and I could see in her eyes her mind was made up.

I prepared myself by thinking, “Now, Viv, don’t get all puffed up and proud. The whole Use Whatcha Got challenge is meant to be something for just you. The fact it spills over and helps others to reduce consumerism is not the point. Humble. Think humble thoughts.”

“Julia, I am so proud of you. This is incredible. I love the idea of you helping others. How did you come up with this idea?”

 “Oh, watching the Disney channel.”

Humbled. No problem with humble thoughts!! :)

So yeah for the Disney channel highlighting a kid who wanted to help other kids. Yeah especially for Julia for wanting to make a difference.

One of my dearest friends from college, Cynci Petersen, began in incredible organization called the Hope Venture.

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The Hope Venture is a non-profit organization existing to bring help and hope to people around the world through compassion-based projects.

Cynci’s character, integrity, and heart for changing the world through these compassion based projects makes the decision to donate to this organization a simple one. I trust absolutely in the soundness of Hope Venture. Cynci travels herself to India and Africa regularly to check in on the projects and to look for new opportunities. God has blessed and expanded the reach and influence of the Hope Venture and Julia is excited to be a part of changing the world through Hope Venture.

A few days ago Julia and I finished creating her evite for the birthday party. I added the Hope Venture link and we explained how the kids could bring checks written to Hope Venture. Julia would collect the monies and then decide which projects to support. I watched her face as she began flipping through the Hope Venture catalog. She couldn’t hold back her smile. She looked up with sheer joy filling her face.

“Mom, I think this is going to be my best birthday ever.”

(If you’d like to write Julia a note of encouragement in the comment section I will be sure she gets it)

 

God Has Much More

In the past couple of months, all across the country, at every Epic Conference and at every Cru Winter Conference, college students have been invited to sign this pledge:

pledge.epicmovement.com

pledge.epicmovement.com

 

It reads:

Lord Jesus, I surrender to you and in the power of Your Spirit, I will…

  • Go where You want me to go
  • Do what You want me to do
  • Say what You want me to say
  • Give what You want me to give

The possibilities from this are endless. God is able to direct and mobilize a whole new generation of leaders to make a difference for good. To me, this posture of willingness to go anywhere and do anything is the single most crucial decision in the life of a believer. Coming to a point of surrender of our entire lives unleashes God’s Spirit to move, empower and bring about eternal change.

A couple of months back my Bible reading plan, via my Annual Bible app on my iPhone, had me in 2 Chronicles. The second half of the book chronicled (ah, such an appropriate name!) the reigns of the Kings of Judah. Some kings followed the Lord, some did evil, some started off well but ended up in misery. One king in Chapter 25 caught my eye. He was 25-year-old, King Amaziah, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. He was described as a king who “did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.” (v2). He decides to go to war and counts 300,000 able men in Judah. He goes on to hire an additional 100,000 warriors from Israel for one hundred talents of silver.

A man of God comes to him and says,

“O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel nor with any of the sons of Ephraim. But if you do go, do it, be strong for the battle; yet God will bring you down before your enemy, for God has power to help and to bring down.” (v7-8)

Amaziah naturally asks,

“But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?”

I love the response of the man of God,

“The LORD has much more to give you than this.”

King Amaziah had invested money into trying to win this battle against Edom. The man of God reminded the king the battle ultimately is won by God, not by the size of the army. Back in 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan and his armor bearer go up against the Philistine army.

“for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.” (v 6)

God did and does have power to help and to bring down. I often forget, but when it comes to the challenges I face,

“the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I didn’t know what a hundred talents of silver amounted to until I looked in the margins of my Bible. $38,400,000. That’s A BIG chunk of change. And yet God had MUCH more to give to King Amaziah than this. I’m challenged in my own life. Do I really believe God’s power and resources are unlimited? Do I grip onto what I consider to be valuable because I think it is all up to me? Can I trust that God is able to restore, replace and/or provide if I give it ALL to Him? Can I trust God if I give ALL of me to Him?

You and I, and all of the students who signed the pledge have but one life to live. We can live out our days grasping after things that rust and moth destroy or grab hold of Him, the One who has much more to give you than this….

How about you? Will you trust Him with the challenges you currently face? Will you trust Him?

Grateful Goodbye

The heels of my boots clip-clopped against the asphalt as I rushed back to my car. High heels still sound so grown-up and mature in my ears. I was late to pick Julia up but wanted to squeeze out every possible last moment because soon the miles would change from tens to thousands. I blinked back grateful tears as I pulled out of my parking spot. My mind replayed the history of our friendship. Twenty-four years ago we met. We were both recent college graduates attending a Cru winter conference before heading south to Arrowhead Springs for staff training. We had mutual friends who introduced us. At the conference we decided to become roommates and from there we became fast forever friends.

I was drawn immediately to Donna’s tender heart for the Lord and her missionary zeal; perhaps in the same way Jonathan was drawn to David in the Old Testament. Though our temperaments were different, we were bonded in Kingdom vision. Our hearts were captured by our King. It was obvious loyalty to Him ran deep in Donna’s life. We spent hours talking, praying and worshipping in the little prayer chapel on the grounds of the Cru Headquarters (Campus Crusade for Christ back then). We dreamed of going together: Yak Back to Mongolia. We were willing to go where no one wanted. We were willing to go to the farthest corners of the world to share the message of God’s love and forgiveness.

Twice we returned too late from a pie eating study session down in San Bernardino. We waited in her car talking and singing songs like “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” by the front gate until the top of the hour, usually two a.m., when the guard would come by shaking his head to let us in. We shared secret crushes, we discussed discipleship, ministry philosophy and difficult passages in the Bible. We waited together in anticipation to find out our first campus assignments. She would be at the University of Washington. I would be at her alma mater, UC Berkeley.

I’m convinced part of the reason my monthly financial support came in so quickly was God allowing time for us to be in the same location to continue to deepen our friendship. When I arrived in Berkeley it was Donna who first took me to Fat Apples and introduced me to Peets Coffee. My first summer assignment was to staff the Lake Tahoe project. Donna remained in Berkeley to continue raising her support. Twice, on my days off, we met half way in Sacramento.

We roomed together at our first staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado. The training took place every other year. We sat together mesmerized as the vision for Manila 1990 was shared with the 5000 staff. Together we decided we would go. We walked the grounds of the CSU campus praying and sharing secret crushes. We watched the married staff and the mom’s pushing strollers and wondered about their lives–wondered how they maintained an eternal perspective in their daily lives in their different seasons.

The following summer I received special permission to join her Pacific Northwest staff team so we could minister together in Manila. We started off roommates but circumstances caused the bulk of the team to relocate to Bangkok, Thailand. I stayed back in Manila and over the course of the summer fell in love with my co-team leader, Darrin.

By Christmas time Darrin and I were engaged. The following summer Donna and I walked the grounds of CSU. This time as we talked she shared her secret crushes and I wore an engagement ring on my left hand. She was one of my bridesmaids at the wedding following the conference.

The next staff training found us again walking the grounds of CSU. She shared her secret crushes, I waddled next to her trying to keep up with short breaths, with swollen ankles, seven months pregnant. She looked over at me. Our paths were going in different directions. I was living out the life she always wanted. Donna went on to do everything I wanted: she attended seminary and got her Master’s Degree, she spent a year living overseas on Stint (short term international mission).

We joked about writing and giving a talk together called “Flies on the Window” about marriage and singleness. The flies on the outside want in, the ones on the inside want out. Though we loved much of the path God had us on, we were blessed with enough trust to share honestly about the harder parts.

Donna ended up living in the apartment across from me and Darrin and we served for a time together on the UCLA campus and finally, after years of failed attempts, spent an entire summer together overseas in East Asia. She was there the day Jonathan was born and the day he took his first steps. She was with me in the emergency room when Jonathan received his first and only stiches.

Eventually Donna met and married a godly, handsome, artistic Frenchman named Didier. I was honored to stand with her as a bridesmaid. The Lord led them to minister in France. Now Donna is the mother of three wonderful kids. Her oldest daughter is Julia’s age.

God has been good to us. Our paths, though very different, cross and recross despite the miles, despite the years. Today we met halfway for one final lunch. We had months of catching up, but conversation came effortlessly. We picked up where we left off and went deep quickly. On December 12th Donna and her family will return to France to minister in Paris. God has burdened their hearts to reach the lost through the medium of the arts. I’m grateful to Didier for sharing his gift of photography with me. The photo he took of the grapes from a vineyard in France now graces the header for my new website. How fitting my first post with my newly designed site would highlight my friendship with Donna. You can check out their website and other photos Didier has taken by clicking his name the photo credit at the bottom of the page.

I’m grateful for friendships that span the seasons of life. Grateful for the memories made with Donna over the years. We have both grown, matured, and lived through good times and hard times. But through it all our heart and vision for the world and the Lord remains the same. Donna continues to bless me by her courage, example, willingness and tender heart towards the Lord. Please join me in praying for her and her family as they pack, say goodbyes and transition to life in France.

My eyes are filled now with tears as I type and think about our goodbye and the miles, but my heart is full of gratitude to be blessed with a lifelong friend like Donna.

I love you, Donna, and miss you already. Look forward to the next time we are together!

What are some of the blessings you’ve received through friendship?

Hatwalk Follow Up and Guest Post

The days have been full. I am earnestly seeking to finish writing the book by Thanksgiving in order to not go into the holidays all crazy. Well, not more crazy added to the normal crazy.

The Hatwalk Gala event was as incredible as the hotel it was hosted in. What an impressive and extensive labor of love. It was a blessing to see 700 guests dressed to the nines, supporting and giving so generously to help others battling cancer. The evening wrapped up with a powerful visual of the purpose behind the Hatwalk. We watched a stream of beautiful women of all ages, all cancer survivors, take to the catwalk modeling various hats. We cheered each of them on with grateful tears in our eyes. The strength and courage they exuded caused the bright runway lights to seem dim in comparison.

I spent most of the weekend giddy–romping around my room in the signature Fairmont hotel robe, trying to act all writer-like. Leila’s sister, Jacqui, was able to connect me with a hair and makeup person who came to my room Saturday afternoon to perform a magic transformation act. She used some kind of silicone based spray on foundation, then dipped her extensive array of brushes into rows and rows and trays and trays of Mac make-up. False eyelashes, a billion bobby pins and hairspray, hairspray, hairspray followed by instructions to not lie down, not nap, or cry, rub my eyes, move, and to use cold spoons to take down the puffiness under my eyes.

This was the final outcome:

It actually was a huge blessing to have the time away. The gals from a freshman Bible study I led back in 1989, when I first worked at the Cal campus, gifted me with an additional night at the Fairmont so I could focus on writing the book. The beautiful environment somehow helped to break through a mental barrier which moved me ahead significantly in my writing. I have two chapters left to write and then two appendices. My amazing agent, who happens to also be an amazing editor, will go over this first draft before I turn it in to the editor at the publishing house. We are nearing the end of part one in the writing marathon and I am starting to hear the faint sound of Taiko drums in my heart.

I was invited by my friend and fellow Redbud writer, Natasha, to guest post and share part of my journey as an Asian-American. You can read the post here. It’s a two-part interview which is part of a series she has been writing on racial reconciliation. Hope you will pop over to check it out.

 

 

 

Productive Pain

Got my first ever crown earlier this week. Not the on your head royalty crown, but the in your mouth to prevent a tooth from cracking in half crown. It was a two-week process actually. The first appointment to dismantle my tooth and place a temporary crown was quite painful even though our dentist was and is both skilled and amazing. The numbing shot worked so well I couldn’t talk the rest of the afternoon. Ibuprofen was my friend for the entire week plus as my mouth recovered from the trauma. With temporary crown in place, life went merrily along as we prepared for our travels.

Thank you to those of you who prayed for us after my last post. Darrin and I left for Hawaii to speak at the Fall Retreat amidst many challenges. Our original flight had mechanical difficulties and never left Los Angeles. Darrin wisely went and switched us to another flight in another terminal before the news broke that the original flight was cancelled. Four hours later we were buckled in only to sit on the runway for over an hour as the entire airport closed down with the arrival of the space shuttle. We arrived without luggage right smack in the middle of crazy Friday afternoon Oahu traffic, but made it in time for our first talk. Shortly after we finished I started not feeling well. I knew I needed the antibiotics packed away in our luggage, so we jumped back into the car and drove the 45 minutes back to the airport to pick up our luggage rather than wait for it to be delivered in the morning (I still had a bad taste from my last luggage experience). We returned and fell in bed around midnight, which was 3 a.m. California time. The next morning I felt much better.

Meanwhile back at home more challenges surrounded the family. My brave sister flew in from Colorado to be with Michael and Julia. Here’s a sampling of what happened:

  • the garage door stopped working
  • the air conditioner wasn’t working during the three digit heat wave (on Sunday our friend, Brent, replaced the broken part with the new one Darrin ordered)
  • my sister had multiple migraine headaches
  • dog had explosive poop which he deposited all over the yard and even once in Michael’s room
  • dog throws up in living room
  • mouse sighting in the kitchen, which led to glue traps, which led to dog stepping in glue trap, which led to sticky glue tracked all around the kitchen

In spite of the distractions God’s Spirit was at work. Relationships were formed, breakthroughs spiritually and emotionally took place, and Darrin and I didn’t kill each other as we tag team taught. During several brief conversations with students about painful circumstances my tooth and crown illustration kept popping up.

Horrible, devastating, often unexplainable events happen–sometimes from our poor choices, but many times with no rhyme or reason. The pain brought about by these difficulties are kind of like my cracked tooth. Left untreated it would only get worse, but taking care of the problem would also involve a certain level of pain.

Sometimes emotional decay can root in our hearts. God’s Spirit, a skilled therapist, a strong community can be like my dentist who walks through a process which requires time and money and ends with a good outcome and health. But it requires entering into pain in order to adequately clear out the bad stuff.

We don’t like pain. Walk down any medicine aisle at a store and lining the shelves are hundreds of pain relievers of every imaginable combination. We numb our pain through shopping, eating, the internet, work, ministry, drugs, alcohol, pornography, exercise, sleep, gambling, etc. Anything to not have to face pain, disappointment, hurt, fear…

You and I are faced with choices when confronted with hardships. The painful work of walking in forgiveness, of surrendering our will and our lives to God, of healing and working at restoring broken relationships, of moving toward problems rather than stay in denial; all these things are painful. But the pain is productive. And left unexamined will not only remain painful, but also likely grow worse.

If it’s going to be painful anyway, pick the productive pain.

What do you think?

 

Asking For What I Need And Want

Just a quick pop onto the blog. A quick request for prayer. Realized today I still have difficulty asking for what I need and want. Pride and shame keep me from receiving help and from asking. So here I am seeking to bust through my resistance.

Would you please pray for Darrin and me in the coming days…

  • we will be speaking at the University of Hawaii Cru/Epic Fall retreat this weekend
  • significant, life trajectory changing decisions are made at fall retreats
  • pray for: spiritual protection over our marriage and family and the students and staff, open hearts, God’s Spirit to move, surrendered hearts and lives, insight, favor, provision, peace…

I firmly believe one day in heaven God will allow our eyes to see how and when our prayers made a difference. The real work is done in dependence, in listening, inquiring, bringing our prayers before the Throne of Grace.

Thank you for praying.

Thank you for helping be a part of changing the world.

Women Leaders: Strength and Dignity

As the month of May winds down to a close, I find myself reflecting back on some significant “firsts.” Earlier in the month I had the honor of speaking at the first Asian American Pacific Islander Women’s Leadership Conference. Women, along with some incredibly supportive men, from across the country and from as far as the UK gathered in Southern California. We represented leaders from different churches, parachurch organizations and seminaries. Our families originated from throughout Asia. Our experiences were as varied as the languages we or our parents spoke, and the countries we or our parents came from. But as we shared our stories, we found common ground in our struggles and challenges. Friendships were forged. Some were rekindled. We left encouraged, understood, inspired, validated and hope-filled. We were not alone as we sought to live out God’s call on our lives.

The middle of May found me traveling for the first time to the Chicago area to attend the first Redbud Writers Guild retreat. Thirty of the fifty-eight of us gathered as we pursued living out our tag line of: fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, community and culture. Again, our experiences were varied. Our journey as writers was as unique as the fingerprints found on our laptop keys. But as we shared our stories, we found common ground in our struggles and challenges. We received input, we brainstormed, we dreamed. Names, faces and voices connected. We left encouraged, understood, inspired, validated and hope-filled. We were not alone as we sought to live out God’s call on our lives.

In both settings I found myself looking around and wondering out loud, “How in the world did I end up in a room together with such amazing, high-caliber women?!” Both settings included women leaders with multiple advanced degrees, hearts aflame with love for God, ministry experiences across the country and around the globe, vision for being a part of righting the wrongs in this world and the shared agreement to build up rather than compete against each other. We were intentional about acknowledging differences while remaining unified. In both settings we knew as women leaders our collective voice gave us strength to contribute uniquely in the various spheres of influence we walked and ministered. In both groups these women leaders held a high view of men. And we understood through advocacy, mutual respect and support from good and godly men that men AND women together paints a fuller, deeper picture of God’s character and the message of Hope for our hurting world. Not surprisingly, both of these groups have been positively influenced by the Synergy Women’s Network. The message of Synergy resonates in our core how we are created as image bearers, warriors and how together with our husbands and brothers we are to walk in the good works God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10).

My heart is concerned and saddened by the confusion and nastiness I often see online as it relates to Christian women and leadership. I have godly friends on both sides of the theological spectrum. I have studied and read side by side the writings on the various passages in the Bible addressing women and leadership written by men and women who love God wholeheartedly. This blog purposely does not include a book list and blog roll. I don’t want readers to draw conclusions and dismiss my writing based on who I read or don’t read. I welcome dialog, discussion and have come to believe reading widely is helpful in broadening our understanding of who God is and how we reflect Him through our culture, gender, gifting and experiences.

My fellow Redbud, Stephanie, tweeted this Chinese proverb today:

When sleeping women wake, mountains move.

The women leaders I have been privileged to link arms with through the API Women’s Leadership conference and Redbud Writers Guild display strength and dignity that is feminine and powerful. Their faith, character, vision, and voice will surely cause mountains to move. Mark my words.