Category Archives: testimony

I Am the Branch

For what feels like most of my life, I have had this struggle with my hair.  My desire is for it to grow long, but in the past several years, every beautician I have seen has recommended that I cut it.  There has been so much damage and mistreatment of my hair, the best option was to chop it off and regrow it.  I resisted because I did not understand how cutting it off would help it grow longer.  I did not want to let go, so I held on to my damaged hair which still refused to grow.

I am worthyOnce I was meditating on John 15 (“The Vine and the branches”), and I realized something:  God, the vine dresser, takes away the branches that do not bear fruit.  He prunes the branches that do, so that they may bear more fruit.  My habit was to use this verse as a plea for God to prune me so that I become a branch that does bear fruit.  But the very fact that He prunes me shows that I already bear fruit and He sees the potential in me for more. What an honor it is, for the vine dresser to prune me!

Our society so easily discards things we consider insufficient.  But Our Father is not like that.  He says, “I delight in you.  I see the fruit you bear.  That’s why I prune you.  Because you were made for so much more.”  Even if He sees one pathetically tiny piece of fruit barely hanging on from that branch that I am, He still delights in me.  He sees not that I have barely produced anything.  He only sees the capacity He has in me. It is not about my faults and failures because He declares that I am already clean because of the word which has spoken to me.  It’s not about me.  The star of the vine is the Vine: Jesus.  It’s about God, the vine dresser.  His desire to grow us, use us, and have us to Himself.  Though that love involves us, it isn’t about us.  Submitting to pruning is simply an act of receiving His great love for us.

vinedresserSo a couple of weeks ago, I sat in the stylist’s chair.  A year and a half ago, I argued with her about how I did NOT want my hair cut (even though she offered to simply trim it).  I said, reluctantly, I’m ready to cut it.  I watched the dry, split ends fall to my shoulders.  A part of me was dying inside.  At the end, my hair was more beautiful than I would’ve imagined it would be short.  And it looked so healthy.  I was grateful for putting trust in her.

How much more trust should I place in my God who knows what is and isn’t good for me?  What are you holding that may need to be let go, even if only for a season?  I challenge you to be open to pruning when the time comes.  Because the result is always worth it.

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What is the Great Commission?

Before ascending, Jesus leaves his disciples with a few final instructions, which have become widely known collectively as The Great Commission.  This conversation occurs in Matthew 28:18-20.  The Great Commission has developed into the theological basis for the concept of evangelism.  I don’t know about you, but I grew up in evangelical churches which constantly made me question if I was “sharing the gospel” with enough of my friends every week.

I began attending college and joined various campus ministries which had the same mentality.  Regularly, they would equip us with tracts like the Four Spiritual Laws and send us out on campus; only to have us to return and report the results.

One instance, I was paired with a new believer.  We went through the routine of starting the conversation, only to pull out the outdated booklet.  I met a girl who began to tell us her life story.  The young guy with me kept trying to direct the conversation back to the “Four Spiritual Laws.”  She responded that she had seen it before, and he continued to cut her off to explain how good God is.

Then it hit me.

No one has taken the time to listen to this girl.

She was seriously hurting.  A huge part of the pain dealt her was in fact, by the church.  So I proceeded to cut off the over excited young man to listen to what she had to say before we continued to shove religion down her throat.  As much as that moment hurt to see what the church has done, what followed hurt even more.

At the end of the day, we only conversed with that one girl.  I was the one who had the conversation, really.  My partner simply observed.  That was the only report we had at our ministry debriefing.  I did not know this until later, but my partner felt like a failure.  It was as if he hadn’t committed his duty.  As he drove on the highway that day, he seriously contemplated committing suicide.

Thankfully he didn’t.  But what have we come to if we feel guilty for not “sharing the gospel” in the way we should?

I am so sick of “evangelism”
Confining God’s love to Four Spiritual Laws
Pedalling gospel tracts as any other cause
Chunking seed all around just to pull in the numbers
Leading people in prayer to abandon them without disciplers

I am not an evangelist.  I definitely believe that some people are designed that way.  We are all gifted in different ways and function differently like parts of a body.  What were Jesus words in The Great Commission?  “Make disciples of all nations.”

I found myself relating to someone the other day about God.  Then a realization hit me.  Am I actually sharing the gospel?  Making disciples was given a specific definition to me in my church experience.  But I realize that making disciples may look different to each of us.  And when we become the gospel, it naturally flows out of us without a works-based mentality.

What does that mean to you?  What is your specific calling according to the way He made You?  God, reveal the mysteries of your will, through Holy Spirit.  May our eyes be enlightened  to see the hope of Your calling, that we may function according to our giftings from you.  Amen.


Wings of Forgiveness

I intended to abandon this blog forever.  As well as my relationship with God.  But like a jealous lover, He pursued me as I came to end of myself and realized just how much I need Him.  There’s an entire story to that which I will elaborate later.

I tried to end this in a season of confusion, when my heart was broken and I was running away from Jesus.  Just a few months later, I came back to the cross, and it’s been a long season of healing and restoration since then.  Occasionally, I would look back at this blog and remember that this was my ministry.  I truly believe that many will be delivered through the word released from my online pulpit.  But I never knew how to get back into it after stopping the way I did.  Until a few nights ago, when Holy Spirit spoke to me by bringing to remembrance a scripture I once knew so well:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-4)

The place to begin is forgiveness.

Last year, I moved away, leaving everything I knew behind to pursue a higher calling I believed in.  When things didn’t go as I’d imagined, I didn’t know how to cope.  Suddenly, I found myself on a self-destructive path.  It was around this time last year, that a concerned friend spoke up about noticing something was off.  This friend was one of . . . if not the biggest supporter I had on my missionary journey to pursue my calling.  I was in a hurt place, and she was hurt seeing the destruction to which I gave myself.  We both responded out of hurt and ended up offending each other.  I never forgave her for that.

The past couple of months, I’ve sought the Lord about how to find my place in ministry again.  And I’ve felt stuck.  I thought the answer would be about revealing a grand assignment.  But I forget about the little things that matter in my walk with the Lord.  The things I take for granted.  It seems like such a tiny thing, an offense between me and another person.  But it matters to God.  It is poison..  A foothold for the devil (Eph 4:26) every time I give into it.  So I’m ready to let go so that He can release me into what it is that I seek.

I love you, and I’m sorry that I’ve held this offense against you for so long.  I believe that your heart was for me in that moment even though I was unable to receive that truth then.  I truly choose to no longer hold it against you, and humbly ask your forgiveness for holding contentions against you.  I really hope that we can really discuss what happened and move on.  You were always an amazing friend to me, and I’ve been blessed to have you in my life.  I regret that I ever kept you out of it.

“I’m only human.
Let’s shake free this gravity of resentment
And fly high, and fly high
You’re only human
Let’s shake free this gravity of judgment
And fly high on the wings of forgiveness.”
India Arie 


Violation

I had a dream where I was being checked out of a grocery store.  As I was in the middle of a transaction, I felt a blindfold being quickly tied onto my face from behind followed by the imprint of a gun being gently pressed into my back.  My heart began racing in fear as the person proceeded to help herself to everything in my purse as well as whatever was in the open cash register drawer.

There are few dreams I remember so vividly, but this one, I remember every detail.  Mostly, I remember how I felt, and this is the first time I even considered an emotion that comes with being robbed.  I assumed fear comes into play and even trauma.  But I never really thought about what it means to feel violated.

Violation is something I’ve encountered.  Though being robbed was unfamiliar to me, feeling violated was not.  Far from it actually.  God brought this to my attention a couple of days ago.

I’m currently in the midst of beginning ministry training.  One night during a service of soaking prayer, I felt the Lord speaking to me more clearly than I have heard him in a while.  The first word He said was, “Violation.”

I thought that was strange, so I asked, “What does that mean, Lord?”

He was faithful to answer.  He reminded me that at an early age, I encountered a deep violation.  And ever since, I hold my heart like I’m the only one who cares to protect it.  The only one who can protect it.  Constantly throughout the day, whispers of paranoia flow through my mind about protecting myself from possible ill intentions of the people around.

“Put on your sweater or someone might look at your chest.”

“Step a little to the left or someone might try to pickpocket you.”

It’s not unreasonable to be safe sometimes, but I have taken it to another level.  But the Lord revealed to me that He never violates us.  And I thought, “Of course not, you’re God!”  But then I realized that I don’t always believe that.

At the time, my fear was that God asked me to leave the comfort of my home and the church I loved so much to drag me to unknown territory and force me to live in poverty.  Starving, homeless, lonely, and in such a deep debt.  I thought he wanted me to do this just to prove that I was devoted to Him.

As ridiculous as it sounds, that is my fear.  And most believers probably have little fears like that when God asks them to do something uncomfortable.  Don’t we know that our loving God would never VIOLATE us?  He doesn’t even enter our heart without our permission.  He will stand at the door and knock; not blow up the door and come rushing in with His machine guns.

I remember a part of my childhood where I was really gullible.  Because I had no reason to believe that anyone would want to lie to me or hurt me in anyway.  Negative intentions or even just selfish intentions weren’t conceivable to me.  And the Lord said He wants to take me to a place where I feel that way about Him.

I repented for believing that God would ever violate me, and forgave the first person I remember bringing me such violation.  He is changing my heart and softening it to His will.  Because I welcomed Him in and asked Him to.  He is not a God that would violate us.

I renounced the lie that God was not trustworthy and received the truth that He is my safety.  His name is like a strong tower to which the righteous run and are safe.

Tonight I pray over the violated hearts tonight, particularly of young women.  That their hearts may rest again after years of self-preservation and tiring defenses.  A new revelation of His deep, caring love is coming to encounter those who are willing to receive it.  Those willing to let their walls down for just a moment . . . long enough to realize that He would never violate us.


“Jesus Wept”

There was a time in my life that I could have sworn this was the only bible verse my mother knew.  “Jesus wept,” she would say methodically over her food.  It was her form of grace.  I always found it awkward.  I didn’t see what it had to do with being thankful for our food, but I got used to it.

In a sense, this verse (John 11:35) seems awkward and unusual.  It is the shortest verse in the bible.  Those two simple words make you wonder why the writer included them.  As someone who was recording important historical events, it must have been clear which details should be included and which shouldn’t.  There aren’t any verses about Jesus doing number two in whatever they used as a toilet back then or about Jesus yawning before going to bed or about Jesus going for a morning walk just to take a breath.  Why is it important that Jesus wept?

A couple of weeks ago, I felt the Lord tell me that as I was going into this narrow place I’m in, He wants me to get in touch with my emotions.  This was a terrifying thing to me.  I am usually in denial of my emotions; I try to lock them up as I’ve done most of my life.  I don’t like to cry, whether alone or in front of people.  For any reason whatsoever.  But lately, He has told me to allow myself to cry.  Allow myself to feel my emotions no matter how much they hurt.  I didn’t understand at the time why he was asking me to do this, but now I think I do.

This summer has been a trying season in my life.  I am taking a step of faith unlike anything I’ve ever done before.  He is teaching me how to trust.  I received sad news about someone I really love being ill.  My family turned against me and has withdrawn all their support from the decision into which I am walking.  I am believing for a financial miracle that doesn’t even make sense.  Mostly, for the first time in my life, I am moving away from my hometown.  States away where I know no one and plan to start a new life.

As much as I am excited about walking into my destiny, these things tug at my heart.  And for the first time in my life, I am accepting my emotions.  Just because you know the truth or know something is for the best . . . even if you just know that God is sovereign and will work all things together for His glory . . . it doesn’t change the fact that life will not always feel good.  It doesn’t mean I have less faith or am a bad Christian if I feel like crying sometimes.

Because Jesus wept.

For those of you who don’t know me very well, this is an amazing breakthrough for me.  The ex-cutter who turned to self-mutilation because I was too afraid to face my emotions.  I would rather cut than cry.  But He is pursuing something in my heart, and in the meantime, teaching me to look at hidden truths behind my emotions.  To show me what it is that I actually believe about God and even what I believe about myself.  The lies He wants to expose in order to show me the truth.

So I weep.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen.  I am capable of crying. And crying without shame.


So Long College Days

So this week, I attended my last week of college classes.  I don’t walk across the stage until December.  Graduating from college is a major accomplishment for anyone.  But let me tell you why it astonishes me.

The worst things that have happened in my life happened during my college years.  Before I turned 21, I had two failed engagements.  The first of which, my boyfriend of 3 yrs broke up with me by text message while I was lying on a hospital bed and very shortly after married a girl whose name I never heard before.  Oh, and did I mention that I was in the hospital because of a failed suicide attempt?  The church that became my safe haven during these difficult times went through a terrible split, and almost everyone I was close to  left and I had little to no contact with them since.  My mom went through a series of relationships with terrible men; one who stole my car and disappeared for almost nine months and another who had me lying awake at night wondering if I would receive a phone call that she was in the hospital.  I lost two best friends over circumstances out of my control.  Lost another best friend by mistakenly thinking he was the one I was going to marry.  And accepting his proposal even when I didn’t feel right about it.  I was used, abused, sexually assaulted, abandoned, harassed, stalked, and more things than I can even remember.

I don’t list all these things to convince you that I had a terrible life.  Because honestly, there are so many people who have had it so much worse than I have.  Really, I write this for myself because it encourages me to see what I have overcome.

Before I entered college, I had struggled with depression, cutting, and anorexia.  By my freshman year, I think all these things multiplied in my life and continued to grow until last year when I really received the help I needed.  There were so many classes I skipped throughout the years, even for weeks at a time, because I was so depressed and didn’t want to leave my bed.  I just cried all day.  Or drank a bottle of Nyquil and stayed in bed.  I even had to take an entire semester off, and I never thought I’d go back.  Then I thought I could be Superwoman and take 20 hours of classes and work 30 hours a week.  Ultimately, I crashed harder than I ever knew I could.

Yet I’m here.  Happy, free, complete.  In a church I never would have imagined myself in, surrounded by people who truly love and support me.  With a restored relationship with my mother and family.  And complete with my college coursework; ready to stand as a first-generation college graduate with so much new wisdom under my belt.

Thank you, friends.
Thank you, family,
For being there; showing how you care.
For the midnight calls and the morning hugs.
For standing for me, even when I resisted.
For believing in me, even when I couldn’t.

Thank you, God.
For being God.
And putting these people in my life who remind me of who you are.


You Make Everything Glorious . . . except me

“Good morning, Beautiful!”

These words were spoken to me this morning by a customer who walked into my store.  You have to understand that I work at a coffee shop, and it was 7 a.m.  The only thing I’m used to hearing at 7 a.m. is tired, grumpy people barking their order at me without even responding to my genuine “Hello.”  You also have to understand that I had huge dark circles under my eyes as a result of the not so unusual insomnia from the night preceding my waking up at 4 a.m. so that I could be at work at 5.  You need to understand that my hair wasn’t brushed, I had a coffee-stained, needed-to-be-ironed shirt adorned only with a whip cream and mocha covered apron.  And I’m pretty sure there were coffee grinds under my fingernails and probably some unknown substance on my face.

I lied.  You don’t need to understand any of that.  None of that matters.  That is the very point.  I glanced at this stranger oddly who was unusually perkier than the rest of my morning customers.  She repeated, “You are beautiful.  You know that, right?”  I responded by dodging the compliment.  I don’t receive them very well.  Because the truth is, even in the nicest of clothes and perfect makeup, I still do not feel beautiful.  She told me, “But you are beautiful.  You’re the only one of you there is.”

Here is my confession.  My testimony is that I overcame self-hatred.  I do not even know how to describe in words how much I used to loathe myself.  But it was not until today that I realized that I only graduated from absolutely despising myself to tolerating myself.  I do not love myself; some days I can manage liking myself.  At my church services and prayer meetings, I isolate myself because I do not even feel worthy enough to be considered a part.  But I want to be a part; I want to support everyone else and what they are doing.  But I do not fit in.  I can’t let myself fit in.

A couple of hours ago, I was driving home from school.  David Crowder’s song “Everything Glorious” came on my cd player.  When the chorus started, I was worshiping God.  Yes, he makes everything glorious.  But when it came to “I am yours; what does that make me?”  I ignored it.  Then I heard Jesus say. . .

“Start it over.”

So I started the song over.  Same experience.  Just thought I was starting all over.  He spoke again:

“No, you don’t get it.  Start it over.”

I started the song over and remembered last Wednesday at a prayer meeting.  In worship, I had my face lifted up towards the ceiling.  God asked me, “Why do you do that?”  I realized that when I worship, it’s as if I exalt someone way up off in the distance.  So I imagined Jesus standing right in front of me, and it was really uncomfortable.  Why was it so uncomfortable?  Then, that voice interrupted my train of thought again.

“I’m going to pursue you until you get it.  Start it over.”

Then, I realized.  If I had to look into the eyes of Jesus and see how much he really loved me.  I mean, not in a Sunday school song “Jesus loves me this I know” that I know in my head kind of way.  Not even in accordance with spiritual highs I’ve had within the past.  But if I could see his eyes like flames of fire gazing into mine, I would crumble.  I could not even stand.  Tears would overflow.  But mostly, my biggest fear ever . . .

I would have to receive it.

I would be forced to love myself.

If only I could see how much Jesus loves me.

It seems like such a contradiction.  To believe that everything God makes is glorious.  But I’m the exception.  In fact, it is quite vain and prideful.  Ever since I fell in love with Jesus, I tried to reconcile that God was amazing with the fact that I was disgusted with myself.  And this is what I came up with: “You make everything glorious . . . except me.”

So to anyone who struggles with self-hatred, I pray right now that Jesus penetrates you with His love.  Because when He does, you can never look at yourself the same.