Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Aren't YOU Lovely?!

5th Official Blog Post in AU. 30 August 2011

"Embracing Hope."
That is the title of the blog I have been trying to write for over a week now, but I just can't connect all of my thoughts well enough to communicate that subject in its entirety just yet. However, within the last few days, I have felt inclined to bring up another subject for all you lovely ladies out there (and any men who are curious to listen in on girl talk!)...



Do you know you are beautiful?
I mean, do you really truly know that and believe it?

What makes you feel beautiful?
Is it your outfit? Maybe your hairstyle? Did you have time to exercise or put on make-up this morning? Do you feel beautiful because your significant other or best friend told you so?

I just want you to know that none of those things are what make you beautiful.

You were made uniquely; with a capacity to love so deeply and more faithfully than what you probably allow yourself to practice at present. You have so much talent inside of you just waiting to be made manifest on the earth. Your ability to nurture and serve people around you really does go a long way. Don't get discouraged if you don't see the results of being generous. You are more influential than you know. You don't have to be a CEO, supermodel, or the perfect mom to achieve greatness. Your beauty flourishes as you grow more and more comfortable with your true, honest-to-goodness, self.

Take a second while you're getting ready in front of the mirror to look yourself straight in the eyes and say, "You are stronger than you think. You are more beautiful than you realize."

I know the whole talking in the mirror thing seems really tacky. I am kind of embarassed to admit that I have done this a few times recently. However, I'm willing to admit it because I am honestly shocked at the impact it has on my thought life every single time!

You are stronger than you think.
You are more beautiful than you realize.

“Like a lily among the thorns,
So is my darling among the maidens.”

~Song of Solomon 2:2
(That's what God says about YOU!)

I can't resist closing with a couple pick-me-up songs...


Monday, August 15, 2011


Fourth Official Blog Post in AU. 15 August 2011

I must warn you that in this present moment I feel like writing about this subject may be a bit premature. Perhaps this will be the preliminary post before I publish a more thoroughly thought through version in the coming week or so. My creative inclination to write is bubbling over today which is why I have decided to proceed on the subject matter anyways. Here goes...

Every day I study and discuss nation states and the issues each one contains: war, genocide, human rights abuse, child soldiers, the concept of government approved torture, poverty, hunger, AIDS, malaria, water conditions, land ownership, colonialism, racism, religious divide; the list seems endless.

We also analyse how to resolve these problems. What are human rights? How do we solve the issue of poverty? How do we understand the psychology of human beings and their use of aggression versus choosing a more peaceful approach? Is war the best method to deal with conflicts between nations? Are the institutions we have set up to preserve human rights and peace even effective? What needs to change so that the world can finally change for the better?

All of these issues and questions can be so... ridiculous at times. Today I was involved in a discussion about global currency and a global community. The professor quixotically stated that these reforms would be the resolution to the lack of equality in the world. My classmates and I were far too practical for such a suggestion. We then asked her whether that would mean the end of national borders, etc. As the conversation continued, I began to add up how much the concept of nationalism has to do with our problems.

na·tion·al·ism   /ˈnæʃənlˌɪzəm, ˈnæʃnəˌlɪz-/ Show Spelled[nash-uh-nl-iz-uhm, nash-nuh-liz-]
1. national spirit or aspirations.
2. devotion and loyalty to one's own nation; patriotism.
3. excessive patriotism; chauvinism.
4. the desire for national advancement or independence.
5. the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one's own nation, viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.

Now I am not saying I am in support of a global community, global currency or anything like that. While I will not be surprised if it happens eventually, I don't see it as a realistic possibility until all nations come to a near balance economically as separate societies first. (I just had to get that out of the way...)

My uneasiness with nationalism has gradually surfaced more and more as I've grown up. As mentioned several times over the course of this blog's existence, being of mixed cultural heritage has always made it difficult to have a sense of loyalty to solely one place/nation/cultural group. Now that I am living abroad in an incredibly diverse city, I come face to face with the influence of nationalism around every corner.

Introductory conversations here tend to begin by asking, "What's your background?" In other words, what is your ethnic background and nationality? I cannot help but notice how often I have been placed under certain assumptions because of the fact that I am Indian, Filipino, and American. Suddenly, I am expected to know all of this Asian history I was never taught and live up to all the stereotypes of being American.

What makes me feel most disconcerted is when people bring up negative aspects of the United States, mostly in relation to its political actions. The struggle begins somewhere inside because I wonder if I am supposed to defend the U.S. since it is where I was born and raised. I don't know how to feel about the fact that I have no inclination to defend it. What am I supposed to say? Do I say they are wrong when I know they are not? I cannot pretend like I have this deep inset conviction that the United States is the greatest nation on earth. Please, do not mistake me for being anti-American or some sort of extremist. I simply don't feel that way about any nation on earth nor do I believe I ever will (perhaps the quote in my blog heading relates to this).

What I am trying to say is that, I think that has always been our problem. We pick teams and make assumptions based on the flag we bear instead of knowing each other as individuals. I don't want to be looked at and identified as a certain kind of person because of deep rooted life circumstances I had absolutely no role in determining! I did not choose to be Indian and Filipino nor did I choose to be born in the United States of America! All of these aspects are things I am extremely grateful for, but they are not a part of me because I have chosen them. I think being mixed and being raised in a family that embraces people from every nation has opened my mind to simply embrace people with all types of cultural backgrounds because they are people and that fact comes before the place they come from.

Ultimately, I want to be known for the good character I am constantly seeking to establish in the strength of Jesus Christ. I want to be known for love and faithfulness; for patience and service toward others. I want to be known for walking in wisdom and being a good steward of what life has placed in my care. That is the same way I see and seek to know others by.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Cold, Hard Heart.

3rd [“Official”] Blog Post in AU. August 2, 2011

This is sort of meant to be a counterbalance to my last post (“The Wellspring of Life”).

Before diving into this post’s content, please prepare yourself to do some deep down heart analysis. Get your journal, get a Bible, and get alone.

Ask yourself the following:
Do you keep yourself and keep people at a distance?
Do you keep up a good front but struggle to be real?
Are you able to show your emotions?
Do you feel like you always have to keep it together?
Are you known to be “the strong one”?
Do you find it difficult to ask for help?
Do you resist change?
Do you find it easy to minister to others yet struggle to be ministered to?
Do you tend to wish other people could keep it all together like you can?
Do you look down on others who express emotions because it seems immature or weak?
Do you have difficulty receiving love or intimacy?

Many times, these things can be subconscious. They are symptoms of having a ‘heart of stone.’

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
-Ezekiel 36:26 (NASB)

Over the course of this past week I have been listening to the ‘Heart of Stone’ sermon from Emanate pastors, Alyn and AJ Jones. As the week led into the weekend I kept praying about, obviously my own heart condition, but also whether to blog about this particular subject. Various conversations and another relevant sermon confirmed and complemented my rumination.

I think it is safe to say we all have areas in our lives where we don’t want to let people or emotions in. In Alyn and AJ’s podcast, AJ gave examples from her own life. I especially related to her when she would use the term “bracing for impact.” There were times when God would bless her with something amazing - a new car only $300 above cost because the car dealer was a Christian and knew her full-time ministry salary couldn’t afford the average sales cost. However, she would not get excited. She would tell herself, “Don’t get excited. If you don’t get excited, you won’t be let down if it falls through.” That is even how she handled her engagement to Alyn! Since she had previously been married and her first husband walked out on her, she began managing her heart in such a way that she wouldn’t allow the excitement and joy to overcome her for fear that Alyn might leave her too. For non-married folks, I think that can be the same in dating relationships or in the period of considering whether to date someone. One has to figure out whether they trust the other person, but also if they can get past fear or other anxieties that now exist as a result of experiencing the failure of previous relationships and the mess of all its complexities when that relationship fell apart. In that time of waiting and wondering, it can almost be an instinctive response to brace for impact because of being unsure whether that person mutually cares for you or how s/he would respond to your affection. We put our faith in disappointment rather that Christ.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
-Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

When we brace for impact we rob ourselves of the joy in those circumstances! We don’t live freely in giving God glory for His provision, we don’t bask in the glory of experiencing something good that we have waited on and has now come to fruition. Bracing for impact robs us from living in the good things about what is right now. We have begun looking too far ahead or comparing to what was rather than appreciating what is present.

In the same way, I find that most Christians live sheepishly in their areas of gifting. I fight through it daily! We think we are being so humble by denying it when someone points out our GOD GIVEN strengths!

“But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” [Jer. 9:24] For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
-2 Corinthians 10:17-18 (NIV)

There is a difference between improper pride and recognizing what the Lord has given you. When we live with false humility, we suppress our God given gifts from bearing fruit that should be springing forth to glorify the Lord in the expansion of His kingdom and/or the strengthening of His people.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
-John 10:10

God didn’t design us with such vast individual qualities and capabilities so that we could blend in with everybody else or just get by in a mediocre workplace or livelihood. We were meant to bring Him glory and part of bringing Him glory is living in the fullness of all He has for us. We have to recognize God’s authentic character and all we were made for; that He backs us up with power and strength when we live in fellowship and obedience with Him.

In the same way we can keep people at arm’s length, we tend to keep the Lord at a distance. In my own experience I have found that the way I handle human relationships and circumstances tend to be a direct reflection of the way I am in relationship with God. When I push away from either parties, it is usually to guard myself from being vulnerable in whatever shape or form vulnerability takes in that context. I don’t like to ask for or accept help/generosity very often (heart of stone symptom!) because it can be difficult to believe that people just want to help or give without any strings attached or expectation of being paid back in some form or another. I don’t want to be seen as greedy or needy or inconsiderate of the other person’s time, energy, or resources. When I don’t allow God to be my help, it is often because I don’t trust him to deliver (even though He will never, ever betray His character) and usually feel incredibly unworthy of His abundant grace and unconditional love.

How many lies have been surfaced here?! How many pretenses do we live in about ourselves, each other and about God? It is so healthy to take time out of our schedules for the sake of understanding why we are the way we are instead of just accepting our tendencies as natural.

Look back on your life and ask God to reveal any situation that may have been the catalyst for building walls up around your heart. It could even be something that happened in early childhood or even infancy. You might be surprised at some of the random circumstances that can be brought to light: things you may never even think about can surface as being the root cause. Forgive whoever played a role in hurting or disappointing you. Let go of what happened; it has passed.

Ultimately, when that is said and done, we must break down the walls and press in to what is ahead for us. Allowing God to replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh is risky. You have to be willing to stay vulnerable and risk being hurt or disappointed again. However, I find the uncertainty is worth it. Why? Besides the fact that it will make you a healthier individual internally and relationally, living without walls allows the Lord to work in your life beyond the limitations that were once set inside a stony heart. Living with a heart of flesh allows God to be Himself- to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine.