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Monday, February 28, 2011

Contentment Part 2

“For I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” This is one of my theme verses of life. I have every reason to whine and complain, but I can learn contentment. I can choose joy, and I make this my goal. I’ll never be the bubbly-smiley type. But I can treasure joy in my soul. I can dwell on all that God is and does and lay all my worries and fears before Him. I can wrap my anxieties in a box and deposit them with God and get a good night’s sleep.

I know, this sounds Pollyanna-ish. But it’s what I think, if only for today.

What I’m after is joy. I want joyful joy – not niceties. I want a life within that overflows with joy. I have this life. God has given it to me. It is now mine to realise, but I realise it will take work to dig through the dust that has cluttered my soul. And I have the courage to do it, but laziness is an obstacle. Inertia of life is an obstacle that draws me away from the actual and into the soul numbing virtual which is so not real, but distracting nonetheless. If distraction is just what I’m after why don’t I say that and go with it? But I feel I am so easily satisfied with so little and fail to plumb the depths of joy, peace, righteousness that are available to me as God’s child.

How I Met Sam Part 28

On the weekends Sam and I would talk non-stop until late at night. We shared our lives, our struggles, our journey. We had many similar experiences with teenage depression and spiritual struggles of purpose. I remember Sam telling me that he longed for a wife, whom he would aim to treat as a queen. When he said that I longed to be that wife! But at that point we hardly knew each other and he was not even considering me as an option! I will say that some of his words in passing were casual and innocent - not hinting at anything in any way. I knew that he was not suggesting anything, even though I really wished he were. This knowledge, that I was sitting talking to a wonderful man who longed to treat his future wife like his queen, but who didn't mean anything by it was difficult for me to stomach. I mean that literally. About a half hour after he said these things I began to vomit.
Being the very noble gentleman that he was, he followed me into the throne room while I knelt at the porcelain throne and emptied my guts. He had no clue that it was his words that had begun to churn my stomach! And I was too busy kneeling and him too busy being supportive, patting my back and handing me toilet paper to wipe my mouth, to let him know the multitude of thoughts and emotions whirling around in my head.


How I Met Sam Part 27

I am trying to tell this story as completely as I can - and my memory for this time in my life is pretty good. They say what imprints the brain with memories has to do with adrenaline. This makes sense to me, since there are specific details that stand out in my mind. Another side of this could be that I have told and re-told this story many times and have probably cemented the memories created by adrenaline!

I guess I had left out the part about when Sam got stitched up. Sorry for the following gory details. We sat in the E.R. and they called Sam into the same room where I had my stitches done the previous month (after the brick-clobbering incident). When I had had my stitches they told my Dad to wait outside - so I endured the ordeal alone. I just assumed they'd tell me to stay outside too, but I guess multiple stab wounds gets more sympathy than just a single gash to the skull. They invited me inside, and I hesitated. I asked Sam if he wanted me there, sure he would say no, just out of a sense of independence and bravery. Instead he said that he'd like me to come. So I agreed.
They told him to lay down on the same cold metal table I had been on. Mind you he was shirtless (the stab wounds were in his chest and side), so the cold table was just one extra measure of uncomfortable-ness. He was pretty pale and still quite shook up. I stood to his side and the Doctor leaned over him from the top. Sam asked if I had a mirror so he could watch. Thankfully he was out of luck. I said I would narrate. That was a dumb move.
First they had to numb the area. You'd think they would be very gentle and careful about this. But maybe they're too practical about it all - gotta get the job done I suppose. (Reminds me of the time my Dad needed stitches - in the same hospital - for a gash on his little finger. The nurse asked him how many stitches he wanted. He said, 'As few as possible.' With that advice from his non-medical expertise she attempted to stitch up the inch + gash in ONE stitch. Dad passed out and woke up to nurses slapping him on the face saying loudly, 'Be a man! Be a man!' Needless to say, he was not amused). Sorry for the digression. I couldn't help it.
Back to the stitching. The Dr. leaned in with the numbing needle - just your average size syringe. The wound was right on Sam's sternum, about an inch away from his heart. I guess the knowledge of anatomy gave him the confidence to dive right in, knowing if he dug too deeply he'd only hit bone. And dig away he did. At this point I began to go a bit pale. When the needle was pressed in until it bent at a right degree angle my knees began to feel a bit weak. I know they are flimsy and must be easily bendable, but the thought of it bending on the resistance of my or anyone's open, gaping wound was pushing it just a little. Sam said I could hold his hand if I felt I needed to. That jolted me back to reality and I began to feel better. There was no way I would hold his hand. The whole thing freaked me out.
Maybe now it is making a little more sense as to why I responded to this incident with such emotional distress. Not just the burglary, as bad as that was, but also the awkwardness of the hospital visit, plus the blood and visual effects of it all... these were enough to set me on a path of fear and anxiety.
A few weeks later, when I was still in the throes of sleeplessness and fear, I also had to face the struggle of identifying the two thieves that were caught. It is not like in America where they have nice mirrored glass windows and you can’t see them. I had to walk right up to the man I thought it was and say loudly that I suspected him while his beady eyes glared at me. It was a bit of a panicky feel then.
Fear had gripped me, but I stared it in the face until it diminished. I tell people I think about heaven every day. Some don’t believe me. Some say this is a sign of depression. I don’t know what it is. I think it is just my way of connecting to my true home, since much of my life I have felt ‘homeless’.
There are many weaknesses that I have and many faults, but my one aim is to allow God’s perfect love to cast out my fear, and to someday be perfected in love. The one who fears is not perfected in love. The antidote to fear, I found, was basking in, revelling in, and growing in knowledge of the unsurpassing love that God has for me. His love is redemptive. His love intends to change us, to move us, to use us to be conformed to His likeness. Fear has no place when I cling tightly to the God of love and grace.

How I Met Sam Part 26

So we had our first couple of emails. They were inspiring. They warmed my heart. But I knew that Sam was just a purely nice guy who was trying to be an encouragement to me and I guessed he was trying his best to make sure nothing other than an offer of friendship was communicated. Though I guess I hoped differently!

Although what with the crazy sleep patterns and lack of eating I was such a wreck I couldn't sort out any emotion or register any kind of emotion other than numbness and fear. After all the events of the following few weeks people's impressions were that it was a 'whirlwind romance' and that I was head-over-heels and the relationship was all consuming. Well, I will grant it did kind of become all consuming, as relationships tend to be at the outset (and following, depending!) But as for head-over-heels - sorry all you romantics out there - but that I was not.

Let me take you back to the night of the burglary. I had HAD an interest in Sam, our handsome houseguest that night. But when I heard him screaming for his life in the middle of the night, my heart went cold and dead and I even promised myself "I will not grieve for someone I did not know."

I believe this was a foolish, self-protective promise to myself and have regretted that impulsive thought ever since, because it sealed off the natural flow of emotion from my heart for a long long time, and who's to say that I'll ever be quite normal again? Even so, I believe God is redemptive even in our impulsive mistakes and has helped me cope with these issues...

So, here Sam and I begin emailing a bit and I like him well enough but my heart is still very dead and cold. I realised it was a long-shot that he would ever have an interest in me romantically, so I guess I didn't worry about it but just appreciated whatever friendship we would have. Remember, I was basically sworn off having male single friends - I only envishioned heartache coming from that situation! But the burglary somewhat forced us to have a common traumatic experience to process and share together. How can you not talk to someone who you witnessed getting stabbed and later stitched up? I made one exception to this silly self-imposed rule.

However cold and dead my heart may have been, if there had been any hope of reviving the numbness I felt it would be in the form of spiritual encouragement and in the following email from Sam, that is what I received:

Wed 6 Oct 1999

Sarah,

Thanks for forwarding your emails you sent about the burglary to others to me. There are a few things you said in the emails that I hadn't realized. I'm sorry everything seems to be coming down on you at once. I feel like I only have to deal with the robbery, not with the many things you are trying to work through.
There is only one way through this Sarah, and that is with our Dad [-Father God-]. He made you, He knows how you think, He knows how overwhelming it is right now for you, He knows that you aren't sleeping, every single detail with your things in Chicago [I was concerned about my in-absentia rent payments and finding extra roommates for our apt in Chicago]. He knows all. Be anxious for nothing, but pray about everything Phil 4.6. Everything I say in this email you will have heard before. I'm just trying to drill it in to you. Pour out your heart to our Dad Ps 62.8 - Do it. There is nothing I can do to really help you through this. I wish there was. He is the only one who wants to walk you through this. I wish I could be down there each night if I was a girl. But even if I was there in the room each night, nothing compares to the comfort and peace He can give.

I've been asking Dad to help you sleep, so often. I sure hope you slept well last night. I want to know how you slept. What time did you fall asleep? How many times did you wake up? What time did you get up? How scared were you before falling asleep? How was the lineup today? [I'll explain about that next post] Was it weird seeing them again? Bring back memories you already thought were gone?

I spent the last little bit looking up some verses. I know so many people have been sharing things with you, and you are probably overwhelmed with people writing, but these next ones I share, please meditate on them, think on them during the watches of the night, just like Ps 119:148 - My eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promises. It's the only way Sarah you will get through this, meditating on His Word as you lay in bed.

I just reread Ps 56 which I read Sunday a.m. Verses 3 and 4 I don't even remember reading. "When I am afraid I will trust in You...In Dad I trust, I will not be afraid" We've both heard that a million times in our lives, but it had new meaning for me just now. When I fully trust in Him I have no reason to be afraid. We first need to figure out Who He is and how great He is, only then can we fully trust Him and not be afraid. Picture this Sarah, 24 hours a day there are tens of thousands of chariots outside your house, Ps 68.17. Every chariot has a warrior in it, and every warrior has one mission - to guard three sleeping people inside. Can you imagine how far tens of thousands of chariots will go from your house. Because of all the buildings, you would probably have to walk half a mile in any direction to get out of them. That means anyone in the future who is thinking of robbing your place doesn't have a chance. And all those little noises you hear at night that startle, they aren't robbers, those are the chariots and horses and warriors outside. For the number that are out there, they are keeping pretty quiet. No, these couple sentences I was joking, but the rest of what I'm saying, I really mean it, think about all those soldiers on our side, tonight as you lay in bed.

Imagine that our Dad is in your room tonight, and He has these huge wings with feathers and He is covering you - that's what it says in Ps 91.4. And in verse 5 it says that we won't fear the terror by night. And in verse one it talks about resting in His shadow. He is so close that we are in His shadow. If the moon is directly overhead and we are outside at night, we have to be very very close to them to be resting in their shadow.

I know there are so many verses here, but please, print this out and put it by your bed for tonight. I hope you won't be awake to read it again, but in case you are, it will be there to go over this again and again, to saturate your mind in the promises that He has made to you. You are His daughter whom He loves so so much. You are His princess. He adores you, more than anyone in this life can ever do. It hurts Him to know you aren't sleeping well and that you are afraid. I just wish He could be physically humanly present with you. I would love for Him to sit on your bed and hug you before you go to sleep and tell you out loud that He is there, with you in the room and He will be awake all night watching you. Can you imagine how well you would sleep after that? Or maybe you wouldn't sleep at all since you would spend the night talking with Him. You would probably talk His ear off. [Did Sam know me THAT well yet?!?!] Just because you can't see Him or hear Him, He is still with you just as much.

Remember Sarah that you are His PRINCESS and that He loves you so SO much.

I trust my rambling will be a little help to you. Please call me in the middle of the night. Don't you dare feel bad about waking me up. I would love to talk with you if you can't sleep. Don't worry at all what time it is.

Samuel

I am not editing these emails much - so they may be kind of redundant and not that interesting since you weren't living through what I was at the time - but I'm including them partly as a personal record so that the story is as complete as I can make it, should I ever need to tell this story again...

Also, I know some of these thoughts are simplistic and the questioning mind can challenge the thought of taking promises personally from Scripture, but I'm leaving them as they were written. At a time of deep despair, encouragement needs to be received without critical analysis! :)
(I'm speaking to myself as much as to anyone else.)


Link to Part 27

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A letter to Missionary Kids

“Dear Friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7a

Dear Fellow M.K,

The other day I was watering my garden – a novel thing for me since I grew up in a concrete jungle. I really don’t know much about gardening, and I’m learning as I go! Did you know you can over water a garden? I didn’t. And I have the rotting squash to prove it! Apparently, the roots took in too much water and the ‘fruit’ couldn’t grow properly and the squash went kaput. So, I took a break from watering for a few days. I felt sorry for my plants, not getting all that wonderful nourishment, but I just envisioned those roots creeping further and deeper into the soil, causing them to get good and strong and learn to find richer nourishment from the deeper, moister soil. I decided that the best thing for my plants was no water for a little while so they could grow stronger and develop better, more wholesome ‘fruit’ (okay, I guess they’re really vegetables)!!

It made me think of my life as an M.K. I looked back on times when I was surrounded by the thrilling friendships and glories of summers spent with friends and bonding times at youth events. I remember that I ‘drank in’ those friendships – that nurture, just like a thirsty plant. And you know, I must admit, my soul was filled! I exulted in those special times and felt so nourished. For some reason, it seemed, after those times, often God would allow me to then face a time of drought. I felt parched. I felt desperate. I felt lonely. Where were my friends? My life sucked. Okay, maybe it didn’t really, but that was what I thought at the time. Back to real life. Back to school, back to misery, back to the grueling day-to-day events that often depleted my energies and left me longing for friends and a social support system.

I guess you could say I became a little depressed. The pain would become intense when I needed someone to talk to, and there was no one. Do you know what the drought did to me? It challenged me to choose. I had to decide what I would do with these empty feelings, with the problems in my life.

Psalm 1 tells us about the person who is blessed: “His delight is in the law of the Lord…He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” During those parched times of loneliness my roots were needing water – the water of God’s Word, the water of His presence. More than my need for friends and a social support system, I needed Him, and His allowing drought was, in effect, to force my roots to dig deeper to find the better, richer nourishment that He provides in knowing Him, in walking with Him, in seeking Him daily.

I hope that doesn’t sound trite. I get really annoyed when people tell me to just ‘read and pray more,’ as if that could solve all my inner and outer problems so simply! It doesn’t solve problems, not most of them anyways. But I will tell you this: it is one part of getting your roots stronger and learning to nourish yourself on the richness of His Word.

I am able now to look back at these seasons of drought in my life and recognize how important these times were to the development of my relationship with the Lord. Never was He so real to me when I entrusted Him with my loneliness, when I journalled my thoughts and prayers, longings, feelings and poured these out on paper, often with tears, before Him. I look at these times as crucial in my journey of faith.

So, dear MK, are you facing a bit of drought lately? Where does God want your roots to grow? Could it be that He is Shepherding you, challenging you to choose, guiding you to dig deeper into the nourishment that He provides in His Word? Where does He want you to carve out time to journal your heart before Him in your life today? How might He be drawing you closer to Him?

There was one year where I was so intensely lonely and felt I could not connect with anyone around me. It was my first year in college – my second in the U.S. I was still recoiling from a life of withdrawal, good-bye’s and disillusionment with relationships that were never going to stay put. It was during that year that I prayed fervently for a friend – just one or two – just someone I could connect with who wouldn’t think me so odd and foreign. And in those times of prayer I came to see that God Himself was the answer – the first answer to that prayer. Yes, in time, He answered with human friends, but initially He alone was my answer.

It is disheartening to go through life building friendships and relationships only to have people move on, or move away. The most natural desire is for us all to be together and not split up! It is not surprising that many MK’s end up emotionally detaching from others; that we look more cautiously on future friendships, learning not to become too attached for fear of the pain of departure, which is inevitable. For a time I secretly vowed to myself that I would not love others so deeply anymore – it was just too painful. That was a convenient fix until I saw what 1 John 4:7 tells us, ‘Let us love one another.’ In 1 Peter 1:22 it says, ‘Love one another deeply, from the heart.’ I guess my efforts at self-preservation were less than holy.

No, the option of withdrawing, while natural and easy, was not an option for one who is seeking to live a life honouring to the Lord. If we are to love one another deeply from the heart, then my hurts, wounds and pain are to be brought to the Lord for Him to heal, for Him to see and know, for Him to allow my roots to grow deeper into the rich soil of His Word.

And since I was a kid, things have changed. Now we have email. Now we have internet and all sorts of cool means of communicating. Friendships can continue, though we still miss seeing each other, right?

My challenge to you dear MK, is keep pressing on! Grow deep in the soil of God’s Word! Read the Psalms and recognize that it is normal, right and good to pour out your heart to God. See that David, who was a man after God’s own heart, felt lonely: “I am like a desert owl of the wilderness…I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop…” (Psalm 102, go read it sometime). You are not alone, but you may feel like it.

After a few days of parching my garden a bit, I had pity and went back to water it. And I think God does that with us too. He sees just how much dryness we need to grow and allows it until He sees change is needed. We can trust our Gardener to do what’s best for us. And in time, He will refresh us with times of bonding and friendship with others of His children. In the meantime, He wants us to bear rich fruit in season and not to let our leaves wither.


Your fellow M.K,

Sarah

Musings on Grace

What I find when I honestly look inside myself is a resistance to shed the flesh of self-indulgence and hesitance to live in the grace of spiritual service to God – which requires motion, not inaction. The things I’m learning about grace are powerful – as I grow in grace I realise that grace is not just this passive existence of vacationing with God. It has demands. Not judgmental demands like, ‘Do this or you’ll suffer.’ Grace does not demand with frowning, suspicion, or patronizing words. No, but it does say that if you understand and live in it, you will be active. Active in doing the things God has called you to do. And I feel I am preaching myself a sermon here. I am too passive in my understanding of grace – and too passionless. If I truly knew the depths of grace I would live with such a different outlook and perspective. What would it look like? I guess that’s a question I’ll have to ponder and write on some other time…

Have a little Joy. Even if it hurts.

I am learning to have joy even when others are joyless. I revel in, bask in, rejoice in, walk in, drown in the love, mercy and grace of God. It gives me joy – joy unspeakable. It gives me a bubbling well in my soul to realize that I am loved, that I am treasured. That when God looks at me He doesn’t see all my rotten sin, but sees the righteousness of Christ. If I am in Christ, and remain in Christ I am filled with utmost joy. If others around me act as if they’ve been sucking lemons, they are welcome to just try to steal my joy. I refuse to surrender it – it is God’s gift to me and I will keep it and exude it because God is my treasure, my companion, my hope and I will live in His love and not be moved from standing in His grace.

Lessons from little ones

A couple of recorded memories - how many of these did I forget to record!?


Sept 20 '06

Priscilla wanted to blow up the green inflatable chair but it had a leak in it. I said, 'I'm sorry Priscilla but this is broken.' Priscilla responded, 'Well, we can just give it to Jesus.' Thinking Priscilla needed a lesson in giving our treasure to Jesus and not our junk, I almost went into a lecture to that effect. Just before doing this I thought to ask, 'Why should we give it to Jesus?' To which Priscilla replied, 'Because Jesus can fix broken things.' Good thing I asked.

Oct 18 06 Caleb

I was a little late picking up Caleb from school - intentionally - I go about five minutes late to avoid all the cars in the way etc. When I got there to the door, which is glass, I saw Caleb on his knees, head bowed, eyes scrunched closed and his mouth moving. When he opened his eyes he saw me and jumped up and yelled for his teacher to come open the door as I had arrived. He was so happy to see me. I said, 'Caleb, what were you praying for.' 'Well, I was about to pray that you would come soon, but you came before I got to that.' 'Oh. Well, you know there is a verse in the Bible that says, 'Before you ask I will answer.' Caleb replied, 'Mommy, I think God just knows what we want before we even ask Him.' And then he went on to talk of other things. What struck me was his simple understanding and acceptance of God and His likelihood to answer us. Sometimes we think answers to prayer are such a big deal. Caleb seems to think it is a pretty normal experience. The second thing that struck me was his lack of self-consciousness at kneeling in his classroom and praying out loud even with teachers around. That, and that he would immediately think to pray when he had a concern. Certainly, these are lessons for all of us.

Weed-Like Faith

What do I mean when I talk about faith? Often the term is tossed about loosely - hinting at vague sentiments and irrational belief. The kind of faith I seek to have is the faith that saves - delivers, rescues and changes me from within.

That kind of faith is simple, humble, realistic, honest before God. That faith is like an arm reaching out and grasping the only thing that provides any true hope – a faith that actively and aggressively holds onto what has been revealed. Mustard seed faith takes root and grows like a weed, refusing to give over ground that it dominates. Where faith stakes its territory there is room for nothing else. This is the kind of faith I pray the Lord blesses me with – as a gift from His hand.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Our Family Prayer

The Logan Family Prayer

May we be as fruit-bearing trees planted by the life-sustaining

water of the Word of God.

May the Living Word be on our tongue, in our hearts and

Be our truest Guide in life.

May we be rooted and established in the love we realize in the

Lord Jesus Christ.

Let our purpose be to know, love and serve our Creator with

Ever-increasing joy and devotion.

We ask You, our Father, to bless us as we daily live for Your honour.

For the glory of our risen King:

Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts on loving God

What has troubled me regarding the 'heart' (be that mind + emotions or a co-mingling, undistinguishable unit that is the core of one's conscious personhood), is that I feel that I love God. Also, there are times of solitude when this passion - this awakening at the core of myself - rejoices in the love I feel towards God. Sometimes these feelings are accompanied by music that flows from either a radio, singing around a campfire, a hymn or otherwise. Music certainly can lift the soul. And I see and know that others experience a deep love for God (that's how it's described; they feel love for God), especially during times of 'worship' (=music and singing corporately).

Why is it troubling that I 'feel' love for God? I guess because I wonder how my feelings reflect reality. I mean, if I truly do love God, my whole life would be centred on Him. Is it? I can't say that I know the answer to this. What troubles me is that I see that many of us sense a love for God through what we call 'worship' (whether or not it really is worship is a whole other discussion entirely). And if all these people who experience such a rush of emotion and truly do love God really lived as if they did, I really believe we would see a lot of radically committed followers of Jesus. But that isn't quite what we see, is it? Well, I suppose I am just being too critical, but the troubling thing is that I sense in my own heart a love for God, and my prayer for myself is that God would sense my love for Him in how I live my life, not merely in my actions, but in my words and attitudes as well. For a while I was so wrapped up in the experience of loving God and then one day I was reading Isaiah 58 and it dawned on me that maybe God appreciated the sentiment but wanted to see evidence of my love for Him, not just my poetic ramblings (which some probably wouldn't deem very poetic). So, since that time whenever I have had these 'love-God-experiences' I have prayed that there would be outward fruit of the inward sentiment, ultimately, that God would feel that I love Him - on His terms, not mine.

Regarding this subject, during the time I was thinking through this stuff I came across a book called 'The love languages of God.' I was sorely disappointed. I had been seeking an answer to 'how does God want me to love Him?' This book was showing the ways God communicates His love to us...so I misunderstood the title and I didn't get very far reading it - because I know God loves me, and didn't feel the need to read a book like this. Isaiah 58 was a much shorter and more direct answer to the question I was asking. I like how God isn't so wordy, unlike me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How I Met Sam - Journals from that time

Instead of continuing with the story, which I will do, I will include from time to time reflections and snippets from my journals written during these months, so you, dear reader, can better understand the workings of my heart. The details and highlights of the story are exciting enough and so I expect these sections may not be read as much, but for my own record I will put them here so the tale is told with complete openness and from the heart and perspective I had at the time that these events so dramatically changed my life.

23 September 1999

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all." - Emily Dickinson

I am writing here in H.K. I need not relate the fact that the writing urge has been quite absent for some time. (Last entry: 17 May!) I know this is sad. Only in the past few weeks have I begun to 'wake up' in a sense. I wonder if God has allowed all the calamity of recent days (referring to the brick incident) to catch my attention. What is it that I feel that I cannot write? That were I to write the things churning in me, my weak and inadequate verbiage would lessen the depth of my thoughts and prayers...
I feel my heart is in God's grip. Even though I am not particularly discouraged or burdened, or overjoyed, I feel His love, peace and joy immensely. I feel my faith is affirmed. Surely, knowing God is like a fire that burns within the soul - so strong and yet mysterious is He. I come alive to think He is real, He does indeed love me, and He is lovely to me.
Though I may spend my days alone in this world, I pray I may never forget the One Who is my Eternal Saviour, Redeemer, Father and Friend. What is my love compared to His? My gratitude to Him can never be enough.

25 September 1999

Dear Sam,
I think it quite odd that I have chosen to write you in my journal, especially as it means you'll never read it. But I am often writing letters in my head to people, whether people I know well, or people I've just met - as in your case.
I know we've only just met - and I am rather aloof at this point. (Editor's note: that was my habit at the time - single men were just scary to me). But what my first impressions tell me is that we could be friends. Friendships with the male gender can be so complicated. But perhaps this once I'll put those concerns aside and waylay my fears, for I think we could be friends, though only in a limited sense, for you are in China, and I in Hong Kong and at that, not even permanently.
Anyways, I think I'll stop here before I get too in-depth over trivial matters. Please excuse my bluntness - it is an ongoing bad habit.
love, Sarah

(Of course he never read this until many years after we were married!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hymn to the Trinity

Sung to the tune: Sandringham - usually known as 'O Perfect Love'


Almighty Father, we your people praise You,
For You have shown Your greatness, Majesty;
Beyond our grasping, higher than the heavens,
Yet still You see and know our deepest need.

Sovereign, Immense, Vast beyond comprehension,
Descending to mankind in human form.
Incarnate Saviour, bringer of salvation,
Revealing God the Father through the Son.

O Holy Spirit, help and comfort giver,
Regenerater, Shepherd of our souls!
Filling, inspiring, moving us to service,
Giving us conq'ring pow'r against the foe.

O Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Triune, mysterious, God whom we adore!
Humbly we worship; lay our lives before You,
Receive all praise and glory evermore!




How I Met Sam Part 25

Oct 5 1999 4:51 p.m.
Dear Sam,
How are you doing? Are you sleeping alright? I saved you some newspaper articles - 7 total. You make a good picture. :)

sarah

Octo 5 1999 7:03 p.m.

Thanks Sarah for your note.

I wanted so bad to call you guys Sunday night when I got back here to make sure you are all OK. Then again yesterday and today, but so many others to call and write to that I never got round to it. Believe me, I've been thinking of you guys a ton, and been talking to our Father lots, esp. that you will sleep well. Your dad said you aren't, I'm sorry. I wish you could, wish I could do something to help you sleep better.

Remember, our Dad [references to God were always in this language because he wanted to be sensitive to the screeners of email in China] is shaping us, into the kids He wants us to be. His plan is so perfect, and your relationship with Him will have changed after this event. It will either draw you towards Him or away from Him. I'm confident that it will be towards Him. What could be better than that?

I keep thinking of the sufferings that Dad's Son, J went through for us. Wow. He sure loved us to do that. What an incredible Dad we have.

Thinking back now, I kind of wish I had spent a couple more nights with you guys down there, just to have someone else in the house. I'm sure it feels very lonely at night , and it must be so hard to keep your thoughts from wandering as you go to sleep.

You guys are very welcome to come up here for a couple nights just to get away from the environment. There is plenty of room in my apartment for all of you.

Keep very close to our Dad each day, each moment rely on Him heavily. He designed our minds and knows exactly how we think. He can take away any thoughts that keep us from sleeping. He's done that for me for some reason and has allowed me to sleep very well the last two nights.

Look forward to seeing you Thursday.

Sam

Oct 5 1999 10:50 p.m.
Dear Sam,

Thank you muchly for your kind letter. I am certain this will bring me closer to our Father. And yet I feel so weak. I am overwhelmed by it all I suppose.

I must say that your faith and encouraging words strengthen my spirit. you encourage me to seek the Father and that in turn warms my heart. I know I can rest securely in Him. I don't know what it is that I fear. It says, "Perfect love casts out all fear." I know that I am loved perfectly, and that I need not fear, for God is my refuge and strength and should I die in some horrible manner, it will be to His glory. As one before us said (Paul) - 'To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.'

I'm off to bed now - Thank you for your prayers, I know they will be answered. He is sovereign over all things - big and small. Might I never forget it.

-sarah


Here's a Link to some journal entries I wrote during that time.

And here's the link to Part 26

Monday, February 7, 2011

How I Met Sam Part 24

I think most of us have struggled with fear of some kind, and maybe still do. I think fear of many things is really a way of exposing our vulnerability and revealing where our trust and confidence lies. After the burglary I wrestled with fear - gripping fear - on a daily basis. It was fine during the days but the nights were very hard.

This was the house I had grown up in and even as a child I had significant fear. I never told anyone about it much as a kid - just figured it was normal to be afraid of the dark. If I wanted a drink of water from downstairs at night I would quietly tiptoe down, get the drink as fast as I could and suddenly my heart would start racing and I would bolt up the stairs 2 or 3 at a time like lightning! We had had other burglaries but they were always in absentia - or in the middle of the night and they would come and go before we knew it. So maybe I was afraid I'd walk in on a burglary or step on a cockroach (yech!) or some such thing. Cockroaches alone gave me the creeps. They would scuttle across the floor and chills would go up my spine. So I was a bit of a nervous kid when it came to bravery in the middle of the night.

But that was as a kid. Now I was 22 years old and scared to sleep in my own bed at night. I had a nauseous kind of fear - it would paralyze me and I would lie awake for hours. Any little sound made my heart race and adrenaline kept me from sleeping. I guess I had many series of adrenaline rushes because I remember it so vividly and adrenaline is what imprints memory on the brain (just in case you didn't know :) ).

Slowly I recognized I needed to change how I was coping or dealing with everything - it was eating at me and I was sinking into a dark pit. I wasn't eating hardly at all and I was too scared to sleep. I began to think I was going to lose my mind.

The Thursday of that week Mom and Dad decided to take a trip to China to visit Sam - feeling very responsible for their wounded house-guest. They wanted to check in on him and encourage him and try to be a support, if necessary.

Sam had asked me to collect pictures for him from the newspapers. I had gathered a few and when Mom and Dad got home they gave me Sam's email address so I could let him know about the pictures. Keep in mind I had hardly had much conversation with him and so it wasn't like we were 'friends' yet or anything! So I sent him a one liner 'I got some articles and pictures for you'.

He had asked my parents how I was doing and they explained how traumatized I was. Now I had already thought him to be dashingly handsome but had sworn off engaging in conversation with eligible single men thinking it was just a recipe for heartache. When the burglary was happening I even thought to myself - and to God in my head - 'Lord, I know I kind of liked this guy and maybe he was a bit of distraction from my studies, but you don't have to get him killed just to keep my focus on track!'

So after hearing about how difficult a time I was having, Sam decided to reply to my email, and the reply melted my heart.


Link to Part 25

Friday, February 4, 2011

IDOLS


Genesis 22:1-17
What Do We worship?
C.S. Lewis "God is the eternal iconoclast" – Idol destroyer
Abraham had begun in a household of pagan idolatry. He also had opportunity to worship his own wealth and security. God called him out from his pagan roots and to reject pagan idols. Then God called him to leave the security of his wealth and home – when he took the lesser land. Then God called him to give up his 'pious idol' – his own son whom he viewed as God's fulfillment of promise.
God is not satisfied with our worship of anything other than Him. Often we like to think we are worshiping God alone, but our lives prove otherwise and betray our truest devotions. Our devotion to God is not merely external – as in the things we do each day – but also internal – the things we value, rely upon, desire, strive for. Looking at Abraham we may have thought he was devoted enough to God. He had already proved his devotion a number of times and seems to have been walking by faith even at this point. But God was not about to allow Abraham to continue in the slightest form of idolatry. He called him to true actual faith – not the pretense of faith but real faith. And Abraham passed the test as we read in Genesis 22.
As I seek to apply this text and its lessons to my own life these are the questions I come up with: What do I desire more than God? Where does fear reign and faith subside in my life? If I am truly honest, what is my greatest desire? What do I strive for? For what purpose?
What idols creep into my life? Imagine the thing you fear the most happening in your life. Is God enough even in that circumstance?
Read Psalm 73:25-28, Psalm 71:5-9, Psalm 63:1-8
I can relate somewhat to Abraham. God has called on me to relinquish idols in my life. And as His child, He hasn't even allowed me the luxury of resisting His call! When I've been at some of the lowest times of my life it is almost as if I can head the Lord speaking to me, "Am I enough for you?" I know the answer is yes, but do I truly KNOW it – do I believe it?
Here are some examples of idols that can be in our lives:
Pagan Idols: statues, incense, pleasing spirits, appeasing local customs, family piety
Other Idols: Money, health, possessions, status, self, pleasure, leisure, knowledge/education, lawn care (!), frugality, being a supermom, homeschooling (or any method of anything for that matter - organic eating could be a 'method' that becomes an idol).
Christian Idols: Reputation, Ministry, Security, Legalism (how well I keep certain rules), Status in local church, public identity, family, marriage, Bible (loving the written Word more than the Living Word), God's promises (as opposed to the Promise keeping God), worry/fear, appearances, stewardship

Many of these are good things to be astute in - to be invested in. The problem comes when the need for perfection in any one area supersedes all else and replaces my constant trust in God.

Worship and Missions


Why do we worship? Habit? To look good? For fun? Is worship something we do for us or do we do it for God – for His glory? I propose that the reason for our worship is to lift God high above all else. We set Him apart, we ascribe worth to Him. In this is our worship: We want to see God glorified in our worship and not in our worship only, but in the lives of others. This is why we send out missionaries and why we proclaim Him to the lost – our aim is that others, who do not know Him would turn to Him in worship also. As people come to Him they too will lift up the name of Jesus: John 12:32 says, “But I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Our worship lifts up Jesus and He will draw others to Him as we lift Him up. The words of the hymn go, “Lift High the Cross, the Love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adores His sacred name.” One verse says, “O Lord once lifted on the tree of pain, draw all the world to seek You once again.” Let this be our prayer, as we worship Him, that others too will join the song and bring Him glory.

Psalm 23

Psalm 23

Because

The Lord is my Shepherd

My Father-figure, my guide,

I shall not want.

I shall not lack anything – for the Lord will provide all I need.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,

He gives sweet rest and comfort in Him.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He calms my heart with the refreshing water of His Word.

He restoreth my soul.

Where I have been broken – He healed, and heals.

Where I had lost touch with Him, He brought me back.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

He keeps me from sin and leads me in the way I should go,

as a father does for His son, and as a Shepherd guides His sheep.

For His name’s sake.

So that I cannot take any pride in my own righteousness, but that in all I do,

My Shepherd would receive all glory.

Yea, though I walk through the valley

The dark, lonesome valley

Of the Shadow of Death

Though death threatens my very being,

I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

Because my Shepherd leads, I have no reason to fear for my life.

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

As I learn discipline from my Shepherd, I am comforted and assured of His love.

Thou preparest a table before me

Always giving and delighting the sheep You care for,

In the presence of mine enemies

So that they will acknowledge the greatness and majesty of You, my Shepherd.

My cup runneth over.

You never cease to lavish your abundant grace upon me.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

On this weary path, Your kindness and gentle patience encompass me wherever I may be

All the days of my life

The good days, and the bad days

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

In the Good Shepherd’s green pastures

Forever.

Amen. May it be.

How I Met Sam Part 23

After having some family reading time, I commented to Mom - 'Hey, we've never been up THIS early for Church - we're even ahead of schedule!' Since we had planned to be at church (oh, and set up everything, unlock the building, play piano etc.) we decided to proceed as planned. I guess Sam didn't want to feel left out and would be rather lonely laying in bed at home, so he came too.

It's kind of an odd feeling when others walk into church and nod and smile and say, 'How are you?' and you just witnessed a brutal stabbing/burglary all night. What do you say, 'Oh, we're fine, NOW.' Or do you say, 'I had a rough night.' Or do you say, 'Do you REALLY want to know?' Or, 'I've had better days...'

Anyways, halfway through church Sam didn't feel so great and had to lie down. So when church was over we took him home and let him rest. Sam, still being very self-confident decided he still needed to return to China for work that day and so around 5 p.m. we took him to the train, all stitched up and wounds bandaged and sent him back.


After a morning of work the next day, he didn't feel so great so they told him he had to take a couple days to rest and recuperate. He said that the worst wasn't the stab wounds, but the skin burns around his neck where they'd tried to strangle him. And all his muscles were sore from the fighting.

I mused to myself, 'First night in our house and he gets stabbed. Guess I won't see THAT dashingly handsome man ever again.

You could say I experienced full blown post-traumatic stress - which would be normal given what I'd seen and experienced. I struggled a lot. I couldn’t sleep. Fear was a big problem for the following weeks and months. I didn’t eat hardly anything for a week. Fear has a nauseating effect on the body. I slept 2-3 hours a night. Each night I was sure 2 of the thieves that escaped were coming back. Any little sound I was sure was them trying to break in. Since I had been the ‘rescuer’ I felt it was my role to stay alert and ‘save’ everyone if it happened again. I would doze off then jolt myself awake because I was sure I needed to be alert to call the police if necessary. The fear each night was ever present and I had so much to think through and process to bring my heart to peaceful acceptance before I could sleep.

Perhaps some of these fears were irrational, but at the time I could only imagine the worst. Every night I faced a night of turmoil, of needing rest but getting none, of lying awake but tired, too fearful to close my eyes. After many nights like this I began a process of each night walking through in my mind what the worst could be – that we’d be attacked and I’d be brutally killed. And every time I ended that mental scenario in the presence of Jesus. And this was the only way I could conquer that fear – knowing that if the ‘worst’ was to happen, it would really be the best, because what could I want more than to be in heaven with Jesus? Every night I considered my (what seemed very real) soon coming death. Each night in order to go to sleep in peace I quoted myself scripture, entrusted myself to the Lord Whom I so longed to see anyways, and pushed my anxiety onto Him. This was the process I went through for many months.
We needed to install security bars on the windows and doors, but it would take a few days before this could be arranged. I ended up on the floor of my parents' room most nights. I did this every night for the first week.

Every night the fear and stress got worse and I started to feel the whole trauma was taking me over. Indeed it was to some extent.


Link to Part 24

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Heart's Desire

My heart longs for Thy presence Lord,

I want to see Thy face

That I may live and follow Thee,

And do what Thy Word says.

That I may live and follow Thee,

And do what Thy Word says.


Thy love to me, so vast, so great

Its depth I’ll never know

Until I come to be with Thee

And in Thy presence bow.

Until I come to be with Thee

And in Thy presence bow.


Please Father may I love Thee more,

And live to honour Thee

That I might be a vessel for

Thy love to flow through me.

That I might be a vessel for

Thy love to flow through me.


To the tune: Brother James' Air

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How I Met Sam Part 22

(For those who get lost in these posts here is the link to PART 1: How I Met Sam - Part 1)




The story isn't over yet. There's still the bit about the fire yet to come.

Did you read Psalm 56? Here are a few quotes:
"Men hotly pursue me..." (of course when I heard those words I thought "How ironic! - if I'd read this yesterday I would've been saying, 'I wish!'")


"All day long they press their attack...many are attacking me.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You...In God I trust and am not afraid, what can mere mortals do to me?...They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life...
You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling"

The feet from stumbling part was what got me - how appropriate! I had been afraid to jump off the balcony since I had only been off crutches for a week and my ankle was still weak. Literally, God HAD kept my feet from stumbling.

The last two lines of the Psalm have meant a lot to me throughout the years since the burglary.
"...You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life."
The reason this meant so much to me?
Because before the burglary I had waned in my passion for God. I had settled into a comfortable life that included God but was mostly about pursuing my interests and desires. I did want to serve Him, but on my terms. I wanted to serve Him in ways I was comfortable with. But when the burglary happened and He delivered me from potential death - it was for a reason. Was it so I could continue to pursue my course in life? Was it so that I could do great things for God? Was it so that I would have a great story to tell? Was it so that I could impress people with how well I handled a stressful situation? Was it so that I could get glory? It was for NONE of these things! It was as the Psalm says, so that 'I may walk before God in the light of life.' He rescued me that night so that I may continue this earthly life to walk before Him and maybe that would include serving Him, maybe that would include a good story to tell, maybe others would be impressed with me (ignorantly perhaps :) ) but most of all it was so that I may live and walk before Him. And Him alone.

Link to Part 23

Dan Dan Mien

One of my favourite Chinese dishes is impossible to find this side of the big pond! So I looked up recipes and this is what we had for supper. It may not be to the average American taste, so just look it over before you try it! :)

5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced ginger
1/2 c. water
salt (a few sprinkles, more or less to your taste)

Put those all in a pot on the stove, and let it sit and begin to simmer.

1/4 c. tahini (cheaper at Asian food stores)
1/4 c. peanut butter (I think the natural or non-sweetened kind would work better, but we just had the normal stuff)
1 bullion cube (chicken flavour) - or you can just use more salt or chicken broth

Dump all that into the flavour base on the stove.

In a separate pot boil up your Chinese egg noodles in some chicken broth, or water.

Add some chopped up spring onions - as much as you like, and 1-2 T of sesame oil (good flavour).

Traditionally this is a spicy hot dish, and recipes call for chili oil and chili flakes. I skip that, but you might like the kick.

Mix the peanut flavour broth with the noodles and serve with soy sauce and Chinese Black Vinegar (Chinkiang brand is best I think! :) )

All but Caleb liked it. And he's a bit picky sometimes. He asked, 'Are there mushrooms in here?' Of course there weren't! But he was suspicious.

Contentment Part 1

This is one of the 'great' themes of my life - Contentment. If there is any subject that I like to ponder, speak on, and write about it is this. I intend to write more on it here on this blog.

Sixteen catalogues sit on my desktop beckoning me to peruse their contents and patiently wait for my unidivided attention. From their flimsy and glossy pages, plastic and perfectly touched-up models smile at me – begging me to consider their wares. Flashy smiles with artificially whitened teeth demurely point to the lack of lustre of my own not-so-pearly whites. “Why do these companies waste so many trees and so much money on postage just to pollute my mailbox with more junk for the recycling?” I think to myself. The struggle against discontent mounts with every new ad-packet or sale brochure. Coupons make it difficult to resist the urge to splurge on the latest fashions, accessories or novelties.

No wonder discontent is so quick to set in and take root in my life. No wonder my fight against it intensifies to the point of exhaustion and a feeling of defeat - when a subtle belief sets in that if I buy this new sweater or that new shelf my life will take on a whole new ‘sparkle’. This is not about marketing or the advertising industry. It is about so much more: the heart of discontent that slides down the slippery slope of doubt that complete fulfillment can be found in Christ.

In analyzing my own tendency to forget the eternal riches of my heavenly blessings, I realize just how weak and susceptible I am to the lures of this glitzy world. You’d never know it by meeting me – or even by spending time with me in my home. You’d probably say I’m pretty successful at weeding out worldliness and materialistic passions. You’d think I was more spiritual than the rest and that my ‘frugal’ lifestyle (frugal only by comparison to those less frugal than I am!) makes it seem that I am immune to the tangible frustrations of stuff. But beneath the surface, if I am honest with the unsettling reality of my own heart, I confess that I battle against the pull of the world on my longings, and my very being. Discontent in the life of the believer is a very serious problem.

As we look into this subject may we honestly, willingly open our own hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit in calling us to intimacy with the God that deeply satisfies. May our hearts cry out, “He is enough for me. He is all I need.” As we take this journey together, perhaps we will eventually be able to open our closet doors and confidently say, “I have enough. Thank you Lord, for all that You have provided for me, above and beyond my needs.” Let us then turn from a heart of discontent to a heart of hunger and thirst for deeper intimacy with God.