Saturday, April 07, 2018

Risky Business

I think it would only make sense to feed off my last post –
She Laughs Without Fear.
Think of that imagery.
In many ways,
I see the bronze sculpture of the Fearless Girl in New York,
Facing off against the bull.
Photo: Associated Press
There’s strength,
And fearlessness.
It’s attractive,
And desired.
What is not considered,
Is the shear risk in taking that stance.
The courage.
To stare fear in the face,
And laugh.

Is this the balance in faith?
Is this what Peter considered when asked by Jesus to walk on water –
The waves of fear vs the freedom of the impossible.
But what we see unfold is…
Faith tends to challenge the literal sense of fear
To bring out the childlike sense of wonder.
The excitement of possibilities!
Rather than the paralysis of “what if”.
It takes a lot more than sheer determination or pride to stare fear in the face.
It takes faith,
The exposure of vulnerability,
The risk of defeat,
And the courage to have faith in something more.

Think of all the key “movers” of the ages –
Martin Luther King Jr,
The Famous Five – Henrietta, Irene, Emily, Nellie & Louise (fought for women to be consider “persons” in the British North America Act in Canada),
And lets be honest,
Jesus was a complete rebel in his day,
Breaking hypocritical stereotypes,
Barriers that segregated others,
And calling out the integrity of those in power.
What did they all have in common?
A dream for something better,
Courage to stand out,
And faith to risk it all for the betterment of humanity.
Not just for self,
But for others!

Truthfully speaking,
If our lives are self-seeking,
We end up feeling like an empty pit of self-consuming madness
(maybe a tad dramatic, but lets be real...).
When it’s for the love of God and humanity,
We are built up,
And experience a determination to risk it all for others!

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

When I was 9 years old,
I remember daydreaming about standing out.
About changing the world around me.
Fighting for the rights of others,
And being fearless in my faith.
This may have been because I was reading a book about Christian martyrs all over the world,
Risking it all for the love of God and all people.
Either way, I had a dream!
When reality came to,
I “wall-flowered” my way through life.
Paralysed by fear.
And in many ways,
I still am.

You cannot move half-way across the world,
To a city where you know no one,
To a country where your mission organisation was yet to exist,
To a culture, and in many ways the language, you did not know,
To begin the initial stages of what loving God and loving people looks like,
Without stepping out.
Without standing out.
Whether I liked it or not.
God certainly has a way of calling out the better version of ourselves!

Laughing without fear has been key to fundraising for me.
To seeing fear – like lacking $1150/month of what you and your ministry need for basic living (fact);
To feeling overwhelmed – cry and have a pity party like you were a 3 year old;
To praying – present every single “how?” sentence you can construct;
To accepting – not by my will but His that the impossible will be made possible;
To choosing – take a risky stance;
To letting go – have faith in the true character of God;
To staring – with faith-filled boldness.

"Faith is spelt R-I-S-K." John Wimber
aka... Risky Business

And finally,
When peace and acceptance settles,
Fear no longer has a grasp,
And passion for your dream is your drive,
You stand in awe – over $900/month faithfully committed
(and secretly feel embarrassed by that original pity party!).
Oh doubting Thomas,
We have so much in common!

To truly laugh without fear is to have faith.
Faith in something more.
But boy am I laughing now!
Only $180/month left to raise.
Less than 2 weeks left.
See ya later fear.
I’m too busy laughing!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

She Laughs Without Fear

When I was a child,
I taught myself three things about finances:
#1 It’s hard to come by
#2 You work for what you get
#3 Save it!

Now, being the literal girl I was…
Still am…
I took it to heart!

Since it was hard to come by,
I started working at a young age.
The usual jobs,
Babysitting at the tender age of 11
(I was certified… don’t worry).
Then the classic restaurant duty at 13
(How I started at so young?… not sure).
Money was hard to come by,
I had to start early.

I worked hard.
Extra curricular,
Church/community volunteering,
I was doing it all.
It never occurred to me that working excessively didn’t immediately mean more money.
Or the heart of it,
More worthiness
(more on that in a later post).
Literally speaking,
you work for what you get.

So, saving became of vital importance.
It was hard to come by,
When it did, you had to work hard and harder,
So save!
The fact that my parents would applaud me when I would spend money,
I believe speaks volumes to the extreme measures I was taking in “saving”.
Saving for what?
Well, I didn’t really know,
But I was saving!

This one-two-three system may have glimpses of truth,
But weren’t necessarily realistic for my future.
This all came to a head when I started fundraising.
No longer were my finances in my hands
And my one-two-three system,
They were in other people’s hands.
They were in God’s.
I could work hard at fundraising,
But I could not force someone to give.
I could work hard in my ministry,
But it would not validate my worthiness.
I could work myself sick,
But I could not force my one-two-three system into reality.

In January 2012,
Only a couple months after I arrived in London,
My boots got holes in them from all the walking and cobble stones
(those of you who know me,
holes in my clothing is not out of the ordinary).
It was winter,
Which meant rain and cold.
My feet were freezing,
But money was hard to come by.
Though I was working hard,
There wasn’t more of it.
Though I was limiting the food I was eating to try and save
(beans on toast anyone?),
There wasn’t enough to buy new boots.

They call the missionary life of fundraising your salary,
Living by faith.
How was my one-two-three system lining up with my faith?
My literalistic system and missionary reality were about to meet.

You see,
Faith isn’t about knowing an outcome, therefore taking a step.
Faith is about taking a step, not necessarily knowing the outcome.
It’s not about reckless naivety,
But about conviction,
And hope for the future.

Not knowing where the money would come from,
I quieted the inner literalist,
And took a step of faith.
Warm feet never felt so good.
That week,
A donation was made covering the full cost of my new boots.

“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” 
Luke 12:24

4 weeks ago,
I received word that the money wasn’t there.
$1150/month to be exact!?
I had a choice –
Do I stay
Or do I go.
I was tired and really wanted to go.
But God reminded me that the impossible was never made possible through me.
It was through Him.

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." 
Isaiah 41:10

My last couple of posts -
Whistle While You Work...,
"Do You Trust Me?",
and Practically Faithful in Every Way? -
lay out the journey,
and celebration
these past 4 weeks have been.

Was my one-two-three system on finances actually realistic?
But there needed to be a fourth…
#4 Balanced equally with faith!

"She is clothed in strength, and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." 
Proverbs 31:25

Only $230/month left to raise!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Practically Faithful in Every Way?

It was the beginning of August in 2011.
The daydreamer in me had imagined an opportunity like this since I was a child.
Yet, I found myself sobbing on the floor,
Paralysed in my response.
Do I accept
Or not accept?
It was almost like an ache deep within,
Like my life was being ripped in two.
Accepting meant loosing being with my family,
My friends,
The life of independence and security I was finally building.
Not accepting meant loosing being apart of a dream,
Saying no to a calling,
And the yearning for something more.
I was paralysed.
I knew how big of a moment this was in my life.
And it scared me.
Do I accept
Or not accept?*

It was the end February 2018.
The practical side of me couldn’t have imagined such a helpless situation.
I found myself overcome with anger,
Sobbing on the floor.
Paralysed in my response.
Do I stay
Or do I go?
And a bit of betrayal said “Go!”
Sunshine (literally the sun shining through the window),
And a bit of faith said “Stay!”**

These crossroads are not uncommon to me.
Nor is the pain that comes with them.
The sobbing is real.
That’s not something I can make up to make the situation sound better.
It’s real.
You know those crossroads.
The ones that feel like they could define your life.

What I have failed to mention is the key figure in these two,
And many other crossroads.
Let’s call the key figure the Whisper.
Who’s the Whisper?
(And no, I am not crazy...)

Elijah was in a state of desperation and deeply desired to hear from God
“The Lord said [to Elijah], ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ 
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. 
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  
After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. 
And after the fire came a gentle whisper…” 1 King 19:11-12

At all crossroads,
My mind is usually racing with all forms of possibilities,
The pros and cons of every situation.
And then there are my emotions.
I cannot help it…
I feel and care deeply.
Some call it hyper sensitivity,
I call it compassion.
Whatever it’s called,
It plays a part in the struggle.

When I’ve given myself space,
Time to still all these racing emotions and thoughts,
I usually hear the Whisper,
Followed by peace.

Through the 2011 tears and cries of “How?”,
The Whisper met me with peace.
Through the 2018 tears and cries of defeat,
The Whisper met me with peace.

It’s not about getting what you want,
But getting what you need to move.
Anxiety rises when practicality overrides faith.
Faith was needed to part the sea (Exodus 14:10-22).
Faith was needed to walk on water (Matthew 14:22-33).
Faith was needed to move from small-town Canada to big-city UK (August 2011).
And faith was needed to raise $1150/month in three weeks (February 2018).

So, faith I continue with!
$415/month left to raise,
With some special gifts to supplement the shortfall for the next couple of months.
Practicality says, “Give up! Your exhausted and wounded. What is the point?”
Faith says, “I’ve got you! Your exhausted and wounded. Why not be still,
And know,
That I am God (Psalm 46:10).”
*She sobs while typing*

Life will always be complicated.
Full of crossroads and decisions.
Practicality always makes sense,
But tends to give me more anxiety than I’d like.
Faith doesn’t always make sense,
But brings me peace of mind when I least expect it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

*Context: This was what was happening the moment before I accepted to move to London to be a missionary.
**Context: This was when I found out I had a shortfall of $1150/month and needed to raise that amount within a month, or else I'd have to consider going back to Canada to fundraise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

“Do you trust me?”

Can you believe,
Yet have unbelief?
Is it redundant to have faith,
Yet struggle to “walk on water” when the waves crash?
Can you trust in the impossible,
Yet underestimate its possibility?

“We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” C.S. Lewis

This past week has laid heavy on me.
I felt a sense of defeat as I read email after email,
Those inevitable words,
“Sorry, we cannot support you.”

Fundraising isn’t about me,
But the work being done through me.
At the same time,
I cannot really dissociate myself from it.
I fundraise out of my passion,
Out of my love for London and her people,
(Yes, I gave London a gender!)
Out of the call that Jesus placed on my heart.

“Come, follow me” Matthew 4:19
*check out God’s Calling above to hear more*

I don’t feel defeated because of the “no’s”.
To be honest,
I’m grateful for them.
At least I know.
It’s worse when people ignore.

I felt defeated because of the finances left to raise - $950/month -
Was feeling impossible as the “no’s” came through.
7 days left.
I was plagued with “How?”.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” 
Charles R Swindoll

My mind spiralled.
It started slow,
“Are you sure that God will provide?”
Then the lies started feeding off each other,
“Have you done enough to make God want to provide?”
To the downward spiral,
“Are you worthy of provision?”

Maybe I’m the only one whose been there,
When your worthiness is called into question.
As you read in the last blogpost - Whistle While You Work... -
A lot happened over the past year.
And daily I have begun to battle with the question,
“Am I worthy?”

It all came to a head.
I experienced yet another battle of heartache.
Breaking bits of the foundation I once knew,
Bringing into question my worth,
And feeling the pursuit of danger.
I cried out to God,
“I don’t think I can handle much more!”
His response,
Not full of conceit or fear,
Came the words famously spoken by Aladdin,

“Do you trust me?”

That visual from Aladdin is a great way to explain how I felt.
Jumping out of a window,
To escape to safety,
Doesn’t seem like common-sense.
Neither does walking on water,
But Peter hopped right out of that boat to do just that.
*Disclaimer: For your realists, these are metaphors of faith, not to be taken literally!*

“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.” J.R.R. Tolkien

So, do I trust God?
I do trust!
I have no reason not to.
There’s been incredible pain.
There’s been exhausting battles.
There’s been unexplainable and horrific situations.
He has sought me though them all.
He never responds in the way I expect,
But He’s never deserted me either.

I return to that question…
Can you believe,
Yet have unbelief?
You have to decide for yourself,
But I’ll leave you with this to explore…

“One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, ‘Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. … Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.’
‘What do you mean, ‘If I can’?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes.’ 
The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
Jesus took [the boy] by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.” Mark 9:17-27

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Whistle While You Work...

I started working at the age of 12 
And haven’t quite slowed down since.
Knowing I’ve accomplished something each day is important to me.
I like to be productive.
I love to care for people.
I am passionate about serving God.
And one of my favourite phrases to say is,
“Do everything you can and then leave the rest in God’s hands.”

But what if I gave everything to God first,
And used my energy to accomplish what I can while resting in Him?

Resting in God is acknowledging our human limitations 
And giving Him the control.
Lets be honest, everyone has limitations.
We just don’t like admitting it.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

That is what God has called me to this year.
To acknowledge my own limitations and rest in Him.
It seemed doable,
Though I knew my striving personality would struggle.
Then I got the below email at the end of February from my mission organization,
Greater Europe Mission (GEM)... 

“You have been bringing in an average of $3298/month but need $4446/month. 
So you are about $1147 short a month.         

I sat in shock.
Not just from the short notice,
But exhausted from last year’s 70 hour work weeks,
Hardships through attacks on my character,
Relationship disruptions,
Assaults (#metoo),
And now this. 
I felt so defeated.
I did the only thing I could think of,
And I cried.
I allowed myself to feel my God-given emotions.
I reached out to several people across Europe, the US, and Canada,
Asking them to pray.
To pray for my heart to be encouraged and my faith to grow.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

The GEM London missionaries – now 17 families – 
Gathered around me in prayer when they found out.
Once again, I cried.
But these were tears of joy and thanksgiving.
In 2011,
Having just landed in London as one of the first workers with GEM,
and feelings of loneliness starting to suffocate me
(as you can read through out my blog),
My prayer in the late evening hours was for a team,
A support system.
In 2018,
There they were,
Gathering around me to pray,
And be the Body of Christ!

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

God has been and is listening.
Within three days,
Two families committed to $50/month,
One to $40/month,
And a monthly supporter gave a special gift of $2000!
Can I get an amen?!

Now, with 13 days left, I have $1010/month to fundraise.
My confidence is at its highest!
20th March is the deadline, before decisions need to be made.

“Do I stay or do I go?” Clash

What I am continually learning is this…
Faith is trust.
Trust is accepting the unknown.
Releasing control to God means I acknowledge the unknown,
And accept that the “known” is safely in God’s hands.
Having faith that God truly loves me.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will d this: 
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, 
your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6 

Faith does not grow without being challenged;
Without growing pains.
So, it’s time for a growth spurt!

God called me to London 7 years ago.
Being a small-town girl, London was the last place I wanted to move to.
But God grew a passion within me for this city and these people!
He called me to serve here – 
To seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8 – my mission statement)!
Just because some things seem out of control,
Doesn't mean God is.
I am clinging to the truth that I know and have seen play out in my life.
Trusting in God to provide.
Having faith!

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Let’s do this!