Touched by an Unlikely Angel

Wednesday, March 27, 2013  ::   10 important comments

I've walked the track at Udall park consistently for the last couple of weeks. To me the best time to walk this park is in the morning. There are lots of folks making the rounds. You will not be surprised to know that I am one of those annoying people who greet passers-by with a smile and a hello. Don't worry. If they don't make eye contact, I let them slip by ungreeted.

There has been a very smiley, friendly older gentleman I've noticed several mornings. Two weeks ago when he passed me he exclaimed, "Sure hope this walking helps us live longer!" I stumbled over my words and only came up with, "Uh-huh! Sure do!" What?! What kind of a response is that? I kicked myself around the track thinking of a hundred better responses I should have had. Opportunity missed.

Yesterday I headed out at 8:00 to walk my track circles. Guess what? The same very smiley, friendly gentleman passed me. The first time we passed each other we both smiled and said good morning. I recognized him and remembered his live longer comment from our last encounter. As I passed him the second time a huge smile stretched across his mustached face and he exclaimed, "Sure hope this walking helps us live longer!" I responded with a profound, "Uh-huh! Sure do!" What?!? Are you kidding me? I missed the opportunity again?

If my body language showed any aspect of what was going through my brain I was kicking the dirt and wringing my hands. I lamented to Jesus telling him that I've been pondering hope so much and the sweet older gentleman spoke to me of one of his hopes and all that came out of my mouth was "Uh-Huh?" I asked the Spirit for another chance and to give me good words.

It "just so happened" he was coming around the track again. I could see him many yards ahead. If you know me, you know that I don't mind introducing myself to anyone at anytime. When were were just a couple of feet away from each other, I stepped in his lane and stuck out my hand. He didn't even flinch. His smile broadened.

I told him that I had a different reply to his comment on hoping to live longer by walking. And then I introduced myself. "My name is Angel." He replied, "I'm George. Nice to meet you."

As I began to share my answer about hope, the conversation took on a serious tone. Sometimes when I meet someone for the first time and have a spiritual conversation I feel as if they look at me like Monica (Roma Downey) from Touched by an Angel, not because I'm super spiritual and holy, but because my name is Angel. If I had a dollar for every time someone who just met me said, "You really are an Angel" then I could demonstrate my super spiritual holiness and give away a lot of dollars.

I wonder if I look a little like this to people who think I'm glowingly holy. 
If it makes my story more entertaining imagine me saying the following words to George with Roma Downey's Irish accent. I'm sure my head was totally glowing as I spoke with him. 

"George, I wanted to respond differently to why I come to walk every morning. You see, I've been thinking a lot about hope lately. Last August I had a stroke and four weeks ago I had heart surgery." 

(My head really started to glow after I said that.) 

"Because of my health challenges hope in my life has been refined. I learned that my days are numbered and I don't have any control over it, so I put my hope in Jesus. And the reason I walk every morning is because I hope to live stronger, and not necessarily longer." 

He got a little teary, hugged me, wished me luck, and told me to keep walking. 

My head stopped glowing, but my heart was full. Of course I don't see myself in a touched by an angel light, but it's fun to make fun of myself. 

The point of this silly story is a public confession that I miss opportunities and a personal reminder that opportunities can often be redeemed. If this very holy week of Easter reminds us of anything, it should remind us of our days, in our relationships, in our conversations, in our souls. 

Colossians 4:5 
Be wise in the way that you act to outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

(You should read that verse again with a wonderful Irish accent. I think it's a good way to end this post.)

Glorious Hope

Tuesday, March 26, 2013  ::   1 important comment

The latest step of my health journey coupled with Chad teaching God's word through Peter has turned my heart and thoughts towards hope. I love his teaching style, verse by verse, context, culture, application. Every week I am challenged, encouraged, and inspired...and not just because I'm his wife.

Hope: to cherish a desire with anticipation, a strong and confident expectation

In our world we sometimes minimize the depth of hope by putting our desires and expectations in people or situations that have not proved unwaveringly faithful. We hope our teams will win. We hope our boss gives us the promotion. We hope our friends remember our stories. It isn't wrong to hope for any of these, but sometimes we can be left disappointed at best and disillusioned at worst. 

As we've journeyed through Peter I've been challenged and reminded of a few things.  

1 Peter 3:15 
But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that you have but do this with gentleness and respect. 

We often look at these words and focus on the "always be prepared." But I'm pondering and pointing out that the verse implies that we will be asked! If we are living with hope, with a strong and confident expectation that Jesus saved us, we will live in such a way that people will notice and will ask us about it.

I wonder if the strategy for "lifestyle evangelism" originated with this verse. Unfortunately, many people skip over the fact that we have to actually open our mouths for people to know our lifestyle represents Jesus. I know quite a few "good" people. What makes you/me different from them?
Only Jesus. My hope is in Him.

1 Peter 4:1 
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 

The hope Christ offered through His suffering allowing me to live for His will and not my own human passions overwhelms me. With and through Jesus I can arm myself with the helmet of the hope of salvation. My head is covered in His pure and unfailing hope! The freedom of knowing I do not have to live bound in selfishness, envy, bitterness, deceit, or malice astounds me. This reality is a tremendous gift of hope!

Which brings me back to a drive to continue to offer hope to the people God brings into my life.

For the last eight Good Friday nights, my friends and I have taken gifts to dancers in men's clubs.  We've heard many stories from the women over the years. Some are there by choice. Some aren't. Some love what they do. Some don't. A few reject our gifts. Many don't.

With my mind swimming with thoughts of hope I've been remembering the name of this ministry: Cord of Hope. My good friend Tia was studying a bible passage and felt strongly about offering these women a rope, a strand, a cord, something to hold on to, something to see with their own eyes. The metaphor of a cord offered to people rejects the idea of manipulation. We don't offer a trap or a trick, but a simple cord/rope of hope through beautiful gifts, hugs, and conversation.

I've stated this truth before, and I don't want to miss the opportunity to share it again. Our objective simply to share Jesus with the women in a loving, beautiful way. Our hope is to love them. Our hope is to look in their eyes and listen to their stories. Our hope is they know they are valued. Our hope is they see Jesus in a way they may have never experienced before. We don't speak to them about changing their lifestyle, leaving the business, or any such topic. We believe wholeheartedly that if they choose to follow Jesus, He is the One that works out the nuances of their lives, not me or my friends. Only Jesus.

On this week of Easter, as I look to the journey Christ took in obedience to His Father, as I am overwhelmed with gratitude for His death on the cross, as I'm filled with tears and awe at the thought of His resurrection, my heart is filled with deep, echoing, thunderous HOPE.

Jesus be praised and lifted high! May our lives reflect this glorious hope! 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus Name.

Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong, in the Savior's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all 

When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Is This Real Life?

Monday, March 18, 2013  ::   5 important comments

Sometimes people will innocently tell me that they don't need an update on how I'm doing because they read my blog. Uh, say what?

That's somewhat terrifying. That would mean people may think that I'm pre-tty spectacular...amazing parent, memorizing scripture all the time, surviving this stroke stuff with outstanding positivity.


To be honest, one of my fears in blog land is the fairy tale people can inadvertently or intentionally create about life. I believe blogs is to this generation as soap operas were to my mom's generation. If we aren't careful it can amount to countless hours of reading about making our homes magazine beautiful, or parenting like a magician, or how to be a holy Christian, or living more eco-fabulous, or feeling burdened to read more books, or how to change your fashion look to be trendy, fancy, modest, hottest...this list goes on for infinity.

Hear me on this. I am NOT saying, "Stop reading blogs." I AM saying, "Be wise and discerning."

Also, hear me on this. I am so far from perfect. This isn't a statement of false humility. I will admit that by the grace of God, I've grown in maturity, wisdom, and understanding through the years. However, when I talk to people further along in their life journey, I long to continue to grow and learn and change. I'm turning 40 in about a month, so I've been reflecting on this quite a bit which has given me the desire to confess some of my shortcomings to you in order to remind you that I'm just a plain lady that understands on some level what I've been redeemed from and I'm continuing to learn and grow in my understanding of what I've been redeemed for.

In parenting...
  • I sometimes become very impatient with my teenagers who are age-appropriately seeking to "do it their own way." In some situations I revert back to the younger years of wanting them to just do what I said because I said to do it.
  • One time I yelled right in Esther's face. It was horrible. 
  • Lately, I've struggled to be nurturing and have even noticed myself recoiling from tender moments. 
  • Often my kids try to get my attention but I'm completely spaced out, on my phone, or on my computer and don't hear them until they are frustrated. This is a big deficiency I'm working on. 
In ministry... 
  • Sometimes I feel anxious before our Sunday gathering trying to remember personal ways to connect with women. 
  • I've become so frustrated in my inability to memorize scripture that I haven't tried in awhile. 
  • I compare myself with other bloggers wishing I had more followers or a broader influence. Gag. 
  • I'm fearful that I will receive no new vision for leading the women of our church. 
In life...
  • For the last few months I felt entitled to drink a Starbucks chai almost every day. I've given it up for now.
  • Pride sometimes causes me to long to do "big things" for God, but I'm afraid my desires may be for my name's sake, not His. Sigh.
  • Since I've been on sabbatical, I've battled comparison my house, in my shape, in my effectiveness. It has been an exhausting fight. Even as an almost 40 year old I am still learning to take my thoughts captive
  • For some strange irrational reason, I am dreading turning 40. Shiver. 

Well, there ya have it. Actually, you just have a little. I enjoy making people squirm in some awkwardness, but I don't want to overwhelm you with all my junk. Turns out Jesus is the only One grand, supreme, just, and forgiving enough to deal with all my junk.  

Friends, let's not live a facade. I hope you each have a few people in your life with whom you can be honest. If you don't, ask the Spirit of God to give you courage to truly share your heart, to give you trustworthy friends, to enable you to depend on others and allow others to depend on you. 

Let's also be wise as we look to all sorts of media to learn some amazing skills, recipes, and life tools. Ask God to give you security in Himdiscernment with informationwisdom in scripture, and contentment with your own race.

Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and established in him, strengthened in the faith just as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness. 

How do you respond to information you see, hear, or read? What tool do you use to filter information that comes into your heart, mind, and soul?

Do you ever compare yourself to those around you? What are the areas of your life that need attention and/or surrender to Jesus? What evidence from your life shows your security in Christ?

Who can you encourage today to run the race Jesus has marked out for them? Will you encourage yourself to run your own race?

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 

Not as Hole-y as I Used to Be

Monday, March 04, 2013  ::   10 important comments

I haven't updated you on my health lately because it has been difficult to know where to start. Many times I've started to write an update only to sit and stare at the screen. Today I am willing myself to get it done, so I better just jump in and skip anymore intro fluff. 

Many of you know that the cardiologist found a PFO (a hole) in my heart that allowed a clot to sneak through and cause the stroke. Skipping over a bunch of details, last Monday (February 25th) I had a procedure done to close the hole.

The procedure usually takes two to three hours, but it only took the doctor 40 minutes to plug the hole. He and his team used a catheter through my femoral vein to reach my heart. He told Chad the catheter went straight to the hole and he didn't have to search for it. We attribute this to all of the prayers being spoken on my behalf. Thank you!

This short animated video will give you an idea of what the doctor did to my heart. 

So now I have a titanium and nickel "device" in my heart that plugs the hole. God made our bodies so extraordinary that my heart will basically incorporate the piece of metal and heal around it. Strange. Can I feel it? Why, yes. Yes, I can. But, I actually can't. I just think I can because I'm weird/hyper-sensitive like that. Each time I "feel" it, I tell myself over and over, "You're fine. You can't feel it. You're just a freak." 

Recovering from this procedure is no stress or strain and rest for a couple of weeks. The doctors said I can return to normal activity in 14 days. So, next Monday I'm going to go out and run stadiums and sprints. Anyone want to join me? 

Just kidding. I'm so not doing that.

Actually, one of the most interesting parts of this health journey I'm on is to continue to learn to listen to my body and balance what each doctor tells me. The cardiologist is only speaking his suggestions for my activity level based on my heart. The neurologist is only speaking his suggestions for my activity level based on my brain. Neither doctor considers other parts of my body that may need rest and/or healing, so it's up to me (and Chad) to combine each doctor's wisdom to decipher what is best for me and our family. 

Even though my heart is on the mend, my brain still has some reconnections to make. The neurologist told me to expect about two years. I've got six months down, just a few more to go. Chad has been more free with me lately in relating ways he sees differences in how I interact with the world. He is so careful in what he shares with me because he knows I can't help the differences. He doesn't want to burden me with things I can't change. I'm grateful for his protection. My stubborn pride often wants to demand the information, but my respect and trust of him allows me to choose to simply believe that it is not the burden for me to bare at this time. Thank you for your continued patience as my brain takes its sweet old time fixing itself. I'm continuing to learn, trust, wait, pray... 

My family and I have been so supported by you in this process. Prayer, gifts, meals, and money are a few of the ways you have supported us. My love for my community continues to grow because of the love you've shown us. Thank you for loving us! We love you, too!

John 13:34-35 
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. 

Juxtaposition of Motion: Maximizing your Momentum Through Meditation :: A Guest Post

Friday, March 01, 2013  ::   8 important comments

Oh, hey. Remember me? I used to blog here. But then I had this health issue creep up, mess with my brain, and then my heart. It has caused me to put aside things like blogging, but I often think about it. In the next couple of days I will post the story of this week's ordeal. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for my family and me. We love and appreciate you all! However, today is March 1st which means it is time for you faithful scripture memorizers to post your verses, and I've got a treat for you.

Jamie and I have been friends for 16 years. We met after I had graduated college. Through time together in East Asia, Jamie's unbelievable connection with Esther, and a common love for Jesus our friendship grew very quickly. In my mind, she has been part of my family for 16 years, loving us, serving us, talking deeply with us, laughing with us, causing us to laugh. She is a true life-long friend. I'm excited to share her with you through this guest post. She is so wise, deeply loves God and seeks Him through His word as part of her daily routine. 



It’s something we all battle at various seasons of life.  Believing God is hard.  Do we trust Him to provide, to do, to be all that we need?  What about the things we long for?  Our deepest desires?  

While believing Him is hard, not believing Him is harder AND it’s life-stealing, dishonoring, and sinful.  Unbelief causes us to fret, to manipulate, to worry, and to rely only on the seen.  And, friends, what we see is so very limited. 

A few years ago, I was in a season of unbelief.  Moving from Asia to California to start grad school was overwhelming but the biggest worry I had was finances.  My tuition bill was more than my income level and I could not see how I would have enough financing to survive.  I was panicked and even contemplated quitting just two months into the program.  I was stuck in unbelief.  At my breaking point, I distinctly remember telling God, “This is yours....I can not see how this is going to happen, but I’m choosing to believe You will provide all I need.”  

God not only provided abundantly for my needs but through His provision he healed me of some unbelief.  He showed me that He can, He will, and He wants to provide for me and He restored momentum in my relationship with Him.  I haven’t battled unbelief about finances since then.  

I recently started a PhD program in Virginia.  Again, I had to move from Asia, leaving friendships behind.  And, once again, I find myself in a season of unbelief.  This time, however, my unbelief lies deeper than material worries.  At the core, deep within, I don’t believe or trust God to answer the longings of my heart.  I just don’t.  

My first semester in “PhD school” (as my mom calls it) didn’t leave time for reflection (or much of anything for that matter).  As a result, any thoughts I had about this current season of challenges were pushed to the side to deal with later.  Again, I was stuck.  It wasn’t until I had some downtime over the long winter break that I was able to outwardly articulate just some of what was going on in my heart.  I was very honest with God and told Him that I didn’t trust Him with certain areas of my life. 

God answered my honesty with His own:

“And he did not do many mighty works there,
because of their unbelief.” 
Matthew 13:58 (ESV)

After reading this verse, there was a pause (a halting, jolting, “Jamie, I’m talking to you” pause) in my spirit.  And I’ve been meditating on that verse since.  

Meditation and memorization are two parts of the same discipline.  Quickly memorizing a verse for the sole purpose of being able to quote it leads to a head full of knowledge but a heart unchanged by His Word.  Meditating on His Word unlocks Truth that will seep into your heart and (hopefully) spillover into your life.  I love the juxtaposition of motion evident in the practice of meditation.  In order to gain momentum, we have to pause, to wait, to be still.  God restores our momentum, not us.  Though He does expect us to be actively involved in the restoration process.    

My mind has this verse memorized.  My mouth can quote it.  But, by meditating on it, I’m hoping that my life will soon reflect it (well, in this case, the opposite of it).  I don’t want God to ever say to me that He intentionally did not do mighty works in my life because I didn’t believe Him.  During this season, I am also asking for His forgiveness for not believing Him.  I am asking Him to surprise me.  And I am waiting for Him to restore me. 

Is there a verse that you have memorized that you need to meditate on?  Does your life reflect the Truth you are memorizing?  Why are you memorizing what end?  What areas of your life does God want to heal through your active meditation?  Will you let God maximize your life’s momentum through His Word?

I hope you will take time to answer the questions Jamie posed. Many of you know Jeremiah 17:7-8 is what I have been meditating on since September. God has used it in my life through this season to teach me that He is my Sure Foundation.

I'm still working on Isaiah 40:11 for March. Hopefully, I will get it down! 

Isaiah 40:11 
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.