Blog, Guest Posts, Relationships

Loving Each Other’s Differences [Guest Post]

I’ve been given permission by a friend of mine to share these words below. Let’s call it an anonymous guest post! The topic came up during a discussion about how you don’t have to agree or be the same in order to be close. Differences between people are often what make these relationships diverse, beautiful and truly interesting! ~Alison


 

Garden Of The Gods
[Alison Lam photo, Garden of the Gods, Colorado 2014]
Sometimes it just makes me laugh when I think about how different we all are.

I have a friend who will be like, “Ohh! Look at that church over there. See how the colour in the stone changes with the light?!” and I’ll be like, “There’s a church over there?”

We do not all understand or find beauty in the same things, but isn’t that what makes us… I don’t know… interesting? We can have all these interesting and wonderful relationships even if we look through different lenses…

I remember having a discussion with a group of friends back in school. One of my dearest friends was proving a point and sharing with the third person that she doesn’t really want to go for walks with me, but she does it because she knows it means a lot to me and she wants to spend time with me.

My first instinct was shock.

Then the pouty lip wanted to come out, “You don’t like doing that?”

On one hand, it was kind of insulting, but on the other hand, I  felt an overwhelming sense of love and understanding. Someone chose to do something they didn’t want to do, just to be with me and they gave no hint that I was inconveniencing them.

That is friendship…

That is love.

I’m not saying that we should start doing things we hate, but I’m just saying that my friend’s small gesture spoke volumes to me — I felt desired.

We are never going to be able to understand everything another person does or thinks. It’s simply reality to admit that our own experiences, desires and needs will always be in the forefront of our thoughts, words, actions and opinions.

This week, some words by the Dalai Lama have really hit home to me,

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

This is Counseling 101. One of the first things you’ll learn is to:

Shut up.

You will help far more by keeping your mouth shut.

By listening to and experiencing another’s heart and desires, we might find ourselves learning things we never knew existed.

We don’t have to be the same person to love each other.

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts

Give and Take: Choosing to Trust [Guest Post]

I love the global family of YWAM! I’d like to introduce Brittany Hurst to you, who was a part of YWAM Australia for a few years and is our guest writer on the blog today! You’ll be challenged in the area of surrender and trust as you read her words below!


giveandtake
[Photo Credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc Edits: Alison Lam]

There’s that Christian song – kind of old school – called “Blessed Be Your Name”. Who was the original artist? Beats me, but there’s this line in it that goes like this:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be Your name.

These lyrics are about the idea (and reality) that God gives and takes away, and that in seasons of plenty and in seasons of darkness and suffering, we need to surrender and choose to bless His Name.

Surrender.

Now, roll this word around your tongue a bit; ponder it. What do you picture? What’s the first word that comes to mind?

I have found that sometimes my initial response to a gift or a blessing is, “Oh great, thanks God… but I don’t really know what to do with it?! And…how long can I have it for?!”

The fact is, life is uncertain. Things happen. We live in a fallen world, full of people with free will and sometimes, it feels like ‘anything goes.’ Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

I’ve learned that sometimes God does ask us to give things to Him – to surrender it, to lay it down, or not pursue something for a certain time. Reasons vary, and sometimes we don’t understand.

Now I don’t believe God does this in a cruel way. Sometimes, I think it’s because it’s not good for us. Sometimes, I think it’s because He has something better for us. Sometimes, I think it’s because the timing is not right. And sometimes, I think it’s because He is testing our faithfulness and loyalty to Him and to Him being first in our hearts.

But, it brings me back to my initial response when I receive something I like and want: if I’m honest, I fear losing it or fear that I’ll be asked to surrender it (again).

It’s almost as if I don’t fully –one hundred percent– trust my Father.

There. I said it.

I struggle to trust Him. It’s a choice. Sometimes I choose to, and sometimes I dwell in everything but trust.

Our loving Father sees the end when I just see the beginning. He’s the One who sees all the pieces when I just see a small sliver. He’s the One who knows my heart even when I can’t untangle the thoughts in my mind.

Why do I struggle to trust Him?

In my short life, I’ve learned a decent amount about surrender already. Just say the word, and the first things that come to mind have to do with people, experiences, or decisions I’ve made. In those areas, I’ve had to choose to believe, even when I can’t see. I’ve had to choose to trust Him and His character so that I can see the bigger picture. The bigger, eternal perspective that reveals that it’s not all about me and my happiness and it’s going to be okay, because I’m on the winning side.

I want to encourage all of us today: whatever circumstances you find yourself in, whether it’s a time of abundance and blessing or the opposite, whether it be suffering, lack, hurt, or if you just feel the challenge (or nudge) to surrender…. remember that God truly is faithful.

I really choose to believe that.

God really is good and He works things out for the good of those who love Him. I’m not saying it will turn out the way YOU think it needs to but He’s got it figured out and He’ll come through in one way or another.

And even if today and tomorrow and the next day really really really SUCK, remember that He loves you. He’s there for you. He wants you to talk to Him, to trust Him now, before things get better.

“Chin up, child. This too shall pass…”


About the Author:

GuestWriter_BrittHurst_PicBrittany prefers being called ‘Britt’ and really believes that the essence of life is all about relationships; how we relate to God, ourselves and others. She’s a coffee drinker- journal writing- belly laughing – American girl who has got her eyes on the nations, developing world and cultures. Subscribe to her blog, follow her on instragram, or ‘friend’ her on Facebook.

Blog, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions

Purpose in Unexpected Seasons [Guest Post]

I haven’t had a guest writer on the website for a while, so it’s about time! Here’s my wonderful Kiwi friend, Kate Dugdale, sharing some thoughts about the reality of adult life being very different than our childhood expectations. May it encourage and challenge you in your own unexpected life…


[Photo Credit: Kate Dugdale original, author of post]

As I write this, I’m sitting at my small desk – to call it ‘organized’ would be generous. It’s covered in books, pens, highlighters, and a second computer monitor balanced rather precariously on the equally small bookshelf which rests between my desk and the wall. I am possibly breaking the fire code by having my backpack sit in front of the fire escape. The pile of books to go back to the postal library hasn’t moved in about a month and the wall is covered with lists and outlines and calendars. There are three other desks in this small enclosed balcony, all empty at the moment, but often filled by other students who come to study on campus. This is my life for most of the time, five days a week… and is not where the sixteen-year-old version of myself envisioned my twenty-five-year-old self being.

[Photo Credit: Ozyman via photopin cc  with edits by Alison Lam]
I spent most of my teenage years involved in ministry and mission. Almost every vacation period was spent on camps or mission trips, and by the time I was sixteen I had started homeschooling in order to facilitate doing a church internship. Growing up in a YWAM family meant that doing a DTS was a certainty in my own mind. I fully expected to be called into full-time missions in a country outside of where I’d grown up, that life would be full of crazy God-adventures in the nations, and that I’d get caught up in some epic revival or move of the Holy Spirit. I always assumed that the dramatic moment of calling was just around the corner. God had an AMAZING plan, and I was going to be right in the midst of it!

Little did I know what was coming…

Through a strange series of events, I found myself starting at Bible College in 2009, with the expectation that I’d do a single year… and then something else would open up. To my surprise, I’ve been a full-time university student for five years, with another two and a half years to go. I’ve spent the last half decade studying – my diploma turned into a bachelor degree in biblical studies, followed by another postgraduate diploma in theology, which resulted in my enrolment to start a PhD in Systematic Theology. In that time, I haven’t been on a single missions trip, or even left the country except to see family in Sydney. Instead, my focus has been on learning Greek, and exegetical studies, and my time spent reading theologians who rarely agree with each other. I used to denounce academic theologians as people who knew about God without knowing God… and yet as a student, I find myself required to participate in that world. This is far from the life I envisaged.

The fact that I’m still doing this both exhilarates and infuriates me, depending on the day… and yet here I am, still sitting at my desk, attempting to be faithful in my current calling.

As I read yet another book for my thesis, I am learning that God is just as present to me in these moments, as anywhere else. I understand that God is here with me as I struggle with concepts of epistemology and ontology, and what they mean for my understanding of who God is. The Holy Spirit is just as close as he would be if I was proclaiming the Gospel in a country hostile to the Gospel. Instead of preaching to crowds, I teach biblical studies to small classes of five students. I don’t see miracles on a weekly basis, but what I do have is the privilege of journeying alongside a small group of teenagers from my church, and seeing them continue to grow in their own journeys of faith and discipleship. I don’t see miracles of healing, and dramatic conversions, on any sort of regular basis, but I do encounter the goodness and kindness of God on a daily level.

So God is good… and I am slowly learning…

I am learning that God is with me, bringing life and growth and fruit where I least expect it. I continue to discover that regardless of where I worship and work, the Spirit is still present and active. I’m becoming more confident that God is at work in the unseen places of my heart, even when I don’t realize it. I’m still not a hundred percent sure why I have been called into my particular journey, but I do know this: God is working all things out for good, according to his plan, not to mine… and that position of quiet trust is all that is required from me.

 


About the Author:

Kate Dugdale Bio PicKate spends most of her time in Nelson as a PhD student and teaching theology. When not studying, she can most often be found either drinking a vanilla latte, dreaming about making a perfect cupcake, or trying not to fall off her mountain bike.


Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Relationships

Foundations in Relationship: Intimate and Private Conversation – Part 2 of 2 [Guest Post]

Spike continues part 2 of his guest articles on the foundations of relationships. Today, he’s got some awesome stuff to share about the importance of privacy and intimate conversation in the most important relationship of your life. It really challenged me and stirred my heart. May it do the same for you. Check out Part 1: Trust, if you haven’t read it yet.


Relationship_Conversation

 

I had contacted Alison about sharing something on her blog and after discussing it with her, I sat down to write. Since God has been teaching me a lot of great things lately, I figured it would be easy. But, the longer I sat and stared at my computer screen, or flipped through my journal, or read through passages that God has me studying He began to nudge at my heart. He was getting my attention. And He was making it known what my real intentions were. I was about to share the private, secret things that He was sharing with me and, in doing so, I was only looking to glorify myself. It was as if I were betraying Him and sharing the intimate details of our relationship to the world.

“But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
Luke 2:19, NLT

“But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.”
Psalm 1:2, AMP

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].”
Psalm 91:1, AMP

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never].”
Psalm 91:14, AMP

These verses are all about building an intimate relationship with God. In the time we spend with Him, we are spoken to intimately. God loves it when we seek Him privately. Again, think about it in the context of our relationships with others. When you’re dating or married, there are many conversations you have with that person that are not for sharing. Those conversations are based initially on the trust that you built at the beginning.

Our God is all about relationships. He wants to have an intimate, candid relationship with us and He wants us to be able to share the love He shows us. Remember, even through our direct, blatant coming against Him, He still trusts us.

One of the key things from this is to hold on to the stuff that God speaks over us in our private worship of Him. There are times when God will speak to you and some of the things He says are not for sharing. Sometimes, even when we are so excited and energized by a word that God gave us, it’s best to keep it in your heart. Let it seep into your heart and your mind. Do as Mary did and keep it in your heart so that you may think about it often. It’s in that place of private intimacy with the Lord that He will return blessing to us.

I love what the Amplified Bible says about, well, everything, but especially about prayer.

“But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.”
Matthew 6:6, AMP

Wow, just WOW! God, the Unseen, will see what we do, how we respond to Him, how we come before Him, in secret. And, in return, He will reward us in the open! Doesn’t that just excite you? God does this because He knows our hearts. God knows that the life we live, when we are alone, will immediately reflect the life we live publicly. He doesn’t want us to be people who, in public, worship Him and proclaim His name but, in secret, we still find ourselves slaves to personal sins and bondage. No, He wants us to live the freedom of worshiping Him in public and in private.

I urge you all to seek the Lord candidly. Don’t hold back. If you’re angry, vent to Him. If you’re happy, celebrate with Him. Let Him comfort you and speak to you. I love to worship and pray as I drive around because I can speak however I want and I know that it’s just God and myself. He wants you to communicate with Him day and night. Never cease to talk to God. He is always listening. Let Him love on you but keep that love in your heart so, even in your darkest hour, you can remember and meditate on how He loves you.

The song “You Know Me” from Bethel Music speaks so deeply to me and I hope these few lines will speak to you, too:

You know when I rise and when I fall,
When I come or go, You see it all.
You hung the stars and You move the sea.
And still You know me
And nothing is hidden from Your sight.
Wherever I go, You find me.
And You know every detail of my life.
And You are God and You don’t miss a thing.

Let that resonate with you, that God knows every detail of your life and He doesn’t miss anything. He is the one who hung the stars. He is the one that moves the sea. Yet, He will still meet you where you are, just as you are.

 


About the Author:

SpikeMartinez_PicSpike lives in the San Antonio, TX area and delights in his bovine neighbors. He seeks to reach out to San Antonio through prayer and the arts. He hopes to find a job where he will never have to shave again. You can find Spike online on his Website.

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Relationships

Foundations in Relationship: Trust – Part 1 of 2 [Guest Post]

Today, I’m happy to introduce a new guest writer, Spike Martinez! Spike hails from Texas and is here to share his infectious heart for God, specifically today in the area of building a solid foundation of trust in the most important relationship of your life. [Check out Part 2: Intimate and Private Conversation]


Foundation_Trust
[Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Text Edits: Alison Lam]

I am a fairly open person. If anyone approaches me and asks me a personal question, I am most likely to give them an honest response, no matter what the subject matter. I believe in being transparent before others. It gains the trust of people; it helps them to understand that I’m human, too.

But being open and honest with God is a totally different story.

My sister and I were driving from Dallas to San Antonio a few years back and, on the way, she said to me, “God wants to tell you something. Pray and ask Him what His favorite shoes of yours are.”

Weird, I know.

So, I sat in her car, listening, praying, waiting and waiting. And, when God spoke, He said, “I love your bare feet.”

It was in that moment that I understood one of the characteristics that God created me with: being open. I have always felt so comfortable sharing with people about my life, my testimony and my struggles. Even when I wasn’t walking with the Lord, I told people that I wasn’t. But, despite my ability to be open with others, I wasn’t able to be fully open and honest with God.

The Lord earnestly wants us to fully trust in Him. But, just like our relationships with people, how can you trust someone if they can’t trust in you? I know that if I come before the Lord with all of myself –my hurts, my celebrations, my conversations, my slip ups— it will help me to build trust in God when I can feel Him comforting or celebrating or communicating with me. In turn, the Lord builds trust that He can speak candidly to us because, if we are telling Him about every moment of our day, He will know our hearts.

We all know that God knows everything that happens to us and that none of it will come as a surprise to Him. He knows what we are asking for before we even ask. However, just as our relationships with others are built on communication, so our relationship with the Lord is built on constant and honest communication. We must also understand that, as we are trusted with something, there also comes an expectation of privacy.

God will trust us with His Word, His Promises, and His People but, only if we are exemplifying that trust in our lives to God. Think about this: If someone you knew well were to come into your home and openly, blatantly steal from you, would you continue to trust them?

Now, think about this: We openly, blatantly ignore, rebuke, come against, steal from and turn away from God. Yet, He is still willing to trust us with His word. I don’t know about you, but that resonates with me. The Ever-Present, Living God still wants to speak to me, no matter what I’ve done to Him. God will always forgive us because He loves us and He knows that, when we finally decide to give up, He’ll be right there, arms open wide, waiting for us.

It’s in that moment, when we step out and trust in the unknown, that our faith is dramatically expanded.

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Mark 14:29-31, NIV

Peter started with an immense amount of faith and trust that, if he were to step out of the boat, he would not sink –he would walk like Jesus, upon the water. But, as Peter was bombarded by the wind, the waves and the storm that surrounded him, he began to doubt and he began to sink. Even in our worst storms, our deepest valleys and our driest deserts, trusting in God will get us through; it will build our relationship with Him so that, when we come out on the other side, our faith is pure, tested, and strong.

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. BUT let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, SO THAT you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4, AMP

Trust me, when I say, that God will test your heart. He’s looking for our response to situations. Will you continue to keep your eyes focused forward, toward His kingdom? Or will you let the storm around you distract you and overwhelm you? That’s why, in the Word, it says in Proverbs 3:5-6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”

Fully trusting in the Lord is a challenge to our faith. Even when the world around us falls apart, I know I stand on a firm, solid foundation and I will not be crushed. That’s the trust that God wants us to live in.

[Check out Part 2: Intimate and Private Conversation ]


About the Author:

SpikeMartinez_Pic
Spike lives in the San Antonio, TX area and delights in his bovine neighbors. He seeks to reach out to San Antonio through prayer and the arts. He hopes to find a job where he will never have to shave again. You can find Spike online on his Website.