Blog, Personal Growth + Wholeness

The 3-Letter Acronym That Will Change Your Life [Guest Post at Oneword365.com]

ThreeLetterAcronym

I am a guest writer today on an amazing global community website called One Word 365. This is a growing movement being embraced all around the world. Basically, people are getting tired of breaking a zillion new year’s resolutions year after year, yet they still desire to enter the new year with intentionality and renewed passion and purpose. This is where the ‘one word community‘ comes in — it’s so, so simple. You just pick one word to symbolize how you want to live your life over the next year.

Today I’m sharing specifically on a 3-letter acronym that I believe has the ability to change your life! Sound too good to be true? Have I got you a little curious? Well, wait no further!

READ MY GUEST POST HERE AND FIND OUT WHAT THIS 3-LETTER ACRONYM IS!

God bless you as you live intentionally!

Alison


[Photo Credit: Augapfel / Edit: Alison Lam]

Blog, Personal Growth + Wholeness

From Relax to Risk!

oneword_longlogo

It’s amazing the difference a year can make. When you’re in the midst of daily life, though, it can appear that nothing much is changing and that all your little daily choices aren’t amounting to much. But life has a funny way of surprising you as you arrive at the end of another 365 day circling of the sun; you realize that you really are different. Unbeknownst to you, something deeply spiritual really has taken place. Some significant shift has occurred in your heart.

I want to testify to (and honour) the invisible God who has done a tangible work in my heart. He has changed me. While I was too busy analyzing my life to death, I didn’t know that ‘life’ was at work in my inner being.

I want to share a simple illustration of how my life has changed. It may not seem like much, but it’s huge to me! Now that I’m taking some time to reflect on the past year (and as I look to this new year ahead of me), I am amazed.

In 2013, my ‘one word’ for the year was RELAX. (this was inspired by the One Word 365 movement where thousands are scrapping new year’s resolutions and choosing just one word to define the next year) I entered that year with an anxious and fearful heart, full of burdens and insecurities. All I wanted was to be tucked away in a cocoon of safety and never come out.

I needed to relax badly.

There was so much internal unrest within me that the most spiritual thing I could call myself to last year was to calm down and just relax. Relax, o my soul, relax! The call to relax determined a lot of my choices last year. My heart needed to settle down and find a resting place.

You see, in mid 2012 I’d left the mission field overseas and returned to Canada for a much-needed sabbatical. My spirit knew I needed a time of sabbath rest but my flesh was desperate to “go go go”. So, the spirit within me took precedent and declared to my heart, ‘relax!’

Fast forward a year as I entered 2014, it was very clear what my ‘one word’ would be… RISK.

Risk spark

From relax to risk. I’d say that’s quite a dramatic change. That kind of change doesn’t happen overnight.

But I’ve discovered that something has been restored to me over this year. In the midst of a year that was full of many challenges, pain and disappointment, somewhere deep in the recesses of my heart, a little flickering flame within me was being stoked. Somehow a little crack in the doorway of my heart was left open and a little divine wind came to blow upon the ashy embers. The dry sticks laying dormant were rekindled and something resembling a flame of desire began to rise up within me in the second half of last year.

A desire to take some risks again.

A desire to step out in the midst of uncertainty and danger and risk my safety. Risk my comfort. Risk my security. Risk certainty for something uncertain and unknown. Risk emerging from the cocoon and seeing if my heart really could fly again — seeing if my heart could come alive again.

I can sense that something is returning to me. That little part of me that rises to a dare and accepts the challenge. The part of me that embraces adventure. The part of me that doesn’t back down in the midst of difficulty. The part of me that takes risks. I can see that part of me returning. I thought that part of me had died and I was bound for a life of safe choices and avoidance.

It seems that the good things God established in me by relaxing more last year are bearing the fruit of courage, in trusting God enough in this new year to take some risks.

This year I want to take risks. Personal risks. Relational risks. Professional and ministerial risks.

I want to stoke the flickering fire in me and see it become a passionate fire. I want to burn again. I must.

I want to take risks because I trust that the Father loves me no matter what and is taking care of me (and quite possibly even leading me into these risks?!)

I want to take risks in love and for love.

I want to take risks with God’s will.

I want to risk losing the good opinion of others so that I’m free from the fear of man’s judgment (and my own).

I want to risk losing control of my life for the sake of gaining a deeper trust in God.

Who knows where these risks will take me, but I guess that’s why it’s a risk!

It’s time. Definitely time. The time to risk.


*Photo Credit: 1) One Word 365   2) Pranav (with edits by me)

Blog, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

What do you define yourself by?

 I saw this poem a while ago online and it really impacted my heart. The author is unknown but if anyone knows who wrote this, please let me know!


Sunset Tauranga

I do not define myself by how many roadblocks have appeared in my path.
I define myself by the courage I’ve found to forge new roads.

I do not define myself by how many disappointments I’ve faced.
I define myself by the forgiveness and faith I have found to begin again.

I do not define myself by how long a relationship lasted.
I do define myself by how much I have loved and been willing to love again.

I do not define myself by how many times I have been knocked down.
I do define myself by how many times I have struggled to my feet.

I am NOT my pain.
I am NOT my past.
I AM that which has emerged from the fire.

(Unknown Author)


*Photo Credit: Alison Lam
Blog, God + Spirituality, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

The Heart and Home of Missions

 

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The Heart and Home of Missions: Reproducing God’s Image in the Earth

What do you when you come face to face with the Father of Creation and you come in direct contact with His heart?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did.

I took a deep look at the state of my own heart and my foundations and motivations in ministry and

I

came

back

home.

About a year and a half ago, I had quite a life-altering encounter with God.’s father heart. It was a game-changer for me. It redirected the entire course of my life and my ministry and brought me back to my homeland. Since my return, I have had to ask myself a lot of honest, heart-wrenching questions.

And today, I’d like to share some of the emerging answers that have come out of this season of asking these life-altering questions.

You see, for any of us who identify ourselves as “ministers” or “missionaries”, our vocation is to share God’s heart with those who have not yet met Him. Our very “job”, so to speak, is to present God to this world. So, then, who is God? And who does He identify Himself as, primarily?

I would say that, primarily, God wants to be known as a Father. He is the very first Father and He is the Father of all creation.

God’s heart is one of a father. He lives and breathes fatherhood as His highest and greatest vocation. (Not that God actually sees it as a “vocation” since it is just “who He is”, but you get my point, I hope).

So, what is fatherhood all about? Well, it’s really simple. Fatherhood is all about family. And family is all about relationship. It’s all about a relational community lived out in the context of “real life”.

This begs the question: If God is primarily identifying Himself as a Father, then why do we tend to center our ministries around a public model of “services”, “meetings” and “events”? If we take our ministries outside of the context of family life, how do we think that we will somehow accurately portray God’s fathering heart?

I would challenge all of us (I’m preaching to myself as well) that the world is not fully seeing the display of our Heavenly Father’s heart because we continue to keep the doors of our hearts and the doors of our homes, closed to the world. We have taken ministry outside of the home, and brought it into the public place. This is not to say that we cannot minister in the streets or in public places, but I would say that this cannot and should not be the primary place of ministry. The home is where it’s at. Really at.

Radical missions and radical ministry is not a fiery service with great teaching and enthusiastic singing. I mean, that’s definitely an integral part of our Christian expression, as God loves to engage our minds in learning and to express our love and passion for life through music. But I would like to put it on the table and say that radical missions and radical ministry is a healthy, whole heart that thrives within a healthy, loving family and community.

Ministry and missions is all about the heart. Ministry and missions is all about the family.

If we separate our ministries from the heart of our personal life, our home life, our marriage life, our family life and our relational life, I would say we are separating ourselves from the very heart of God.

He is a Father and His heart is in the home.

We cannot reproduce His image as a Father across the globe without opening up our homes and our hearts and our families to a world that desperately need to experience the love of this good and wonderful Father.

Tragically, most of the world still thinks of God as a distant, angry task-master, totally disconnected from their real lives and completely irrelevant to all their genuine heartaches, pains and troubles. This false representation of God is such a far cry from His real heart as a Father.

The world must see our good and loving Father. They must.

The world desperately needs to see a re-presentation of our loving, relational Father. How will those who have never known our God to be relational and relevant to their personal lives, if we do not allow them into our personal lives for them to see God-in-the-flesh? How will they know that God loves to spend quality time with them, unless we spend quality time with them? How will they know that God loves to throw house parties and dinner feasts, unless we invite them over for for a meal? How will they know that God is a Father who adores His sons and daughters, unless we bring them into our hearts and love them as our own sons and daughters?

This paradigm-shift in the heart of our ministries begs us to ask the tough questions that hit close to home. If ministry is all about our hearts and our relationships, we must ask ourselves:

“How is my heart? I mean, really, how am I doing?

How is my family life?

How is my home life?

How is my marriage?

How is my relationship with my children?

How are my friendships?”

We cannot avoid these very personal questions. They are at the very core and heart of our ministry. We cannot sweep our relational difficulties under the carpet and think that we can go on with “business as usual” and continue on with our activities and think that everything’s going to be okay.

If our relationships are not okay, it’s not okay.

As ministers and missionaries, we cannot allow our relationships to be neglected. They are the central part, the very heart of 100% of our ministries. They determine what image of God will be reproduced in your little corner of the world, and eventually across the entire world.

We are not reproducing our words. We are reproducing our hearts. We are reproducing our relationships.

The world will see the state of your heart. The state of your relationships. The state of your marriage. The state of your family. The state of your home. And they will get their image of God through these core relationships. Now, I’m not saying this to bring any condemnation, whatsoever, to those who find themselves in difficult relationships despite all their prayers and genuine effort to develop a healthy home life. I’m only trying to emphasize the central importance of the heart and relationships.

If God’s image is to be reproduced accurately in every tribe, tongue and nation, we must come back to the heart of missions: our inner-life, our relational-life, our family-life, our home-life, our friendships and our community-life.

The world must see our good Father’s heart. They must.

 


 Photo credit: *sweetkendi

Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Be patient, life and love take time to unfold

Here’s my favourite mug. It says a whole bunch in just a few words,

Patience_mug

“Adopt the pace of nature… her secret is patience.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the quality of patience that is inherently present in nature. Nature takes it’s time. It remains in step with the seasons of the year, the seasons of life, and it carries on and embraces the pace of life that its Creator has given to it.

I could learn a lot from observing nature in more depth. Couldn’t we all?

These days, with my mind pondering the life of patience, I am reminded of a wonderful man named Ron Rolheiser who wrote an article back in December of 2009. I have carried a photocopy of his article that my mother took out of a newspaper back in 2009 and mailed to me when I lived in New Zealand.

The photocopied paper is lovingly creased and crinkled from repeatedly reading it and carrying it in my Bible all around the world. I wanted to share these treasured words with you now. They have challenged me, convicted me, humbled me, yet also inspired me and encouraged me to continue on in the school of patience, which lasts a lifetime! ~Alison

 

Be patient, life and love take time to unfold

By Ron Rolheiser

Scripture and Christian tradition emphasize that Jesus could only be born out of a chaste womb, just as Christian spirituality emphasizes He can only come to full bloom inside of a chaste heart. Why? Why this emphasis on chastity?

Chastity needs to be properly understood. For too long we have had an overly narrow and mostly false concept of chastity. Chastity is too commonly identified with sexual abstinence and sexuality is then seen as something that, in itself, militates against chastity and spirituality. But chastity is not the same thing as celibacy; indeed it is not even, first and foremost, a sexual concept. Someone can be chaste but not celibate, just as someone can be celibate but not chaste. My parents were not celibate, they gave birth to a large family, but they were wonderfully chaste persons. The reverse can also be true. Someone can be celibate but far from chaste.

What is chastity? We are chaste when we stand before the world, others and God in a way which allows them to be fully themselves without letting our own impatience, selfishness or unwillingness to remain in tension violate their reality and their natural unfolding. What is meant by that?

Allow me to present three images for this:

1. In her book Holy The Firm, Annie Dillard shares this story:

One evening, alone in her cabin, she was watching a moth slowly emerge from its cocoon. The process was fascinating but interminably slow. At a point she lost patience and needed to get on to other things, so she picked up a candle and applied a little heat to the process. It worked. The added heat sped up the process and the moth emerged more quickly from its cocoon, but, since a natural process had been interfered with and unnaturally rushed, the moth emerged with ill-formed wings which didn’t allow it to fly properly. A fault in chastity led to stunted growth.

2. The move Sense and Sensibility, based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, presents its leading character, a woman played by Emma Thompson, as someone who is asked to carry an extremely painful tension for a long time, one having to do with unrequited and unconsummated love. She has no one with whom she can really share her pain and her circumstance requires her to carry on as if she was not carrying this pain. She carries that tension for a long time, sublimating her pain into a graciousness that she extends even to the very persons who are the source of her tension. Only after a long time is the tension finally resolved and her forbearance in not forcing an earlier, premature resolution, her willingness to carry the tension to term, helps bring about deeper life for everyone, not least for herself. This is the essence of chastity.

3. After the Italian spiritual writer Carlo Carretto had spent a number of years living as a hermit in the Sahara desert, he was asked what message he would give to the world if someone asked him the question: What, in your solitude and prayer, do you hear God saying to those of us who are living active lives in the world? Carretto replied, God is saying: learn to wait, learn to wait for everything — for love, for fulfilment, for consummation, for God! Learning to wait, giving God and life the space to unfold as they need to, is the very essence of chastity.

In a number of his books, Nikos Kazantzakis, both fondly and bitterly, makes this assertion: God, it seems, is never in a hurry, while we are always in a hurry. He’s right: Life unfolds according to its own innate rhythms which try our patience and it will not let themselves be rushed, except at a cost. Life and love demand both the time and the space within which to unfold according to their own internal dictates. Whenever, because of impatience, selfishness or our unwillingness to stay inside a tension, we short-circuit that process we, in slight or deep ways, violate their reality.

Chastity is the virtue that invites us to live in patience, to wait, to respect what’s other and to carry tension long enough so that the other can truly be other and gift can unfold precisely as gift.

The word sublime takes its root in the word sublimation. Nothing can be sublime unless there is first sublimation. Nobody gives birth to a baby without a long period of gestation, nobody writes a doctoral thesis in two hours, nobody creates an artistic masterpiece without long hours of sweat and labor, and nobody becomes a heroic individual without carrying the unbearable tension. Cinderella only got to go to the ball after she had spent sufficient time in the ashes. Jesus only got to the glory and freedom of Easter Sunday by first sweating blood in the garden.

That is why the Messiah can only be born from a chaste womb and come fully to life only inside of a chaste heart. Christmas allows for no shortcuts.