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



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





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,


“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.



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.



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]

[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:

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.