Sunday, January 30, 2011

Are You In?

I need to tell you a story. And I’m unsure why I feel so compelled to share this with you. Perhaps it’s so I can solicit help from some of you for keeping me accountable. Perhaps it’s so some of you can understand me better. I don’t really know. I have only told this story to a handful of close friends up to this point. And it’s nothing scandalous, and it’s not going to change the world. Well, it might change my world.

As most of you who are reading this probably know, I lived in Australia for almost three years. I loved Australia. It became home to me and it was hard to part with it when it was time to return to America. I made many, many close friends over there, including a guy that I dated for about three and a half years. And then geography happened.

So ever since I returned home, I’ve been thinking about when I could make the trip back Down Under for a visit. It requires a nice long vacation from reality, patience, and money. Luckily for me, I had the second two covered, but getting the desired amount of time off of work always seemed to be the tricky part. And then I changed jobs. And with my new job, I still got six weeks of vacation every year, the difference is, I can take a lot more of it, or all of it, at once if I so desire. Score!

So when I got this new job last August, I immediately planned a three week vacation to head back to Oz to visit some people whom I have missed dearly over the past several years since I’ve been back in the States. I booked my PTO, told everyone here that I was going over, and I told everyone there that I was planning to come over for a visit. I even went as far as to research flights and talk to some friends about the possibility of staying with them when I came over. I had all but pressed the button to go on this trip.

But something was holding me back. And I fought it for a long time. I just wasn’t as excited about this trip as I should’ve been. I kept thinking that if I finalized plans and as the time got closer, that I would feel better about it and my excitement would grow. But it never did. And lodging wasn’t working out the way that I wanted to. So I knew something was up.

One Saturday morning last November, as I was doing my quiet time and praying over this and many other things, the Lord really laid it out for me. He was faithful and He answered my prayers. I don’t know what I did to deserve the amount of clarity that I got at that exact moment in time, but I knew two things for sure: 1) I was not to go to Australia and 2) I was to do missions instead.

I’m sorry Lord, did you say missions? Are you confused? Did you get your appointments mixed up? This is Lisa: the Type A control freak, business-minded, analytical, logical, rational, planner, everything-is-set gal. And you want me to do what? Missions? Are you crazy? I really thought He was, right at that moment. But then, I got really, really excited. Like really excited. Not only because I had this new adventure to look forward to, but probably more so that this was one of the few times in my life that God has literally spoken to me and made something so clear. And He also made it clear to me that I didn’t have to understand it right then. And to be honest, I still don’t understand it today as I sit here typing this.

That same weekend, I went straight to my church’s website and looked up the 2011 mission trips, only to find that they were not finalized yet and that information was forthcoming. So I was full of all this energy and excitement and desire to act, yet I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do; what was God’s timing for all of this?

I remember taking to one friend about this development, and expressing to her my complete shock and fear about this “calling”. I’m not equipped for this. I don’t like to talk to random people and I certainly am not comfortable sharing the gospel with them. If you want me to build a house, I’m in. If you want me to spend time with some kiddos who are underprivileged, I’m in. But that’s not the vibe I was getting from Him. And I remember her saying to me, “Lisa, God does not call the equipped, He equips the called”. Well, that’s cool and all, but He has a LOT of work to do in me!

So I spoke to a few more people about this, people whom I trusted for their Godly wisdom and guidance, and who wouldn’t think that I was crazy for going through all of this. And every single one of them was so excited for me and thought that it was amazing that this was what He had in store for me. So I promptly cancelled my trip to Oz (really I just cancelled it in my head since I hadn’t made any definitive plans yet) and just kind of sat back and listened for a while.

And then one night (and I don’t remember the exact timing of this), I was talking to my dear friend who is adopting from Ethiopia (, and she casually mentioned that maybe I could go over there with her during the “in between” period from the first court appointment to the final court appointment where her and her husband get to bring home baby. She had previously told me that she wanted to stay over in Ethiopia and learn more about her future child’s home country and culture, and give back to that country through volunteer or missions work. And pretty much without hesitation, I exuberantly said “yes!” What a perfect opportunity for me! Not only as someone who loves to travel the world, but also with my new found “calling”, I thought this would be great exposure to the missions field. And I was also excited about the opportunity that this provided for our friendship.

And to make a long story short, I am, in reality, heading over to Ethiopia for three weeks very shortly, to experience what God has in store for me, and for my dear friend and her mom. God has completely turned my life around in the last several months. I went from a job that demanded 110% of my attention for a majority of the year, to a new one that challenges me, allows me travel the world and see how others live, and gives me the freedom to live MY life. And I’ve come to learn that this new job was no coincidence. God is amazing. He does amazing things in my life, and in so many others’ lives. And I’ve seen it time and time again, and it gets me really, really excited.

But I’m also scared. Terrified actually. What if I get over to Ethiopia and I want to stay? What if I want to give up what most would see as a normal life or the real American dream? What if I want to marry someone who lives in Africa and have our little kids running around a village in their diapers? What will people think? How will my family react? How will my non-believer friends react? How will I react?

Why would I want to give up a comfortable roof over my head, a car that’s paid off, the foodie part of my personality, the luxuries that I experience in every day life? Why in the world would I want to do that?

And better yet, what happens if I get over there and feel nothing? Is all of this “call to missions” just a sham? Is it fake? That can’t happen, right? I know that I could’ve never made that up for myself. I would’ve never picked this for my life. And when is something going to happen? How much effort do I need to put into this, and how much do I need to just sit back and wait? Do I be proactive or do I be reactive? Remember Lord, this Type A personality likes to have a plan. And it’s a hard lesson for me to not know what that is!

But someone else has picked it for me. And someone else has bigger plans for me. And it may not involve living in a remote village in Africa with my kids running around in diapers. But maybe it does. And all I know is that there is a stirring in me that I cannot ignore. I’m grasped tightly, my heart is wrenched, and something is not loosening its grip. I can’t ignore it. But at the same time, I don’t know what to do about it.

At church today, the band sung about an awakening – an awakening in our souls, and the guest speaker spoke from John 6 when some of the disciples turned away from Jesus because the life that He was calling them to lead was too difficult and they were worried what others would think. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to walk away for fear of what others might think. My biggest fear should be that I live my life for me and not for someone else. Not for Him. That’s what I should be scared and uncomfortable about.

And then our guest speaker asked “Are you in or are you out?” Are you IN or are you OUT? Because that’s the ultimate question isn’t it? How could I not say, “I’m in; I’m in with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my being. I’m in for whatever roller coaster ride you want to take me on, even if it’s a scary one. I’m in for being judged by people who don’t know You. Because the people who do know You will not question this for a second.”

And maybe that’s all He’s after – my commitment and obedience. Maybe He won’t take me on a crazy roller coaster ride. Maybe it’s just a trip around the lazy river. Maybe I just needed to talk through this entire thought process on paper and not just in my head. I don't know. But my eyes have been opened, and so has my heart. And whatever it is that is in store for me, whatever He has planned - “I’m in!”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Entertaining Angels

I recently found myself in the middle of a conversation about angels. And not just a sidebar conversation in which they came up, but stories, real-life stories of people who have encountered them. Admittedly, I was freaked out. Well and truly freaked out; like goose bumps up and down my arms and that unsettling but exciting feeling in my stomach and all throughout my insides. I don’t know why I reacted this way, aside from the fact that I don’t like thinking about supernatural things; which may seem contradictory to the fact that I’m a believer.

So these stories made me realize that I don’t really know a lot about angels. I know the concept of angels vs demons, I know that people like to put them as ornaments on their Christmas trees, and I’ve seen the movie Michael. Other than that, I was bit (ok, totally) uninformed about angels. And really, that is nobody else’s fault but my own.

So I did some research on the internet (sidebar: WHAT did we ever do without the internet? Would I have driven to the public library so that I could check out books about angels? I suppose I would have, since that’s what I used to ask my mom to do when I had a report due in school!). And I learned a little something about angels.

First, they are not cute, cuddly, chubby little cherub children. They are adults. And apparently they are almost always male. I think this would contribute to my “freaking out” if I ever saw one. And they sometimes appear in human form looking completely normal. And other times they glow, or have wings or some other non-human distinguishing feature. Ummm, freak out time! But they can also not been seen at all. My research indicated that they will only become human, if necessary, to carry out specific responsibilities.

Second, there are LOTS of them, but they seem to have all been created at the same time. And there are no new angels being added to the angel population and they do not die, so the number is believed to stay constant. There have to be so many of them because they are not omnipresent i.e. each angel can be in only one place at any given time.

Some other interesting tidbits I learned about angels:

- The word “angel” comes from the Greek word aggelos, which means “messenger”. They are messengers from God! Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)

- Their tasks can include everything from revealing, guiding and providing, to protecting delivering and encouraging.

Hebrews 13:2 reminds us to “…not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” What? You mean that homeless person that I snubbed at the corner could be an angel? Or the sweet old lady who needed help getting the groceries in her car? Or the man in the wheelchair crossing the street when I was in a rush and wanted to turn right? These people were likely not angels coming into human form to teach me something, but what if they were? Have I already encountered an angel in my life and didn’t even know it?

The Newsboys have a song called “Entertaining Angels”. It reminds me that they can be anywhere or anybody and that I may be entertaining them without even knowing. So perhaps this means that I should be more aware of the people and circumstances around me. I’m pretty sure that I should.

Now let’s talk about “freak out” moments. Because I promise you that if I were to see a glowing body protecting somebody (or myself), or an adult male with wings, I would want to close my eyes and pretend that it wasn’t there. I would freak out. Or maybe I would stand wide-eyed in awe and amazement. That’s a nicer option, but less likely.

But why do I feel this way? It doesn’t quite make sense to me. Maybe I have some work to do. Maybe I’m supposed to want to see angels. I don’t know. I’m a spiritual person; I mean, I believe in God who is unseen, yet is so present. But He’s GOD! And they would be something that is not familiar to me.

So what now? I think the key for me is to remember that they are messengers for God, and that God sends them for a specific purpose. If they come into my life, it’s because God wants them there. And if He wants them there, then by golly, so should I! He would never do anything to harm me; it would only be for good. I certainly would want an angel around if I was in trouble and needed protection. If it meant the difference between life and death, how could I not choose an angel “freak out” moment? And if God needs to teach me something or reveal something to me, who am I to close my eyes. He just wants to act on His will for my life.

I’ve learned a little something about angels. I can’t promise that I still won’t freak out if and when I see one here on Earth, but I will make a concerted effort to be more aware of the company around me, because in truth, they may be right here in my every day life. Today, I may be entertaining angels.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dear Trouble

I am completely smitten and I don’t even know you.
You make my heart race.
You make me feel things that I haven’t felt in a long time.
You adore me, and took care of me right from the start.
I pride myself in being in control of my feelings, and with you, I want to lose control.
You distract me from reality.
You charm me so effortlessly.
You know the exact right things to do and say at just the right moment. And when you do, I go weak in the knees.


Have you ever run across trouble in your life? Everyone’s trouble is different, but in the end, it’s no good. It’s still trouble. And we know that in the depths of our soul. I don’t remember the exact occasion when I learned this little “trick”, but it works. It opens my eyes every time.

So what is the trick? When you run across something in your life that you know is trouble, but it feels so good, and you find yourself convincingly justifying it, grab your journal. Or if you don’t have a journal, grab a notepad or a napkin or a boarding pass, whatever you can, and write down everything about that trouble that you like. Write down all of the ways that it makes you feel something – whatever those feelings are. Allow yourself to let loose on your napkin; write all of the good stuff – the juicy stuff; stuff that you would never want anyone else to read. And then step back. And read it aloud. And you just might notice something.

For me, I notice that each feeling or thought that I wrote down sounded an awful lot like someone who knows me better than I know myself. A wolf in sheep’s clothing: Satan. He comes after me, time and time again. He woos me. He’s charming. And he’s very good at it. And sometimes he’s pretty successful.

I’ll be honest here; there are times when I feel like a split personality. On one hand, I recognize trouble when it comes after me. I tell myself that I am not going to be weak. But on the other hand, I convince myself that I deserve to feel that good. That it’s really not “that bad”. I start justifying things, and before I know it, I’m lured in by trouble’s charm. And oh how charming trouble can be.

So why is it SO hard to walk away from trouble? Like really really really almost impossibly hard? I catch myself in moments of almost pure panic wondering what the heck I’m doing and why I can’t open my mouth to talk to Jesus. It’s like I’m frozen. Trouble seduces me.

I’m only really recently learning about and recognizing spiritual warfare in my life. I’ve always heard about it, but until you are really seeking God’s face and becoming someone who Satan sees as a real threat, it’s hard to recognize.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of spiritual warfare is this (slightly abbreviated by me):

“Spiritual warfare responds to the Christian concept that the devil attempts to thwart good and the will of God, and is manifested in multiple ways, including attacks on a person's thoughts, relationships, or life with God.”

So what do you think these attacks look like in your life? Have you ever noticed them?

Trouble knows your weak spots. He certainly knows mine. And he uses people in your life, or circumstances in your life to attack you. And sometimes those attacks feel so good. A little too good. So good that you don’t even notice what’s happening until the Shepherd comes after you and brings you back to the flock. And He’ll always try.

The one good thing about these attacks is that with God on our side, we will always win. He will fight alongside us in the battle of spiritual warfare, and He never gives us anything that we can’t handle with His help. I certainly know that I could not handle ANY of it on my own. I am weak in the flesh, but He is strong! And with His strength, I am able to say this:

Dear Trouble, you lead me away from Jesus and tempt me in ways that I should not be tempted. And I can’t do that.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's Time

The New Year is upon us, and I honestly cannot wait to see what 2011 has in store for me. 2010 was a year of growth and challenges, and I am confident that I came out a different person on the tail end. I am thankful for all of the new friends I have who encourage and support me, and for my “old” friends and family who were consistently by my side. I loved making new memories with all of them and experiencing new international adventures that my new job took me on around the world.

So as the world makes resolutions for this new year (which I choose not to do, by the way), I began to reflect on what went through my mind in 2010, during my time of growth and challenges, and what I remember my friends and family going through as well. There were a lot of prayer requests that came through for various reasons, and a lot sent out from my end as well.

Not to put a damper on anyone’s resolutions or goals for 2011, but it’s time. It’s time to think about the big things in life. I know that the big things are different for each person: some may be accomplishing a life long dream of travel or a big trip, some may be getting into shape for good, and others may be working on relationships with other people and with Jesus. Whatever these things may be, I encourage you to take them seriously. There is no time like now, when we have a new year and a fresh perspective and it’s easy for us to mentally start all over again.

As I reviewed the many prayer requests received and sent in 2010, the following things came to mind. Please consider them as you plan for this year, and for this lifetime, that are ahead of us:

If you were to die tomorrow, are you confident that you would go to heaven?
John 3:16; Romans 3:22-24

Are you happy with the state of your relationship with your family?
Philippians 2:3-4; Hebrews 3:13; Deuteronomy 5:16

Are there people whom you need to forgive? Or those whom you need to reconcile with?
Luke 6:37; Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:12-14; Ephesians 4:32; 1 John 4:19

Are you being financially responsible? Are you giving away your money to the poor and underprivileged?
Luke 14:13-14; Matthew 25:42-46; Malachi 3:10; Leviticus 27:30; 1 Timothy 6:7-10; James 4:17

Are you making wise choices? Are you getting caught up in the mainstream of life?
Matthew 6:33-34; Romans 1:20-21; Colossians 2:6-7; John 4:23-24; Titus 2:12-14; 2 Chronicles 7:14

Is your life stale? Have you become complacent and live by a routine?
Romans 12:2; Romans 16:17-18; John 12:25; John 8:23

How is your health? Are you taking care of your body?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 3:16

Are you living your life for you? Are you comparing your life to the lives of others?
Galatians 6:4-5; Ecclesiastes 4:4; Psalm 37:7; Psalm 49:16

Do you notice that you are actually living your “grown-up” life? Are you still finding yourself saying “when this happens….” or “when I can do this….”?
Luke 9:62; Matthew 14:25-33

Do you spend enough time with those closest to you? Are you loving them enough?
John 15:12-13; Hebrews 10:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; Romans 12:10

(You’ll notice that I jotted down some scripture references. I like having little reminders from the Bible for various aspects of my life, and things to refer to when I’m going through something in life. If you haven’t used this website yet, I suggest for online Bible references and scripture look up. Just click and go!)

I’ll be honest, I was a little apprehensive to write this blog, but I felt convicted to do it in the end. I don’t want any of you thinking that I am lecturing you or trying to make you feel a certain way. I have no intention of doing that, and certainly have no right to do that. These are simply things that are near and dear to my heart; things that I have learned about over the past year specifically, and am working through with Jesus in my own life.

So dear friends, it’s time. There is no day like today. I know we are all in different stages of our lives and dealing with different issues. Heck, some of us may not even think that we have any issues! And I know that the topics above may not apply to each of us, but they were on my heart and on my mind, and because I passionately and purposefully LOVE my friends, my family, my encouragers, and our Creator, I wanted to throw them out there for consideration.

I wish you all a prosperous New Year – one filled with hope, joy and promise.