Sunday, January 11, 2015


As of today, it has been 136 days since I have seen my family. 136 days since I hugged and kissed them goodbye. 136 days since I told them "I love you" in person.

In those 136 days, I have changed and grown in ways I never could have imagined. My theology has shifted. I hold my beliefs with stronger conviction. I have completed applications to 9 seminaries. I have been pushed, pulled, stretched, challenged, and survived. I have seen the face of God in some of the most unexpected places. I have felt pure joy; overwhelming sadness; pride swell within me; hopelessness wash over me; humility slap me in the face; my sense of self pull me down; frustration due to cultural, personal, and generational differences; and God use others to rescue me from myself. Some of those 136 days have been easy, but so many have been incredibly hard.

I have found the discomfort that comes with border-crossing ministries. I have tried not to run from the discomfort too much, but I am scared. I am afraid of myself and my ability to get in my own way. I am fearful of a rut, trough, valley, low point, or funk that could become debilitating over a long period of time. I worry about what it will take to get out of the rut, while allowing myself to dwell in the discomfort.

When I answered the call to be a YAV, I knew it was the logical next step in my journey. I didn't question my decision because I felt that I was born for this. No amount of enthusiasm, planning, or training could have actually prepared me for this year of my life. It has been so much harder than I ever expected. So many aspects of this year have brought me pain, jealousy, loneliness, resentment, and anger, none of which is necessarily what I want to feel toward those around me.

Before this experience, the longest time I had spent away from my family and country was 124 days when I studied abroad. Every day I spend here expands the length of time away from my family. 136 days and counting.

I have 201 days left of this year of service. Every additional day here means that I am one day closer to returning to my childhood home and family. Even as I struggle to find meaning and purpose in my life and work here on what seems like an hourly basis, I know that I am always drawing closer to seeing my biological family in person again.

So what will I do for the next 201 days? A lot of that is out of my control, but how I respond to these next 201 days is completely in my control.

If you are reading this, I sincerely thank you and count you in my support system that is essential to my well-being during this year. If praying is your thing, I could really truly use your prayers right about now and throughout these next seven months. If you're not so into prayer, then I would greatly appreciate any and all optimistic thoughts, well wishes, positive vibes, and/or good chi. I know that I cannot do this without God's help, but I also desperately need this awesome support system.

I have 201 days to be present. 201 days to seek God in every situation. 201 days to try to do some good. 201 days to do life in the Philippines. 201 to strengthen relationships with my family, students, church community, neighbors, and YAV community. 201 days to be full. I can do this, but only with your help and God's ever-loving presence.


I originally wrote this on a boat returning home to Leyte after taking a vacation this week. Immediately after "finishing" this post,  I pulled up iBooks and read a sampler of Max Lucado's books that I had downloaded free from iTunes some time back.

This was definitely a providential moment. While I may not fully agree with Max Lucado's theology, he had some pretty choice words that I clearly needed to hear this afternoon. Below are some of the quotes that spoke to me most.
And fear feels dreadful. It sucks the life out of the soul, curls us into an embryonic state, and drains us dry of contentment. We become abandoned barns, rickety and tilting from the winds, a place where humanity used to eat, thrive, and find warmth. No longer. When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life. Can the safety lover do anything great? Can the risk-averse accomplish noble deeds? For God? For others? No. The fear-filled cannot love deeply. Love is risky. They cannot give to the poor. Benevolence has no guarantee of return. The fear-filled cannot dream wildly.
His most common command emerges from the "fear not" genre. The Gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, 21 urge us to "not be afraid" or "not fear" or "have courage" or "take heart" or "be of good cheer." The second most common command, to love God and neighbor, appears on only eight occasions. If quantity is any indicator, Jesus takes our fears seriously. The one statement he made more than any other was this: don't be afraid.
If we medicate fear with angry outbursts, drinking binges, sullen withdrawals, self-starvation, or viselike control, we exclude God from the solution and exacerbate the problem. We subject ourselves to a position of fear, allowing anxiety to dominate and define our lives. Joy-sapping worries. Day-numbing dread. Repeated bouts of insecurity that petrify and paralyze us. Hysteria is not from God. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear" (2 Tim. 1:7).
You faced your share of seismos moments in life, but in the end you didn't go under. Here's a prayer that we won't either.
Excerpts taken from Fearless by Max Lucado
 I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me. It is all about me.
But how do we make the shift? How can we be bumped off self-center?...We move from me-focus to God-focus by pondering him. Witnessing him. Following the counsel of the apostle Paul: "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV).
Beholding him changes us. Couldn't we use a change? Let's give it a go. Who knows? We might just discover our place in the universe.
Excerpts taken from It's Not About Me by Max Lucado
Use your uniqueness (what you do) to make a big deal out of God (why you do it) every day of your life (where you do it).
At the convergence of all three, you'll find the cure for the common life: your sweet spot.
Sweet spot. You have one, you know. Your life has a plot; your years have a theme. You can do something in a manner that no one else can. And when you find it and do it, another sweet spot is discovered. Let's find yours.
Excerpts taken from Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado
Others of us have written our own Bible verse: "God helps those who help themselves" (Popular Opinion 1:1). We'll fix ourselves, thank you. We'll make up for our mistakes with contributions, our guilt with busyness. We'll overcome failures with hard work. We'll find salvation the old-fashioned way: we'll earn it.Christ, in contrast, says: "Your part is to trust. Trust me to do what you can't."
Excerpt taken from 3:16: The Numbers of Hope by Max Lucado
The greatest example of this humility is none other than Jesus Christ. Who had more reason to boast than he? Yet he never did. He walked on water but never strutted on the beach. He turned a basket into a buffet but never demanded applause. A liberator and a prophet came to visit him, but he never dropped names in his sermon. He could have. "Just the other day I was conferring with Moses and Elijah." But Jesus never thumped his chest. He refused even to take credit. "I can do nothing on my own" (John 5:30 NRSV). He was utterly reliant upon the Father and the Holy Spirit. "All by myself"? Jesus never spoke such words. If he didn't, how dare we?

We can rise too high but can never stoop too low. What gift are you giving that he did not first give? What truth are you teaching that he didn't first teach? You love. But who loved you first? You serve. But who served the most? What are you doing for God that he could not do alone?

How kind of him to use us. How wise of us to remember.

Could you use some high-octane boldness? If you want to outlive your life, you could. As long as you are stationary, no one will complain. Dogs don't bark at parked cars. But as soon as you accelerate—once you step out of drunkenness into sobriety, dishonesty into integrity, or lethargy into compassion—expect the yapping to begin. Expect to be criticized. Expect to be mocked. Expect to be persecuted.
So how can we prepare ourselves? Simple. Imitate the disciples. Linger long and often in the presence of Christ. Meditate on his grace. Ponder his love. Memorize his words. Gaze into his face. Talk to him. Courage comes as we live with Jesus. 
Excerpts taken from Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

I made it home to a delicious dinner, which included vegetables, and some quality time with Judy and Francis. I feel refreshed, renewed, and ready to get back into the routine tomorrow morning. I think that going forward, I will intentionally make time to meditate on God's Grace through devotionals or podcast sermons, rather than meditate on the glowing screen showing the latest episode of Criminal Minds. Message received, God. Thank you. Here's to 201 days.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent post, I think a lot of times a YAV year (especially a national one) brings some struggles and some loneliness, it's definitely been that way for me so far. I really like your Max Lucado quotes, I think it's true that the discomfort you're bearing is because you have the courage to serve the Lord in a bold way and leave easy things behind. I will be praying for you, and I wish you success through the challenges.

    Solidarity from Peru,