Run.

I don’t run.

Like, you know those shirts that say “I don’t run, if you see me running, you should run too because something is chasing me”

… yeah… That’s me.

But when people come to me for advice, I usually tell them to run. To Jesus. Or Mama.

Obviously Jesus has more to offer than a human being, but I’m pretty, pretty sure God gave extra portions of grace and love to mom’s for when their kids can’t lift their heads. And I’m convinced that there is nothing stronger on this earth than the prayer of a desperate mother.

I heard a story on the radio about this guy who was super depressed, everything in his life had gone wrong. He grew up with a Christian mama, but never himself really believed… but when he was so low and feeling suicidal, something always stopped him and he had a sinking suspicion it was divine intervention. Eventually he cried out to God, “Will you just leave me alone?!” and he said God spoke to him in that moment, “I can’t. Your mama won’t leave Me alone.”

Life has been tough the past month or so. It’s put me into a funk that I’ve never quite experienced. Usually, I am the one who people call when they can’t hold it together anymore… so I’ve convinced myself that I can’t fall apart… that if I talk to people about how I’m feeling, I’ll lose some of my street cred as being the one who you can turn to… and that’s probably my pride… and by probably, I mean definitely.

But back to my advice about running…

I took it.

My mama has been listening to this sermon series by Jim White. When I walked into the kitchen, this was what was coming through the speakers:

But I’m sick. Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

But I’m about to go bankrupt.  Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

But my wife left me. Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

But I hate the president. Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

And when I heard that… it reminded me that even when everything sucks, the decision to get up or stay down is in our own hands… and it’s funny how my brain works, but I was suddenly reminded me of last year’s fall retreat for my campus ministry.

I really didn’t want to go. It was cold. It was rainy. I’m not particularly social, and there was this awful suspension bridge that separated the yurts from the bathrooms… But I went. And if I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have gotten to hear my pastor’s friend Bill’s story about life on a submarine. Which sucks. He said if you tried to put prisoners on a submarine and kept them down there for 72 days at a time, it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment… yet these men went not only willingly, but did it over and over again… and he said, “The difference is the mission. If you believe in your mission, you will go through hell and back to see it accomplished.”

And I really want to live my life like that. From now on. I want to look at my life as a mission, rather than just moments and memories that I’m collecting and will ultimately disappear when I do.  We don’t get to decide when or how we go, but we do get to decide how we live. And I’m going to live my life running from here on out.

 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

—  1 Corinthians 9:24

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Shields High

“I want to fight.”

The most beautiful words I’ve heard come out of Buck Sexton’s mouth (whoa, feels weird to not put an “@” in front of his name…). I want to fight, too. Almost 2 months ago, I wrote a post about King Josiah. I ended with the words, “I want to fight. And I want to win.” So when Buck said those magic words during his show, I felt like a match was struck. For so long I’ve been waiting to hear someone else, someone who has an actual voice, say those words. (You can listen and download Buck’s show from September 21st here.)

I think most of us are tired. We hear all that’s wrong, but we don’t hear solutions. We see the corruption, but we can’t see a clear answer. We’ve been driven to our knees, but we don’t know what to pray for anymore.

I tried to get involved during the primary process last year. Usually no candidates come to Washington state. I thought it was exciting that Rick Santorum made a trip out here. Too bad we got him the worst venue, right smack dab in the middle of the armpit of Washington (oh, hey Tacoma!). It also didn’t help that there were Occupiers camped out, either. Aside from my sister and I, the occupiers were the youngest people there. I made a comment about how embarrassed I was by my generation. A dude gave me a hug. It was kind of cool.

So then, even though I was slightly discouraged, I went to the caucus. It was held in a nursing home. I was the youngest person there by 40 years. I wasn’t upset that I was the youngest person, but I was upset that no one my own age cared enough to show up. So then things got started. We talked about this issues, went down the list and took a survey. When it came time to discuss the candidates, I was ready to leave. We had to pick 3 delegates, so we all had to talk about who we were going to throw our hat in for. Aside from a couple Ron Paul’s, the majority of people said Romney. I would be cool with that, if they thought he was the best candidate for the job, but here’s what they said, “Romney is going to be the frontrunner anyway, so we might as well vote for him now.”

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think that the primaries are where we fight for who we actually want, not just who we think is going to win. I’m not ok with merely winning seats for people with an “R” attached to their name. This is supposed to be a representative government, but I don’t think most Americans feel represented in the government. We like to complain about how it’s “politics as usual” but we keep doing the same voting as usual. We don’t look at all the candidates, just the top two. Why? Why do we keep letting these phony, career politicians buy the election because we are too lazy to actually do our own homework. We only scan the items listed on the ballot for things that tickle our ears, but we don’t read through the entire proposal to see if it’s actually a good or bad thing. That’s why politicians can capitalize on our ignorance and take away our freedoms and continue to rob us blind in the form of taxes.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being told that I need to compromise my principles to win elections. I hear people talk about how there is no in-fighting amongst the democrats and that’s why they keep winning… well good for them. They are dumb enough to not know that they aren’t actually being represented. But I am not dumb. I know what’s going on. I can see it.

Here’s what I’m going to do about it.

First, I’m going to keep praying. We’ve been so busy trying to not offend people that we’ve been taking God out of everything. We’re not supposed to mix religion and politics. Too bad. I’m getting God involved. This weekend we had a lesson on Nehemiah. When he saw that his country was being destroyed, he prayed this prayer:

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” Nehemiah 1:6-11

It’s not fun to think about repentance. Even when we think about not being perfect, we like to think “well, it wasn’t THAT bad.” If you read further in the book of Nehemiah, you see that he kept getting God involved, in every step of the process. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Then, I’m going to stop waiting to hear what the experts have to say and start doing my own homework. I’m still going to keep an ear out, but I’m not going to let their analysis hold more weight than my own conscience. I’m not going to apologize for the decisions I make on the ballot. I’m not going to feel that twinge of regret that comes when checking a box next to a candidate that doesn’t represent me, just because everyone thinks he’s going to win. I hated it when people said “A vote for anyone but Romney is a vote for Obama.” No, it wasn’t. Do I wish we had someone who isn’t Obama in office right now? Yes. But telling people that their votes don’t matter is wrong. It’s not wrong to vote for someone who represents you. If we don’t start being more selective, every election is going to be a “better of two evils” battle.

Also, I truly believe that thinking we know the outcome determines how hard we’re willing to fight, whether consciously or sub-consciously. I like the story of Elisha talking to King Jehoash. His enemies are closing in, so Elisha tells him to get an arrow and strike the ground. Jehoash struck the ground three times. Elisha then is like, you dummy, you shouldn’t have stopped, because for every strike, God would’ve handed you a victory. You can read 2 Kings 13 if you don’t love my retelling of the story. Basically, the point is that God does crazy things and we can never know how things are going to turn out. We’ve just gotta keep pounding the ground. Maybe we’re going to lose, but I say all the time that I’m #RideOrDie. I would rather come back on my shield, than be someone’s slave, but I have faith that if we stop doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to start winning.

#ShieldsHigh

My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
–Psalm 7:10

Burn It Down

King Josiah is the ish, guys. I used to dread reading the Old Testament (don’t act all high and mighty on me). The genealogy especially bored me to tears. I was like, “who cares about who was whose son?” … But then I realized that the whole time, it was keeping record of the coming of Jesus to the earth. I get excited now. Like maybe God’s got this whole crazy world under control afterall and I can truly be free of worry.

Anyway, this is about King Josiah.

Josiah became king when he was only 8. When he was 16, he began to seek after God. When he was 20, he crushed and burned the idols of Baal. He even burned the bones of the priests on the alters they worshiped at. When he was 26, he began to rebuild the temple of God. And then he heard the Book of the Law for the first time and he was so distraught that he tore his clothes and wept. (You can read 2 Chronicles 34 for more reference).

When I was asked to lead a caregroup (that’s what my church calls a small group Bible study), my first excuse to not do it was that I was the youngest person in the group. My second was that I had been there the least amount of time and it was weird that someone else wasn’t picked. My last resort was that I was afraid. But then halfway through my first year of being the “leader”, my friend and I wrote a lesson together about Josiah. He was young, but he was faithful. And he was chosen.

I feel like even though I am “young”, I have an ancient soul. I have always mother-henned my friends. I have never wanted to do what the world thinks is “fun”. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, never saw the appeal of drugs. I’m not promiscuous and I don’t listen to a word that the media-crazed culture tells me about how I should live my life. I sometimes feel like I would be happiest to have been born in the 30s, raised my babies in the 50s, and died long before we ever got into the mess we are in now.

I would have preferred that, but if I believe that God has always had a plan, then I must accept that there is a reason for me to have been born, here and now, in this city.

I think I like King Josiah so much because he didn’t compromise. He lived to please God. He recognized that he was insufficient, but he knew the Sufficient One. He knew that his generation was crumbling, and he did everything in his power to turn it around. He lit a match and set the world on fire. But if you know how the story goes, you know that it wasn’t enough, Judah got their stuff together too late.

I don’t want it to be too late for this generation. I don’t want to labor in vain. I want to know that what I am doing matters. If I’m called to speak to this generation, I’m going to make every word count. If I have to lose friends because I’m unwilling to give up this ground, well, no war was ever waged without casualties. I’m not saying I’m going to be a belligerent, miserable person, or that I’m callous enough to drop people like they’re hot. I mean that I don’t want to take my eye off the prize. I want to wage spiritual warfare against the lies of the enemy that this generation has clung on to for far too long. I want to fight, and I want to win.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14

Line In A Song

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity”

We sing this in church every few weeks when Hosanna makes the rounds in the worship run. It sounds really nice, and it’s probably my favorite worship song, but what does that really count for? How can I takes these lyrics and turn them into a lifestyle? What does it look like when a line in a song becomes a way of life?

Our society is getting more and more selfish. We don’t like to watch the news because other people’s problems depress us. It’s not that they move us into action, they just make us feel sad, so we choose to ignore them. But at the same time, people get into political activism over trees. One of my favorite CCM Artists, Jimmy Needham has a song that says “The city closed the shelter down the street, we’d rather pay to save a tree than give our brother something warm to eat.” How sad is that? In Seattle, we are no longer allowed to feed the homeless out in the community. Apparently many people subscribe the to “you feed’em they’ll flock” school of thought. No one cares about the well being of our fellow man, just the unsightly inconvenience that they bring to the neighborhood.

Last week, while I was watching Glenn Beck’s radio program, I was crying over this story out of Rose City, Michigan. If it wasn’t enough that their son was molested by a teacher at age 13, the mom now has cancer and it is spreading, and they have been the victims of violence because they want the teachers who are standing by this sicko to be fired. Not only that, but the CHURCH posted bail for this guy. I am so heartbroken over this, which I guess is a good thing, because I have been driven to my knees in prayer.

Loving people and doing good always costs something. Sometimes it’s money to help out someone in need or buying lunch for someone. Other times we pay in time, like volunteering or even taking the time to pray for people. Love is a sacrifice, but I truly believe that the cost is not an issue when the price has already been paid. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to live free from condemnation, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, even from our past… He has redeemed us and he can redeem all aspects of our lives. That is what love looks like, that’s the kind of love that can move mountains.

So what’s the point? We need to keep watching, even when it’s painful to see or hear. We need to love one another, whether we feel like it or not. We need to do what we can, even if it’s inconvenient. We need to keep going, even when we are tired and discouraged. Why? Because if we really want to live out the songs we sing every week in church, it’s going to mean that our lives are no longer about doing what we want, but they are about doing what is right.

When I started writing this, I had thought about weaving in lines from different songs that have moved my heart, but maybe I’ll just ask you to think about a song that has moved yours. Think about it, and then act on it, and maybe little by little, the light we shine will save the world.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

Kyoko

My grandma was born May 7th, 1925. She was born again in 1975. She went home to be with Jesus on December 1, 2002. She would’ve been 88 this year.

Sometimes I think about the hardships she faced, being the only minority in a small Midwest town, especially being Japanese, coming to America not long after WWII. For the life of me, I can’t remember a single time she complained. Not when she got cancer, not when we lost grandpa, not when she got cancer again. She trusted God in a way I’m only beginning to learn how to do. Sometimes I remember her laugh. I could hear her smile through the phone, 1549.4 miles away, when I’d call her to tell her all the words I’d picked up in Japanese class. I remember her dancing around the living room with my dad, even though she had to use her walker. She loved to talk to God. She’d pray until the food got cold, and she never left anyone out of her prayers. I feel guilty about wanting my room back when she came to visit. When you’re 9, you don’t realize that time is short. I’d gladly give up my room if it meant I’d have just a little more time with her. I wish she could see who I grew up to be, that she could know that her faith has been such a huge part of my life… There are questions I wish I could ask her, things I’ll never know about her except through the lens of my mother’s memory… I know right now she’s totally consumed in the presence of her God, and not capable of worrying about me. She can’t see me or watch out for me, but all the prayers she prayed for me are still being answered. God is not restrained by time or space, and He never goes back on a promise. I’m thankful to have had such a wonderful woman of faith as my grandma. God is good, indeed.