Father, lead my soul on level ground.
Hold my hand where my heart grows faint.
And when the world about draws near,
To tempt and make its loves my muse,
To rend and fill my soul with dread,
Father, lead my soul on level ground.
This post is a continuation of last week’s post, In the Storm. You can read it here.
That conversation with my friend got me thinking. In order to pray that prayer, “God, let me see You IN the storm,” I need to trust Him and believe that He has His plans for me.
Growing up in a Christian family, something I’ve always struggled with is having a real relationship with God. My birth certificate says I’m a Christian, but does my life say that I’m a Christian? Does the way I relate to people say that I’m a Christian? Does the way I respond to trials say that I’m a Christian?
For years, I contended with myself over the issue of whether or not I was a real Christian. I went to God when I had problems and didn’t know what to do, and that worked, but when I tried to do my devotions I never had the energy to hold through anything longer than a week.
People said that when they became Christians, they were so full of joy, they were changed, their mindset underwent a paradigm shift, they were energized with wanting to know God better, and sought Him with a hunger and thirst that I never seemed to be able to experience. What was this? I had the desire to know God but my efforts seemed to simply vanish.
Other times, God just felt so inexistent. My prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and fall back down. I would wonder if my prayers went unanswered because everything was just a coincidence, and I would wonder about why Christians seemed to go through more sufferings than others. I wondered about which “religion” was really telling the truth – all religions claim to lead to heaven, so what if I had chosen the wrong way?
Now, even as I share this with you, I continue to have my questions that have yet to be answered. But something that I have discovered and decided to cling onto is this: Faith is not feeling that something is true. Faith is choosing to believe that something is true.
When it comes to trials and difficulties, I’ve come to realize that they, like the Bible says, are all a part of God’s plan. God is our Father, and like most earthly parents, He wants the best for us. Sometimes, our parents allow us to make mistakes, get into trouble, or experience challenges. Why? It’s not because they couldn’t care less, but it’s because they want us to learn. Likewise, God allows trials in my life because they will teach me lessons that can’t be taught from textbooks and lectures.
In Psalm 34:18, the Psalmist writes, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” and that’s a comforting thought to me. I often find it hard to believe, that God actually understands what I’m going through. But when I take time to slow down and think, if He created me and all my emotions and everything else in between, why should He not know how I feel?
In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
God’s love for me is everlasting – it’s never going to die down. He’s never going to get tired of loving me.
So, if He’s not going to give up on me, I can trust that He will bring me through my storms.
Sometimes, I think that when I face storms, it’s God saying, “Hey, girl. I’m here. Your storm is meant to show you that I’m real.”
And I think that’s true. Through the storms I face, God is giving me a way to make my faith real for myself. Love is not a feeling, it’s a decision. So is faith. I don’t need to feel that I’m close to God to be a real Christian. I only need to make the decision to entrust my life to Him and to seek Him as I walk this journey of life.
It’s easy to seek God and feel close to Him when everything is going well – after all, He’s the One Who provides all that goodness right? But when the storms come, that’s when my faith is tested. And I know, if I can trust Him and seek Him by asking, “God, let me see You IN the storm,” one day, my faith will be found to be tried and true.
Some time ago, I was talking to a friend about life and its challenges. Our discussion continued deep into the night, and when we finally went to bed, it was nearly three, but despite the general fuzziness that ruled my head at the time, I remember what she said.
And I quote:
“Sometimes, the way God works is… He doesn’t change anything about the situation and we battle on wondering what on earth He is doing and cry out for relief in the storm. And our prayer shouldn’t be, “God, take away the storm.” It should be, “God, let me see you IN the storm. Don’t take me out of it – draw me to you IN it.” And that’s what He does! He doesn’t take us out of the storm. Nothing might even change. Like literally nothing. But He changes US in the storm. Into someone we never imagined we could be. I mean, someone with the grace and strength that we could never create on our own… how can we possibly be gracious and strong in [such] situations…? How could they ever be anything but negative? It’s literally impossible from the human perspective. Literally the only thing that can keep us going is when our hearts have been transformed IN the storm as we are completely and utterly broken before the Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but that spoke a lot to me. Each of us has experienced our fair share of trials and heartbreaks, and it’s no small feat to get through them.
I think back to times when bad things happened to my friends and family, times when I was betrayed by people my heart held dearest, times when misunderstandings turned things upside down, times when I lost people I loved.
And I think of now. I have friends going through the same things, experiencing the same pain, struggling with the same questions…
And I realize that truly, God has a higher plan for me. And for you, too, whether it seems believable or not. I know there were periods of my life when I felt I could no longer trust Him. Days, weeks, and months on end…
But as I take another step in this journey called Life, I have been shown through my friends that He put me through those tough times for a reason- so that I would be able to understand, empathize, and encourage.
Jeremiah 29:12-14 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
It just reminds me of how God uses hardships in life – yes, even those that make you feel like giving up on life – to turn us to Him, so that we may strengthen our relationship with Him, and that we may find Him a true friend and Father – the only One Who truly understands us and Who can help us through our fiercest storms.
So together, as we journey through life, let us not pray, “God, take me out of this storm.” Instead, let us turn to Him and pray, “God, let me find You IN this storm. Never let me go, because You made me. I am precious in Your sight, and I want to discover a whole new depth of my relationship with You.”
Together, let us look to Him, to find Him IN THE STORM.
Yes, I’m back! After more than three weeks of hectic schedules, travel time, lesson preps, people, people, and more people…
I’m back here, alive and healthy!
Okay, you’re probably wondering what on earth the trip was about. 🙂 Basically I joined a team of youth to teach children in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta. This year’s theme was the Love of God. Here’s a quick run-through of what we did those three weeks.
WEEK 1- Kuala Lumpur
This week, we met the rest of the team (well, of course). We had teacher training every day except for Friday and Saturday (Friday was outing day and Saturday was a full day of seminar). My small group teaching partners were all first timers, like me. 😀 But they were awesome, and they made KL week the best one for me. We had eight kids in our team. This week was a little chaotic because we had no prior experience and there were unforeseen circumstances that affected our schedules every single day. But that aside, KL was a great week! I acted in a skit about a modern-day version of the demon-possessed girl of Matthew 15. I was the “crazy-girl” in the story. It was a lot of fun acting, and despite all the craziness and excitement of acting in the skit, I was also struck by something which I feel is very relevant in everyday life. I am not exactly one to go out and show the world how crazy I can be, but when I saw how amused the kids were, I was really encouraged and heartened, and slowly, the nervousness and fear ebbed away, and I was able to better portray my character. This really reminded me that it is not just being a good communicator or a good speaker that matters; it is also how I behave as an audience member that shows the respect and support I have for the person in front.
WEEK 2- Singapore
This week was a really tough week for me. I was a team leader for this week, and my assistant was great, but we didn’t quite know how to work with one of the children on our team. He was interesting, to say the least, but we couldn’t understand him or how to communicate with him. On top of that, I was recovering from a cold I had caught in Malaysia and wasn’t feeling very well. As the week progressed, I became more discouraged, and it came to the point where my assistant and I were on totally different pages. We didn’t know what the other was thinking, and it made working together really hard. But after a whole outing day of avoiding her (yes I was that foolish), we sat down to talk, and after clarifying all the misunderstandings, we discussed ways to work with the kids. I remember my assistant’s voice clearly: “It’s the last day. It’s too late to actually get him to remember any of the songs or verses. The best thing we can do is just to show him all the love we can, so that one day he can look back and at least remember that those two teachers showed him God’s love.”
And here, I learnt the greatest lesson of the trip: to let go and let God.
WEEK 3- Jakarta
Yay! This was my first time in Indonesia, and except for some mild airsickness at takeoff and landing, the flight to Indonesia was good. 🙂 This week, we met a new group of people who would be working with us- the translators! I was in team seven with one of my childhood friends. She was a wonderful leader; she challenged me and helped me to step out of my comfort zone while teaching the children, and was very supportive even when I didn’t do well. I got sick again this week (stomach problems and headaches and whatnot), but the entire team was great! They were so flexible, and for the first time during the trip, I actually got to sleep during nap time, because our translators took care of the kids for us. 😀 Since some of our kids spoke Indonesian, I’m not sure how much of the lesson they actually understood. Some of them were hyper and all, but I remembered that I needed to let go and let God, so I just went on, trying to find new ways to communicate with the kids (thank God I could speak some Malay *:D) and making the decision to not stress out over things that didn’t happen the way I planned or expected. 🙂
And… we ended the trip with a short retreat together with the families of some of the kids in Jakarta. 🙂
It was a fun trip. 🙂 That’s all I have to say.
Okay, I know this post doesn’t exactly fit the title, but well, the biggest lesson of the trip was let go and let God, so it’s all right. 🙂
Okay, I gotta run and continue my work!
Thanks for reading, and God bless!
Love in Christ, Szen
Hi everyone! I’m Joo Yee, one of Charis’ BB friends. I guess you should know that I’m not a writer, much less a blogger. I’m not used to putting my thoughts down on paper, and have always admired people who are gifted in the art of expressing themselves through words (i.e. Charis). So you can imagine my surprise when Charis invited me to do a guest post on her blog a few weeks ago. For a rookie like me, to be asked to share on such a talented young writer’s blog is a great privilege! Thank you, Charis, for giving me this chance and for proofreading my work. And a huge shout-out to my beloved dad – this memo is for you ☺
Holding on to Papa’s Hands
When I was small, my dad – or ‘papa’ as I called him – has a special way of holding my hand. I would cling tightly to his pointer finger and he would wrap the rest of his fingers round my small fist. Papa’s hands seemed huge compared to my own small toddler hands, which were small enough to disappear completely in his firm, strong clench. With my hand snugly and cosily hidden within his, I knew that I was completely safe and secure simply because Papa was holding me. After all, in my eyes, no one was bigger than Papa.
As I grew up, Papa held my hands less and less. My sisters came into the world and they needed him to hold their hands too. Even so, he still held me up with his words of encouragement, advice, reprimand, and prayer. He was the dad who would stay up till the wee hours of the morning to help me with my school assignments. The fact that he was severely sleep-deprived didn’t get to him. In the midst of a mad rush to meet his own deadlines, he somehow finds time to do family devotions with us.
Above all, he taught me to hold onto the hands of the Heavenly Father above. He taught me this lesson not only through his words, but with his own life. It is a great privilege to wake up every morning and see my father at his table, bent over his Bible or with his head bowed in prayer, spending the precious first hour of the day with the Lord. He clings on tightly to the Father, and nothing speaks louder of this than his deep humility. He has achieved many remarkable and astounding successes in his life, yet whenever asked about his experience, he boasts nothing more than Christ’s constant presence and grace in the trial behind each success.
Teaching me to hold onto the hands of the Heavenly Father – this is probably the best way Papa could hold me. I guess deep down in his heart, he knows that he and my mum are unable to hold my hand and walk me through life forever. The best thing they could do is to entrust me into the care of the Father above, because He is the perfect Father – infinitely stronger, wiser, and loves me deeper than my parents ever could.
In just a matter of months, I will be leaving home to study in a place far, far away. This is my first real experience of leaving my parents and finding my own way into the world. At times, the fear drowns out the anticipation; how can I ever survive when my parents – my life’s anchors – are (literally) half a world away? I guess this is when Papa’s lesson becomes real for me. Without Papa around, the Father’s hands are the only hands I can cling onto. I must learn to hold onto His hands as I held onto Papa’s all those years ago – with absolute, childlike trust, knowing that I am completely safe and secure because GOD Himself is holding me. After all, His hands are so much larger than Papa’s. And there is absolutely no one who is bigger than God.
Thank you Pa, for holding me the past 20 years. You have given me so much more than I ever deserve. One day, when you may be weak and can no longer walk on your own, it shall be my turn to hold you. And we shall rest in the assurance that the Father above will continue holding us just as He always has, till eternity.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Joo Yee for agreeing to share with us by guest posting here! She has been a huge encouragement and inspiration to me in everything, be it academics, social life, or my relationship with God. I hope you’ve been blessed by this post! I, for one, have certainly been!
Note- five more days to go till I fly home! This trip has been super exhausting, but God has been teaching me many things, especially how to let go of things. But that’s a story for another day. 🙂 God bless!
It was past midnight. I should’ve been asleep. But I couldn’t shake that nagging thought. I kept thinking and thinking…
Have you ever wondered what to do when you know what is right, but simply can’t bring yourself to do it?
I’m not here to judge you. We’ve all been there. As a matter fact, I’m there myself, asking how– how should I handle this?
Some time ago, I was at a fellowship meeting with several families. Some of the children and youth headed to the park to carry out some activities. I didn’t know anything about it. They had planned everything without me. I saw it. And I was hurt, because we were such close friends. One of them invited me to join them, but I decided that if they planned without me, obviously I wasn’t needed, so I wouldn’t join them. In the end, however, I decided to go and see what they were doing.
When I got there, I was among three girls who were offered the opportunity to help one of our leaders with a task. Nursing my hurt, I used their unintentional exclusion of me to justify me grabbing that opportunity. My friends were very gracious in allowing me to help the leader without any protests. They even offered to help me out if I got tired later on. But me? I was selfish.
Halfway through the activity, a boy came running to tell us that we were in an off-limits area. Our leader started to hurry us up, saying that we had been warned and needed to wrap up before we got caught. I felt a twinge of guilt.
I knew it would only be right for me to speak up and say that we should leave immediately since we had been warned, and to leave the place myself if they refused to listen.
I knew it was right.
But I couldn’t do it.
I didn’t want to look like the “good girl” among them all. I didn’t want to fall out with them for being “legalistic.” I didn’t want to lose my place among them. I valued their “acceptance” of me, and I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my “position” as part of the group to do what I felt was right.
The next day, as my family dined together, one of us informed the rest of a work-related appointment that was to be held on a Sunday. It was the only day the relevant parties would be available, and because the meeting involved a major decision, this family member agreed to the meeting.
I thought about the matter for a few days. It’s a fine line between catering to others’ needs and compromising our own beliefs.
If the person explained his/her beliefs, and politely disagreed to holding the meeting on the Sabbath day, the business opportunity might have been lost, and the weeks of hard work would go to waste.
On the other hand, however, if this person were to say, “Okay. I don’t usually work on a Sunday, but since this is such a rare opportunity, I’ll meet up with you,” the other parties to look at Christians as hypocrites- people who don’t walk their talk, and are willing to compromise their beliefs just to gain something.
I don’t know about you, but it got me thinking about how, so often, we know deep inside what’s true or false, what’s right or wrong- but seldom act on it.
Living in faith requires trust to a good degree.
Suppose I were to lose my circle of friends because I lived my faith. It would require a lot of trust on my part to believe that God would continue to use me and provide me Godly friends.
Suppose the relative were to lose the prospect of being repaid after a series of insane workhorse. Would it be possible to trust God with such a big thing? The thing that would pay the bills and feed the family?
It requires TRUST.
Living in faith requires trust.
It’s not easy. It’s a thin line between not compromising and being a servant Christian who loves and provides for others.
But there is no thread so fine it cannot be seen in the sun.
In trying situations like these, let us hold that fine thread to the light of God’s wisdom and Word.
Yes, it’s all about living in faith.
But yes, it also requires trust, as cliche as that may sound.
It’s perhaps the biggest figure of the equation, but we learn.
I’m here learning with you. Stay strong.
Trusting is tough. It’s all right. We struggle together.
And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that He won’t leave us where we’re at.
Missions have been exhausting, to say the least, but I haven’t forgotten about the blog. 🙂 As promised earlier, here is a guest post by a friend of mine, Ashley, who will be sharing some thoughts with us today. Thanks, Ashley!
Hello everyone! Greetings in the name of the Lord! I want to give a big thank you to Charis for asking me to write a guest post for her. Thank you Charis! Now onto the post. 🙂
Are you firmly grounded, or is your foundation shaky? Matthew 7:24-27 says, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Jesus is talking to his disciples on the mount, and he finishes with these words. If you hear God’s words, and not just hear them, but obey and do them, you’ll be like the wise man who built his house on a rock. But if you just hear Jesus’ words, and don’t make any move to obey them, you’ll be like the foolish man who built his house on sand. The house represents life. And the rock? It represents the Word of God, the Bible. Storms will sweep across your life. Waves of sorrow, pain, and hurt will crash against your foundation. Winds of doubt, strife, and contempt will try to blow you over. Satan will try to chip away at your foundation to make you fall. But if you are grounded so deep in the rock, in Christ, in the Bible, the storms, the wind, the waves, even Satan will not be able to make you fall. However, if your foundation is built in sand, waves will come and wash it away. You’ll fall and crumble because you have no firm foundation. Build your foundation in the Word of God…not in sand, not in the world, not in anyone. Built your life in Christ, in His Word, and He will never let you fall. I am reminded of the song “How Firm A Foundation”.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, you, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
In every condition, in sickness, in health; In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth; At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea, as thy days may demand, so thy strength ever be.
Fear not, I am with thee, o be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
Even down to old age all My people shall prove My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love; And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn, like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to it’s foes; That soul, thou all hell, should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
Make sure your foundation is sure, and that you’re standing on Christ the solid rock, for all other ground is sinking sand.
Thank you for reading, and may God bless you richly.
Warmly yours and eternally His,
Check out my blog at creatingpreciousmoments.blogspot.com
Check out my store at ashleysyarnworks.blogspot.com
So in three days I’ll be leaving for my first ever mission trip. Many times, while explaining to my friends or authorities about why I’ll be absent for activities for most of June, I’ve been asked, “So where are you going?”
Think about it- “mission trip.” Considering I live in Malaysia, you’d expect me to be going somewhere like- I don’t know- Sabah, Sarawak, Cambodia, or China… right?
I’ll be part of a youth team conducting camps for kids in the city.
Eh, what? Is that even a mission trip?
Okay. I guess different people define it differently, but to me it’s still a mission trip. Why? Um, cause I’m going with a mission?
Anyways, back to the trip, the camps will be held in three different countries for a week each. And I’m kind of nervous and yet excited.
Excited because, well I love the challenge of working with kids and the fulfilment of seeing a smile on a child’s face. 🙂 Nervous because… I don’t know what to expect?
The next three weeks are going to be crazy, hectic ones. My friends can attest to that. And that means I probably won’t have time to blog, so I’ll be getting two great friends to guest post here, and I’m super excited about what they’ll have to share!
It also means that every bit of me will be put to use! In a good way, of course. Yes, it will mean lots of exhaustion- that’s for sure. And frankly, while that is the least of my worries, I’m not sure how my body will respond to the stress.
But here’s something that really got me thinking.
When God pushes you to the edge of difficulty, trust Him fully because two things can happen: either He’ll catch you when you fall, or He will teach You how to fly.
Now, don’t you think that’s assuring? I certainly do, and this quote brought to mind many instances where God did exactly that- He either caught me or taught me.
I’ll take my music exams as an example. I’ve taken several piano exams and theory exams in the past. They was quite some time back, but God’s weaving that element of “Caught/Taught” in those experiences is evident to me.
I walked into the examination room on the day of my practicals, and even though I kept my composure, I didn’t do very well. I could blame it on the piano (which, by the way, was extremely hard to play), but really, if I were to be honest with myself, I hadn’t practised nearly as much as I should have. I walked out crushed, expecting a fail.
I walked into the examination hall on the day of my theory exam, an overwhelming sense of dread seeping through me. Moments before, I had stood in the hallway, gazing into the school courtyard, and tried unsuccessfully to conceal my tears as crowds of nervous children, worried teachers, and excited parents pushed their way to the different classrooms. I walked out, puzzled over a question on a (if I remember correctly) French musical term. And similarly, I didn’t expect to do well.
God surprised me with results I totally did not expect. And for those not-so-stellar results, He gave me the strength to receive the news with grace.
I don’t know. There are so many more examples of His work in my life, but just in these few seemingly insignificant events, I’ve seen how He both taught me how to fly, and caught me as I fell.
I’m not trying to brag. Honest. In fact, I’m more than happy to say God did that work. I have absolutely no idea how it all happened. But it just goes to show what God can do when I trust Him.
And in these three weeks to come, I’m sure God will do a lot of catching and teaching, because I know I don’t have that strength within myself to make it through the trip. But I know for a fact that He does.
My Father will give me the strength. And He will catch me when I fall and teach me how to fly. 🙂
The past month has been a rough one. With assignments, presentations, celebrations, frustrations, and a generous sprinkling of troubles, I’m certainly grateful that I was able to find the time to write.
While I encountered a fair amount of challenges this month, there were also the memorable moments.
Like a toddler clutching my finger.
Like smiling into the eyes of a mischievous child.
Like watching a video with friends.
Like lunch with my best friend.
Like the satisfaction of drawing a bow across my violin strings.
Like hugging a loved one.
Like celebrating a group accomplishment.
Like giggling fits.
Like music flowing from the piano keys.
Like looking through old photos.
Like chatting with buddies.
Like the joy of seeing the enthusiasm and excellence of those who learn from an imperfect me.
Yes, it has been a memorable month, with the usual surprise ups and downs.
Very, very soon, I’ll be leaving for a mission trip. My first ever.
People have asked me, “Are you excited?” because my friends have been there, done it, and they love it.
But you know what? I’m apprehensive. Unsure of what to expect. Scared, even. I place my fears on being at a loss for what to do at airports. I place my fears on overpacking or underpacking. I place my fears on accidentally breaking team rules.
But really, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of.
“Half-half,” was my reply. Grammatically wrong, I know. And they were shocked.
“Why??? You should be jumping with impatience and anticipation!”
Am I different? Am I weird? Is something the matter with me?
I don’t know what I’m afraid of, but I do know this. I’m unprepared. Inadequate. Unqualified.
Recently, I read a blog by a wonderful sister, and this caught my eye:
God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.
That’s a comforting thought for me.
As I think back to times past, I notice that it is in times like this- when I realise that I cannot do something, that I don’t have the ability to do something, that I am running low on fuel (or practice :$ )- that I turn to God and cry out to Him for mercy, strength, and grace.
And strangely, it is in those times that miraculous things happen. It doesn’t always happen, and when it does, it’s not always in the way I expect. But if I look at those times, and I look at where I am now…
You know what? I think God’s trying to tell me, “Hey, girl, don’t try to do this on your own. Trust Me. I have your back. Trust Me and let Me do the work. You do your best. I’ll do the rest.”
Writing this post, I realise that this and a few of my previous posts all relate to trust. Is God teaching me a lesson in trusting Him? Maybe… 🙂