Tag Archives: growth

Kickboxing with Bonhoeffer

It’s easier to fight visible enemies. Actually, fighting enemies in general is easier. I’m not talking about Muay Thai kickboxing.

Many times it is easier to try to fight the woes that ail us, thinking that our struggle will result in victory and sage-ness. With every Jackie Chan-like kick, we think we’re taking one giant step for man and one giant leap for mankind.

That’s not Jesus’ way.

Many people thought His coming to earth meant a physical battle. They thought Jesus would duke it out with Caesar.

That’s not the way of the cross.

I’m in the midst of reading, as I have been for quite some time, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Timothy J. Keller. It’s a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Keller writes about German pastors and their struggle against Ludwig Müller, the Nazi-appointed bishop of the German church. Ludwig agreed with views of an “Aryan race” and wanted to purge the country of Jews.

“While Hildebrandt, Niemöller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Müller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto to death,” Keller writes.

Discipleship. It has a cost. Bonhoeffer knew that and chose to occupy his thoughts with God’s calling instead of inventing his own ways to struggle.

Bonhoeffer was first concerned with God and His calling on his life. He knew the key to victory was trust in Jesus. Through focusing on God, he fought his enemies. By choosing to look first to God and concentrate on discipleship, he allowed God to take control.

Bonhoeffer stood up to Hitler. Though I haven’t gotten to this part in the book, I know that Bonhoeffer didn’t sit around and he wasn’t resigned to his fate. Bonhoeffer was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was later hanged for doing so. He fought. He fought hard.

I’ve struggled the past few months with a fear of failure and crippling worry. Though these enemies are nothing like the Fuhrer, they were very real to me. I’ve been incapacitated at times from writing. I questioned my calling. I’ve heard and seen things not many people get the chance to see or hear and wanted so badly to do their stories justice.

I spent hours fighting, kickboxing at these fears, praying for strength as I did so. Many times it was a “in the midst of a crisis” prayer.

It’s easier to fight on your own sometimes, because you feel like you’re at least trying, that you’re doing something tangible to annihilate the problem. It’s harder to let go and allow the Spirit lead.

It’s downright scary. What is the Spirit going to ask me to do if I let go?

What I’ve learned is that I need to concern myself with discipleship and its cost. Being a disciple means suffering–it means blood, sweat and tears. Bonhoeffer knew this. He died for discipleship. He didn’t spend time trying to do things on his own without first submitting to God. He also knew he must faithfully suffer.

“Simply suffering-that is what will be needed then-not parries, blows or thrusts such as many still be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight; the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must simply be to suffer faithfully,” Bonhoeffer wrote.

He kept his eyes fixated on the cross and followed his Savior’s lead. In Bonhoeffer’s case, it meant death. He already considered this though and had accepted it the cost of discipleship. The cost varies from person to person, but the calling to follow Him is the same.

Reckless abandon, fixation on the cross and wholehearted obedience.

That is what He wants from me. That is what He wants from you. He wants you to follow Him with reckless abandon. He’ll slay your enemies for you. It may not be the way you expect, but He makes good on His promises.

Hitler met his demise. Bonhoeffer’s struggle was not in vain.

Looking to the cross doesn’t mean rolling over and accepting evil is in the world. It means allowing our King, who knows better, to take kick in the Muay Thai arena in your life.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a God

“Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

As I sat on my balcony this morning, sipping my gingerbread coffee and sampling my scrambled eggs, I realized I couldn’t see the mountain that’s just a few miles from my apartment. The mountain, except for mornings like this, is always visible and is my landmark in Chiang Mai.

I woke up to mist, rain and clouds. The rain is what obscured the mountain from my perch. Do I doubt that the mountain is there, just because I can’t see it right now?

No.

This mountain has been a stalwart in my life. From when we first moved to Chiang Mai when I was a 10 year old who wore jumpers and side ponytails, to my 17-year-old self who wore Soffe shorts and Grace International School athletic gear and finally, to my 23-year-old self who wears wrinkly shirts and flip flops, the mountain has been a reminder of God’s majesty. I’ve learned a lot about the Lord from this mountain.

Virgina O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, asking if Santa Claus existed. Her friends told her he didn’t exist. The only place he seemed to exist was in and on “Miracle on 34th Street.” Virginia had never seen Santa, so how was she to know he existed?

I’ve heard many people say, how do I know God is real? I have never seen him.

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see,” Francis Pharcellus Church, the editor of the New York Sun, wrote.

“They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge,” Church continued.

Skepticism has taken the place of a child-like faith.

I couldn’t see the mountain this morning. Yet, it is there. I’ve had mornings when I sit and gaze at the mountain, feeling so close to God. I’ve had great times spent in the Word gazing at the mountain. It’s easy to believe when everything is spelled out, when we are having a mountain-top experience.

When the rain comes, when life isn’t as clear and spelled out, it’s harder. But the rain is needed, just as the earth needs rain to grow and flourish, so also do we need rain.

Rain nourishes. It isn’t always pleasant. Times of growth in our life, where we are stretched and when hard lessons come, help us become more like our Creator. They are for our good. The mountain is still there in these times of growth, during rainy seasons. God is still there during hard times. He may feel farther away than He did when you were on the mountain top, but He is so close, He is always there, as a strength and support.

He’s proved this is all of our lives, if we are willing to be honest. We choose to ignore the mountains sometimes, or forget they are there. But they are there. You can’t pretend the Himalayas aren’t there. You may forget, but they’ve been there much longer than you have. Just as the mountains have always been in our world, since God created them, God has always been there. He wants to have a relationship with you.

“Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see,” Church wrote.

Isn’t that true though? The most real things in this world are things we cannot see.

“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a God. He exists because He IS love, generosity and devotion. These qualities exist in our lives to give our lives its highest beauty and joy.

“Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

God lives forever, ten times ten thousand years from now, God exists, and makes glad the hearts of children, men and women. Let’s remember that this Christmas. He is the reason for the season after all.

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birthday psalm

Something my mom started with me is having a birthday psalm. Whatever age you are that year, the psalm that corresponds to your age is your ‘theme psalm’ for the year.

This year I am 23. What a good psalm huh? What I’m going to do in subsequent posts, is insert personal experiences in the psalm, for example, how He’s led me through the valley of the shadow of death.

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want for He’s met my every need this past year
2He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me zip-lining through Thai jungles
He leads me beside still waters and across them in my life of travel
3He restores my soul daily as I sit in my green chair facing one of Chiang Mai’s mountains
He leads me in paths of righteousness even when I am tempted to turn
for his name’s sake spreading in Asia

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death in the temple of the goddess of death and destruction
I will fear no evil, when my knees quake
for you are with me; even when viewing a cremation
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me in the face of idols

5You prepare a table before me I’m not lacking in anything
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; and Thai rains
my cup overflows for I am so blessed to live in Chiang Mai again
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me as they have this past year
all the days of my life, whether in Asia or America
and I shall dwellin the house of the LORD
forever.

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Popping in and out of chalk drawings

It’s so great to be back in Thailand.

Coming back really has been like stepping back into a movie of my past. I have been regaling my roommate with old recollections I have as we explore the town (It’s more of a re-exploring experience for me). I am sure she is tired of it.

Everywhere I go, my old high school, the night market, the mall–I watch a newsreel, black and white yet oh so colorful, of memories from my past. I stand in a place and the clip plays and I watch the younger version of myself. It sometimes feels like I am Mary Poppins, popping in and out of chalk paintings into a different place and time.

Don’t worry. I am not going crazy or hallucinating nor do I have a mosquito-born illness. Bear with me.

I went up to a look out spot on Doi Suthep (a mountain here) and stumbled upon a little rustic dorm-like retreat place. I can’t place the memory I had there. I vaguely remember going to a youth group camp there back in my early middle school years. But, I am not entirely sure. I very well could have made that memory up.

It’s neat to remember how God grew me here. I feel like such a different person now. Walking through the memories reminds me of His faithfulness, how He has answered prayers and promises that were fulfilled.

I am thrilled with the prospect of making new memories here that I will remember when I am older. (Older as in at least 35).

Someone asked me if I was disappointed I didn’t move somewhere new. The answer is most certainly no. Chiang Mai has been the one place that has consistently felt like home in my years of moving. I can’t describe what a blessing it is to come back.

Now, if you had asked me as a middle or high schooler whether I could have ever imagined myself back here as a 22-year-old, I probably would have told you I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to be that old.

My brother Taylor thinks I am old. You see, when you are in high school, graduating college seems like eons. College goes by faster than high school though. I think he wonders why I am not married yet. Twenty-two is not that old, I tell him.

“Suurrrrreeeeee.”

30 is the new 20. Right?

Don’t every underestimate the God’s ability to use past haunts to remind you of His love, lessons and faithfulness. Maybe take time to revisit places from your past. You may find healing, find a misplaced newsreel memoir and maybe you’ll learn something about yourself.

“We all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it … Every stone or flower is a hieroglyphic of which we have lost the key ; with every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand,” G.K. Chesterton.

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