Tag Archives: lessons

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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Scrabble : triple word score

It’s easy to give up. It’s even easier to mope – especially when a seemingly debilitating and career-ending injury makes it look like you’ve reached the end of your dream.

Drew Brees didn’t give up or mope for too long. I’m taking notes from him.

This NFL player incurred a shoulder injury that almost ended his career. He had to re-learn how to throw a football. In his book, “Coming Back Stronger,” Brees shares about his injury and how he came back from it.

The book is also about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The book chronicles the NFL and city’s comeback from devastating circumstances.

It’s a good lesson in perspective for me.

Sometimes it’s easy as a writer to take one defeat – a poorly written story, or multiple poorly-written stories – as signifying the end of a career.

This story is a great reminder to continue in what you’re called to do. Where it gets tricky is allowing God control and not taking control for yourself. When you work with words, it’s hard let the Lord lead you and not keep typing your own words.

It’s like playing Scrabble. Sure, you can put together words, but are they going to be a triple-word score or a five-point concession?

If I let Him guide me in Scrabble, I’ll be dancing in triple-word scores.

It’s the difference in one letter sometimes – coping and moping. Coping means accepting the tiles you’ve drawn and making something of it, moping means pouting and resigning yourself to your fate. The difference is between the “c” and the “m.”

I don’t have to know the next play in the Scrabble game either. You see what letters you have to work with after you commit to a play and are able to draw two new letters. In life, committing to a “word” or “play” that the Lord has revealed will lead to the next wordplay.

Sometimes there will be low-scoring word plays. Not every one will be a whopper. But, we’re promised peace that passes all understanding and direction better than we could supply.

So, like Drew Brees, don’t let the shoulder injury keep you from pursuing God’s calling on your life.

Tyndale Media Center provided me with a copy of “Coming Back Stronger.” My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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bag defunct. bugs beware.

Are there any more bags?

I asked this of the Thai man who poked his head in through the flaps that release the bags to the conveyor belt.

Yes, one more, he said.

My bag came out and I turned several different shades of red. The side zipper pocket of my duffel was agape. This wasn’t just any side zipper. This is the zipper that housed my dirty undergarments which were now spilling onto the conveyor belt.

The man asked me if this was the bag I was waiting for. Yes, unfortunately so, I answered. Thankfully, since it was the last flight in and not many people at the international baggage claim, I managed to stealthily cram the unmentionables in elsewhere.

For some unknown reason, it won’t happen again, I decided to throw my dirty clothes in the side zipper. It took several attempts to pack the duffel because I purchased more culturally appropriate clothes and pity gifts to give my friends. (We have a pact among the other guys and gals I work with to buy each other treats when we travel.)

So, let’s be honest. I probably put too much in. But how did the zipper break off? At least the other side zipper didn’t break off, that had my travel French press in it. That’s the best $25 I’ve ever spent.

There’s another interesting component to this story.

My flight was delayed due to a “problem with loading the luggage.” At the time, I took no notice of this. I figured there must be a late bag coming in with a passenger with a close connection. They were probably running over from that flight from Muscat I saw on the arrivals screen.

I am wondering if it is because of my decrepit duffel. Was it? It could have been…

My undergarments, for all I know, where probably spilling out over Suvarnabhumi (the airport in Bangkok) and some poor soul had to collect and mash them in the already obese bag.

As a frequent traveler and for someone who’s grown up in Asia, you never want to be the one who delays an aircraft, holds other travelers up or makes any kind of big scene. You kinda wanna slip in an out, like a ninja, or a pirate ( I told an English class I was in last week my occupation was a pirate, no one laughed).

The horror. My undergarments delayed a 777 full of people. It was also the last domestic flight out too. People were groggily rubbing their eyes and checking their watches. Yep, my fault peeps.

I’m thankful to be back in my apartment.

I was welcomed by the two biggest cockroaches I’ve seen in awhile. I grabbed my Chaco, hesitated a second, do I want to use a $75 shoe to kill this thing? I decided they were already stinky and needed washing anyway.

“Die!” I shrieked as I tried and failed repeatedly to kill the roaches.

I’ve heard roaches can survive a nuclear fall out. Do I really think my Chaco is going to kill them?

After more shrieking and ninja-like-throwing of my sandals, I managed to kill both, amputating their legs (sorry for the graphic detail).

So, needless to say, it’s been an interesting last couple of hours. I have many other topics of the “deeper” variety to share and blog about, but thought I’d share the humor in today for now (I think I can laugh at all this).

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Upchuck and Uplift

The trash can never saw it coming.

I upchucked into a yellow public trash can in front of a pool table in a street night market tonight. It was mortifying and humiliating. But after the spew, I made an instantaneous recovery and could continue on with my North Face backpack purchase and relationship building with Thais.

Let’s back up. Why did I upchuck in a trash can? Is this normally part of my ministry? Well, not really.

I pushed myself hard tonight in my work out at the gym tonight. I ran for 40 minutes, did an ab workout and squatted. After showering, my roommate Holly and I headed over to a nearby night market that we’ve started ministering in. Last week was our first week to go and we made two new friends. Our goal for tonight was to visit our new friends and buy a backpack for our upcoming beach jaunt this weekend (more to come on that later).

I ordered a spicy noodle dish for Holly and I in the market. It was spicier than I’ve ever had it. We stomached all of it though. I really wasn’t hungry but out of pride and stubbornness I made myself eat more than I really should have. I also guzzled an Oishi green tea.

Almost immediately after eating nausea set in. I ate too soon, too much spicy and too much for a post-hard-work-out tummy.

“Gotta, get, home,” I grumbled and mumbled. There goes ministry for the night, I thought.

I managed to upchuck in a trash can and not in front of a store, thank you Jesus. I didn’t want to be remembered as the “foreigner girl who threw up on the doorstep of a stall.” Now, I’ll only be known as the “foreigner girl who threw up in front of the bar.” Hopefully no one will believe the guys playing pool at the bar–blame it on the alcohol–people will just say they were intoxicated. (At least this is what I am hoping. I really think they were sober, but for the sake of my pride let’s say they weren’t).

“You OK?” Holly asked.

Yep, all good. All better.

I made my backpack buy. We got to pray for our friend Niw* who’s been having a rough week. We also got invited to listen to traditional Thai music at our friend Lan’s* second workplace. We are forging a relationship with the spicy noodle restaurant staff.

All in all, tonight proved productive. Despite my unfortunate upchuck, Holly and I were able to uplift two Thai friends.

If you’re ever feeling woozy I’d advise the following:

1. Don’t throw up on the storefronts of those you’re trying to tell about Jesus

2. Don’t let unfortunate circumstances distract you from what God’s called you to do

3. Roll with the punches. Life’s an adventure

3. Count it all joy

*names changed

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Big Brother

“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” Matthew 28:11-15 [ESV]

As I read the Easter story this weekend this section stood out to me. To this day people believe Jesus’ body was whisked away by His disciples. The lie that started so long ago is still widely accepted as truth today.

Can you imagine being the guards? They carried the secret of what really happened that night to their graves. Perhaps they lay awake in the wee hours of warm Jerusalem summer nights thinking about what happened. They felt the earth shake. They saw the sealed tomb open. They remember falling to the earth–frozen like corpses and Katy’s Custard. (Katy’s is a frozen custard business in Waco, TX)

Either the disciples are demi gods or truly Jesus is the Son of God, they thought. (Or at least I’d wager they thought that)

I just finished reading “1984” by George Orwell. My mind made the connection between Matthew 28:11-15 and the words Orwell coined, ‘Party’ and ‘Big Brother.’

Perhaps the guards in the Bible are like Party intellectuals, the Jewish leaders are like the ‘Thought Police’ and the practice of ‘doublethink’ is the perpetuated lie about Christ. Hear me out.

In “1984,” the Party rewrites history–shaping it to suit the Party’s purposes. The book goes into great detail about the mutability of the past. Lies are purported as truth. History is rewritten and records are altered. And, thankfully for us, records have not been destroyed of what really happened with Jesus’ body. In this case, the truth can only be ignored, not rewritten.

Orwell writes:

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory belief’s in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.”

Doublethink is to tell intentional lies and then genuinely believe in them. It’s forgetting inconvenient facts. That’s what Jewish officials did.

“The essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty,” Orwell writes.

However, this lie, that Jesus was spirited away, is not believed by everyone. There are Party members who don’t believe the falsehoods of the Party in “1984”  entirely, as Orwell’s character Winston didn’t believe in the Party. And then there are what Orwell calls ‘proles.’ Proles are outside the system, so to speak. Perhaps for the sake of this article I can call Christians proles?

Proles, as Winston writes, are the salvation of humankind. While Christians are not salvation, they do have an answer to how to find salvation.

Jesus still lives despite tries to wipe, stamp, rewrite and explain away what happened when Jesus was resurrected.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

He lives, not just in vague memories, but in actuality. He is risen.

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A Painting of Life


A child stomps down the sidewalk head down, chin tucked, hands in his pockets and dragging his feet along. This child is angrily headed to a piano lesson his mother is insisting he attend and enjoy.

Growing up there are many activities parents insist upon kids trying. Parents maintain that their children will thank them later. For many it is piano lessons, for some it ballet, others choir. Children participate in these events begrudgingly–going to the piano lesson because they have no choice–all the time knowing their parent is wrong and they will never thank their parent later. For me this dreaded activity was Chinese painting lessons.

Born in Dallas, Texas, in Baylor hospital at seven pounds, two ounces, I was feisty from the get-go. I threw tantrums with the best of them. I wanted to do things my way in my time for my reasons. I was very strong-willed and I still am.

At the not-so-tender age of two I moved with my parents to Taipei, Taiwan. After completing language school in Taiwan we moved to Hong Kong, not long after moving into Sichuan province in China. One of the first Chinese friends my mom made was a fairly well-known Chinese painter. This painter sold her artwork to traveling prominent businessmen from Taiwan. My mom continued to develop a friendship with this painter, Long Ju.

My mother arranged for me to take Chinese painting lessons from Long Ju in exchange for me teaching her daughter English. This, taking lessons and giving them, in no way sounded appealing to me. Every time it was time for a lesson I would argue and throw a fit. I was the spitting image of the child described in the first sentence. I went in to the lesson sulky and sour. I could think of a million things I would rather be doing, such as playing with my American Girl doll Addy.

Long Ju’s hand would guide mine as I clumsily clenched the bamboo paintbrush. I imagine many of the valuable and expensive horse hairs fell out of the brush because of my lack of dexterity. I watched Long Ju paint many a beautiful painting, only realizing and recognizing its value later.


Long Ju came to know the Father, but not through me and my resentful attitude, but through my mother who loved her unconditionally. My mother knew I would one day appreciate those lessons. She was right.

Chinese painting lessons did not fit into my world of Pet Shop and Polly Pockets. However, my mom knew as I matured I would realize what an opportunity that was.

After living for two years in Chengdu, my dad accepted a different job in Thailand. This change did not strike any chords with me. I was adamant. I loved China and wanted to stay. Thailand was a nice place to visit for meetings and such, but was definitely not somewhere I was interested in living long term. I would not believe that this move would be for the better later. Once again I was proved wrong. The seven years my family lived in Thailand were amazing, and I would never have traded moving there from China. I grew to love the food, people, shopping, the culture and the scenery. It became home.

Isn’t it annoying how parents tend to always be right?

The summer after my freshman year of college I went to Virginia to work and hang with my family. Many years have passed since I was the rebellious 9 year-old girl who refused to enjoy and appreciate the painting lessons. Later, in middle and high school, I wished I had tried harder. I was determined to look for another chance.

An opportunity arose for me to take lessons from a seasoned Chinese painter living in Richmond. This painter was well-known and her grandfather is a famous painter. I jumped at the opportunity to make up for my previous obstinacy. I learned how to paint bamboo, cherry blossoms, peony flowers, orchids, chrysanthemums and butterflies. It was a great experience. I feel privileged to have had another chance. I valued it a lot more this time ’round.

It occurred to me that this is a painting of life. We now know what we should have known earlier. Hindsight truly is 20/20. If I counted how many opportunities I’ve missed–well, let’s not think about that. God knows things we’ll only know and appreciate later.

Whether it’s painting or piano, the joy is knowing we haven’t finished the painting. We don’t know the value of what we’ve been asked to do until later. That’s where faith and obedience come in. What is faith if there’s no mystery, no risk or reward?

The joy’s in the journey, in knowing that we’ll see the fruits of our painting, or labor, later.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known,” 1 Cor. 13:12

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