Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Satisfaction- Sex. Money. & Our appearance.

Sex... not "boring married sex", but sex with lots of people. Maybe we add porn to it to liven things up; or film it and share it. Or "toys" of some kind. We do it in secret- where no one would find out. Maybe text her after and say something clever like.. "Hey, lets not tell anyone about this." Travel somewhere and sleep with a cute girl you meet.. your wife never has to know. Or maybe have your wife dress up like a nurse, then instead of having intimacy with your wife- you imagine its a real nurse that you meet at the office, another secret way to keep things pleasurable without literally cheating on your spouse. Sex with lots of people, in lots of places, and maybe drink some alcohol first to keep it hot. That should satisfy.

Or money, we should all strive to make lots of it. Steal it. Work day and night to earn it. Cheat if necessary. Life should revolve around it. Lets do something that involves selling weed- that usually brings a profit. We can sell more and make more money, then.. I don't know.. let's buy a boat and go on lavish vacations. Once we get the money- don't give it away. Or I guess if you want to be generous you can tip the Starbucks barista when you buy your next latte- but that should suffice. Don't give to your loved ones, they should be more responsible and take care of themselves. Tithing to a church? Don't believe in it. Those hypocritical pastors don't deserve a higher salary. If, on the off chance you do need to give, go ahead and make that person feel as if they owe you something. Money should always means more than relationships. They weren't that good of a friend in the first place. Or dad. Or mom. Or sister. More money. More pleasure.

Appearance. Actually scratch everything else. The real satisfaction in life comes from outward appearance in the eyes of others. Lets do whatever we can to have sexy bodies, successful jobs, well-decorated houses, nice clean cars, and lets make sure our facebook pages are really convincing. In fact go untag yourself from every bad picture. You did already? Good. Good. Me too. The whole meaning of life is to be sure that we appear better than everyone else. That is where true satisfaction comes from.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11  
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
   I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
   and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
   and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
   nothing was gained under the sun.

Honestly, as I read through my sarcastic paragraphs on what really matters in life- I am struck by how much I really believe all of these things. So often I struggle with lust and impure desires in the area of sex. Or with money- here as a missionary my husband and I do not earn an income. We "live by faith", trusting God to provide for us each month through friends, family, and people who believe in our ministry. God has been faithful to provide for me every single month and yet I still wonder if life would be better with a nicer car, or more expensive home furnishings. When it comes to appearance its a constant battle between fearing God and fearing people. What opinion do I value more? God's or yours? Somehow I struggle with believing the lies that I know so strongly to be false.

Nothing satisfies outside of Jesus. Nothing. The more stuff we have, the more we crave. We think that this next thing will be the one that fills us up, but no, we always want more. Whether it is clothing- "All I need is a new pair of boots, then I'll be totally happy this winter" or a hit- "I swear after this I am putting down the bong forever", or sex "After this time we are not going to have sex again until we are married." I am learning that even in ministry if I am doing things for God instead of seeking to be with God then at the end of the day I will still feel dry and unhappy.

We were created by God to be with God. Its crazy and doesn't always feel real, but I have learned that no truth is more true than this. No pleasure or source of satisfaction will never be enough for us outside of hanging with Jesus. Its the core of who we are and without it we crumble. Everything else is meaningless and is going to fall away at some point. Other desires may be nice, but if they are in the place of God in our hearts, they will lead us into destruction. We cannot put our trust in it.

If I can encourage any of you sweet people- you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are wanted, and you are better than the life you are living. Money can't buy happiness, neither can most of the things you are chasing. Life is so short, don't waste it with meaningless things that don't fill you up. There is more to life than what you're experiencing and I pray that you see that. Don't fade through another day desiring things that don't matter. You will regret that later, I am certain of it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Girls and beauty. What does God think?

What does God have to say about beauty? Is it okay to desire to be beautiful? How far is too far when it comes to dressing well, seeking to be thin, whitening our teeth, accessorizing? Is it okay to want to be fashionable? How is it possible that some of us are called to be models, and our career is built on our appearance- while others of us are called to completely lay down our appearance and move to foreign places, spending all our time caring for the needs of others.

It can be so confusing to have such a plethora of gray areas... women in Africa are adorning themselves in vibrant colors and fabrics, excited to honor God for giving them their precious bodies and treating them with care. While people in the West are also adorning themselves with rich clothing yet we do it to the point of idolizing the gift that God has given us, rather than honoring the Creator of the gift.

So much time is spent seeking to be beautiful in the eyes of people, at the cost of appearing lovely in the eyes of our God.

I have learned in my experiences that the answers to these questions lie in our hearts. It becomes a question of "Who do you worship?" God or the world? When you see another person, are you scanning them up and down, reducing them to simply a body, clothing and make-up? Or do you appreciate the life or courage, or hope, or joy that lies within the person? When you look in the mirror, is it your reflection that determines your beauty? Or have you decided before looking in that mirror that your God has declared you beautiful, and no matter what you see in that reflection it will not hinder God's unfailing truth?

We grant so much power to mascara and lip gloss. Jewelry. Clothes. One day we dress well and we feel happy. The next day we run out of the house without straightening our hair and we are a wreck all day long. One week we do well exercising and that gives us the power to be nice and love well. The next week we allow a few extra pounds, that no one else sees, turn us into a stressed out, and selfish person that no one wants to be around. With mascara we are confident. Without we are shy. With jewelry we are bold. Without it we seclude ourselves.

Trusting God with our beauty does not mean that we never dress up, and we walk around looking like slobs. But it might mean for a season you stop wearing make-up and allow God to speak to you about what He sees when He looks at you. For some people God says, "Dress up sweet daughter, you are letting yourself go because you don't believe my truth." For others He says, "Lay it down precious one, you are caring too much about what the world thinks and not believing my truth." Sometimes you waver from one to the other.

What is it for you? Who do you worship? What are you believing about yourself? The truth of God? The lies of the world? YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Overweight. Underweight. Dressed up. Dressed down. Makeup. None. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Trust Him with your body. Let Him do what He wants with it. He desires that we be healthy. Skinny may not be healthy if you are only drinking coffee and skipping meals. More curvy may not be healthy if you are overeating and using food for comfort. It is about health. It is about Jesus. He is the Creator and definer of beauty. Trust Him. He can take care of you.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Pr. 31:30

"All beautiful you are my darling, there is not flaw in you." Song of Songs 4:7

"The King is enthralled by your beauty, honor Him for He is your Lord." Ps. 45:11

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shaun Hover is such a hunk!! (this is the latest update my sweet husband sent to our supporters)

Stepping out in boldness is never comfortable, natural, or easy but the Holy Spirit gives us the power to obey God's commands and to preach the gospel! Will you please take 2 minutes right now to read this story of God's awesomeness.

"Jesse, we've got an hour before tonight's meeting, let's go!" 

Jesse Ruggles and I have been investing into the teens who hang out at the P-Rod skatepark with every spare hour we get.  We don't take teams with us into this park yet because, frankly, its not safe. But since we have skateboards and we know how to ride them we have become "homies" with everybody there. 
Last saturday we spent a couple hours skating and connecting with everyone. It was a successful day, but as we prepared to leave we felt that God was prompting us to step out a little more in boldness. We wanted to pray for these skaters, some of whom we had just met for the first time. We started coming up with all kinds of excuses to avoid stepping out like this but the Holy Spirit gave us the boldness to silence the fear, discomfort, and excuses. We went up to every person at the skatepark and boldly said " yeah we um...we're followers of Jesus Christ and we love him and we love you and we want to pray for you guys before we leave so uhhh we're gonna' go over to that picnic table and pray for anybody who wants to come" 
We got mixed responses but when the uninterested guys saw the other skaters coming over with us they decided to come too and before we knew it about 15 to 20 skaters gathered at the table for prayer. I wanted them to see Jesus as more than the glowing white guy in the pictures with the halo floating over his head.  "Do you guys know what kind of people Jesus hung out with?" "Do you know what kind of neighborhood Jesus grew up in?" 

As we pray with them, the heavens don't open up, crippled people don't run around, and no doves descend from the sky but something far greater happens; the number one felt need of these teens is the need for family, for belonging. As we come before the Lord together hope arises in them and they feel like they are part of something, part of a family that God is building in that community and it's awesome!

A bunch of them stuck around to ask us more questions and hear more of our personal testimonies. After we left the park one of the kids, Isaac, texted me and said "Hey do you think I could come to church with you guys on wednesday?"

It's amazing what God will do when we simply allow him to work through us. The devil is already working full time so we have to be bold to fight the good fight for the sake of our future brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus already has the victory so go ahead and step out in boldness today!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Filthy, disgusting, rotten, garbage

Filthy, disgusting, rotten, garbage... everywhere. The stench, the 100 degree weather, the mist, the animals, if it weren't for the barefooted children it would have been way too much for me to handle. There was one little boy, maybe five years old, uncomfortably carrying his malnourished baby sister as he walked towards us over one of the heaps. A few little girls were skipping excitedly- wearing dirty mismatched high-heeled sandals that they had obviously found in the waste. In the distance we could see some men and women digging through the wet debris with their bare hands. As Westerners, we were repulsed by the scene, but as Burmese refugees, this was life.

In May of this year I visited a team of students for a couple weeks in Thailand.
Upon arriving the team took me to a place that at this point in the trip had been their "favorite ministry", it was a big disgusting garbage dump that was inhabited by a wonderful community of Burmese refugees. From my understanding, these precious people were kicked out of Burma, but then not welcomed in Thailand. So Thailand allotted them this land to live and work on, and they were welcome to stay as long as they maintained the place.

That is what we as a team witnessed them doing, they were living and working on this dump, and everyday when the garbage trucks arrived to dispose of the newly acquired trash, the refugees would race over to the fly-invested pile and begin sorting all of it by hand. The sight was disturbing, and yet through it I experienced an unexpected revelation of God's love.

That night as I laid down to sleep I could not shake the images that I had seen. Then I began to have what felt like a dream, though I am aware I was very awake.

I imagined myself walking into the dump and witnessing again the horror of their lifestyles. Then in my dream I began to run to the people and tell them about the United States, "You do not have to live like this! It is possible to dream of being somewhere else. Someplace clean! Where your children can be healthy! You can rest and not fear death all the time!" Then I started pleading with people, hoping they would listen to me, "In America it is beautiful and we have water.. and fruit.. you can play, you don't have to work all the time! You could experience that if you wanted!"

Then I imagined the people looking at me, they were so totally immersed in their own lives they hardly responded. One of them turned to say, "Sorry I am trying to find myself better shoes that my friend has. I am trying to make a name for myself." Then I looked down at her muddy mismatched shoes and was appalled as I tried to figure out how she could really mean what she just said. I watched and saw that the people were all piling up their trash, trying to get the biggest piles, striving to outdo their neighbors. The men were trying to collect more trash and do it faster than the others, the girls were trying to get the more sparkly trash, everyone was lost in their worlds of garbage and no one would take a minute to listen to my cries. They were all preoccupied with what they could see, they didn't dare listen to my explanation of how things were where I was from. I shouted "This is trash! This is death! People are sick! You can choose to get out of this! Please listen!"

Then in my dream I felt like I was interrupted by God Himself. He showed me that what was happening in my dream is exactly what happened when Jesus came to the Earth from Heaven! He came from this beautiful place full of love and peace and made His way into our dump of a world. He pleads with us to listen as He offers us healing, hope and points out the devastation of our state of life. He offers us a different way of living, lovingly inviting us to trust Him, and we say, "Sorry Jesus- I am too busy piling up my trash, trying to be better than everyone else, making a name for myself here in this dump." Then we are off, leaving Him behind, as we get busy storing up homes, cars, money, status, people, and chasing after an array of empty things that lead us to empty places.

Isn't that amazing! We get so consumed by the here and now, that we do not even respond to God when He offers us a Way that is far greater than anything we could ask for or imagine. We get bound by comparison and greed- always seeking to be the best in this life, while disregarding the reality of eternity.

In Phillipians 3:8 Paul says,
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. (New Living Translation)

Walking with Jesus is inviting Heaven to this Earth, daily living out the prayer
 "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on this Earth, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN." 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sex & Romance

"I hear with my ears that God delights in me. I understand it as knowledge, I even comfort others with that truth on a daily basis. Yet somehow, at the end of the day, I still feel like I have missed it in my heart."
She reacted to the honesty of her admittance as if she had swallowed old milk, certainly not something she enjoyed. She followed with a shameful sigh as she reflected on all the ways her lack of heart revelation overflows into the lives of the ones she loves. Her poor precious best friend is constantly a victim of her moodiness. Her family members endure her pride. But more than anything she can't shake feeling bad for the way her inability to understand God's love is negatively impacting her marriage. Worse too- this great void of love is affecting her sex and she has been too ashamed to admit it. Who would understand that? Attempting to keep back tears, she went on to describe her inner torment. During sex she imagines herself being someone else, or being with someone else, because even after all she has learned about the goodness of sex- she still struggles with comprehending that sex is anything other than dirty. At this point she just wept because she couldn't take it. She was exhausted from always talking about God and yet constantly feeling desperate to simply be with Him.

In Song of Songs (a great book in the Bible) God uses Solomon to illustrate, in extravagant detail, the passion between a man and a woman. As I decided to really read into this book this morning (using the New Living Translation), I felt as if I had uncovered a hidden treasure. God's word really is alive and active and the revelation of truth that I gained as I started my day is one that I pray will lead you into being further rooted and established in God's love.

All throughout Song of Songs we see a kind of dialogue between this couple. In reading the first few chapters I was struck by how much these 2 lovers delight in each other. Starting from the beginning the woman says, "Kiss me and kiss me again for your love is sweeter than wine". (1:2) My pastor, Brian Sumner, said that the word used for love here in the Hebrew means: chemistry, romance, or erotic attraction. So this woman is extra excited with romantic feelings of love toward the man.

Then the man responds a bit later in the chapter by telling her how gorgeous and amazing she is. He says, "How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful! Your eyes are like doves." (1:15) So they go on to lavish love on each other by expressively adoring every part of each other.

I love the picture of God's design for romance that Song of Songs portray. We are to be outward about our love for our romantic partner. Why? Well, ideally we have sought God about if we are supposed to in a relationship with this person. Then once He confirms it, which He really does, then we can be confident that our relationship is His best for us. Once we know that then we know that God is going to be giving us His heart for that person. We will see the other person with an increasing awareness of the love of God for them. We have eyes to see their gifts, their strengths, the beauty in their physical features, and all sorts of amazing wonders about them will stand out to us. If that is how God feels toward them, then who better to communicate the love than you, their committed romantic partner and friend? *However everyone is different in how they receive love so I encourage you to look into the "5 Love Languages" so that you can be most effective in showering your sweetheart with the love they need.

In my understanding of Song of Songs the couple gets married in chapter 4. Then we are able to read into their sexual experience. So again we see the man pouring out romantic compliments over his new bride. He begins with her head, her face, and her smile. Then he moves downward and affirms her in a more sexual tone- offering loving acceptance of her breasts and her thighs. He says in the midst of this, "You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes." (4:9)

As the man praises the magnificence of his new wife, he speaks of the sacred perfection of her sexuality. He recognizes the privacy of this moment, he acknowledges that this precious woman is about to give him a very expensive gift. Her sexuality does not come cheap- it is a "treasure", a "private garden", "a secluded spring, a hidden fountain". (4:12)

How amazing! As women our sex is a treasure- not something to be treated as trash. In a culture polluted by divorce, pornography, and adultery- God declares sex a private treasure. Not to be broadcasted or shared with strangers. We are to actively delight in our spouses and not allow images of anyone else to replace them.

In 4:16 the woman invites her groom to fully enjoy her. She says, "Come into your garden, my love, and taste its finest fruit." She has declared that her sex is now his.

We see the man's response, "I have entered my garden, my treasure, my bride!" (5:1) He has received her sex as his own.

There is so much to love about sex and romance, but we will only ever be totally satisfied in it if we trust God with it. God created it. He knows exactly where the greatest pleasure is in it all. Sex and romance done the way God intends us to do it, is to be an example of His relationship with us. We, the Bride of Christ, delight ourselves in Him. God, the Groom, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, delights in us- His Bride, His Children, His Creation.

We open ourselves to Him, standing before Him, hiding nothing, presenting all that we are to Him, and we welcome Him to be physically present within us.

God beckons us to Himself in Jesus Christ, and as He overwhelms us with His perfect and passionate love, He teaches us how to be passionate about our loved ones.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What is love?

Love. I love you. Love you lots.Love you forever. Love you like a sis. Love your hair. I love this drink. I love the ocean. I don't care if we fight all the time, I love him. I love you mom. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love stinks. Love goggles. Love you. Love. Love. Love. Love.
What is love?

Real love. True love. It is not a feeling, though sometimes it feels like passion, excitement, and adrenaline. Like there is a little child inside of you and its Christmas morning and they are anxiously banging on your ribcage like its the door to mom and dads room as they scream "Come on! Come on! I've waited FOREVER for this!"
Love is powerful- causing old men to blush at the embrace of his wife of 60 years. It empowers the drinker to walk in sobriety and the smoker to throw away the pack. Love convinces women to lay down their desire to be thin as they experience the wonder and magnificence of carrying a child for 9 months. Love covers over a multitude of sins. 

He's late sometimes and he forgets things more often than not, but I love him. I love him.
I adore her. 
I can't imagine my life without them.
She is thoughtful. He protects me. 
She is kind and encouraging. He is humble. She never gives up on me.
He is faithful. They love me.

If I break a rule, or a bone, or a heart- they never leave my side.
Love does not suggest an absence of disagreements. Love recognizes the fallen state of all involved and relentlessly seeks to bless and to give and to serve.
Love is to pursue, even when fatigue, or PMS, or hurt feelings say not to. Love is considering others as better than myself. Love is considering myself an adored and precious daughter of the Most High God. Love is speaking the truth even if feelings are bruised in the process. But love is not proud, or rude, or self-seeking. 

Love is 2 bouquets of pink flowers on your 22nd birthday. Love is not giving me another cup of coffee when I have already had one. Love is driving me to volleyball practice when I was too young to drive myself. And its still driving to watch my dance performance, even after I rudely left without offering to give you a ride. Love is taking a bus to Colorado from Montana for my 16th birthday, and flying from Korea to Michigan to walk me down the aisle. Love is tattooing my initials on your hand. Love is taking me in every time I was out. And it is making the point to still be a parent even when I don't act like a daughter.

Love is giving your life to save my soul. Its taking the lonely and putting them in families.
Love protects, leads, guides, casts out fear, accepts, values, cherishes, provides for, helps, cheers on, always hopes, always trusts and always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

From Colorado to LA, From Wilson to Hover, From Lost to Found..

After a few week of talking about how nice it would be to have a blog... it is finally here. It feels strange though to know where to start. I know it is unrealistic to expect that I could communicate all that has transpired over the last few years into one paragraph, but I will do what I can and I pray that somehow this proves useful to someone.

In 2007 after my broken family had broken even more, my purity was gone, my sister and I both had become slaves to eating disorders and I was back and forth on whether or not at 17 years old there was any point in living- God gracefully intervened. Through participating in a production at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Co and experiencing love like I had never seen, I had given my life to Jesus Christ and was looking for some direction. A friend at the time encouraged me to look into Youth With a Mission and see what they may have to offer me. For shallow reasons only I decided that I would look into YWAM Los Angeles. I wanted to escape life in Colorado and the doors to go to LA flew wide open. I came to do a Discipleship Training School in the fall of that year and was extremely hesitant for the first few hours being near the YWAM campus but after an evening with my fellow students I was hooked. Over the course of the 5 month school I experienced God's provision ($7000 in 3 months), His faithfulness (freedom from an eating disorder) and a gorgeous new hope for the future, along with a humble new perspective on the world (I spent 2 months in Thailand serving girls rescued from prostitution, and poverty stricken children living in villages). I met my husband Shaun in the DTS and we began dating in March of '08. After going through another YWAM school (School of Ministry Development) and going on a 2 month outreach to Spain (created and led by Shaun), we then decided to staff a DTS together. My then 17 year old sister had recently given her life to the Lord and we managed to drag her, quite literally, to do the school herself. Again we saw God's provision as another $7000 came in for her to do the program. Shaun and were engaged that December and we led Meredith's outreach team for two months in India. On May 31st, 2009 Shaun and I were married in his hometown, Rochester Hills, Michigan. The wedding date was the anniversary of my grandparents' wedding which was on May 31st, 1947. Shaun asked my grandmother for her wedding ring, which was designed by my grandpa and also has a piece of my great grandmother's ring attached to it. Since our wedding over a year ago we have been living on the YWAM base in LA and have been working with the Discipleship Training School. We led our first school in January and are beginning to lead our second school on September 19th, 2010. My sister is on staff here in LA and will be a part of the DTS staff- leading her own small group and co-leading a team to South Africa in December for two months. Shaun has also started a skate ministry and is sharing the passionate love of Christ at a couple local skate parks, and I am leading a ministry geared towards the Arts, Entertainment, and Fashion Industries with a heart for using the performing hearts as a ministry tool.

Hmm.. I have only written one blog so far but I think that my first blog is my least favorite. There is too much information to tell all at once. Blog #2 will be better. 

All you really need to know is that God is ridiculous, Jesus is the only way to Him- and He is big and real and near and faithful and merciful and compassionate and slow to anger and abounding in love and what He says, He means. If you never read anything else I write that is okay, at least you got the main point.