Walking with Snakes in Each Hand

I don’t remember the last time I wrote about a dream. But this dream I had last night was so vivid that I need to write it down. I also have a good idea what it means, but I want to save my own interpretation for another day.

I found myself out in the desert. It wasn’t like a “desert” what people think of—like the Sahara with mounds and mounds of sand. Instead it was the typical American west-type of desert—which is also something I’m not all that familiar with. But in my dream the desert would be like something you would see in Utah or Arizona (again, making an assumptions of what I’ve seen in pictures and video) where you would see typical desert-like grass and flora along with a few large rocks carving out the open canvas. In my dream I could see ravines and trees tall enough where a hint of the canopy could be seen from a distance.

And this is where we begin. I walked toward one of these ravines. In my right hand I held a snake. I knew I had the snake because a friend of mine wanted me to carry this snake to the ravine. I don’t recall the reason why other than what I can gather is the snake’s home is in that ravine. At this moment, I didn’t know if the snake was poisonous. The snake didn’t bother me much. I just held it and it wrapped itself around my arm and partially around my body. If I had to take a guess, it had to be at least six feet long.

As I kept walking, I found another snake on the ground. I’m not really sure why, but I picked this snake up with my left hand. I must have figured that the ravine was home for snakes and I should take this snake back. I knew this snake I found shouldn’t be trusted. I remember keeping my guard against this snake (but I didn’t pay attention to the snake in my right hand).

There was a ladder going straight into the ravine. There’s no way I could go down this ladder with both snakes in hand. Since my obligation was to bring my friend’s snake into the ravine, I’ll ditch the snake I found. I tried remove the left snake off of my arm, but it got caught on my wrist watch (which is strange because I haven’t worn a wrist watch in over a decade). The snake hung over the ledge and I kept shaking it off. I knew this was anger it and so I shook even faster to get it off of me faster. It just didn’t want to get past my wrist watch. The snake turned and I knew what would happen next. I struck my arm and dug its fangs straight into me. At that point I dropped my friends snake into the ravine just so I could remove my wrist watch. Both snakes fell off of me.

Despite being bitten and in pain (though, I don’t recall bleeding, just two bite marks in my left arm), I still felt like I had the obligation to see that my friend’s snake made it just fine in the ravine. I descended by ladder. Once I got to the bottom, I found both snakes. It looked like the snake I found was going to attack me again, but my friend’s snake came to my “rescue” and ate it. I didn’t stick around to see what would that snake do next. I found myself afraid and hurt. I made my way through the ravine.

I found myself in this weird cave. It wasn’t a completely closed cave. There were openings at the top where the sunlight peered into. I wasn’t alone. It looked like it was occupied by campers. I looked for help. I worried if I didn’t treat this snake bite I was surely going to die. I found it weird that I recognized people in my dream but I don’t know who they are. I just knew that I knew them (but in reality none of them look familiar to me). When I asked for help, they saw the wound but didn’t do much about it. I think one person called 911 for me but didn’t bother helping me in any other way. I kept looking for help to get this wound treated right now, but no one acknowledged the emergency.

I don’t really remember what happened next. I just know that no one really cared.

Odd.

 

Trust with Obedience

A new year is upon us, and it’s time for me to review what happened in 2013. Before I review 2013’s tangible goals, I wanted touch up on a few themes that I discovered for this year. At the end of 2012, I felt this pending sensation that something was going to happen in 2013. I know, I know, every year I say, “This year is going to be it!” But to see where I was in 2011 and 2012, things had to go up from there, right? Yes, it did in many amazing ways! But throughout the entire year, even though both halves were split with its own sub theme, I feel what God has been teaching (and continue to do so) is trust with obedience. I felt there was something deep down in my heart—a desire planted so long ago by the Creator Himself—to do amazing things. And even when I wanted to push those amazing things aside, what I felt that was so hidden but so wanted to be revealed was this desire to do what my Father does. To finally use my own free will that He granted to do me to give it up and to follow Him.

I may have jokingly first wrote about the tangible goal list for 2013, but I soon realized how awesome it could be to accomplish then quickly recognize despite of these things of this list are good, I want to make sure I do them to honor my Creator and do life according to His will. I want to do the same thing with the list for 2014. I do not to complete all of them, instead I hope each one I can accomplish according to His ways. And if He tells me that this is something that He does not want for me, that I may immediately obey and trust that His way is always better than mine.

With that aside, let’s dive into 2013’s tangible goals!

  1. Write a tangible goal list. Always start the year with a win!
  2. Launch twinwork.net. Even though it’s up, sadly I already want to redo it for one final time. It is complete for 2013, but it more or less made it back on the list for 2014.
  3. Create a photography/portfolio blog. Totally failed. The whole idea was to use the Twinwork platform I built for twinwork.net and create a portfolio blogging website for all of my photography. You know what’s even a bigger failure for me? I barely did any photography for the year.
  4. Learn 2 lead rifts in 3 keys on the guitar. I said a made an addendum during the first quarter update. I didn’t exactly learn to play lead, but I did increase my confidence in leading worship and just jamming with friends. Specifics aside, I think if my goal was to progress in music, I did just that, so I’m going to call this a win.
  5. Serve in at least one ministry at Newsong. More or less completed withing the first quarter of 2013 and it continued with the Muffin Ministry through the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
  6. Find and learn from at least one mentor. I couldn’t find one.  Pushed this goal to 2014.
  7. Find one person to mentor. I sort of found someone to mentor, but not really. Just like finding a mentor, this goal is also pushed to 2014.
  8. Post a story to singlethread.org once a month. Done! Though, there was one month that could be debatable. I did over 12 posts this year, so I’m calling it a win! I’m still planning on posting at least a story a month through 2014.
  9. Fly to Hawaii to see Joel (and Iron Man 3) to celebrate our 20th friendiversary. Totally happened! I even played on his worship team when I went out. We had so much fun!
  10. …And fly Joel out here to see Hillsong. This was also equally amazing. We ended up driving up north to visit a few friends… something very similar to what we did back in 2007. All too awesome!
  11. Build that new computer! Failed. I added this to 2014 for the sake of having it there, but it’s not a high priority. If God really wants me have this, He’ll deliver a way for it to happen 😉
  12. Buy that D800 & 105mm macro lens. Failed. I just didn’t shoot in 2013 and I honestly don’t believe I’ll be shooting much in 2014. I might pick up the 105mm macro lens if I somehow achieve all my financial goals for 2014, but this is no longer a priority. Chances are by the time I get back into photography, the D900 will be out. I can wait four years or so.
  13. Be her Adam for your Eve. I still have yet to write this story, but God definitely delivered on this goal when I least deserved it. This happened in the second half of the year and how He wrote this story for us was completely mind blowing. We’re still together, yet apart (she’s teaching in Spain during the 2013-2014 school year). Though, I can’t say she will be my life long partner, but she is definitely somebody special that I want to explore that question with.

So I was 8 for 13 for the year. God definitely did good. I trust in Him that He will top all of this in 2014. I already sense it’s going to be a different year, but I definitely want to see what He will do to stretch and grow me. I pray that I will always run to Him no matter what trials I find myself in.

Live an amazing life to always glorify God’s mighty name! Have a great 2014!

P.S. Just like last year, I’m kicking off 2014 alone, and I’m okay with that. I’m sure this will be a rare occurrence in the future.

A ministry that started with muffins

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”1

Thirteen weeks ago, I was engulfed in a story God wrote into my life where He explicitly showed me that He can and will place me wherever He wanted whenever He wanted. During that time there was the first night of worship at the Wilder conference held at Newsong2, God ignited a passion for the spiritually starved in a young woman’s heart. She left the night of worship early to go home and bake muffins. I’m unsure of exactly what God wrote on her heart, but from what I heard she wanted to reach out into the homeless of Santa Ana—not to just feed the people with food, but ultimately feed them with the love and justice of Jesus Christ.

I first heard about the outreach to Santa Ana early on when I joined Newsong. It was an idea that was in the hearts of the leaders at the church. When talking about where the new physical home of the church will be, there were always talks about going into Santa Ana. Everyone felt there was a huge calling that our church ought to dive in headfirst and do outreach to the lost and hungry in that city. But even with the murmuring with Santa Ana, I didn’t have the same heart as the leaders.

During Lent, a number of Newsong Young Adults held a 6AM morning prayer meeting twice a week. That is dedication from a group that most likely don’t sleep any time before midnight. I had to go check it out for two reasons: 1) who is crazy enough to pray at six in the morning; and 2) the girls constantly outnumbered the guys every morning.3. I witnessed amazing things happening almost every morning prayer. For one, I knew with absolute assurance and clarity when the Holy Spirit would speak to and for me. There were mornings where multiple prayer warriors would wake up without any assistance to get up and to pray as part of this community. There were times where a number of us would have vivid visions in dreams that occurred at the same time in the early mornings. The Holy Spirit would speak into our hearts and show us the same things so when it was time for us to share with one another, we would constantly share the same pieces of God’s living Word. This was happening. It was real. God was moving in our midst in prayer and communion. And it was there when we brought up the outreach to feed the homeless and needy of Santa Ana. But even with that prayer on our hearts, no one moved until muffins were made.

After Kiana baked muffins, she went out into Santa Ana with two other—Jane and Caleb—with the purpose of meeting individuals and showing their love of Christ. They understood their purpose. They were made to love and to show said love to all they would meet along their path.

I didn’t hear any of this until nearly a week later. There were two other girls in my small group—well, they’re both named Sarah—that wanted to do the same the following Saturday. When I found out that just the two girls were going, I absolutely insisted that I would go with them. I know that most likely absolutely nothing was going to happen, but earlier that month I was going on this weird chivalristic kick.4 I went with the Sarahs, and I pretty much just stood around being a mule and carrying food for them to distribute. I don’t do well making friends. I didn’t know what I was doing. When the girls needed food, I gave them food. When they asked me to lay hands and pray, I did just that. I figure this whole feeding ministry thing was just going to be a one-off kind of event. I was wrong.

The following week, the group became bigger. It consisted with the original group that started the week before, Sarahs and myself, and there were a number of others that heard about it (mainly through the morning prayer meeting) to come out and serve. More people from the young adults heard about it. More people came out. This happened week after week.

Both Kiana and Jane felt like they needed to pass the leadership torch of this Saturday morning feeding ministry. They passed it to Virginia—who seemed completely on fire and passionate about the ministry. She’s outgoing and loves connecting with people. The other leader? Well, yours truly. I couldn’t be more opposite of Virginia.

We immediately found connections to help us out with the ministry. There was a local church that reached out to the same area we were present every Saturday. They actually fed the people there for breakfast. What they didn’t have was the kind of group of people to go out there. So from the get go, we wanted to keep the vision simple and true to how it began—show the love of Christ by loving these people. We held on to the muffins as a catalyst to start a conversation We wanted to create meaningful relationships. We didn’t want to be a single-serving friend. We wanted to be a familiar face and that we can be accepted into their community and in turn tell them a love story that they are also accepted in the community with God’s family.

While Virginia worked the front-end of things such as increasing exposure so more young adults would come out as well as connecting with other people with the same heart to donate resources; I worked the back-end of things such as making this ministry official at Newsong and receiving our own church’s help. I also met another servant with the same heart for the same location at our church: Vinny. Vinny is very connected in the Santa Ana community and greatly aids us every week with free coffee and pastries from the local Starbucks.

It’s been an amazing three months serving in this ministry Saturday after Saturday. I don’t know how long this ministry will go. I don’t know how long I’ll be placed as a leader. The one thing about these people who are actively serving in this ministry is that we’re in this fluid life stage—post-college but not married. Many of these servants are still finding their identity and place in God’s story. It’s an amazing life stage because you really can do anything your heart’s desire. When we’re all in for something, we are all in for it. But without any real anchor (like family) keeping us in one place, we can move at a whim. This ministry—dubbed the Muffin Ministry—will not look the same today as it will be by summer’s end. About a third or more of the core group will not longer be serving just because they won’t even be in the area. Also, I don’t know how long the fire in their eyes will burn for this ministry. What do I need to do as a leader to prevent something feeling like a chore and keep them motivated that what we do here every week is out of love for our Savior?

The only constant I know is God. He placed us here in this place at this time to serve. I pray that He blesses me as well as the other leaders with a passion and wisdom to keep serving no matter where it takes us.

There are actually a number of stories that came out of this ministry. More of them need to be written, but here’s another blog.

  1. Matthew 25:34-40 NLT []
  2. Mar 16th, 2013. I also mentioned it briefly in Unexpected friends []
  3. I am doing my part to represent the young adult men in our church! []
  4. I was finding my identify of what it meant to be just a man. I figure one of qualities I failed to express is a “chivalristic” one—but really just as simple as being outward protective like walking a girl to her car in a dark parking lot, walking on the street side, facing the exits in rooms, etc. []

Small steps

I wrote this post to my 6AM Morning Prayer group while I was away in Hawaii on May 1st. I couldn’t help wonder and look in the recent past of all the blessings God has done in my life, yet I felt I was still missing something and unsure how to respond to that.

Hello prayer warriors!

As I mentioned in my last stream-of-thought post, I’m so excited to be part of such a loving and devoted community to both God and each other. We were all once broken, and in Him we are made new (2 Cor 5:17).

This has been on my mind since I flew out last Thursday. I’ve been figuring out how to organize these scattered thoughts, and this idea is nothing new under the sun, but it was something I was reminded of when I left after our morning prayer and pondered upon 38,000 feet over the Pacific. So I’m hoping for those who find themselves in a similar place will find this helpful.

This is in regards to those prayers our hearts deeply desire for and ask God to fulfill (Psalms 37:4). I found God answering some of my prayers and not others. I figure it’s one of those it’s His timing and not mine so I should continue to seek, pray, obey, and wait in patience. Then after that thought occurred for some reason almost every sermon, message, testimony I’ve heard over the years that talked how God will show you just a few steps ahead or light a lamp to see what’s just in front of you and not the full picture popped in my head. “Okay, yeah sure, heard that one before,” I thought.

I wondered why experience the bits and pieces at a time before finally getting to the end? Why put so much emphasis on the journey compared to the destination? But then I realized these bits and pieces is God answering my prayers… And doing so daily. These small steps we take through life is part of our learning and spiritual growth. I am not ready for what my heart desires. I had to ask myself how do I prepare to be ready? Do I really want just what the destination has in store for me, or is the bulk of my heart’s desire the journey itself? I discovered the roots of what I long for are the fruits of me changing and being more mature and righteous as Jesus Christ works in me (John 15:2,4).

The accumulation of walking these small steps with Christ will mature our spiritual growth and our hearts will be made ready. So for those of us running into uncomfortable conflict with the people we work, play, or live with, I pray we continue to lift each other up in Christ to give us the needed strength to take on any trial. We keep praying that we keep faith and endure through it all so we are made complete (James 1:4)

Again, I’m sure many of you heard this before, but I guess it was my turn to get this “ah-hah” moment. At the end of the night when I find myself another day away from my destination, I take comfort that Christ is always with me through the journey… Teaching, sculpting, pruning me to be the servant He wants me to be.

See you all next week!

 

After the 13th tangible goal, part 3

There are three posts to this story. The first post is the first half recollection of events. The second post is the second half recollection of events. The third post contains the reflection in the aftermath of those events. Due to the amount of detail of the first two recollection posts in this series, I am not going to publicly publish them. To my close friends to whom I already shared bits and pieces of this story, I will gladly give you the passwords when you ask for it. I will, however, publicly post the reflection of the story.

I don’t want to over analyze what just happened over the last month. Even though I was given this idea—a vision—I could not claim I completely understood it nor did I know how it were to come into fruition. I do not know God’s plans. For the first half of the story, I knew I needed to take life one day at a time. I were to completely surrender myself to Him daily so that He may use me.

It was that discipline of opening every morning with an intimate prayer and consuming His Word that  allowed me to see what He wanted me to see. What He showed me was this constant theme.

I can place you wherever I want whenever I want.

That was what I heard over and over again when I found myself experiencing new things with new people. When I felt I didn’t have the confidence in creating meaningful relationships, He empowered me to do just by placing me exactly where He wanted me to be. All I needed to be is me—the renewed me in which He’s been continually molding me to become that Christ-like man after His own heart.

The second point I experienced was identifying the resonance of the Holy Spirit. During the first half of the story, I felt so attuned to God’s voice that I finally knew what it felt like when He’s given me a command that I ought to obey without hesitation. That took place in the first morning prayer meeting I went to. At that time, I recently changed my ideology of prayer of not to pray what I desire (from a worldly point of view), but ask God to place His desire for me in me and pray that prayer out. I so deeply wanted to find my Holy discontent that I needed to search for what breaks His heart so it would also break mine.

Also related to this type of prayer is an overall common theme that I may have already mentioned about it for the last half of 2012. I know God created me in this unique and special way where He knows everything about me—including these desires that I long for. But I wanted to make a conscious decision daily that I put my trust and faith in Him and ask to strip away all those desires so that it is only Him I keep seeking. He knows I want authentic relationships. He knows I want a wife and a family. He built that into me. But I want to put all of those things aside this burning desire to get to know my Creator. I know He will take care of me and fulfill all those other things in His timing.

And again to reinforce His timing, I know He can place me anywhere and at any time according to His will. Sure, the first two times in a row it happened in my story—sure, just a coincidence. Three times in a row? Okay, was I reaching for that third time to make it three times in a row? Four times in a row? He showed me that he could place me where He wanted to when He wanted to five times in a row.

Another important point that I found in this story He placed me in is that obedience for God is how we act out our love for Him. This played out along with being attuned to His Spirit. I waited when He told me to wait. I went when He told me go. I wanted to be just a leaf in the wind where He would take me from place to place. And after the fifth time He showed me He could do just that, I had deep seeded feeling that I were to take the next step out. Visually, I saw those five opportunities of Him placing this door right in front of me. I’ve been giving up my own will on a daily basis just so that He would enact His will upon me. Opportunity after opportunity, door after door, He told me if I so desired what He showed me, walk through that door. This next action, this command, was to walk through that door in obedience.

It wasn’t until I was able to retell the first third of the story to a friend of mine when I realized that to not obey was to not love God. Even though the command given me was something I was a bit scared to do, the idea of not loving God was even scarier. That’s why I immediately told my friend that the next opportunity I have to carry out what God asked me to do, I will do it. And that’s why not more than ten minutes or so after that, God once again placed me in the right place at the right time to do just that.

I think the most significant point of the story is my downfall. Despite being attuned to His Spirit and that His presence was clearly evident, I took it upon myself to do things my way. God did all the work in this story. He was the one who placed me. He was the one that paced her. He told me to do one thing and only one thing: ask her. But after carrying out that one order, all of a sudden I felt I ought to take action with everything else.

I was told to stay and wait. The first week it was difficult to abide to staying and waiting. Even though I knew He is at work where I could not see Him, and that I He had already proven to me time and time again that He is the one working for my good and that He is able to do things I could never do on my own, I insisted to try it on my own anyway.

And it was like my eyes opened up to the reality of how I would live without God. Everything I did was harder. Every conversation I tried to strike up ended me striking out. My identity was being built on the foundation of God’s working hands in me, and I went out into the world on my own volition without Him. I failed miserably on my own. It hurt emotionally. But I asked for His forgiveness, but what I did has already been done and needed to reap what I sowed. He also showed me there is healing. There is hope when there is faith. Everything will be okay.

So where do I go from here? Doing things my way is hard. I’m going back to Him. And what about this gift—this vision—He showed me? I’m going back to putting my trust and faith in Him. That vision I had is out there—she’s out there. It will be in His timing, not mine. He showed me these things can happen fast (like two weeks kind of fast). Let me go back to Him.