Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I am in a loving relationship. I know what it feels like to be really loved. My devotional this morning talked about how a human person reacts and feels when they feel really loved:

"When you feel loved, really loved, your heart rushes after your lover and you treasure everything about them. When the phone rings, you hope it is them. You save their notes and letters. You long for the next meeting when you can see each other face-to-face. That's what love feels like. And the Bible, God's love letter to us, tells us over and over that we are so loved..."

The description here is exactly how I feel, and how I know my boyfriend feels about me. I have this great example of being loved yet I still struggle to believe that God could love me so much. That God could want to do nice and thoughtful things for me all the time, like my boyfriend does. That God cares about pleasing me, about making me happy, like my boyfriend does. That God wants the best for me and wants to take care of me, like my boyfriend does. I believe these things about a man, who in reality has faults in some areas. Yet I find it hard to believe these things about God, who through many years of my life that I disregarded Him still helped, cared, loved, and found ways to try to make me happy and bring good things to my life.

A pastor once told me that a loving relationship between a man and a woman, if they are doing things right, is a reflection of how Christ loves us. That we can look to how Christ loves us as a guide to how we should love and treat our significant other. Today when I thought about how loved I feel by my boyfriend, it made me realize that his love doesn't even compare to how much God loves me! I can be comforted that God doesn't take care of me and bring good things to my life only because I'm doing things right, or because I deserve them, or because I was good towards Him and so He has to be good back to me. God's primary motivation for everything He's done and is going to do for the rest of my life is actually because He WANTS to do good things because He loves me so much.

I'm going through some tough times of uncertainty and turmoil in some areas of my life. I see my boyfriend's concern and his trying to help in any way he knows how and so how can I think that God is not working on my behalf a thousand times more? He IS and my only job is to believe that He is, to remember how much He loves me, and basically just let Him love me. So why do sometimes I act like that's an impossible task?

I can do that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I'm what you'd call a PK. For those of you who don't know, that stands for "pastor's kid", or "preacher's kid". PK's are usually the most rebellious, loud-mouthed, troublemaking kids you'll ever find. It's quite an interesting phenomena really: if these kids' parents are ministers, their everyday lives must be like living in church 24/7 right? Their lives must be filled with peace, love, good deeds, every adjective that comes to mind when you think of church. So why are they the worst kids, and oftentimes the kids who grow up to have the most messed up lives?

A friend of mine who happens to be a pastor was talking to me recently about some of the issues in my life I've been working through. We grew up together and he was also a PK. "Alma," he said, "people like us, those who grew up in church and were around things of God their whole lives, we have to be very careful about how we look at things. In a way we become vaccinated to a lot of things regarding Christianity early on, and then when we run into problems or particular situations in life, we don't know how to deal with them." I didn't think much of it when he said it but later on I started mulling over this statement. Vaccinated? Vaccinations are supposed to be a good thing aren't they? They help you to become immune to a particular disease. So how do you become vaccinated from God?

I started thinking about this. Had I actually become vaccinated?
I realized that through my years of growing up in church, having a dad that was a minister, even going to Bible School; I had developed some interesting presumptions. Here's the thing though: I believe in God, I go to church, I try to help people, I live a clean life. Isn't that enough?

So my reasoning was: I know the Bible pretty well, being the Sunday School champ that I was. I would win every contest there ever was to do with memory verses, Bible Stories, whatever (which made me very unpopular with the other kids, but the favorite of my Sunday School teachers). I went to a Christian University where even in Math class they'd find a way to incorporate the Bible. I actually went to Bible school for 2 years, where I....studied the Bible. I've been on missions trips, led small groups at church, sang in the choir, volunteered in some aspect of church almost my entire life. So according to my resume I must be an expert at all things Bible and Christian Living right?

But I realized that with all those good deeds also came the belief that I really didn't have to make a huge effort to actually
read the Bible every day. Part of growing up at my house was "family devotionals" every day, 6 days a week for as long as I can remember. Even on vacations, we'd do them with a Gideon Bible in the hotel or sitting on a log in the campground. Yeah, my dad was that hardcore. So in my mind, I felt that surely I have enough of that stacked up in an "account" somewhere, so I didn't really need to do a daily devotional myself. As far as prayer is concerned, well I say a prayer every now and then throughout the day.....right? I couldn't remember.

As a free-thinking adult, I had striven for "balance" in my life in regards to church and religion. I was finally liberated from the legalism of the church carnival I grew up in and my dad's well-intentioned rigidness. I believed, deep down, that I didn't have to do the typical things that most Christians do to have a relationship with God. When people would mention that they were doing "read the bible in a year" or whatever the new popular devotional was, I'd tell them what a great way to learn about the Bible those things were, but inwardly I didn't think I'd get much value out of it myself. When friends would mention a new Christian artist's CD, a prayer meeting, or even (gasp!) going to church twice on Sunday, I'd smile, but say something like, "that CD sounds cool, but wow, Christian music all starts sounding the same to me after a while" or "
oooooo, that's cool but I've done enough 2-service Sundays to last me a lifetime, besides, Sundays are for resting...."

Don't get me wrong, when I would be facing a problem in my life, depending on what it was I'd dust off my Bible and look up a couple of verses. I'd maybe say an actual focused prayer about the problem. I'd eventually get through it, then I'd fall back into my usual way of life. You see, the problem was with all my good-deed-doing I had been missing out on the actual relationship part of why I was supposedly doing all those good deeds. So when a particularly huge problem would come I didn't have any foundation to stand on or any trust in God really built up, so my normal response was to get irritated at why God would let these things happen to me and basically feel really lost and confused.

Part of this current enlightenment process for me was to try to get back to a good place with God after the death of my dad (which is another blog entry entirely!). I knew I needed to change and I had started making some positive changes but I felt stuck and like I was hitting a wall. I needed to try something new. I was tired of feeling confused of why things just didn't seem to work out they way they should if God was supposedly "with me". I know that being a Christian didn't guarantee you a life full of rainbows and butterflies but was it really supposed to be this hard?

So I launched my new experiment. I started reading my Bible, just a little each day. I started praying a small prayer every day and reflecting on my (
gasp!) daily devotional. I even started writing verses on note cards and stuck them in my cubicle so I'd be able to look at them throughout the day. The funny thing was, when I would hear people tell me of doing this before, I'd think: "good for them! I can't be that spiritual though..." I even downloaded some actual Christian music to my iphone. Hey, if I was gonna to do this, I was gonna go all in!

So is my life "rainbows and butterflies" now? Hardly. I still have problems. Big ones. I still get overwhelmed on almost a daily basis. But things are different. I feel a different sense of strength, of peace in confronting all those little daily problems that everyday life brings that frustrate so easily. I'm finding it just a little bit easier to let go of things that I know I can't do on my own, that only God knows the outcome and solution to. I'm even discovering things within myself that need changing, qualities that I thought were just quirks that were part of my personality that I had come to accept as "that's just how I am". God's showing me that it's possible for me to become an even better version of myself. And when those bigger problems have come, instead of immediately jumping into major distress mode, I try to stop and say a prayer or look to a promise of God to bring me comfort and hope. I realize my habits are changing, and the whole daily connecting with God is not for us to feel like we're being "good Christians" but it's actually so that we get in the habit of incorporating Him into all those little aspects of our daily lives. This way when the big storms of life come, it's a natural reflex to trust God completely with the problem, instead of just getting blindsided by confusion when things don't turn out the way we think they "should" for a Christian.

So back to the PK phenomenon. I think it's not only a condition of PKs, but of anyone who has been around church for any longer length of time. It's easy to fall into a weird pattern of thinking you are actually growing in your relationship with God if you are "doing all the right things", or at least what you grew up thinking was the way to be a good Christian. I think PKs have a particularly hard time with it because they become so saturated with church and ministry and God in every aspect of their lives that they miss the relationship part. So when their minister parents let them down, or people in church let them down, or when the inevitable big disappointments of this life hit, they don't have a real foundation to stand on. Or they've been so caught up with the "do-ing" of the things they think they need to do for God in order for Him to bless them, they forget that God never intended Christianity to be a job. They get overwhelmed, tired, and eventually feel guilty and frustrated because they can't keep up with the long list of "to-do's" and rules they've come to believe are part of being a Christian. So eventually they end up getting mad or frustrated with God and run in the opposite direction. I know because I've been there.

The vaccination to having been vaccinated? Go back to basics. Do all those little things you think are only for "new" Christians. Invite God into the everyday situations of your daily life. Ask Him to start to show you all the ways He loves you. I think everyone can use some of that. It's easy for our lives and perceptions to get clogged by our or other people's interpretation of how God should be. But I've been discovering some pretty astonishing things when I actually ask God to show me Himself how he wants me to live my life. It doesn't always fit into the mold that I've created for Him throughout the years. A lot of times it doesn't fit into the ways I grew up believing I had to be in order to be a "good" Christian. But I've grown like I never have, I'm overcoming things that I've been trying to conquer for years, and I'm learning how to really trust God in all the little and big aspects of my life. I've realized it's not about formulas, or molds, or if-I-do-this-then-He'll-do-that ways of thinking. It's about connecting with Him and making Him the most important thing so that the things you do are not out of obligation but out of love. That's the way God behaves towards us and I believe how He wants us to react to Him.

Friday, July 10, 2009


But God is faithful and fair. If we admit that we have sinned, He will forgive us our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure. 1 John 1:9 (NIRV)
I come from a long line of grudge-holders. My Grandma could have brought home the Olympic gold in this, had there been such an event. Thankfully she had a turnaround in her heart before she passed away but for the great majority of her life she lived being angry, resentful, and holding grudges against family, friends and neighbors. She had endured a lot of suffering early in life as a victim of abuse and various other traumas. As a result she had put up her defense mechanisms so high that she didn't trust anyone, and in a way I think she believed that eventually everyone, even her own family, would find a way to hurt her. We all knew that was just the way she was and we loved her regardless even though she was not your typical warm & fuzzy grandmother.

You'd think that after seeing firsthand what harboring resentments does to a person I'd be the exact opposite. Unfortunately, the hot temper and strong personality that I seemed to have been born with didn't really help my development in this area. I'd joke around with my family saying it was the savage Indian blood that runs deep in my veins that was to blame. But deep down inside I really hated that about myself, that I had the ability to get so angry at people. I knew this was something I needed to conquer in my life but didn't even know where to start.

I'm currently facing a situation in my life where I need to forgive and trust again. I was struggling with this because at times I would feel alright and even feel like I could get past things and move on. Then suddenly I would get overwhelmed by feelings of anger, paranoia, and resentment, and I would just feel like running away from the situation. I would feel like if I let my guard down I would surely get hurt again so I should just protect myself by shutting that person and the pain out.
It suddenly occurred to me that I was using the coping mechanisms of my grandma; whom I'd always viewed as an extreme case that I never wanted to be like in that aspect.

I had prayed about this situation and although I knew it was possible for God to help me, I couldn't really visualize how that was going to happen. I just couldn't picture myself letting go of what had happened and being able to trust that I wasn't going to get hurt again. I didn't feel like I had it in me to be able to achieve this. I didn't want resentment to build up in my heart, but I didn't know how to stop it from happening. I was trying to put it out of my mind and not think about it, but then it would suddenly just hit me at the most irrelevant times.

One of these moments happened to me just a couple of days ago. I started to feel really nervous like I was making a huge mistake by forgiving and trying to trust again, and I was setting myself up for certain disappointment. It just so happened though, that my devotional for that day was about how God forgives our sins and keeps no record of them. How as soon as we ask Him for forgiveness he is ready and willing to make things as new. I started thinking about how that works. I've messed up many, many times in my life, there have been many ways that I have betrayed God and myself and done things that are despicable in the eyes of God. However each and every time I know that He's forgiven me for those things and I can go on with the certainty that He is not holding my past mistakes against me.

I knew that this person I needed to forgive was doing everything possible to make things right by me and before God. I knew God had forgiven them, so suddenly it hit me: what gave me the right to try to hold on to things when God Himself had forgiven them? I realized that in order for me to be able to forgive this person I was going to need to look to God for inspiration in how
He forgives me.

When God forgives, in His eyes He restores me back to the place I was, as if it had never happened. It's hard for me to comprehend this level of pure forgiveness but that is actually how it occurs. He doesn't look at me through eyes of betrayal, wondering when is the next time I'm going to let Him down again. He is actually the opposite, looking at me expecting good things and as a completed work living out my full potential as He intended me to be. The funny thing is, He knows that I'm gonna let Him down again. It's inevitable. But still He looks at me through eyes of faith and love; still believing in me no matter how many times I've broken His heart in the past or how many times He knows I'm going to break His heart again in the future.

I realized I needed to endeavor to forgive others in this way. Obviously I am human and will never achieve that level of pure forgiveness. I also know I need to be balanced and careful with people, but I can still forgive in my heart those that wrong me and let go of those offenses. I need to remember not to elevate myself to a place where I think I have a right to hold on to things and hold mistakes over people's heads. God Himself doesn't even do that; so I should look to how He forgives people and model myself after that. I need to stop looking at people through the eyes of all their mistakes and imperfections, but try to see them as God sees them. His expectations are not that we are going to let Him down, so my expectations of people shouldn't be that either.

I know this is no easy assignment. I'm battling against the way I've been used to being for as long as I can remember. Maybe even battling against that savage Indian blood. But I've seen what happens when resentment takes root in your heart, and I know the path that I was on was not God's best version of my personality.
Once again You will show loving concern for us. You will completely wipe out the evil things we've done. You will throw all of our sins into the bottom of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NIRV)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all. Proverbs 3:5-7a (The Message)

I'm a pretty confident person. I've been through so many things in my life that I have gotten confident enough to the point that there's nothing that I think I can't do, if I try hard enough. This can be a great quality, or it can morph into a handicap. The problem is that through the years, this "believing in myself" had become such a way of life for me, that deep down I thought I could do the best job at everything. I saw this in school, my family life, my friendships, my relationship. I even, subconsciously, thought this about God.

Recently I've been facing some really difficult situations where I've been trying everything in my power to change them or figure out how to make them better and solve the problem. Surely if I thought about them hard enough I'd find the solution or answer. I'm a pretty smart girl, after all! I tried some things, and they kept making the situation more complicated. I was frustrated. Confused. Scared.

I thought, "hmmmm, maybe I should bring God into this issue. Can't hurt right? Isn't there some verse about trusting God?"

"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
Um, yeah. I can say that verse from memory. I've been around church and God all my life. I learned that memory verse in Sunday School probably by age 5. I'd sang songs about it. I'd had plaques at my house with that verse on it that I would pass by every day. I'd had a bookmark in my Bible with that written on it, probably with a background of kittens or something. So I'd say I've had a certain sense of overexposure to Proverbs 3:5-6.

But suddenly I really read it. It felt like the first time I had ever heard it.
"Trust God....Don't try to figure out everything on your own....Don't assume that you know it all...."
I realized the way I had been living my life I had not really been making a real effort of trusting God.

But wait, I trust God. I've been trusting Him all my life. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I really did was have a fleeting thought that "things will just have a way of working out" and that's about all the thought I'd give to trusting God. I've gone through some hard stuff, but I'd worked hard to overcome those things, so deep down inside I believed that I had figured it out and overcome with my infinite wisdom and dedication.

It finally hit me: this area of my life is completely undeveloped. I have a lot of trust in myself. My brain. My motivation. My problem-solving abilities. My arguing and negotiating abilities. My personality which wins people over and makes me well-liked at work, with my friends, with pretty much everyone.

Then there's this problem I'm facing. I'd tried to figure it out and hadn't come up with anything. What I'd tried wasn't working. So I decided to try something new: trust God. But really trust HIM. Really let go, do everything opposite of what I normally do to try to fix things, and let Him do what He wanted to do.

It proved to be harder than I thought. How could I just let go and not try to figure out what I needed to do to solve my problem? I know myself best right? I know what I need. But I decided to give this trusting God thing a fair chance (a few days at least!). But then things started to happen. It was uncanny. Things started solving themselves. With no "help" from me. I was shocked. They were getting fixed in ways even better than I could have fixed them myself. How could it be this simple? How had I lived without this incredible key to life?

It was me. I was so busy developing and building up my self-confidence, that I had lost my God-confidence along the way. I didn't think I needed to bring him in to the equation, 'cause I was pretty good at getting the results I wanted on my own.

I'd love to say I am a champion at this now. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. I have things crop up every single day where I start to try to solve them my own way, then I catch myself and stop. I look for a verse that shows one of God's promises, and dwell on that every time one of those thoughts comes up in my mind. I know that this is going to be a journey, that eventually it will become second nature, and that with time God is going to grow my "trust muscle". I have to say I'm excited. A little scared because I have a feeling the only way to grow this area is to have bigger and bigger things that I'll have to trust Him in. But it's also a relief that I don't have to find a solution to everything anymore. I don't have to try to figure out a way myself to solve all my problems and the problems of those around me. I don't have to know and plan how everything's gonna turn out. I can relax in the fact that if I "listen for God's voice in everything I do, everywhere I go; he's the one who will keep me on track."

The pressure's off.