Surrender, Leap, and Plunge

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Do you know a song entitled Surrender All? I believe it was written by Judson W. Van DeVenter.

I believe the lyrics go something like this:

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Then the song’s chorus repeats the phrase “I surrender all”.

If you haven’t heard it before I highly recommend it. Be warned however, it is not a contemporary christian song, I believe it is more of a hymnal. Nonetheless, the words speak truth into the life of any follower of Christ.

I mention this because it was the first thing that came to mind when I look back on the week of September 30th – October 4th. That was the week I, and the rest of the Future Leader’s, went to DayBreak to serve the children and the community they live in. I wish I had the vocabulary to express how it felt to be among children who lived in such an impoverished and dangerous neighborhood. We lived in a house that was converted into a safe haven for the 20 some children who walked or bused over after school to be tutored, played with, grown, fed, and just be children.

For me, this entire experience stretched me further than I have ever been stretched before. Since arriving at DayBreak in the afternoon, I was already placed in a position that was both novel and discomforting. This was not the home I was used to growing up in, or the streets I remember playing on. The brick buildings in the area were simple, some were in serious need of repairs, with cracks or chipped paint. The air sometimes had a hint of weed or some other drug, and across the street was a very humble playground where children were playing, yelling, and laughing. It was not a scene I was used to seeing and it brought a mixture of fear, discomfort, and sadness. It was at this moment, as I scanned this area I would soon call home for the next week, I realized that God was going to force me to surrender everything I had – specifically my pride.

Fortunately, I was not as thick headed as I was a few years ago. I understood what was expected of me during this “Urban Plunge” and I was ready to step out in faith.

I must confess, as I look at the word “plunge” I cannot help but laugh to myself because there isn’t a better word that describes what it felt like being at DayBreak in Lincoln Heights. The word plunge paints the picture of an individual who jumps, head first, into a body of water and landing right in the middle of it all, submersing himself entirely. There is no “warming up”, no “testing the water” with a light touch of your feet – nothing but a leap of faith into a dark green, murky body of water. Doing that, takes courage, yes – but it also takes trust, a complete trust in the person who asked you to take that leap into the freezing enigmatic body of water.

That person is God. Although probably not a surprising answer for many; it is THE church answer to say the least. However, what I sometimes fail to realize is that saying the right answer (in this case God), means nothing if I do not believe that it is the right answer.

Working along side my other future leader brother (just one) and sisters I realized that we were all in a place of either discomfort, uncertainty, or perhaps plain shock at some point in that week. We were all taking a “plunge” of our own, but the beauty of it all is God’s promise to be there for those who seek Him and lean on Him.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-9 

How true this verse came to be as I chose to rely on God because in all honesty, I was useless. I signed up for things I was uncomfortable doing, and normally would never do, but I trusted that God would provide for me.

And He did…and more!

When you choose to surrender your treasures, your pride, your insecurities, and yourself, you empty yourself completely so God can fill you with His strength, wisdom, and love. I learned that being completely open to God can be a little frightening at first, but when you remember His promises (like Jeremiah 17) it will bring you new hope and give you the strength to jump into whatever unknown thing He asks of you – a plunge into any kind of murky and dark situation so that you can “shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:15)

And only because of God was that possible, I cannot take credit for anything – not even the drive to and from DayBreak. All things that happened that week was because God used me, strengthened my weaknesses and allowed me to serve in a part of DC that was darkest. Everything that happened that week was because God asked me to surrender, strengthened my weaknesses and allowed me to serve in a part of DC that was darkest. I surrendered everything so that He could use everything.

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God is Gracious

It’s been a long time since I’ve been speechless in both my thoughts and my words.

But today is one of those days.

I rather not treat this post as a journal entry with the classic “Dear Journal..” introduction, but I find it difficult not to share the events of the day, for words cannot describe the perfection…so I won’t.

Instead I wish to write down and share how amazing it is to serve my Father, and how faithful and gracious He has been to me, although I always fall short of His glory. Undeserving of the grace He has shown me my entire life, yet still quick to put into place all the wondrous things He has made for my enjoyment.

I witnessed the act of grace today as I poured out my present and past self into the hands of another. To see His grace work through her humbled me to the point of idleness – my mind unable to grasp what occurred in that very moment. My breath, taken away, by her sincerity and authentic attitude – stating “I will not hang this over your head” and assuring me of my acceptance paralyzed my spirit and stunned my heart. Even now, hours after this event, I remain speechless – caught up in the moment and unable to release this surreal feeling of “Did that just happen?”

My expression of thanks did not carry its full weight as the weight surrounding my heart slowly fell apart and disappeared. All I could utter was another “thank you”, barely audible to even the most sensitive ears – but she heard it and received it as enough. My debt to God was paid long ago through the death of Christ, and through that she accepted my payment and cleared my debt to her with those two words.

Feeling unworthy since the beginning of the conversation, it was multiplied ten fold  after I experienced such grace from her. Thank God she was so close to His heart – showing the characteristics of Proverbs 31 to the point of perfection.

Her name is fitting as her actions remind me daily that God is indeed gracious and through that grace we can show that grace to others. I was the receiver of such grace when I accepted Him into my life many years ago and today I experienced it again – this time from the one who knows that God is gracious and lived it out for my sake.

Thank you,

God is gracious

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To Live is to Fade, but in Christ is Eternity

Eventually, everything in this world will fade.

Meeting with a new friend of mine today we came to discussing the situation of a mutual co-worker. To put it simply, my friend informed me that this co-worker, although suffers from some physical ailment, has always been thankful for the way God made her.

Having met this co-worker and worked with her a few times I realized just how selfish my own desires have been. Lately, I have been hypersensitive to my health. Although I am not considered as “old” by societal standards I have noticed a considerable change in my physical health – specifically in my physical ability to perform high impact sports for long periods of time.

I realize that this fear coincides with the false impression that I will always be healthy. I never thought about the concept of a “failing body” until I noticed that scars and bruises now take longer to heal than before. It’s a scary thought, to finally realize that one is not “immortal”. Considering how “busy” and “occupied” technology and society has made us it is very easy for me to forget some of the most basic rules of nature – everyone dies.

Old scars and new pains that have redeveloped over the past few months rattled my psych as it reminded me of the inevitable truth that I will one day die; to grow old is to watch and experience the body peak and eventually begin to fade.

So I became upset.

Even a little sad.

However, today’s conversation was one God knew I needed to hear. For once, I looked to this co-worker and realized that she, regardless of her current circumstance, was thankful to God for her life. Thankful.

When I heard this for the first time today I felt a wave of shame rise up to engulf me. I wanted to turn my head away in shame for the pride I had expressed to God when I dared to demand from Him a reason for my breaking body. Yet here was this co-worker who was in a situation much worse than mine, and lived her entire life in this way, but still thankful. 

When I departed with my new found friend today she shared a verse with me that I didn’t even realize existed in the bible. (embarrassing)

“So do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renew day by day.”
2 Corinthians 4:16

I came home and could not get that conversation out of my head, something that rarely happens. I was convicted by this truth:

I am here to serve a purpose and time is indeed against me. However, there is hope and that is the hope found in the grace given to me and the life I now share with Christians through the death of Christ. I will waste away someday, and my body will continue to fail, but my focus will no longer be on what I am losing in this world, but on what I have gained.

I am no fool, I know that tonights encounter and conviction will last me for a day or two before my selfish desires work their way back into my heart.

However, with diligent prayer and constant meditation I will maintain this attitude and my heart will not lose hope. I will keep that co-worker in prayer and when I see her, even now as I think about her, I will be forever humbled by her constant decision to be joyfulthankful, and a servant to all.

The life she lives with her body is a testament to the life I should be living with mine.

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What Time is It?

I stopped keeping track of the time difference between the east and west coast.

It’s been slightly over a year since my move from the west coast to the east coast and everyday I found myself looking at the clock on my laptop and deducting three hours from the current time. It was second nature – perhaps a way for me to cling on to the last bit of home I had left.

It wasn’t until a few days ago I realized that I no longer retained this habit. It had slowly began to fade from my mind and I didn’t even notice it. I could not tell you the point at which my thoughts began to change towards EST but I will confess my disappointment. It was saddening to realizing that I had stopped thinking about California time, perhaps in hopes that someday I would return soon.

To return to those amazing golden hills, a beautiful sun that seemed to know just how much light and heat to bestow her residents, and the ocean lining and wrapping itself around the state.

However it seems that even my own desires to see home again have slowly began to fail and dry up. It’s as if keeping track of California time was the last hold I had of the place I grew to love and cherish, and sometimes took for granted.

Now my grip is gone. I feel as is my heart knew this would happen months before my mind could understand it. Now I realize that I could grasp neither.

Every now and then I know I will see 12:52am and think 9:52pm, especially now that I’ve realized what has happened. Yet, it seems as if time will play its part once again and before I know it I will lose my grip yet again and only God knows if I’ll even notice the absence a second time.

My fear and disappointment is not whether I will forget and stop keeping track of time in California, but whether I’ll even notice it when it happens again.

Father,
Grant me a peace that surpasses all understanding and give me a place here in the east coast that I can someday all home. For home is where the heart lies and right now my heart is lying whenever I see a time and think of California.

I know I am here for the long haul. Let me never lose hope but to place my hope in You. Mend my heart and forgive me for the times I have doubted Your plans for me.

Amen

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To live like Paul…

Would be one of the most difficult, but probably most rewarding experiences ever.

Reading, studying, and dissecting the book of Philippians these past three weeks have been one of the most eye opening experiences of my life as a Christian. I have always found joy or interest in reading the bible, but to go into such depth is something I have never really done before.

The details found in the bible is sometimes overwhelming and I find that it is no wonder that earlier prophets, disciples, and “men of God” literally spend their entire lives studying the bible. It is not merely a book that can be read from beginning to end (although it is possible and ok to do this), but in order to fully appreciate and understand the beauty and wisdom found in this book it is required to spend vast amounts of time with it.

The book of Philippians only consists of four chapters.

If I were to read Philippians like I were to read one of my many novels, I would have finished 4 chapters within 5 minutes – easily. However, I would have missed out on information and details that could easily take up 40 chapters if it were to be explained in its full glory.

That is the beauty of the bible. Although it is a simply written book, it consists clues within each verse, sentence, and even word that forces that reader to ask questions. I learned that to be someone as effective and faithful as Paul, I need to re-define the way in which I approach the bible.

It is no longer a goal to finish a chapter a day, or see how many books I can complete in a month, but instead, to focus on the clues and inner meanings that make up the infrastructure of Gods word. The information introduced to readers is so overwhelming at times that a few days is required to even process what is being read.

Considering we live in a time where access to information and living in a “now” age where everything is instant, it can be difficult to take time and read a few sentences in the bible. I am guilty of this – I want to get to the end or to the point so I can check it off of my “list” and move on. But in order to fully appreciate and grow in your christian walk, you must learn to “walk” with the Lord.

Walking does take time, and it is much slower than running, riding a bike, or driving a car. However, it is through these times of walking that you can see all the details along the path you are walking. Paul understood this because he spent the majority of this life in prison where NOTHING is moving too quickly. Being chained to another guard, alone with your thoughts, no phones, emails, cars, computers, internet, one will soon find that they have all the time in the world.

I think I would go crazy if that were me. However he found joy in writing letters of encouragement and instruction to his friends and churches. He waited for responses and took his time to reply and read each letter. I can only imagine what he did in-between periods of waiting for the mail.

I consider myself a patient person when I deal with people, but, ironically, I am not patient when it comes to spending time with God and His word.

This is a fault and I will fix it.

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Servant’s Prayer 2

Father,

Please show mercy to your servant, for I am under
constant attack by the evil one.

Everyday I can feel him crawling his way up towards my heart, playing
the strings that control my actions and thoughts pull me towards darkness.

Since my days have remained pure and upright his wiles grow
stronger, unrelenting, sly, and always so pleasing to my ears.

Please remove him from my heart, uproot the seed he planted
within my soul I am constantly struggling to run away.

I do not wish to trip and fall in fear that I will never regain my footing
longingly desiring to be with you, never losing sight of your promises.

But I am weak, my mind is limited, and my flesh fails me daily
I come to you, kneeling before you in silence so that I may hear your counsel.

Reinforce my heart with your words, and hold me steady as I stumble
around you I am safe, with you I am secure; without you I die.

Save my spirit from the evil one, teach me the way I should go
towards you I shall run, and forgive me when I stumble.

Please be patient with me Father, as I continue to seek you
constantly the evil one will be there, but forever you remain in me so

I cannot lose.

Amen.

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Servant’s Prayer

My prayer this afternoon…

Servant’s Prayer

Father,

Remove from me all thoughts not of You,
and replace them with the things that are important to You.

Forgive me, Father, for the times I have failed you,
when my sin became alive again and strangled my body.

Create in me a hope that will never die,
and please put to death the hope I place in this world.

You have given me so much to live for,
and your Son’s life has granted me passage to your arms.

But please be patient with me as I continue to stumble,
this narrow road is one I am not used to treading.

But my heart is willing and my spirit is ready
to take on the challenges You will throw my way.

So remove from me all the thoughts not from You,
and replace them with the things that are.

And I pray, on the day we finally meet face to face,
You will say with pride,
“Welcome home, my beloved, my faithful servant, in whom I am well pleased.”

Amen.

This past week I have been under siege by many different sins and temptations. I do not know where it came from, but I know that it is Satan working full force to destroy everything I tried to build up.

My natural response is to sulk into a dark place and remain chained to my negative emotions and melancholic thoughts. Unfortunately, I did fall into such a place again, however this time I removed myself from its grasps much more quickly than before.

The hope found in my Father should be sufficient for me to remain afloat when the tidal waves threaten to overtake me.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Thank you Father.

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