Skip navigation

Category Archives: urban vision

One chance. That’s it.

I remember thinking this when I was helping some of my UV brothers with a Bible club at an inner-city playground. I saw a little girl and her dad playing, so conveniently let the men carry our supplies and went to talk to her, color with her, and just love her. Only one other boy came, but we hadn’t seen either of them at Urban Vision before so we were totally pumped about reaching out to them.

One chance, I thought. We may never see these kids again. We only have one time to be with them, be positive influences, reach out…

One chance. So what were we to tell them?

It’s week 4 or 5 of teen Bible study. It’s the second week one of the girls hasn’t shown up. I’m worried. She doesn’t attend the other programming at UV, and likely doesn’t get much Bible teaching aside from it. I worry some more.

Two weeks ago, Lord… I did my best to love on her. To make her feel special. To show her we cared. What if that week was the last week? What if I never see her again?

One chance. What if that was all I had with her?

What if today is the last day you have alive? Tomorrow is not promised. You have one chance, once chance. What do you want your last words to be? What will people say mattered to you the most? A minor doctrine that you idolized and chased after? An obsession with something that really didn’t matter?

The Gospel?

One chance. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is power. God is power. He’s all that matters. Are minor doctrines good to study? Absolutely – with lots of prayer and Bible researching, of course! But regardless of beliefs, we’re all called to live the same lifestyle.

 He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

One of my life-verse passages is 1 John 3:16-18:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

For this is the love of God, my brothers and sisters. That we obey His commandments. If we love, God’s love is perfected in us. This isn’t just affection. It’s agape. It’s 1 Corinthians 13 love.

Will people see that you loved God first, and loved others because the first love just bubbled over? Will they remember you as someone who was passionate about the Gospel, or passionate about conflict?

One chance…go get ’em, friends! 🙂

This is scaring me – it’s my very last post of 2011! I love blogging. I wish I had kept track of how long I’ve been doing it (AND how many URL changes I’ve made! haha), but I know that this year has been wonderful. Writing is such a sweet love connection with God – journaling, decorating notebooks/guitar cases with Scripture and quotes, facebooking, and, of course, blogging.

I was inspired from some website to pick a special theme word for 2011. I picked “revive”. I’m not sure why, I guess I just felt like God wanted me to make that a vision of sorts. Here’s a list of things I’m so thankful for from 2011…(and fyi, I haven’t seen the theme “revive” too much myself, so that’s why I’m doing this :).)

  • The Lord provided a way for me to dance AND volunteer at Urban Vision – even helping with a ballet class!
  • I spent a few two-nighters at my best friend’s farm, being revived in the Lord.
  • Offered an internship of sorts at Urban Vision!
  • Did lots of helping my great-grandma sew costumes for my dance company, “Radiant”
  • Got back on pointe!
  • Did my UV Bible study (a crash course on Christianity) with some of my Karen sisters. Never felt God’s strength moving me in that way before, He provided wonderfully 🙂
  • Gave my second public testimony. (It was terrible, I would like a redo. Again, though, the overcoming-stage-fright experience was very helpful!)
  • Met Gracie, the cutest pre-preschool aged Karen girl EVER!
  •  Danced a worship song with my best friend – “You Are For Me” by Kari Jobe. Beautiful memories.
  • At the very first intern meeting, did an impromptu what-God-is-teaching-me speech. THAT went better than the testimony. It was faith-stretching, but reviving.
  • The whole laying-on-of-hands-and-receiving-healing thing… happened! I don’t have to wear my heel lift anymore; my hip doesn’t hurt on a regular basis! Praise the Lord!
  • Awesome ministry-prep times with the interns. So blessed to work with teenagers/UV staff who are so passionate for the Lord!
  • Grew a lot closer with all the UV teens.
  • Worked with a Bible club at an elementary school playground. Impromptu ministry again!
  • Taught my first two Bible lessons 🙂
  • Played guitar with my first real band
  • Grew closer to the UV college intern – realized what a blessing her background/story are because they are so similar to mine :).
  • Baptized – 8.12.11 by the awesomest “boss” one could ever have!
  • Went on my first overseas trip to Thailand – saw the refugee camp where lots of my friends are from!
  • Saw Burma.
  • Challenged to agape living

Now I see how the Lord used revive. Reviving a passion for missions I lost, a passion to love selflessly (agape), a passion for inner-city ministry, a passion to follow the Lord because the world can be changed by the power of His name!

I’ll write about my new word sometime next year :).

Jesus, thank You sooo much for this year. It’s not at all what I expected, but everything You wanted! And what’s more, I loved it. I saw Your working. I’m especially thankful for my new brothers and sisters in Christ at Urban Vision. Lord, no matter where I am, healing is in Your hands. I was so scared to leave dance because I thought I wouldn’t have anyone to talk with about You. No, Lord… You provided in greater ways than I can imagine. Why, oh why would I doubt You? I’ve tasted Your glory – I’ve seen how Your plan is so good! Help me to always, always passionately live out agape. You are the greatest example of it, Lord! I love You, Daddy <3.

“Your plans are still to prosper

You have not forgotten us

You’re with us in the fire and the flood

Faithful forever, perfect in love

You are sovereign over us.”

 

It all started with Nancy. She told us about a trip she was planning to Mae La Refugee camp in Thailand in June, and how excited she was. My mom mentioned how badly I want to go with her someday… Nancy said, “Oh, she will. Someday.”

Indeed. Well, the June thing didn’t work out, which ended up being good (I’m always crazy busy in June). It got rescheduled until September. And for us, in April, that seemed like a LOONG way away. Anyway, lots of people started telling my mom, “Hey, you and Michelle should go with Nancy!” Mom started praying, and began the LOONG process of convincing my dad that this was a God-sign. Nancy kept rubbing in our welcome to join the team; my dad eventually said it was okay.

“JUST AS LONG as there are Chapel pastors going.”

?! Well, it was a Chapel trip… but since when do pastors go to a completely new missions location? We prayed away. And the next thing you know, Nancy called us and said that two were going, to explore the possibility of Thailand being a Fresh Passion ministry.

We applied for passports.

I joined the Chapel as an official member, we filled out passport applications, we did Partner’s applications (the organization based in Thailand), completed Chapel applications… I’m gonna be so great at college ones someday. The trip still seemed oh so unreal, though. It was April. And I was absolutely convinced that one of the places I sent a form to would have an issue because I’m underage. I mean, what missions agency wants to put up with a TEENAGER? (Urban Vision – that’s another story ;).)

All the applications came back positive. We wrote a support letter. It still seemed ridiculous. Like I had time to go to Thailand, and how on EARTH were we going to raise $6,000 to go? Well… this support letter got sent out, and for the first time, it felt official.

We were going to Thailand.

My dad assured me that if Mom and I didn’t raise enough money, only she would go. And again, I felt that pang of “You’re too young…” hitting me. But at the time, I was so involved in my internship that Thailand couldn’t have seemed further away.
Eventually, we DID raise enough support. I think Dad only had to pay $15 toward our trip total (which excludes supplies, but they didn’t cost TOO much.), and then I felt a real pang in my stomach.

I really AM going to Thailand!

I remember the last meeting I had at Urban Vision. Three of seven interns were absent, which stank, but I was still with the Level 2 teenagers and realized just how bad I would miss them…my brothers and sisters in our Lord. I was talking with Jodi during our hanging out time – Jodi, my teacher trainer, mentor, and friend – about how God-filled I felt at Urban Vision, and what a hole there would be after I left. Jeff came over later and asked if I could share about Thailand right before we left.

OH LORDY. I’m REALLY going to Thailand… and that’s the NEXT BIG THING on my schedule!

My intern brother, Juvante, prayed for the trip before we left. And I realized that even though I would have ANY of my siblings with me, God would be my provider and meet all my needs. I’m always afraid of being lonely, yet in that moment of prayer, I realized that God would be it. He would meet my EVERY need.

We went to Thailand, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life! I’ll be posting my trip journal later :).

Do you ever wonder why God made you how you are? Complete with imperfections, struggles, weaknesses… I do.

I thought about this most tonight. Two of my wonderful brothers have been at school ceaselessly {in other words: not at Urban Vision} rehearsing for a play and so tonight, I went to go see it. I took my dear Jamie along, though she had already seen it, just to go and have fun together. The play was quite amazing. I must admit, they have talent. But I think what I failed to take into consideration was that it was about…well… Anne Frank. Not exactly a happy-ending, beautiful story.

Uh, yeah. So midway through the first half I felt sick and at intermission, Mom decided I needed to go home. She’s had enough of me being sick {16+ hours on an airplane did it for her} and she didn’t want to take any chances. I was so mad. I thought, “Lord, why can’t I handle this? It’s just a dumb play…” Jamie commented, “Michelle, you’re just emotion-sick.

Why? Why couldn’t I watch “End of the Spear” without the very same thing happening? Why did it hurt so much to be in the Burmese political prisoner museum in Thailand? Why?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are My work, the product of My hands. You are perfect in My eyes – I love you, and you are made exactly for what I have planned for you. There’s only one of you, and you reflect Me in a way no one else could. I delight in you. 

Hopefully, you guys don’t struggle with that. But either way, I just wanted to use this occasion to remind you that you are perfect in God’s eyes…and that God will use your imperfections for good. I’m starting to learn this myself – like I mentioned in the last post, I really struggle with grasping how God delights in me. Our weaknesses included. We don’t have to perform to be loved.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. And I pray that it blesses you wherever you are :).

 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:7b-10


That couldn’t possibly be right! No no and NO. I am much to messed up to be delighted in.  

Uh, actually, yes yes and YES.

I had a longish conversation with my “boss” at Urban Vision, just about things I was struggling with and stuff that way. I remember though, we arrived at the conclusion that I really over-evaluate myself too much. I’m always studying my actions, my motives, judging myself and quite frankly, not letting God have His say. {Really, it’s prideful to think we could take God’s place in our lives.} At some point in the conversation, when I was utterly failing at understanding God’s unconditional love, my boss asked honestly, “Is God happy with Michelle right now?”

I will admit in all honesty, I cried. I looked at all the things I decided were wrong with myself and decided God couldn’t quite be happy with me. Love me, of course. But be happy with me? DELIGHT in me?

Yes yes and yes.

I posted a while back about how I struggle with fear so much. Really, I’m too afraid to hear God say that He kind of enjoys me *gasp*… so I judge myself by my standards.

I thought of how my personality at UV has changed since I started working there regularly in September 2010. I’m not as quiet as I used to be; one of my favorite things in the whole world is to have really loud Christian rap music going on while I have 3 conversations all at the same time and try to teach a crash course on guitar. With teenagers, mind you. {I’m being transformed!} From playing pranks {and really enjoying them; have YOU ever made a chili pepper pancake and served it to your incredible brother while he’s playing chess – the ideal time to get him off guard?} to messing around with my siblings to getting Sharpie “tattoos” from my brothers, my personality is really different.

“God couldn’t possibly delight in me anymore. I have too much fun at Urban Vision and I don’t feel like I’m really serving God when I’m there and..and…”

Whatever dip decided to tell me that serving God couldn’t be tons of fun is, well, a dip. As only the Enemy can be.

I have read again and again through 1 John, where John writes that loving God=obeying His commands. And the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself. My boss pointed out, what do I think it would look like if my heart was REALLY in the right place? Truth to be told, if we’re judging our hearts by our own standards then we’re pretty self-centered.

Well, anyway. This all isn’t to say that when we see sin our lives, we should ignore it. Because it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts us {which is true conviction, not an Enemy-produced guilt burst}, and it’s unbiblical to intentionally harbor sin. I’ll end with a quote from a play I’m in at Urban Vision. This is after I steal vegetables from the man {it’s for the kids!}:

Man: Well, then, let me say this – I am willing to extend to you either mercy or grace. Which is your desire?

Miriam: Are they not the same thing, sir?

Man: They are not, my lady.

Miriam: Then please explain what mercy grants.

Man: If I were to endow mercy, you would be completely forgiven for taking my vegetables.

Miriam: {Seems relieved} then this is what I most desire.

Man: Perhaps, yet you will hear the matter of grace. Should I extend grace, you would be invited to come and gather any vegetables from my garden that you like at any time you like. It would be as if you were a member of my family with all the rights of the daughter.

Narrator: Miriam marveled at the gifts offered to her. She knew that she did not deserve the man’s kindness and yet she longed in equal measure for both mercy and grace.

Miriam: Sir, I do not deserve either mercy or grace. I should claim in all honesty that I am in no way deserving of the rights of a family member. Still, I could not return home with a pure heart without an equal measure of both.

Man: My dear child, you shall indeed have both – Mercy and Grace. For in my mercy I will not exact a punishment that you justly deserved, and in my grace I will give to you what can never be earned. Will you accept my gift?

He loved us when we weren’t His followers. And He could never love us more than He does right now… which is the love that sacrificed His Son for our ransom :). He delights in you. Yes, yes, and yes.

“Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on…God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing” (Mere Christianity, p. 50).

I have an absolutely AMAZING online English class with Potter’s School – we’re studying five books by C.S. Lewis. I love that it combines writing, grammar, college prep, AND theology – all in one class :).

Anyway, my favorite part of the assignment is the essay we get to write, on the quote of our choice in the book we’re studying. This was a wee bit harder in Surprised By Joy, but Mere Christianity has had my attention since the first page. I think I’m over-using my hilighter – like, there are more sentences covered in blue than there are NOT covered in blue.

The quote above made my essay this week. I can’t say the essay was well-written (plus because it’s an ESSAY, who wants to read it for fun?) so I’m not too sure about sharing it.

But here’s my last paragraph. You don’t have too much of a solid foundation to judge it, cuz you don’t have it in context :).

Quite often, I pursue fulfillment of my need for joy and find the object of my pursuit far from God. I try to “…invent some sort of happiness for [myself] outside God, apart from God” (49). God gives us wonderful gifts, yet so easily I take them and obsess over the gift rather than the One who gives beauty to His gifts. Reading Lewis’s writing blessed me immensely; I again remembered that true joy apart from God is impossible. As temptations to find false happiness arise, I remember with Nehemiah, “…The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b).

Feel free to critique.

Basically, I loved the one part of the quote – God can’t give us happiness and peace apart from Himself. There aren’t any such things. It’s easy, isn’t it? To see how God fills a hole in your life and adore the stuff He filled the hole with…not the craftsman who filled the hole. On a more humanly applicable note, if you give a gift to someone, you want them to be grateful to you – not to go nuts over what you gave them and forget you.

So the final wrapper/thesis restatement/whatever you want to call it: nothing in this world can fully satisfy us. There is no such thing as true happiness or true peace in this world, because God IS true happiness and peace. {or, more theology-sounding, true JOY and peace}. 

Also – I wanted to share a short life update that links C.S. Lewis to the title :). I spent 3 years as a dancer with Praise His Name with Dancing; I can easily say I spent much time obsessing over dance. God healed so much in me through classes – worship time, bonding with my best friend and her family, my first evangelistic outreach. Delighting in God’s gifts, rather than Him, became scarily normal – especially my last half year. I think God “whacked” me back into reality when my best friend shared One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp with me. One of her quotes was quite similar to Lewis’s, and even then it impacted me so much I danced with her book onstage in our June production. {No worries – it fit perfectly with the lyrics in our song ;).}

After crazy-fun dance chaos for 1-2 months, I spent my summer as an intern at Urban Vision. Summer 2011 was an immensely life-changing summer – the Lord again filled holes in my life, primarily ones I thought I would loose due to no dancing. {Surprisingly, He filled these holes WITHOUT giving me dance classes – of any kind!} He gave me a sweet family, so many chances to be an encouragement, brothers {namely two big brothers who are incredible godly leaders – I’ve ALWAYS wanted an older brother ;)}, sisters, and mentors. I love them dearly.

I can’t tell you all that I learned that summer. There’s a lot. I do know that I spent a lot of time obsessing with gifts, rather than the Giver. {Actually, at the beginning of the summer, I gave a devotional to the teen leadership team and some UV staff on that very topic!} But God caught that and guided me through the summer – I can’t say I did perfectly, but I do know that looking back, I can see His hand working situations for my good. Like, reminding me that people aren’t perfect and are guaranteed to fail at some point… that helped with idolization issues ;). He is my strength…He alone can satisfy.

Plus, I was so blessed to participate in lots of evangelism. {If you’ve ever taken the “Pathways to Global Understanding” course, I’ll be more specific – evangelism AND missions.} I don’t think I caught it at first, but the continual cycle of learning a skill, then using it for God’s glory was incredible. Much better than 7 dance outreaches every year. I probably wouldn’t tell you God gave me a passion for evangelism, yet I know that while I don’t feel it, He’s instilled in me somewhere this need to actually use my gifts to bless somebody and reflect Him.

Long story short, I hit the end of the summer not missing dance. At all. Missing my interns, and the rest of the fam – a TON. Missing evangelism – IMMENSELY. The decision to give up dance for more time at Urban Vision seemed obvious, but was pretty scary. I remember one of the last nights during our week-long stay at UV (for our teen-led VBS) talking with my big sister Maggie. We talked about a lot, but I remember telling her, “I’m scared that if I give up dance, I’ll be bored. If I ever had a bad day at dance, I could go to Urban Vision and find acceptance and fulfillment. If UV went bad for some REALLY random reason, I had dance the next day.”

Maggie’s just so awesome she prayed over that for about a month for me. When we had a much-needed intern accountability time in late August, I mentioned I had officially given up dance {?!} and she got soo excited. We both did, really. It was sisters pumped to see God meet needs in new and deeper ways…to commit slightly larger areas of our lives to Him and trust Him to meet us there.

This year, I’m committing to find my strength, my identity, in God – not in the people I work with, or the ministry I do. Because there’s no true joy or happiness or peace apart from Him. 

{Plus – who else can say He’s loved you with everlasting love, before you were born, even when you make Him sad? Hey. He’s the perfect example of Agape – the perfect challenge to agape living.} 

One of my favorite quotes (not for great theological content, but because I say it so often and am taught by it) is “Tell me when, tell me where, tell me how… and THEN I’ll trust you, God!”

It happens so much. Lately, with being an intern this summer and all, my biggest “AHH” topic of discussion is whether I’ve actually been serving God. I had a TON of fun this summer – I could go on about how I learned how to teach a lesson, or stole keys so my brother in Christ could play a prank on someone, or how I got sick in the middle of VBS week but God provided, or how I prayed with my big sister at 1:20 in the morning, or how I did so much in the kitchen {unintentionally} that my boss told me I was overworking {and that being the cause of my fever} and he helped me rest, or how I acted as a boy in a drama who loved X-Men and Transformers (and who wore a boy outfit with skinny jeans), or how I played guitar with my other brother Ehkaw, and eventually with the band, LITC (Light in the Community). Or how my boss gave me priceless biblical insights, how my big brother prayed for me when I was sick, feverish, stressed, and obviously not-okay, how God worked everything out for gym on a day I thought I couldn’t do it, how my big sister and I really had good times, even though we’re really different.

I had fun.

And while serving the Lord is indeed a joy, I know sacrifice has to be involved. The passage in scripture I really hung out with was 1 Corinthians 13 – a passage that teaches agape love. Self-sacrificial love. The kind of love that gives itself up. 

Even Jesus, who was the perfect example of Agape, said “For whoever desires to save his life will loose it, but whoever looses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) “Whoever loves his father or his mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

It kind of involves sacrifice. Jesus is God, and serving His Father involved sacrifice. Yea… so needless to say, I feel like a slacker. I hardly sacrificed anything. Yuck.

So I actually talked with my boss about this… my exact words were “Micah says there’s definitely a problem when you’re a Christian and you’re not being persecuted. So Jeff, where do I go to get persecuted?”

Jeff talked for a while with me about this. I shared every problem I’d had that summer, like “I wasn’t serving the Lord.” “I’m not living my faith enough because CLEARLY I’m not getting persecuted.”

His first words of wisdom were, “I don’t think persecution’s the kind of thing you need to seek out…if you’re serving the Lord, it will definitely come.” {Sure enough, the next week, I got a fever.} He pointed out that if my heart was serving the Lord fully, my actions probably wouldn’t change very much. Maybe not at all. It’s all about the heart! When I was talking with some teen girls {we were discussing Ecclesiastes together}, I asked “So what’s the difference between a non-Christian helping the homeless, or running an after-school program and a Christian doing all that?”

The heart!

There’s a Proverb that says for us to guard our hearts, because out of them spring the issues of life. Oh yes. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where was my treasure this summer? Where is my treasure right now?

It’s so easy, when life goes bad, to rely on God. To confess sin, and trust Him – because clearly, in those moments, the world is fallible. But when things are going well – when we live in prosperity; have luxuries and comfort; are having fun – we love to take God’s blessings and act like we were the ones who initiated them.

But no matter what season of life we’re in, we are called to serve the Lord and lean on His strength. {Someone once said that it’s easier to lean on God in the hard times than the good; so when we have good times, it’s spiritual discipline to really lean on His strength.}

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

-1 Peter 4:11

My ESV study Bible explains this as actually drawing on God’s strength – as in, not using our own strength, but God’s. And that kind of serving brings glory to God!!!

To somehow tie this all together, God has you and me in a specific season right now. It may be one of material prosperity; it may be material poverty. {Or maybe just being okay ;).} But wherever you are, it’s absolutely NOT by accident.

Use whatever season you’re in to bring glory to God, and God alone. Serve God; serve others with the ability God supplies… that in all things God may be glorified!