Justified

The last few months of my life have been an adjustment to say the least. I moved to a different state. I started a new job. Everything I had left behind and was coming back to was different. At one point it seemed that I was “finding myself” as they say. I was trying new things, meeting new people. I was gaining all this life experience that I had no interest in during medical school. But in all this “finding myself” all I found was that I lost my identity. I lost who I was, and I had no idea how to get back.
Over the last few months I have had wonderful, beautiful experiences, but I also got caught up in the whirlwind until I no longer had a leg to stand on. I compromised some of my standards. I made choices that I’m less than proud of. For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t just not right with God, but I was all wrong. I felt like I couldn’t even show Him my face. I knew that I had let Him down, but this time was worse than all the others. For the first time I couldn’t even talk with Him as I went about my day. I felt guilty asking Him for favors or sending up a little prayer. I avoided church on my one Sunday off because all I could think was that I didn’t deserve to be there.

All of these notions were wrong.

And He made sure to show me that.

You know how God protects you when you’re in tune with Him? You know that extra guarding you get when you run under His wing? Well, somehow I still felt that protection, even after running away from Him and betraying Him and disappointing Him. He was trying to make it clear that even though I ended up down this weird path that wasn’t consistent with who I am or who He intends for me to be, He wasn’t just going to give up and let me go. He made it abundantly clear that my mistakes don’t discount His love for me, and they don’t erase the fact that I am His daughter.

So finally I started to get the message, and I made my way to church, where I do belong, because I am a sinner. And that’s where He sealed the deal with the message from Acts that day: 

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (13:38-39)

He has justified me through His love and through His blood. Nothing I try to do on my own can do that. No law gives me that. Only the blood and the love of the Savior can justify me, can purify me, can give me redemption, can make me new once more.

I walked into church that day beaten down, broken, ashamed. I walked out ready to be renewed. And with that I ended up in Abouna’s office pouring out my heart, pouring out my shame and my mistakes. And I walked out redeemed. The thoughts of my shortcomings, the images of my sin, the voice in my head telling me I am worthless and terrible were finally gone. All that was left was the knowledge that I truly had been made pure again.


So here I am, once again, in a coffee shop, trying to put into words my experiences with the hope that maybe one person will read my thoughts and realize that you are royalty. Your Father won’t just leave you when you’re down for the count. He didn’t for me, and I guarantee He won’t for you.

Just remember, no matter what you do He could not love you any more or any less.

Fasting: [Always] Coming Soon

Now that we are three weeks into the Advent fast, it’s about time we ask ourselves: Am I fasting the way I’m actually supposed to?

Let’s have a look at what true fasting is supposed to look like, shall we?

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
– Isaiah 58:6-7

This here is true fasting. It isn’t about reading every ingredient on every box or bottle. It isn’t about nitpicking or these minute details. True fasting is about giving what you have – your food, your money, your time, your prayer – to the suffering. It’s about neglecting your flesh, neglecting your own body and own earthly desires, and instead focusing on the heavenly and on the will of the Heavenly. And what is this will? It’s loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and it’s loving His children with that same love.

And believe it or not, by putting others and putting God before myself I gain so much! As we continue to the chapter, we find 10 promises that the Lord grants us when we fast the true, godly fast:

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,

The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
– vv. 6-14

Let’s break it down:

  1. You will be able “To loose the bonds of wickedness,
    To undo the heavy burdens,
    To let the oppressed go free,
    And that you break every yoke” (v. 6)
  2. “Your light shall break forth like the morning” (v. 8)
  3. “Your healing shall spring forth speedily” (v. 8)
  4. “Your righteousness shall go before you” (v. 8)
  5. “The glory of God shall be your rear guard” (V. 8)
  6.  …you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (v. 9)
  7.  The Lord will guide you continually,
    And satisfy your soul in drought,
    And strengthen your bones;
    You shall be like a watered garden,
    And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (v. 11)
  8. “…you
    Shall build the old waste places;
    You shall raise up the foundations of many generations” (v. 12)
  9. “…you shall delight yourself in the Lord” (v. 14)
  10. And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
    And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father” (v. 14)

Therefore let us examine the rest of our fast, and see to it that we fast the way God intended so that we may receive the blessings of these promises.

And in honor of the fast, here is my all-time favorite Fasting Trailer, courtesy of St. Mary’s Church in Toronto:

Heart On Fire

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

This is such a powerful verse.

How often do I pray for more laborers? I complain about how there aren’t enough people to help me or support me as I try to serve. But how often do I pray that God send me help?
And I pray for people to believe, to know the love and grace of God, but again, how often do I actually pray for laborers to bring others to Christ?

There is such power in this idea, in my opinion. I mean, what if we all prayed for laborers? What if we all united in purpose?

Can you imagine how full the world would be of hearts on fire for God?

heartonfire

Can you imagine how vast and how great God’s Kingdom would be if we united in purpose and prayer?

Supernatural

And Mary said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

(Luke 1:46-55)

This prayer is unbelievably beautiful. That first part just gets me: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior”. How beautiful is that? St. Mary is so joyful in God from the very core of her being — her soul, her spirit. There really is nothing remotely comparable to rejoicing in God from the innermost place of your being.

And why? Because God chose her, just as He chooses me to carry Himself within me. God, whose might is greater than thousands upon thousands of men, chose her, a virgin girl whom no one really knew, to be the mother of the Savior, to be the carrier of God. And who am I? I’m just a young woman in the middle of nowhere, no one knows me as anything special–and yet, God, out of His grace and compassion, chooses me to make His dwelling place.

This is no small thing! If I just lived the way I should, if I just acknowledged God dwelling inside of me, I would realize how powerful my life really is. He has “exalted the lowly”–He has given me power and glory–I just haven’t truly accepted it yet.

“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3)

the-cross1

Imagine what life would be like if you only embraced the power of God within you.

There Is A Crack In The Door Filled With Light

IMG_8577
“The biggest and most disastrous moments  in a person’s life can be the most defining of a person’s character , and a person’s heart.” – David Willard

This month I’m hanging out in Joplin, Missouri for one of my rotations. My new roommates took me to this park across the street that is a memorial for the volunteers and those who were affected by the tornado in 2011. The entire park was beautiful and there were many great quotes and aspects, but one in particular caught my attention. That quote is the one above.

What happened in Joplin was devastating. 161 lives were lost. Homes, businesses, safe havens were all destroyed. Everyone in town lost something. Everyone in town was affected. And out of the devastation, they overcame. Out of the ashes, they rose.
The park is Joplin’s beauty.
The park is Joplin’s strength.

This park–this quote–helped to put things in perspective.

When tragedy hits, when disaster strikes, how do I react? Am I down and out or will I get up and find my strength?
How I react to the disasters in my life will define my character and my heart. It’s not easy to get back up when a storm knocks you down, physically or metaphorically, but if you can do it, you will come out that much stronger.

I’m in the process of getting myself back up. There are days I don’t want to get up in the morning. There are nights anger and sadness overwhelm me. And on my own I will never get up.
That’s where the beauty of grace comes in: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”(2 Cor 12:9).
When I place my trust in God, when I rely fully on Him, He will take my weakness, my inability to get back up, and He will lift me to heights I’ve never reached.

What you are going through is very real.
But you are not alone.
And this too shall pass.

I will leave you with a song that has comforted me the last couple weeks:

Muscle Man

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How encouraging! How incredibly relieving it is to hear this message! Because I am weak. I screw up. I’m human. How often that gets me down. How often I think to myself that God can’t use me, God can’t work through me, because I’m too much of a mess up, I’m too much of a weakling.

But God says, “No! Your weakness isn’t going to hold Me back. My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” He doesn’t say, “Meh. I guess I could do something with the mess that’s going on here.” His strength is made perfect through weakness. So then St. Paul has the totally right idea–he’s like great! Bring on the infirmities! Bring on the persecutions and the struggles! Because he knows that that’s how God is going to work.

When did God ever use the big guy? He always picks the underdog!

Look at Moses–God refused to use him while he was son of pharaoh. Once Moses fled Egypt and became a shepherd, God said, “okay, time to use you!”

Look at Joseph–he was the baby of the family, he was cast away by his own brothers. He became a slave and prisoner, and God used him to save Egypt and Israel from the famine!

Look at the three saintly youth–they looked like they might just be the weakest ones there. I mean, VEGGIES? Who are they kidding, right? But God made them stronger than any of the other young men.

Look at Esther–a young orphaned Jewish girl who became chosen by the king and who saved the Israelites from being wiped out!

Look at Ruth–a widowed Gentile who took on God as her god and followed Naomi, another widow, without a clue of what was in store, a girl who became a part of the lineage of Christ!

Look at Peter–the man with his foot chronically in his mouth, the man who fought by the sword, the man who denied Christ three times. But who did Christ specifically visit so that he may tend His flock? Peter! And who converted three thousand souls to Christ with just one sermon? Peter!

The list can go on and on! So St. Paul says, “Yeah! I’m weak! But I don’t want my own strength; I want God’s. I’ve seen what it can do, and I won’t settle for human strength.”

So I too will say, bring on the earthly weakness! Bring on the persecutions and infirmities and reproaches if it means I’ll have the strength of God! Will you join me?