What Now? Part II : Where You Lead, I Will Follow

We boarded a bus with chickens and headed into the unknown. Finny, Xin, Bobo and I were off on a great adventure—to a small town in China that might as well have been the edge of the planet. We armed ourselves with nothing more than prayer God would use us to share the Good News with a town who had never heard the name of Jesus.

If the door on my mission’s team had not been slammed in my face, none of us would have been on that bus. My friend Elengi (a Chinese college student I had led to Christ 2 years before) never would have shared her heart for telling the people of her hometown about Jesus. I would not have gone to Thailand with Finny when she suggested we take a group of Chinese friends to do exactly what Elengi requested. So there we were—and I think we were all a little scared (after all, evangelism is illegal in China).

Fast-forward. Elengi, Finny, Xin, Bobo & I take a prayer walk around the dusty town with narrow alleyways & miles of farmland surrounded by mountains. We pray for God to open doors for our message. We make friends with four old ladies. My heart feels heavy both in remembrance of the pain of what happened just months before AND for the souls of the people of that town. Then it happens.

A woman in her forties walks up to us and asks, “Can you tell me about Jesus? I want to know!” Stunned. Shocked. None of us speak for 30 seconds in disbelief. She continues, “And I want you to come tell all my students, too.”

She was the town’s only English teacher and taught every class in the city. I suddenly felt very, very small. Small in realization that the mighty King was using ‘the least of these’ to write His story onto the hearts of children. All my ‘why’ questions about the past seemed insignificant. Ok, I trust you. Forgive me for my unbelief. Where you lead, I will follow. 

“Teacher Shi” led us to her school the next afternoon, fully aware our message was illegal. She was putting herself in a dangerous situation—there were children in her classes whose fathers worked for the government & the local police—but none of it fazed her. She had heard about Jesus in college and had a recurring dream that white people would  come to tell her more. Teacher Shi knew the Gospel was true even before we had said a word.

The five of us told classes full of students from 1st-6th grade about the story of God. We told them He loved them more than they could possibly imagine. We taught them “Jesus Loves Me” and I fought to maintain composure as they sung their hearts out in very broken English. We took a break for dinner and Teacher Shi and her teaching assistants accepted Jesus’ death as a payment for their sins. After some kind of unrecognizable food & lots of walnuts, we headed back to the school to tell the evening classes the Good News.

But this time there weren’t just students there. Chinese parents lined the wall of the back of the classroom as they too wanted to hear about Jesus.

Many trusted Christ during our time in the countryside town. A Buddhist monk left his life in the temple and started reading the Bible after Bobo told Him about Jesus. I spent time with one 93-year-old woman who lived in a concrete alleyway without a roof over her head. She had outlived all her children—except for her daughter who was serving a life sentence in prison.  She spoke a dialect and could not understand Mandarin. But 8 months later, my friend Natalie and I went to visit her. We sat with her every afternoon, but still could not communicate. One afternoon, we prayed for a miracle. We desperately wanted her to know Jesus. Not thirty minutes later, her nephew ‘stopped by’ her alleyway and offered to translate the Gospel. I spoke in English, Natalie translated to Mandarin, and her nephew translated into her dialect. She believed!  She did not stop smiling and saying ‘thank you’ as we placed a cross around her neck.  The first thing she said after praying, “My legs are not even good for kneeling and praying. I can’t believe Jesus will still take me to heaven with Him when I die.”

Don’t ever give up Hope. If all your plans have crumbled, cling to Jesus. Keep your head lifted high and ask, “Where are you leading?  Because where you go, I will follow.” God promises to transform your wrecked plans, shattered dreams, and pain for good.

Can you relate? Have you ever felt like God closed a door only to lead you on an incredible journey? 

Recalculating and God’s Plans

 Did Mr. Right pass me by? Do my past sins exclude me from God’s best?

I have several friends and acquaintances in their late twenties or early thirties who are asking these questions. Many of whom have just broken off relationships with the wrong guy, because they are following God and waiting for the right guy. I remember the first time I really understood God could redeem my past — truly life-changing.

The clock seems to be ticking. Women start to worry about fertility. Often remind God they are still single. {Just in case He didn’t notice}. And the temptation becomes to go back to dating the wrong guy, casually ‘hang out with’ losers, or become consumed with guilt over the past. I’ve been there.

My friend Julie made a really hard decision this past year. She was in a five-year relationship, 29 years old, and broke it off. Why? Because she knew (and had known for years) he wasn’t the right guy. She was comfortable with dating and not comfortable with being single, and just kept dating *Adam knowing he wasn’t God’s best. She and Adam were living together. They shared a car and furniture. He had even started talking about rings and engagement. But Julie had the courage to break up with the wrong guy, even with the notion Mr. Right may not come around for a while. 9 months later, she’s still single and recently confessed, “I just feel like I spent so many years screwing around and not following God. What if I’ve missed my chance for marriage? What if I screwed up God’s plan for me?”

This is a very real fear.

I want to take you to a well-known story in the Bible. The story of David and Bathsheba. As you might recall, David became King of Israel after he killed the giant. King David was living in God’s plan and decided to take a detour — off a cliff. This detour resulted in an affair with a married woman named Bathsheba and deception and eventually murder. In order to cover up his sin, David had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah sent to the front lines of battle — knowing there wasn’t a chance he’d make it out alive. Uriah died and David married Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 11)

Sexual sin. Deception. Murder. Could it get any worse?

Although there were grave consequences to David’s sin {there always are}, God didn’t give up on him. After what I’m sure was months if not years of agony, guilt, among a host of other emotions, David and Bathsheba had a son. And they named him Solomon. Solomon became the next King of Israel and was called, “the wisest man who ever lived.” He authored two books of the Bible: Song of Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes. Bathsheba was in the lineage of Jesus and mentioned in Matthew 1. Was it God’s plan for David to sleep with a married woman and kill her husband? Absolutely not. I don’t presume to know what God’s plan for the next King of Israel was before David sinned, but I do believe God can always redeem our pasts. He forgave David for His sin and simply recalculated the route to His greatest.

Will your past cancel out God’s plans for you? Have you missed your chance at marriage or happiness because of your sin? Will your past decisions will exclude you from God’s blessings for your life?

Absolutely not. When I get distracted and go off course, my GPS kindly says “recalculating…recalculating.”  It doesn’t mean it doesn’t take me longer to get to where I’m going or I don’t get frustrated or I’m not a little uncomfortable feeling lost. But my GPS always recalculates.

God promises to remove our sins as far as the east is from the west. God doesn’t hold the past against us, but longs to bless each of us with His best. It may take time, but be patient-keep the faith-and don’t ever take the easy road. God can redeem your past and use you to further His story here on earth. He’s done it in my life, and He can do it in yours too. Remember: He always recalculates.

To read more about this topic click here to read “God Isn’t Punishing You”.

Questioning God’s Blessings

I have an interview tomorrow for my D-R-E-A-M  job. Thomas Nelson-the largest Christian publishing company in the world and the 7th largest trade publishing company-will interview me for a position in the fiction department in 31 hours. Am I nervous? Anxious? Both to the nth degree.

In effort to fully equip myself for the interview, I read the CEO’s blog yesterday.  I looked at the archives and noticed a post entitled “Why You Should Run A Half Marathon” and immediately knew I liked him. (5th Half Marathon coming up next month! Nashville Country Music!)

In his post “Chapter 4: Our Purpose”, Michael states the purpose of Thomas Nelson: to inspire the world.

And they believe they can change and inspire the world through the written word.

As an aspiring writer and someone who radically believes in the power of words to produce profound change in people, I stood up to get another cup of Starbucks coffee to celebrate finding a company who is actively involved in what I believe is God’s call for my life: write and allow the healing power of Christ to flow through my words into many people’s lives.

I do believe God is leading me to this job, but what if I’m wrong? I’m almost scared to write this blog post because then if I am not offered the job, I am back at square one, begging God to speak clearly about His call on my life and asking if I misheard Him before. Moving home from China produced a profound identity crisis in me because I did not have a clue what to do in “the real world”. My résumé states the facts: Vanderbilt Cum Laude, conversationally fluent in Mandarin Chinese, among a host of other accomplishments. However, I felt void and empty inside not knowing if I could get behind anything in the corporate world as riveting as evangelism in another language.

The truth is, I believe I am the best person for this job and have begged God to grant me favor during the interview tomorrow. But, I had to stop myself  yesterday because I was giving God ultimatums.

“It just wouldn’t be fair if you dangled this in front of me…after you’ve clearly led me to this place (a very rocky road, may I remind you)…only to take it away?” Have you ever prayed something like that before?

Does our Heavenly Father long to bless us? Does the God of the Universe know what is best for us?

The answer to both questions is undoubtedly YES. However, sometimes God’s blessings and idea of what is best for His children isradically different than what many of us want and ask for. How many of you wanted to get married by a certain age or wanted a certain job you just KNEW was meant for you….and then God DID NOT COME THROUGH. What is that about?!?

God is writing a beautiful story and invites each of us to play an integral part. We can complain and become bitter when God doesn’t come through on what we perceive as the ‘blessings’ we deserve, or we can trust God ‘s heart towards us and allow Him to author our story.  His story is about bringing hope and redemption to the farthest corners of the earth, and something we don’t want to miss out on because we are demanding our own way.

Pray with me:

God whatever happens, I trust you. I trust you not because you always give me what I want, but because you sent your Son to die for me and ultimately you know better.

I’ll keep you posted on the results:)