Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fill Me

Lord, here I am.

Take me.

Take the elements of myself that are keeping me from you, that are distracting me from Your purpose, that are preventing me from truly being filled.

Take my pride. Instead make me humble.

Take my self-sufficiency. Instead make me dependent upon you.

Take my fear. Instead make me bold and unafraid to let You do with me, in me, and through me what You desire.

Take my desire for recognition. Instead let me live for Your recognition alone, and for Your honor and glory alone.

Fill me with Thy Spirit.

And Lord, as the work of Your Spirit is to glorify You, so also let me glorify You in letting Your Spirit transform my character into one like Christ's. For this work of changing me back into the image of God will bring glory to You alone.

Fill me.

Fill me with a burning desire for the baptism of Your Spirit -- a desire as strong as Your longing fulfill it.

Fill me with Your Spirit, to cleanse and sanctify my wandering heart, to consecrate my all to You.

Fill me with the Comforter who will enable me to ride through the storms of life, and emerge with greater faith.

Fill me, and guide me by Your Spirit to go where you would have me to be, to do what you would have me to do, to say what you would have me to say, to be who you would have me to be.

Fill me now.

In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

: Simple



A friend of mine posted this on his blog, and I hope he doesn't mind me sharing it again. I also have some thoughts that I shared in a comment I posted on his, which I will share here. 

It would be in your best interest to watch the video before you read on. It'll make more sense that way.

A few of my friends commented on the video, and said that at first David Asscherick's answer seemed cliché. Here's what I said:
...that's the beauty of Asscherick's answer. The fact that it appeared cliché at first only emphasizes how simple the answer should be. God is either there, or He isn't: Simple. We either find Him because we seek Him, or we don't find Him because we don't seek Him: Simple. Once we do find Him, once we see Him, we can't not see Him: Simple.

Faith: Simple. 
I think that all the "shallow cerebral motivations," treating it like an "intellectual rubric," is the very reason that people struggle with this. They are making it too complicated. Humans have become so over-analytical that when someone tries to show them the simplicity of the gospel, they pridefully shake it off. They say, "I won't believe in that, there's not enough science behind it. I'm more educated than that to believe."

Or maybe it's the simplicity that "scares" them off. They see how simple it is, yet because of their preconceived ideas and over-analytical mindset, they don't understand. They don't let themselves understand. But the fact that they can't understand something so simple is a rebuke to their "intellect." Again, it comes down to pride.

I think even we, as Christians who believe in God and who even know and want to know Him, have a tendency to over-complicate things. We are almost guilty of the same mistake. God’s been really teaching me lately that I sometimes over-analyse the Christian walk. All the things I should be doing, shouldn’t be doing, should have done, and should do in my spiritual life start to become more important than the Reason for these things. Jesus as our Creator, Redeemer, and Example is the most important: Simple. We get too wrapped up in living the life, in walking the walk. It becomes too much of an intellectual exercise.

To the Atheist: God is there, or He isn’t. 
To the Christian: God is here (see me pointing at my heart), or He isn’t. 

To the Christian: Why do you want to find Him?  
To the Atheist: Why do you not want to find Him?

Please think about it. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Walking Through the Red Sea

With things gearing up around here for California Tour, I've had a lot on my plate. Mind you, I've voluntarily heaped up large helpings. Much of my recent busyness has been personal: praying about next year's plans, researching universities, and trying to keep my room clean in spite of the inevitable packing-for-Cali-Tour-and-Christmas-break-tornado. It's been so crazy that I have info and ideas and things I have to do and applications I have to fill and violin I have to practice and piano I have to learn and theory I have to finish and  friends I need to talk to and research I need to organize and packing I need to worry about oozing out of my pores. And that's just one half of my plate. The other, of course, is work-related. Putting together bus lists consists of more necessary work than you'd realize (especially the one[s] for Cali Tour); however, I'm learning a lot about logistics, behind-the-scenes planning, garnering information from people, and knowing from whom, how, and when to garner it.

So I guess my point is that I'm busy. Things are really busy around here at Fountainview, but I'm sure it's like that everywhere, to some extent. Life is simply busy (ok, maybe "simply" is not the best word). There's always things we have to do, things we probably should do, things we want to do, and things we wish we could do but can't. At every turn there are people that need to talk to you, people you need to talk to, deadlines to meet, messes to clean, things to plan, phone calls and emails to make. Right now I'm wondering how I have time to write this post (here's a secret: I don't).

Picture this: you're standing helplessly, staring at the deluge of busyness threatening to wash over you. A huge sea of stress and long to-do lists could crash down upon you at any moment. But now it's time to remember an old Bible story. The children of Israel had a large watery obstacle to pass, and God opened up a way for them, holding back the waters of the Red Sea. I always liked to imagine what it was like to walk by those huge walls of water, a miracle that defied the science of gravity and the like. "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned" (Hebrews 11:29 NKJV). The Israelites had to have faith in God to walk through the Red Sea. The Egyptians, on the other hand, had no such faith, and as a result they were drowned. 



Are you an Israelite or an Egyptian? It's a question I'm asking myself right now. Do you have enough faith in God (even the faith of the Israelites was pretty puny) to trust that He can hold back the tidal waves of busyness and stress, and make a way for you to get through, unharmed? Or are you going to try to pursue your own agenda, without faith in God? The story says that only those who have faith in God will survive a walk through the Red Sea. But what an experience! God wants to do the impossible in your life. So, by faith, keep walking. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's about time...

Well, I was checking my email and blog list, and all of a sudden a realization hit me like a wall: it's been 22 days since my last post! So, it's about time...


Time. The one thing in this world, second to God, that is unchanging. It goes on and on, consistently—never slower, never faster. The seconds tick by, becoming minutes, then hours, days, and years. Time is the constant heartbeat in earth's history. It doesn't wait for the farmers to bring in their harvest before the winter. It doesn't pick up its pace when sickness strikes. It marches—always forward—at a perpetual pace, mercilessly unfeigned by expectant hopes and nostalgic memories. 



Time moves on. So does life. 

And sometimes, I'm painfully aware. Yet, even these moments of reality pass by all too quickly, and the sharp pangs of longing for times past retreat into the recesses of my heart, waiting for an opportune time to reappear. 

I suppose I shall have to give an example. Enough of this abstract mumbo-jumbo. 

There are stages in life (this sounds abstract too...but bear with me). Typically: baby, kid, elementary school, middle school, high school, work/college, family/career, retirement. It's the expected cycle of life. But what happens when you seem to be suspended between two stages? Perhaps mine is a unique experience; but what happens when life has moved on yet you are still in the same place, with many of the same people, doing many of the same things? Or to put it simply: what happens when only half of your experience has moved on? The result is dissonant friction between life and time—between personal experience and the circumstances affecting it. 

In other words, this is what happens when Val Jacobson goes to Fountainview; makes life-long friends with her classmates, other students, and those she works with; experiences every joy and struggle that comes with school life, work life, tour life, dorm life; learns and grows so much in spiritual things; and becomes deeply involved in the music program. Then she graduates, only to return once more, not as a student, but to work and help as an assistant dean. Half of her experience has moved on—her classmates have left, school life is non-existent, responsibilities have changed. But at the same time, returning students and former bosses are her friends, the general experience and spiritual environment is similar, and a little bit of involvement in the music program is only enough to whet the appetite. 

These are but a few examples of the dissonant friction between my personal experience and the circumstances affecting it. This period of "suspension" between two stages of my life has been difficult (that is an understatement). 

But you know what? Time moves on. So does life. 

Sometime, this period will be past. And though there are trials sometimes that cause me to wonder why I chose this road, at the same time there are joys and experiences that I would not want to miss. I've learned from past experience to live in the moment—to savour it while I can. 
"The obstacles, provocations, and hardships that we meet, may prove to us, not a curse, but the greatest blessings of our lives; for the grandest character are built amid hardships and trials. But they must be received as practical lessons in the school of Christ. Every temptation resisted, every trial bravely borne, gives us a new experience, and advances us in the work of character-building. We have a better knowledge of the working of Satan, and of our own power to defeat him through divine grace" (RH November 24, 1885, par. 12).
Character-building, eh? At Fountainview nonetheless... 

"In the future life the mysteries that here have annoyed and disappointed us will be made plain. We shall see that our seemingly unanswered prayers and disappointed hopes have been among our greatest blessings" (HDL 13.2). I can't wait until that day.

"...the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21 KJV).


Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Poem...


The Painter’s Canvass
Nov. 5, 2011

Standing in the golden light,
The Painter, brush in hand;
The canvass sits, incomplete,
Awaits His soft command.

The bristles brush back and forth;
Yellow, green, and blue,
Black and white, purple, pink,
But wait, here’s something new.

His brush He plunges in the red
And draws it, poised to strike…
Stop! That corner’s set, it’s dry;
What’s there not to like?

With shaking head He sweeps across,
“No, not done quite yet.”
The black on white, now in part
Veiled by paint still wet.

Who am I to question
The One who’s painting me?
But why, oh why, must He hide
The art we once could see?
I know I’m not the Painter,
I cannot see it all,
The Master Artist knows what’s best
And He will make that call.

Sometimes I feel the need to paint
The picture of my life:
“Look here, this fine design I’ve drawn,
Now paint it green and white.”

Patiently, with gaze intent
The Painter carries on,
Undaunted by what seems to me
A masterpiece gone wrong.

Stepping back, He eyes His work;
A smile plays on His lips.
He chooses now the finest brush
For such a time as this.

He dips it gently in the gold
And with each careful stroke,
Unveils the beauty in His mind;
This never was a joke.

Who am I to question
The One who’s painting me?
Why ever did I doubt His skill,
His great ability?
Because I’m not the Painter
I cannot see how much
The artistry will be revealed
In His final touch.

Standing in the golden light,
The Painter, brush in hand;
The canvass sits, incomplete
Awaits His soft command.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Four Sentences

Well, I thought I would just write you a short four-sentence post to let you know that I have a new page up called "Poems." It's just a collection of most of my poems and things from the past couple of years. I don't really consider myself a poet...it's just that sometimes emotions and prayers just want to come out, and sometimes they rhyme, and sometimes they don't. But they look like poems, I guess...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Great Disappointments

It's late, but I just wanted to quickly share about something I've been learning about lately. It's all compiled from this past week's personal experiences, and today's worships and sermons etc.

Today is October 22. Many of my readers would probably know the significance of this date. This is when the "Great Disappointment" of 1844 occurred for those who believed that Jesus was coming on that date. Obviously, He didn't, and the disappointment the believers experienced was equal to the high expectation they had cherished. Another example of a "great disappointment" in church history was the cross. In both cases, the believers expected some great event because they misinterpreted the scriptures, but their hopes were dashed and they experienced disappointment. However, in both cases God had something infinitely better in store for them. Instead of an earthly kingdom, Jesus was establishing His heavenly kingdom at the cross. And instead of coming in 1844, Jesus began His final work of atonement so that we can actually be ready when He comes. 

This doesn't only happen on a church-level. In my own life I have experienced times when I have been disappointed, or have gone through a trying time. For example, coming back to Fountainview to work has been an awesome learning and growing experience, and I love being able to be here with the students and staff I have made friends with. But one "disappointment" I have experienced is not being so involved in the music program any more. Last year it was the very air I breathed -- almost my entire life and passion outside of school. It was one of my greatest passions for God, writing and playing music all the time that directly praised Him. And I especially loved working with my friends in the orchestra and music office. Then this year, all of a sudden, I found myself so close, sometimes able to savour a small taste every once in a while, but no longer a real part of it. It's so hard to explain, but I'm sure you have had your own personal experiences like this. It's been a hard struggle, and I've missed it terribly. I no longer have something that was so dear to me. 


I still miss it, but I am finally starting to learn the lessons God had for me in this experience. He's taught me that I can have joy in Him no matter how sad or discouraged I feel. I need to keep my eyes off of myself and what I want, and instead focus on the purpose He has for me right now, right here. Jesus has something better for me than I could possibly imagine; I just need to trust Him, in spite of the circumstances. And I can do none of this without His Spirit living in me, filling me with that unexplainable joy, keeping my focus on Christ, and giving me strength to trust Him. 

The song "Blessings" by Laura Story says it so well:

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Run

Well, post # four. I know, I'm slow, but you can't always force creativity, right? Anyways, I just wanted to share with you what I read in my devotions this morning. It was really cool.

I was reading Psalm 84, which is really good, has lots of food for thought. But I've read it lots before, and I wanted something new this time. So I decided to do a bit of Strong's look up. Pretty easy with a very nice little iPod app...just load a chapter, then click on linked words to see the definition of the Greek or Hebrew word. So I was clicking through random verses, and didn't really get any "wow" from the process (it's happened to me before) until I came to the last verse. Even God saves the best for last :)

"O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee" (Psalm 84:12 KJV). Simple verse. Little verse. But check this out:
"blessed"
אשר
Pronunciation: 'esher
From 833; happiness; only in masculine plural construction as interjection, how happy!:--blessed, happy.
"man"
אדם
Pronunciation: 'adam
From 119; ruddy, that is, a human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.):--X another, + hypocrite, + common sort, X low, man (mean, of low degree), person.
"trusteth"
בטח
Pronunciation: batach
A primitive root; properly to hie for refuge (but not so precipitately as 2620); figuratively to trust, be confident or sure:--be bold (confident, secure, sure), careless (one, woman), put confidence, (make to) hope, (put, make to) trust.
I had to look up what "hie" meant in the dictionary: "to hasten; speed; go in haste."

So, if you haven't seen it already, here's the epiphany:
"O LORD of hosts, happy is the low human that hastens for refuge in Thee."

Wow. It came slowly, but as I started to see it more I got really excited. The word "happy" just makes that part so much more...meaningful. Defining "man" as a human and a man of low degree adds a bit of solemnity to it. Aren't we all in that category, compared to God?

My favourite part was to see that "trusteth" has such a deeper, broader meaning. It reminds me of those nightmares you used to have when you were little, where the bad monsters were chasing you, and you were running, running, running, trying to find a place to hide, a safe place—a place of refuge. Oh, the relief, the comfort, the joy, when you finally got to the place where the bad monsters could no longer reach you.

This is what it means to trust in God. When I'm struggling with something—when there are bad monsters in my life: fear, discouragement, sadness, confusion, frustration, you name it—what should I do? What should you do? Run to God. Hasten to Him, and you will find refuge. But the key is this: we need to realize that we are humans of low degree. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6 KJV). If we come to Him in humility, knowing we cannot battle the bad monsters on our own, He will help us. And we need to hasten—we need to run to Him at the first sign of danger. 

Humility + running for refuge in God = happiness.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Memories and Candles

It's interesting to think of the people who have had an impact on your life. There are so many in mine that were I to write about all of them, I'm afraid that even the most avid blog reader would zone out. So for now I'll just talk about my friend Liss. 

We went to school together and played violin and piano together. Hanging out in her room, laughing, crying, praying, massaging, talking, and on and on...we had good times. She a junior, and me a senior, I had in mind to pass her my candle at the Expressions service at my graduation. God brought us closer and closer in the time we spent together, the times where I gave her some senior-ly advice, when I could look at her and know she was "thinking" about something (or vice versa...we know each other pretty well), the times we would share our current struggles and victories in Christ. Graduation came all too fast, and it was all a blur. I hardly cried at all on Expressions night, except for one moment: we were singing the candle song, "Go Light Your World," for the candle-passing ceremony, and half-way through Liss, who was beside me, was shaken by a few tears. I cried a bit then, but it wasn't till days later when I read my yearbook that the emotion from the weekend really hit. I'm not sure if reading it again as I wrote this was a good idea or not...
To think that I was no longer going to be with all these friends I had made at Fountainview! As I sat in my secret place outside on campus, reading my yearbook, I cried with the sadness of it all, with the sadness of separation from my class, my candle partner, my other friends. And when I came to the part Melissa wrote about me passing my candle to her, my heart ached that the act of passing the candle was not just a friendly gesture, a charge to keep the fire burning, but a parting act between close friends. 
But now here's the funny thing. It wasn't a parting act, at least not yet. Unexpectedly, I'm back. I'm a dean, and not only that, I'm her dean! And we live in the same house. And we still get to hang out together, pray together, laugh together, play together, and talk together. God is so good! The candle may seem like a little thing, but I can see it still burning brightly in the hands of the one I passed it to. And I pray that it will continue to grow brighter, everyday. I love you Liss.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Every Moment

I have been utterly negligent of my blog lately. In fact, this is only my second post. But I just want to share with you what God has been teaching me in the past couple of weeks. Working as an assistant dean at the school I just graduated from has been a trying, learning, growing, and fun experience. So often I run into questions and problems that I usually have almost no clue how to answer or solve. It's hard, sometimes, to deal with disciplining students, to stay on top of every duty, to be friends with the students and show genuine interest in their lives, and to work with others. It's even harder when you're running on so little sleep. But God has been teaching me more than ever utter dependence upon Him. There is no way I could do the work He has for me to do here without His strength, wisdom, and courage, every single moment of the day. I've noticed that if I let go of Him for even one moment, in one little situation, I end up getting more stressed, making more mistakes,  and losing opportunities I could have used to reach out to someone. I've realized that the work we do here is so valuable, and so impacting. Every little decision I make, every word I speak to a student or staff, every action, is having an influence on those around me. Only by God's strength, moment by moment, in the little things, can we fulfil God's purpose for us, wherever we may find ourselves.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Letter to Friends

I started writing this little note to my class, and soon decided that I wanted to share it with everyone. It is still addressed to and personalized for my class, but I hope that it will speak to you in some way.


To My Dear Class Family,

I was listening to our class song this morning, and something is just sinking in. I think we are facing it: most of us are separate from each other. I praise God that there are a few of us together in certain places, such as Fountainview, Southern, and CUC. But it definitely is not the same. Others of us are going overseas, staying home, or following God's leading in other places. Even now I can't help but blink back tears as I think of all of you. And I'm serious. But the point of this is not to have a pity party wherever you may read this.

Take a little journey with me, back a couple of months, to Sunday, June 19, 2011. The Graduation ceremony is complete, and we kneel together on stage while the staff pray for us. Scott prayed, then Mrs. Roque, and then Mr. Corrigan finished with this:
"Our Lord and our God, it is with rejoicing, and yet that earthly experience of a sadness of separation, that we gather now before You, and present these young people, Lord, Your children -- young men and women prepared to go forth in Your service. Father, not prepared because of anything we've done, but prepared because Your Spirit has been upon them, because You have led them to this place and are leading them forth from here. Father, our prayer is that You will anoint each one with Your Holy Spirit; that You will touch their lips with a coal from off of Your altar; that You will cover them with the righteousness of Jesus Christ; that all who view them, who hear them, who are impacted by their lives, from here forward will know the presence of Jesus. Lord, I ask that, for those who are uncertain of what road You lead from here, that You will make that way plain. For their only desire is to follow Your will. Father, I ask that you would guard and shield each one. For the enemy will surely target his attacks at them, because the work that they can do for You is great, and he does not want to see that happen. And Lord, I ask, that just as they have learned to be close to You and close to one another, that they will play a part in Your plan now, of uniting Your people, just as this class has been united, and that they will indeed bring the gospel to all the world, because of Your greatness that You've evidenced in them. Father, we thank you because we have seen that this is Your will for them. We know You have heard and already answered this prayer, and we praise Your name. Amen."
Hearing and reading this over again has touched me in a way nothing else can. Do you remember huddling under that bush in Kauai, grasping a piece of twine between your fingers, gazing around at a bunch of teenagers who once were just a class, but now are a family? Do you remember sitting in Mr. Lemon's class as one of our classmates shared a personal struggle, asking us to pray for them? Do you remember "Family Time," which was dramatically different from the old awkward, strained class meetings? Do you remember praying together as a class, singing together as a class? I sure do, and I have a feeling none of us really will ever forget. God worked a pure miracle in our class, and we didn't deserve it. Now we have the blessed benefit of this network of friends all over the world, and the compelling hope of seeing each other soon in heaven, where we'll be separate no more.

"They will know us by our love." "Seek to serve, serve to save." "To let the world see that life with Him is no failure." Let these not just be simple, cliché sayings. Let them not be just a thing of the past. Mr. Corrigan's prayer is mine as well: "And Lord, I ask, that just as they have learned to be close to You and close to one another, that they will play a part in Your plan now, of uniting Your people, just as this class has been united, and that they will indeed bring the gospel to all the world, because of Your greatness that You've evidenced in them." We have received too huge a blessing, too great an experience, to keep it to ourselves. Everything God does is for a purpose, and no less the uniting of our class. Please, from one classmate to another, from one member of the Family to the rest of you, do not let the fire die. Keep on praying for each other. Realize that God wants us to take our experiences as a class and individually, and share them, spread them, show others how to have a similar experience. God is eager to do a great work through us. Are we just as willing?

Your Friend and Classmate,
Val


And so I ask the rest of you who are not in my class, "Are you just as willing?" God is eager to do a great work in you. No matter if you have had little experience with God, He still desires to use you. What God did in our class may seem like a little thing to others, but it changed our lives. Let God work through you; let Him use your experience, even if it is a little thing, to change the lives of those around you, and a change your own as well.

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