Saturday, February 27, 2016

Touch me

Mark 10:13 People brought little children to Jesus asking Him to touch them. Jesus gently held each child in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.

Last week I went to a mental hospital where I was cautioned that many of the patients had experienced sexual abuse or were criminals for sexual abuse who were aggressive, bipolar, and schizophrenic. We were told that techs had initiated a new policy with fist pumps instead of handshakes so that we wouldn't have to hold the patient's hands due to uncleanliness.

Yet as I went to go talk to an older guy he reached out his hand for a handshake and I wasn't assertive enough to switch it around so I just shook his hand. And as I shook his hand he didn't want to let go of my hand. So I decided it was ok to just hold his hand for a while as we talked (we were being supervised for safety so I wasn't extremely worried). I was able to talk to this guy about some challenges he had faced with his family and friends and I could tell that he was very lonely. At the end of the conversation I prayed with him and told him I had to go so I needed to stop holding his hand and he told me thank you.

Shortly after, I met a schizophrenic lady who likewise wanted to hold my hand. And so I did. I decided that the people there must not get touched a lot and imagined that if Jesus were there, He would be holding hands and giving full hugs (not side hugs ;)

In our society, touch is dangerous. "You could be raped" they say or you could just be sued for something someone perceives as sexual assault. If someone touches your shoulder or arm, it is difficult to know if they are interested in you, being sexual, by showing touch or if they are just being nice.

I believe that Satan loves counterfeits and that he likes taking things that God has created to be healing and beneficial for us and perverting them. Touch is a beautiful a thing but I know for me personally I often struggle with giving and receiving healthy touch because of society, mistrust, or miscommunication.

 I am very guarded when it comes to touching other people, especially of the opposite gender. I do not give hugs very openly and I never put my arm around someone else. Yet when I went to Peru as a student missionary two years ago, I felt for the first time the warmth of a culture who embraced pure physical touch. Church members, friends, and family members hugged and kissed cheeks freely and warmly and it was such a loving sign of acceptance and love.

If we look in the Bible, we see that Jesus often used physical touch as a way of healing and showing that he cared for people. He rarely looked at a sick man and said "Get up and be healed" but instead would put his own hands on people to heal them (even on another man's tongue) (weird right? look it up?) Jesus was constantly touching people, washing His disciples feet, holding hands.

I think that if we will look around us, we can see that so many people are not receiving adequate amounts of physical touch and I think that this can have dire consequences. Touch is a way of communicating that is extremely powerful. Without touch, infants can actually suffer from growth problems. Adults that receive regular touch often have lower blood pressure and less stress than people who don't. Touch has been shown to slow the heart rate and help speed recovery times from illnesses or surgery.

 Did you know that there are people who are so lonely that they have to get sick or make themselves hurt so they can go to a loving doctor or nurse and receive physical touch? That's just so sad!

So here's where I'm at: knowing that we as individuals have a need for physical touch and that it is beneficial for our body, mind, and spirits, how can we appropriately learn to physically touch others and receive loving physical touch without being misinterpreted or offending others?

Friday, February 12, 2016

May you be known by your love

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35

Do you love? Do people that see you on a daily basis know that you love them? Does your family and friends run to you because your love is so warm towards them? Is your heart so on fire for the Lord that love is manifested out of your heart towards everyone you meet?

It's almost Valentines' day- single guys' and girls' favorite holiday I know (ya ya;) What if instead of wondering if anyone will tell you they love you  on Valentines Day instead asking God who you can give love too?

Who could we love? Who could we love with that unconditional, I accept you, you matter kind of love. Maybe simple words that a person who is all alone needs to hear?

And I know what your thinking- wait I don't like anyone or I'm not just going to profess my love for them because it's Valentines Day. We need to wake up and realize that love is so much more than flirting and attraction and butterflies and kisses but love is a commandment from God- the thing that drove nails into Christ's hands and made Him weep in pain for our selfish hearts.. and yet we still dare to say "God do I really have to love?"

Do I have to love God?
And we write him our excuses on a list
Well I've been hurt. Well I will hurt others. Well I'm afraid to love because it's too much of a risk. Well I don't know how to love someone. What if I mess it up what if I do it wrong?

And yet I hear God crying out "I loved you. I sent my son to die on the cross for you. Isn't that love enough to change your life? It was a risk I took for you. And it was worth it. And because I loved you, I have called, commanded, ordered, requested, prayed that you would somehow find deep in your hearts and through my power the desire and the urge and the spirit to LOVE one another.

It's not something God simply says to do when we feel like it. When you feel like it, love so and so, love your brother when it's convenient, love your ex-boyfriend or your ex-girlfriend when you get over the breakup, love your family when they send you birthday money. No God says love when you feel like you have nothing left inside of you. Love when you are breaking. Love when you feel all alone and you feel like you are giving everything away. God says I want you to be poured out like a drink offering to me and your love for me will be manifested by the way you love one another.

1 John 3:23 says "And this is his commandment to believe in the name of His son Jesus Christ and to love one another just as he has commanded us."

Throw off whatever excuses are holding you back from expressing true love. Write down your fears and nail them to the cross with Christ. Ask God to teach you how to love more like His son. Ask God who He wants you to love on Valentines Day this year, and afterwards on each and every day of our life.

And as we love- as God slowly takes our hearts of stone and turns them into hearts of flesh- as our lives are changed completely as we behold the presence of God Himself the King- as we love, our hearts will be filled with love. It's amazing; and it's a miracle.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I'm not ok

"If a man cannot prove his religion in the valley, it is not worth anything." Shade of His Hand

There are days when people ask me how I'm doing and I lie and tell them I'm ok when I'm not.
Times when I get sad, lonely, afraid, feel a lack of purpose, feel like I'm not doing anything right
The truth is that everybody has these days.

Everybody goes through struggles. Everybody will one at time or another feel alone. Everybody will fight for something in their life- whether they give up or overcome is their choice.

God does not tell us that following Him on this earth will be easy. Yet He tells us that He will prove faithful to us in the journey.

You see if we have surrendered our life to God, we have joined a battle. A battle against the Devil, a battle for lives, for Salvation, for good and evil. This battle is not easy, mind you, but it's important and it's glorious and it's all about love. If we are fighting this battle, we must equip ourselves daily with the armor of God or we will quickly be overcome. We cannot fight this battle alone! This is something I forget over and over again and God has to remind me "Brooke let me fight for you. Brooke put on my armor." Or else I will be overcome.

If we are not studying the word and praying diligently daily we have no sense in being on the battlefield. The Bible says that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Temptations are all around us.

Yet Christ says "do not be afraid or discouraged for I am your God who can strengthen you and help you, upholding you in my righteous right hand" Isaiah 41:10.

Whatever you are facing, God cares. He is bigger than whatever trial or tribulation may be going on in your life. Christ wants for you to be an overcomer and for you to accept peace, joy, and love that He offers to fill your heart with.

If you are not ok, tell someone. Most importantly tell God. Re-surrender your life to Him and look for a good Christian mentor or friend who you can share your earthly struggles with.
Christ has created us and He loves us. To Him you are valuable beyond worth. He has a purpose for your life.

Romans 8:38-39 says I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He loves you. Let Him hold you in His arms. Let Him be enough for you.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Prayer

This is something I wrote a year ago after my brother crashed and got hurt in a motorcycle accident. Tonight as my family was delivered from a fire I ask God the same questions. How does prayer God work? Why do you answer some and not others?

"God has been good to me and my family. He answers prayers.
Last Tuesday I found myself on my knees in front of my bed weeping to God.
It was a position I hadn't been in for a long time, when I just cried pleading for God to help my brother in surgery. I was so scared for Him and concerned. God and I had a long talk that day.
I had so many friends post on my Facebook wall that they would pray for my brother.
Honestly, it made me feel so loved and so near to Christ's church.
God did answer my prayer to help my brother's surgery go well and I praise Him for that.

Sometimes I have to wonder about prayer though.
Would my requests ever change God's will for someone else's life?
Am I twisting God's arm when I pray or trying to present my case in a way he has never seen it before?
If over 50 people pray does it make God more likely to answer my prayer? If someone is popular, they could get alot more prayer requests than someone who isn't known very well.

What about prayers that God don't answer?
That same day my brother crashed on his dirt bike the last lap of the race..
that same day I had prayed.
I had asked God to keep my baby brother safe.
I had pleaded for Him on his behalf to protect my brother during the race and not to let Him get hurt.
And right after I got word of my brother's crash I asked God
Why? Why didn't you answer my prayer?

Why don't you answer the prayers for the kid that just died from cancer?
Or for the orphan I met in Peru?
Why is she still there?

What about the girl I met in the hospital with cancer?
She didn't do anything wrong.

What about the kid in Africa, the teenager who got raped, the guy failing school while praying and studying like crazy?
 Why God do you answer some prayers and not the other ones?

I don't know if prayer is something we humans can ever really get
How can we commune with a God whom we can't ever fully understand?
Does prayer make a difference?
I believe so, but sometimes I don't know exactly how.

If I look at what the Bible says about prayer, here are some things I know:

1. God hears our prayers when we pray according to His will. 1 John 5:14
2. God commands us to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
3. The peace of God can fill our hearts when we pray. Philippians 4:6-7
4. The Lord draws close to us when we pray. Psalms 145:1
5. We need to confess our sins when we pray because the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
6. Finally this is the truth, I find most difficult to understand. When we have faith, God will answer our prayers if it His will. Mark 9:29, Acts 9:40, Mark 11:24, James 1:6

I know that God wants us to pray. I know that the devil does His best to stop us from prayer, and finally I know that prayer is powerful.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

God teach me

This past week was Week of Prayer and it was a week where students shared their testimonies. The theme was authenticity and I was beyond blessed by hearing friends' words and encouragement.

What is authenticity? Authenticity is a life that has been changed by Jesus? It's real- it's Jesus's love- it's His blood washing over our sins and making us a righteous in a dark world.

Sometimes I miss being in a leadership position for Christ, like being spiritual director, or a life group director- sometimes those things make me feel good- like they almost give me this fake confidence that I'm a leader for Christ so I'm obviously following His steps. But what about when those titles are taken away? What about when I'm just a new nursing student, when I'm a personal trainer at the gym, when I'm a girl playing intramurals. Then what do my actions speak about me and my love for Jesus? Is Jesus manifested in everything I do? Or do I look just like the rest of the world?

More importantly what does Jesus think about me? Do I know Him? Does He know me? Where have I come from?

I have a confession. Even though I have followed God for basically my whole life; I have attended years and classes of Christian school; I have even been spiritual director and a missionary, I am still sadly so Biblically illiterate. And I HATE admitting to this.

Sure I know some Bible verses. I may know more memory verses than you. But can I explain the 2300 day prophecy? Can I lead you to Christ using verses from my memory and not my Bible? Do I understand the history of the Adventist church? Sadly, regretfully, my answer is no. I have so much more to learn about God. I want to be a girl who knows the word- who studies the Bible- as much as I study for my nursing test.

Imagine that? Imagine if I studied my Bible as much as I studied cancer, or hypertension. Imagine if we knew the word of God?

And then prayer. My prayer life is sad. It's inefficient. It's not making the cut. And I pray mind you, but not enough. What if my prayers were more faith-filled? What if I prayed like I believed I was living in the last days? What if I started each day and ended each day in QUALITY prayer time? How much more would I experience Jesus' power and peace.

So I'm confessing this because it's not ok. It's not ok for me to think that studying school is more important than understanding the word of God. It's not ok for my thoughts to be lustful and thinking of selfishness. My whole life must be transformed by the glory of God so that the thoughts of me are less and less and Christ is more and more.

Maybe your like me? Maybe you've realized that you too have fallen short of God's calling. You know what? It's ok. God does not anger with us. He is patient and He is eager to teach us and transform us into people who can represent His name.

Philippians 1:6 says "Being confident of this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Chris Jesus."

If God has revealed something to you that's on your heart that He would like you to change, then let's be faithful, let's be perseverant, let's be studious, let's be servants who are willing to change and who seek the heart of God.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fear- my testimony

When I was young I was fearless. Seriously I think I should have competed in toddler fear factor or some other fearless childhood venture. I would swim in ice cold water, try flips off the diving board, and climb trees and cliffs without a second doubt. I was eager and willing to try and do everything, bold and confident in my active self. Not only I was fearless in the physical world but I was ever- so trusting with friendships- always expecting the best out of people. I had no fear in the world. I was at utmost security with myself, with my God, and with the people in my life whose job it was to protect me: my mom and dad.

I don't know when exactly I became afraid. Was it when my father and brother got hurt racing motocross doing the thing they loved? Was it when I got dropped on my back doing a trust fall? Was it when a guy I trusted a lot abused the relationship and I had to run from him? Or when I fell off my unicycle, broke my arm on a ripstick, or heard terrifying stories of the mission field?

I don't know one specific time when fear came upon me and anxiety entered into my thoughts. I don't remember when exactly I stopped feeling good enough, stopped feeling so brave. Yet I do remember my high school years after moving twice to different schools, I just stopped talking to most people in my class. I refused to talk to guys; I refused to answer the teacher. I literally went silent, into hiding mode, because I was afraid. Those were the beginning stages where fear began to cripple me- to hold me back from reaching God's highest potential for my life.

And I remember when I went to Campion Academy in Colorado the Lord told me that I needed to start surrendering some of those fears to Him. So in high school he helped me to play baseball (catcher actually) on a guys varsity team. This required a lot of faith and it made me nervous at times but I was forced to rely on Him to give me strength. Freshman year of college, I felt called by God to try out for Gym Masters which was out of my comfort zone. And it was challenging, extremely hard, socially and spiritually, again it pushed me to overcome some of my fears. And in the first month of Gym Masters, I was brave, but as the school year went through I gave up on many gymnastic skills and found myself juggling all alone in the corner throwing balls one after the other- bored to death- and I got mad at God and cried out to Him this isn't that fun anymore.

Ultimately though, my biggest fear factor year was the year after freshman year when I went to be a student missionary at AMOR Projects in Peru. I felt called to go to this facility even though I hated the medical field and had no desire to really work in it. And it was this year when God really gave me a list of some of my biggest fears and put them right in front of me and told me that He would help me face them and overcome them.

And for me this resulted in some of the biggest changes in my life. I felt God's call to actually change my college career and do nursing (which I didn't want to do). I felt God changing the very insides of my heart and making me a softer person. I was forced to rely on Christ to become vulnerable again inside the orphanage and with my Peruvian family and I faced many small fears that year like snakes, having to cut off my hair, illness and disease, a friend's death that pushed me actually closer to Christ instead of further away.

The thing is I believe as Christians, God is constantly asking us to step out of our comfort zones.
Like honestly I'm so NOT COMFORTABLE right now. I haven't been for the past 2 years ever since I went to missions, changed my major, followed God to be spiritual director, changed my friend groups, changed my life-- it's not easy. I'm not satisfied so called with life. But I do feel blessed. I do feel like God is constantly providing miracles for me. He is constantly speaking to me gently and helping me overcome whatever obstacles may be thrown. He is constantly questioning my fears and saying "remember when you gave that up to me" or let me help remake this part of your life.

It's ok to be afraid- to realize that you have a fear. Yet it's not ok for us to say "Because I'm afraid I'm not going to do this even though God is asking me to do." Fear is not an excused. In fact it's more of a reason why you should overcome. God calls us to be fearless. He tells us He is bigger than anything in our minds, in our physical realm, any person we should meet, any disease we should face, any nightmare that should bother us at night.

You see fear can literally ruin our lives. Fear is an obstacle; fear can keep us captive of ourselves or of others. It can cause us to not make friends (fear of trust, vulnerability) which can keep us from witnessing God's love to others. Fear can get in the middle of God's plans for your life. Fear is Satan's mechanism of getting you to think so much about yourself that you forget to look up at the Big God.

So what do we do when we are afraid? What are we do when we are anxious? What do we do when we realize that we are thinking fearful thoughts, that we are scared to do what God is calling us? That we are not following God's path because of our own selfishness?

What we do is we run to God. We tell God our fears, we whisper to Him our stories, and we listen as He says "Dear daughter, I know. I know not just each one of your fears, but I know why you are afraid of them. I remember the day when the first thought of doubt and fear came to your mind." The thing about Jesus is He not only wants to help us overcome our fears; but He knows exactly why we are afraid and the things that have hurt us at the bottom most deep places of our heart.

And God says to me. Let me deliver you from all your fears (Psalm 34:4). Let me be your shepherd that takes away your desires and helps you to lie down in greener pastures; let me restore your soul (Psalm 23:6). He says Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden or burdened, and you will find rest for your soul. For my burden is easy and my yoke is light.

The Lord promises us that He is bigger than whatever may face us- day or night- mental or physical. He is ready to help you overcome today. So take your fear hold it in your hand and throw it up to the Lord Almighty. He will provide faithful for you today. I believe in His name, you will receive power to overcome. (Acts 1:8 And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit shall come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the world.)