7 Simple Things I Learned At IHOPKC

7 simple things insta

Every time I come home from studying at IHOPU in Kansas City, and especially now that I’ve graduated, I am frequently asked about what I’ve learned. I’ve started realising that the question sort of makes me feel a little awkward because I’m not really sure how to answer. On the one hand, my whole life has changed and I know I understand things now that I didn’t before, but on the other hand, they’re really not deep, massive, mystically profound things. Most of them are the same old simple things we’ve always known.

It’s like when you grow up hearing “Jesus loves me” and then one day you find yourself on the floor weeping caught up in the realisation that “JESUS! LOVES!! ME!!!”

I didn’t learn a new gospel. Maybe I just saw the gospel a little bit more clearly.

So here are 7 simple things I learned at IHOPKC:

1. Jesus really likes me.

Not only does Jesus love me because “God is love” and He loves everyone, but He actually enjoys me and my personality. He loves that I’m a sci-fi geek. He loves the way I dance, differently than He loves anyone else’s dance. He enjoys my sense of humour. He gets a kick out of the way I talk to Him! He thinks about me all the time. He enjoys suprising me, making me smile, and providing for me. He wants me to be with Him all the time, and He wants to share the things that are on His heart with me. There are things that He urgently cares about, and He wants me to feel the same way He does, because that’s what friends do.

2. I don’t have to be awesome for God to like me or use me.

(This is kind of an extension of #1, but it’s huge so it gets its own point.) All of the above is still true when I screw up. I may get distracted or stuborn and wander off the path pretty frequently, but I still want to follow Him and I still let Him lead me back every time. That counts. He knows my heart better than I do. To quote Mike Bickle, there’s a difference between weakness and rebellion, and weak love is still real love.

3. The Bible is good stuff.

I mean, duh, but my enjoyment of the Bible grew like crazy when I was eating it up, searching it out, praying it, and singing it in the context of prayer and worship where my only priority was to love Jesus. I fell in love with stories I’d known since kindergarten and passages I could never make sense of in high school. The Bible is fun and super interesting when you read it with the Holy Spirit.

4. Jesus is worthy of everything.

“Worthy” just means “deserving.” Jesus deserves the full love and worship of every person, and He deserves to rule the earth forever. Everything that exists is meant to be in submission to Him– not only because He’s Creator GOD, but He actually deserves it because He is the most kind, humble, just, and wise person to ever exist. He proved it on the cross. We can confidently invite Him to rule this earth and our hearts because we trust that He can do a really, really good job.

5. Worship and intercession are a big deal and they go really well together.

Worship is super important because it’s the 24/7 activity of heaven and God fully deserves it (see #4). Intercession is super important because that’s step 1 in how we partner with God to make the things that He wants to happen happen. Combined, worship and prayer support each other and help our hearts stay connected to what we’re doing– and this effect, like, quintuples when we put the Word smack dab in the middle of everything we pray and sing. Hence, the 24/7 prayer (and worship) room.

6. God really loves Israel, like, a lot.

I’m not even sure what my theology of Israel was before IHOPU. I understood some things and had other things a little mixed up, but I had certainly never wept over Jesus’ heart for His people before. Praying through passages like Zechariah 2 peirced me. Jesus REALLY, REALLY loves and is COMMITTED to the people He originally chose as His bride. He’s really, really faithful–all His promises are yes and amen–and He will fulfill every word He ever spoke.

7. Jesus is coming soon and we are part of the story.

He promised He would come, and by all indications this era of history is nearing a climax. There will be a pretty dramatic series of events leading up to Jesus standing on the earth again, and we’re not supposed to be on the sidelines or swept out of the way. Jesus wants us awake, informed, and involved in what He’s doing. That starts now, because Jesus is looking for a global Church that is fully mature and alligned with Him when He comes. A major way we grow into that is by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer and worship (see #5). Another major way is through evangelism and missions. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached to all nations before the end. There are actually a number of passages that talk about 24/7 prayer and worship arising from all over the earth in the final generation of history… so worship, prayer, and missions together are HUGE elements in the story of Jesus’ return.

 

I would have agreed with these points even before IHOPU, but while I was there, spending hours nearly every day in the prayer room, they were driven much more deeply into my heart. Of course they’re profound truths, and I am so grateful that I now have conviction, passion, and personal heart experience with each of them, but they’re so simple!

I admit, in my first few months I walked around with my head spinning thinking “WHOA, I HAD NO IDEA! THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE HAVE BEEN REVEALED TO ME!”, and yeah, I was studying areas of the Bible I hadn’t before and hearing a wider range of theories on a few details, but by my senior year I realised that none of what I was learning was dramatically new revelation. Mike Bickle isn’t a prophet or a theological pioneer, and IHOPKC reads the same Bible as everyone else. (We just sometimes preach it a little more dramatically!) Besides, at the end of the day, the more intriguing and debatable theories aren’t what I cherish. It’s simple truths like these.

I found that as I gave my time and attention to prayer and worship, simple truths came alive to me. Jesus loves me, He wants me to talk to Him, and He wants me to be part of His story.

Testimony Thursday: Praying for Muslims at Disneyland

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney

Prayer buddies!

Prayer buddies!

(Posted a little bit belated on Friday because I had to get Taylor’s permission to publish this first.)

Last week, I made plans to meet up with a friend of mine at Disneyland. This was a very special meeting because Taylor and I had never met in person, but we had been good friends through Facebook for years, and he was going to be in town with his family as a last hoorah before he started college. I only live about 50 minutes away, so we planned to hang out at Downtown Disney for just a couple hours (since I don’t have an annual pass and I already had an evening commitment). We were both super excited.

That morning, he texted me to ask if I believe in praying for healing. Um, YES!! I assumed he was just doing some study or something on it, and texted back two long paragraphs of theology explaining why I believe this can and should be a normal practice for Christians.

Then he texted back– and nope, turns out he wanted to actually go DO it that day!

We agreed to both spend some time asking God who He had in store for us to meet that day, and we both wrote down several “clues” that we sensed that would hopefully lead us to certain people God was highlighting. One of Taylor’s was “white hat,” and one of mine was “little girl in a Minnie Mouse dress”. We also decided that anyone with evidence of injury was fair game too.

We knew our number one goal was simply to create an opportunity for God to touch people with His love. We weren’t there to pressure anyone; we just wanted to pray, bless, love, and invite God to move.

I was so proud of Taylor. He stepped out with so much boldness and gentleness, and we prayed for a lot of people with canes, etc. We didn’t see anyone get dramatically healed, but everyone we prayed for seemed genuinely grateful, and we believe that God is still moving in their lives and bodies!

Sure enough, Taylor found his white hat! It was worn by a woman coming out of a shop with her husband and kids. We asked if we could pray for her, and she was enthusiastically receptive and her husband even laid his hand on her along with us and agreed out loud with our prayer as I gave her a word I was feeling for her out of John 12:24.

We also met a man who was a deacon at his church and was about to have surgery. We both prayed for healing and he was really touched. Seeing his faith and joy really blessed us too!

I spent most of the afternoon looking for my Minnie Mouse dress. I even went in and out of several kids’ stores. I saw several teenage girls with Minnie ears or t-shirts, but I knew I was looking for a very small girl with short dark hair and a full Minnie Mouse dress.

Finally, I saw her, almost exactly as I had pictured her that morning. She was with a woman wearing a long dress and a hijab, walking toward the security checkpoint.

To be honest, the prospect of approaching a Muslim and asking if I could pray for her in the name of Jesus kind of freaked me out. I’ve only ever done something like that once before. I didn’t know if there would be a language barrier or if she would be receptive.

“She’s going in the gate. I don’t have a pass,” I told Taylor, with some mixture of disappointment and relief.

“She’s only going through security right now. You can go there without a pass,” Taylor pointed out.

Crap, he’s right.

I probably wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t with Taylor, but with his encouragement I followed her and the mini Minnie through the security line, pausing to chat with and pray for the cast member.

Dangit/good, they’re still in range.

By this time, the woman had joined a larger family, all very definitely Muslim.

I started marching after them, muttering something like “Frick, really, Jesus? Of all the…. Taylor, I have no plan, I HAVE NO PLAN okay come on Jesus…”

I knew I could claim their attention for only a brief minute before they entered the gates of the Happiest Place on Earth, so I got the attention of the woman I had first seen and tried to explain that I had been praying that morning and God had shown me her little girl and I’d been looking for her all day. I showed them the list of clues I had written on my phone earlier and asked to pray for them.

“Yes, of course, we pray all the time, you can pray anytime!” the woman responded.

“Yes! May I pray for you right now?” I asked.

“Uh, how will you pray?” she asked. By this time I had the entire family’s attention.

“I’m a Christian, and I will pray in the name of Jesus,” I responded with more strength in my voice than I felt.

They paused a moment, but agreed to let me pray. I asked if they had any specific needs, and they requested prayers for good health for the family.

So I prayed for health, and blessing, and revelation of Jesus, and for the love of God to touch their hearts. They walked away with smiles and gratitude. I walked away feeling glad I had obeyed and done what God had laid before me, but wondering if our prayers had made a difference at all to them.

My mom later told me a story of a Muslim who reported that after years of living in the US, she’d never experienced an American’s hospitality, and conflating America and Christianity, before being saved she had never imagined Jesus reaching out to her. I was encouraged that maybe my short, weak, awkward prayer stirred up a little bit of curiosity about the Jesus who would show an American girl a Minnie Mouse dress and send her to pray blessings over a Muslim family.

Overall, I call this day a success. Taylor and I didn’t see the miracles we imagined, but we did get to bless and pray for many people and plant seeds of grace in their lives. We got to encourage each other and stir up our faith. We got to practice a lifetyle that we both want to walk in more– not just the healing, but of seeing the people around us through God’s eyes, and saying “yes” when He asks us to move.

Three Reasons I Love Getting Rid of Stuff

Donation-Box

Since I’m moving to Texas in January, I’ve been trying to minimise the amount of STUFF in my life. I’ve given away dozens of bags of clothes, books, fabric, trinkets, etc, and thrown away quite a few bags as well, and I actually find it quite refreshing.

Here are three things I tell myself as I’m getting rid of stuff:

1. If it doesn’t bless me, it doesn’t belong in my home.

This statement is paraphrased from something I read in a FLYlady book of my mom’s years ago. It easily applies to the clothes I never wear and books I never plan to read, but it also helps me sort through memorabilia I kept because I felt I “should.” Of course I don’t want to get rid of everything that holds a memory! But not all memories are good ones, and I should never feel obligated to keep a thing just because it’s tied to a memory. The first time I put this principle to use was when I got rid of a soccer jersey from a year I didn’t really have fun on my team. I still remember the revelation of freedom I felt when I finally refused to be guilted into holding onto something that wasn’t blessing me!

Everything I own should “earn its keep” by adding value to my life–be that spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or practical. Even some things that once added value may eventually overstay their welcome. (There’s really no reason to stash a decade worth of birthday cards from everyone I’ve ever known!) If it doesn’t bless me, it doesn’t belong in my home.

2. I know who I am without all this stuff to remind me.

Another reason I often keep stuff is to remind myself that things happened and touched my life. It’s as if I believe that all these old show tickets, event fliers, and crew tshirts are puzzle peices that add up to who I am today, and if I get rid of them, I’ll be losing a part of myself. But guess what – those experiences are part of me. I don’t need the memorabilia to remember that they happened. I don’t need all my old character journals to remind me that I’m an actor. I don’t need all the little toys to remind me that I had a good childhood. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with saving some things, but I’m not betraying those parts of myself by letting go of the physical evidence. I think there was a time when I relied on all the evidence of my experiences to tell me who I was. I’ve grown and become so much more secure as a person, and I don’t need them anymore. I know who I am.

3. I’m more free to say “yes” when God calls me to travel.

This is the reason that has prompted my frequent donating sprees recently. I’ve moved so many times in the past six years, and every time I’ve managed to live for months or years out of just what I can fit in my car. It’s astomishing how little I “need” to live a full and happy life! When I own less stuff, I’m more free to be available and responsive to God’s call to move to Crestline, or Kansas City, or Dallas. If in the future God calls me again to move suddenly, I don’t want the amount of stuff I own to be any kind of hindrance to saying “yes.”

 

I’m far from a true minimalist, but I really do want to live unhindered by material possessions. I’ve been inspired by a number of books and blogs on the subject of minimalistic living, and if you’re looking for something to fuel your own motivations, I suggest you start with a few of the posts at Becoming Minimalist.

Don’t Waste It!

“Ten thousand Americans turn 70 every day… Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to get us to waste the last chapter of our lives on leisure. I’m spending one afternoon to plead with the rising seventy-somethings: Don’t waste it.”

John Piper, “Hilary, Bernie, Donald, and Me”

I read this article recently when it came across my Facebook newsfeed as a post from the Desiring God page. John Piper, as he frequently does, was enthusing at length about the incredible opportunity the 65+ crowd has to serve the Kingdom of God with “maximum zeal” in their retirement years. His argument is simple, and it applies to believers of every age: Why should we waste God-given opportunities for passionate, radical, sacrificial living for the Kingdom and instead settle for the cheap comforts of this world?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with vacations, days off, and the occasional Netflix binge. But if that becomes the primary way we spend our free time, we’re in trouble.

I’d like to introduce you to my Grandpa Rey. There’s a lot I could say about what he’s meant to my family over the years, but for the sake of this blog post I’d like to focus on something very recent. This was posted on Facebook by the youth pastor at his church.

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Grandpa Rey’s wife, my Grandma Jean, passed away this March. Grandpa Rey had been spending nearly all his time taking care of her, but when she went home to Jesus and he suddenly had more free time, he almost immediately began serving in the youth group at his church. During the evening youth services, he sits in the back of the room and prays for the students, and afterwards many of them come to him seeking wisdom, prayer, and hugs. My grandpa loves Jesus, loves the Word, fellowships with the Holy Spirit, believes in revival, and puts it all into action by praying for and loving the people in front of him– in fact, he seeks out people to pray for and love. God is using him at age 79 to powerfully touch young people, which wouldn’t be happening if he hadn’t chosen to sow his time into the Kingdom– time which many others in his position would have chosen to spend on themselves.

I talked on the phone with him last night, and he shared with me a story of a crisis that one of the students experienced, which resulted in dozens of church members gathered at the hospital praying and worshipping. Several people got healed and 15 people got saved!! What a testimony! I’m so excited that my grandpa got to be part of such a move of God!

It’s easy for me to brag on my grandpa, but that isn’t actually why I’m writing this. I wanted to share his story because I’m provoked by him, and by John Piper and dozens of others, to make good use of the days I’m given. I’m several decades away from potential retirement, but right now, I am kind of “retired” from college. I’m still working part-time and preparing for my transition to ministry in Dallas, but I have a lot more free time now than I did even six months ago. (Plus, I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so I have the 1 Corinthians 7:34 thing going for me!)

I’ve been entrusted with these hours, these days. How am I spending them?

I’m not saying we all need to jump and go sign up for ministries at church, but I am encouraging us to check our hearts and motivations. When God gives us the great stewardship of Time, do we rush to spend it on our own flesh without a second thought, or do we consider how our time can be sown into something of eternal value?

The stakes are high. Time is short. Let’s not waste it.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

Bringing Kids Into God’s Story

My big summer adventure of teaching at the Christian school at the church I grew up in is at a close. Friday was the last day of my seven weeks staffing summer day camp. I taught 1st-3rd grade Bible Monday and Friday mornings, and in the afternoon was a group leader for 1st grade for the first half of the summer and 3rd grade for the second half. On Wednesdays we did all-day field trips to places like the beach, Knott’s Berry Farm (it’s an amusement park much more than an actual farm), and the Natural History Museum in LA.

When I was asked to take this teaching position just a few weeks before camp began, I was pretty nervous about it. I’ve never worked with kids this young before. I learned a lot about God using me in my weakness. Even when I prepared my lessons at 11:00pm the night before and felt I had just my little loaves and fishes to bring, every time God multiplied it into something that actually kept the kids’ attention and touched their hearts.

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I got to design my own bulletin board!

My favourite part of the summer was teaching my kids the Bible. The camp was going through the Cave Quest VBS curriculum, and so I talked about how Jesus gives us hope, courage, direction, love, and power. I was given one page of thematic material and a memory verse for each week (crafts/games not included), which I had to stretch into two lessons. I had a lot of fun coming up with crafts, games, and dances to make the themes and verses memorable, and along the way I got to get my preach on and see kids’ faces light up as Truth hit their hearts! During “hope” week, I got very excited talking about how our ultimate hope is that Jesus will one day come back and “His feet will stand” on the earth, (Zechariah 14:4) and He will make all the wrong things right. Some of my kids had never heard that before. Hearing one of my 3rd graders pray “Thank You that Your feet will stand on the earth” absolutely melted my heart.

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Week 2 – Jesus gives us courage! I made a boat out of chairs, the Sea of Galilee out of sheets, and drew a storm on the whiteboard to act out the story of Peter and Jesus walking on water. The kids really seemed to get the concept of how Jesus gives us courage when we keep our eyes on Him.

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Week 3 – Jesus gives us direction! I had a lot of fun teaching them about how compasses work and how we need to align the symbols with the needle, just like we need to align our lives with God’s Word.

For our “love” lesson in week 4, we talked about how Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins. I showed them the crucifixion and resurrection scenes from the kids’ version of the JESUS film, and made a cardboard cross for the front of the room. I planned to tack pieces of paper with sins written on them to the cross, but in what must have been a Holy Spirit idea I first tacked them to my own shirt, then transferred them to the cross. Weeks later, the kids were still talking about how I used tacks to put the sins on myself “just like the nails on the cross!” Haha, not quite, but at least it made an impact.

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Week 7 – Royal Celebration. We made wordless gospel books to tell the story of our adoption into God’s royal family.

Our summer concluded with a “Royal Celebration” inspired by the Narnian crowning of the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We invited the kids to surrender the lives to Jesus, and then we offered them the chance to be crowned and baptised. That was a special week indeed! With children’s ministry, it’s kind of hard to say how many souls actually came into the kingdom during camp, but I believe the experience made an impact on them, even if the full force of it doesn’t hit them for a while.

Jesus is after the hearts of these kids. They’re not too young to experience the love of the Father and the wonder of His plan. One girl told me, “I didn’t know about God before I came here.” Another boy was so fascinated by my Bible that he begged me to let him keep it. Some of my biggest challenge kids were also my most affectionate, because they began to believe they were loved even during discipline. These kids are hungry for something real. As a camp staff, we had the opportunity to love them and plant what seeds we could, and watch God move in tiny little hearts.

The Power of Coffee and Awkward Conversations

coffee and awkward

I really didn’t want to talk to her about this.

I had already made small efforts to smooth things over, but I still hadn’t just sat down, looked her in the eye, and said what I needed to say.

We used to be quite close, but enough had changed that I didn’t know what to expect. The truth is, I was afraid. I was afraid of awkwardness, of saying it wrong, of not hearing the response I wanted to hear… of being hurt again.

It took strong prompting from people whose wisdom I trust to get me to ask her to coffee. We went to a local cafe, I bought her a latte, we made very friendly small talk that felt like old times… then I took a deep breath and carefully broached the subject.

Over the next hour, we talked, listened, shared our hearts, laughed, affirmed and encouraged each other, and hugged. By the time I walked out of that coffee shop, my heart felt a thousand times lighter. I drove away enthusiastically gushing to God, “Yes!! This is what it’s supposed to be like! Thank You for unity, humility, and RECONCILIATION in Your people!”

This will probably shock people who grew up with me, but I can honestly say that at this point in my life, I am a huge fan of awkward conversations. Preferably over coffee.*

I think this is because I hate division. I really, really, really hate division. I hate when people who ought to be showing the love of Christ to each other can’t bring themselves to just lay the awkwardness on the table and deal with it. I hate it when someone I really do like and respect can’t bring him- or herself to make things right with me. Some things are better left unsaid, but many times, unspoken words fester like a wound that won’t heal.

I’ve actually been on the receiving end of these “awkward conversations” toward reconciliation more often than I have initiated them, and I can tell you, I’ve always walked away with more respect for the other person and feeling like a wall had been broken down. Every time, when the conversation is approached with love, tenderness, honesty, and humility, I know God is rejoicing with us.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God… So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:9, 23-24

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”
Colossians 3:12-15

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Romans 12:18

We’re a family. We’re one body in Christ. We have no right to let unspoken words build up walls between us. Love and unity is our mandate, and I’m determined to fight for it – Every. Single. Time.

So if you need to initiate an “awkward conversation” with someone, here’s my advice:

  1. PRAY. Get God’s heart for the situation. Ask Him for love to abound (Philippians 1:9).
  2. If you can without breaking anyone’s confidence, talk to someone you know will give you wise counsel and pray with you before the conversation takes place.
  3. If at all possible, ask if you can take them out for coffee (or tea, or fro-yo, or whatever). Avoid the “business meeting” feeling. Let them know that you value spending time with them.
  4. Don’t launch right in. Chat, ask questions, show interest in their life and heart outside of this one issue. This is part of loving and honouring them well.
  5. Share your feelings as simply, honestly, and tenderly as possible. Ask forgiveness in any area you can think of.
  6. Embrace the awkwardness. Laugh about it! They’re probably as uncomfortable as you are. Acknowledging it robs it of its power.
  7. Ask questions and listen. Let them say whatever they want. The goal is mutual understanding for the sake of unity.
  8. Encourage the other person! Tell them what you love about them. Affirm what you see God doing in their life.
  9. Don’t be paranoid about saying everything exactly right. The point is to expose what’s been hiding. It’s okay if it’s a messy process.
  10. GO LOW. Humility is your best friend. Humility will win the war when every other weapon fails.

It’s amazing how much healing can come from a cup of coffee and open communication soaked in love, humility, and honour.

So go forth and be boldly awkward for the sake of unity, my friends!

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*I love the cultural phenomenon that is “going out for coffee” together with someone, but I’m actually not a huge coffee person, so if you ask me out for coffee, I’m probably going to just drink tea.

My California Summer Begins

I’m home!! I arrived in California on Monday, May 23, and have really been enjoying finding a new summer rhythm of family, friends, church, creative stuff, Netflix (who am I kidding?) and work.

Yep, that’s right! I got a job! Two jobs, actually. First, I’m working at my church’s Christian school’s summer day camp as a 1st-3rd grade Bible teacher and 1st grade group leader. Second, I’ll be working at Bed Bath and Beyond in the fine china and bridal department. I worked for two years at a BBB in Kansas City, and I’m so excited to get to work at my local store. (On a related note, or maybe purely for your entertainment, here’s a Buzzfeed list of 56 Thoughts Everyone Has While Shopping At Bed Bath And Beyond. And yes, I could totally answer all of those questions.) Thus far, I’ve had some training for both jobs, but haven’t actually worked a full shift yet.

I’ve also gone out to breakfast with my brother, watched the new X-Men movie with my dad, went shopping with my mom, and attended my childhood best friend’s daughter’s first birthday party (at which I got to see a number of old friends!). It’s a blessing to spend this time at home with family.

california sign

#caligirlforever

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