Saturday, September 27, 2014

On Missions. 01

Wahiawa Welcomes You

I work for a non-profit humanitarian organization that focuses on doing and going and being active.  And in this place, nobody wants my job.  Or I should say, there are very few people who come to this place led by the starlight glow of doing accounting.  The appeal is to save the world, not save the pennies.

But the truth is, I wanted this position.  I am among the few who actually like organization and forms and counting things.  I function perfectly fine in a cubicle, as long as I have a good pen and paperclips.

You see, what makes my job difficult is not the problem solving, on paper or with interpersonal communication.  What makes my job difficult is explaining why what I do is also missions.

My daily view

In this body, I am not the hand that puts the apple into the basket of a needy woman at the weekly Feeding the Hungry Program.  (But I do help the accountability of watching the allocation of funds from government grants for FTH)

In this body, I am not the feet that goes to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, or the Middle East. (But I do help process the donations that come through on their behalf)

I am not the staff that trains the 3-month internship, or leads the Surfers Leadership School.  I cannot surf, I can barely swim, and a chronic condition prevents me from adventures and strenuous activity.  I don't have a pretty view every day, or have interesting things to mention to remind people of how I help make global impact.  I am not the photogenic poster-child for this organization.

Maybe one could say that I'm the glorious digestive system.  Processing all that comes in and allocating all the nutrients (funds) where they need to go.  Maybe I'm also bad at metaphors.  But regardless of what I am, I have a role.  And you have a role.  Even if you're the hamstring.  And even if I'm not walking on international soil, I feel beyond blessed to use my capabilities to empower others.


Yesterday, I spent the day crunching numbers, shuffling papers, and working on spreadsheets so heavy with formulas, I think it broke the internet.  So after work, I left the office and walked to my car.

And on that little walk, I passed a half-drugged man with fake gold chains, and the grand $$pendants dangled down to his exposed belly.  He scared the heck out of me, but I approached him so I could pet his pit-bull puppy in his arms. I talked about my own pit-bull and he became less threatening, more friendly.

And on that same little walk, I saw one of the (now) teen boys who I haven't seen in months!  And his first act was not to say hello, or to hug me per-usual, but his first act was to take his report card out of his pocket and show me his mostly A's, and some B's.  I ignored the one and only C- for performance, because I was proud.  I am proud.  And it warmed my heart that he wanted to share this accomplishment with me.

In this body, I am not the eyes that watch children grow, and train them with loving wisdom through the Ulu Pono Program that helps at-risk youth in Wahiawa. But as a part of this body, I share the victories and the joys of everyone else.  I tell their stories proudly; I tell others about their trip to North Korea, their outreaches in Waianae, the building of a new Outreach Center.

The role I play today may be unknown by many, and it is just fine.  I love Wahiawa.  I love my town, I love it in its brokenness, I love it on its way to restoration.  I love what I do, and where I am, and the mystery of where I will be.  Or at least, where everyone else will be.

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
I Corinthians 12




Maybe you're just like me, not able to go out, but able to send.  And I cannot do this alone; I want to be a part of the transformation of my city, and would love for you to pray about partnering with this mission through Surfers Church.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

On Sabbath, pt 2.

It might help to read On Sabbath, pt 1.

You see, His law is pretty basic: there are blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience.  We should be ever so grateful for grace that covers our failure to keep up with obedience, but His justice still stands - that when He commands us to obey, He expects us to do as we are told.

So when He reiterated to me: take a Sabbath, He wasn't just suggesting a nap, He was commanding me to rest.  God designed our bodies to need rest, because without it, we are weak and powerless.  To defy rest is to be rebellious, to declare with an unhealthy pride that we are strong and powerful on our own accord.  What a funny thought.  When have I ever been independently capable?

The realization of my fault had me evaluate everything that occupied my life.. Because I needed rest.
I was working too much and it was evident that my tendinitis had gotten worse.  I could not grip, I could feel "snaps" in my wrist.  My thumb turned blue, my elbows and wrists had noticeable inflammation.

This physical collapse happened two other times in my life:
The first time, in 2010, it affected my instrument playing, and because I did not rest, my ability to play music was taken from me.  It was good though; it taught me how to worship apart from music and song, how to be sincerest in heartfelt worship.

The second time, in 2012, it affected my ability to grip writing utensils, and because I did not rest, my ability to create art was taken from me.  This was also good; it taught me how to see beauty, and when I was well enough to create, my artistic style was solidified (something I felt I did not have before).

This spring was the third time, and I didn't want to be unwise.  If God is teaching me something, warning me about something, I want to be obedient and learn from His understanding.  I don't want to fall back into disability all over again, forced to learn the hard way.  Would my ability to serve be taken from me too?  Again, it had become imperative to re-evaluate my life.

So I looked at every card I have been dealt with.  Living in Hale Akua.  Working in the Coffee Bar.  Working in downtown.  A church I am planted in.  A family and friends I am in connection with.  A gentleman I am in a relationship with.  And if I had to surrender any one of these cards, I would feel the ache.  The situation would feel an ache, but we would all heal.  So the question now became: which of these things has God asked me to do, and which am I being overly-ambitious about?

I will spare you the comprehensive comparison of pros and cons.  In the end, I had to go back to the original purpose/calling of each situation, and asking God whether or not that purpose still continues, if it's been fulfilled, or if it has changed.  In the end, His purposes remain.

The view from the kitchen window, Kiana playing ukulele

The one card I kept returning to was living in Hale Akua.  The story numbs my flesh, awakens my spirit, and reminds me that God is living, and He speaks, and He moves, and He invites you to know His heart and join His journey.  But in light of that, He is actively speaking, and also, sometimes He tells you the end from the beginning.

When God called me into Hale Akua, He confirmed it with Scripture and provision.  But the truth is, God did tell me six months.  I suppose I dimmed that part out; I clicked the "Accept" button and didn't read the Terms of Use.  And I kept trying to stretch the call into month seven, month eight, month nine... and I struggled.  Sometimes people tell you you're struggling because it's a lesson on faith and trust.  But sometimes, you're struggling because you're in opposition to the will of the Master of the Universe.  There's blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience.  Sometimes you're struggling because you are outside the will of God.

But as my favorite quote goes:
You can step out of the will of God, but you can never step out of His promises.
And even though I struggled outside of the will of God, He never once abandoned or neglected me, never lashed in anger; but He waited patiently, and loved me, and prodded me.

I looked back at Genesis, in the passage that originally took me to Hale Akua:

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” - Genesis 28.20-22
I overlooked that one clause.  Return home.  And then I stayed in denial for some time, call it my pride to come home, and the fear of what people would say about me; that I failed or didn't accomplish some great feat.  "Missions" carries a different definition than what it did twenty years ago, but not everyone has adapted it.  I felt like a disappointment, like people expected better, or at least different from me.

The boys, pretending to sleep instead of homework

One could argue the level of "good" that Hale Akua does (and I nest "goodness" in quotation marks because what is good?).  This house is a keiki community house, open for the neighborhood kids.  But let's be real. I can't base a decision off of what is good, versus what is right.  Doing many good things is not always the right thing - that is, versus doing only some, even just one good thing.

And in the end, the "good thing" for me to do was to take a Sabbath rest, at home, in my father's house.


Would you like to know the biggest thing Hale Akua taught me?
That I am not ready to be a mom.
I chuckle every single time I recount that sentiment to myself.  It's not that I felt ready otherwise, it just made me appreciate and intercede more for single mothers, their mothers, who were struggling and needed homes like Hale Akua.  I worked nearly 50 hours a week, and came home to serve children who needed my love.  They don't know and didn't understand what my day was like. I can't expect their sympathies, but I can teach them to care in showing them care.  They needed selfless affection and unadulterated attention.  And I was too tired to be fully present.  Working, cooking, cleaning, forgetting the Sabbath.  It was absolutely off-balance.

Thankfully, the transition was peaceful.  Me leaving was the entry way for another to move in, who has a heart for these children and works with them on the daily.  There is joy on both ends, knowing that everyone is where God needs them to be.

So now, I am home.  I've had a bit of time to breathe, a lot more time to Sabbath.  And interestingly enough, after shutting that door, another one opened, because God is faithful.
But that story will be saved for another day.


currently listening: The Brilliance, self-titled.
currently reading: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon
currently watching: Mona Lisa Smile. because it's a favorite.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Breathing Underwater

I built my house by the sea. Not on the sands, mind you; not on the shifting sand. And I built it of rock. A strong house by a strong sea. And we got well acquainted, the sea and I. Good neighbors.

Not that we spoke much.

We met in silences. Respectful, keeping our distance, but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.

Always, the fence of sand our barrier, always, the sand between. And then one day, and I still don’t know how it happened - the sea came. Without warning. Without welcome, even. Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine, less like the flow of water than the flow of blood. Slow, but coming. Slow, but flowing like an open wound. And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death. And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door. And I knew, then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning. That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors, Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors, And you give your house for a coral castle, And you learn to breathe underwater.

-Sr. Carol Bieleck, RSCJ from an unpublished work

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On Sabbath

This post is a preface to a life update.

A heart at peace brings life to the body.
- Proverbs 14.30

I looked at the progression of events in the past year and the honesty in each post.  The initial hesitancy to step out to follow my passions.  Hearing God’s affirmations.  Following those passions.  Getting over-ambitious…. and bringing me to where I am now: feeling tired.

It is possible to do too much of the thing that you love.

To say that I am “tired” is an understatement.  I work with coffee daily (some weeks I reach 40-50 hrs), but there is no substitute for sleep.  I have been exhausted.  I can’t do it all, and I’m not supposed to.  So I came to discern what God called me to do, and what He's allowed me to do.

It’s like differentiating between tithes and offering.  There’s the tithe - the requirement that He asks us to give in obedience.  And there's the offering - gifts that I offer as a sacrifice to Him. 

My tithe is the Sabbath.  My offering is my gifts and talents that I bless Him with.  And my friends, this is where I unfortunately went wrong.  

It’s easy to lay my life down in the name of God and spend myself - my time, my energy, my resources, my sanity - for the sake of “loving” God and others, and not adhere to His commandment to be at rest.  Obedience is better than sacrifice.  And God requires that I obey and honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy.  To keep the Sabbath as a non-negotiable is better than all the sacrifices I make and things I accomplish.

We do not run till we collapse, then in our exhaustion take a breather that we dub as "Sabbath rest."  The Sabbath is not the leftover gift we bring to God, it is not the remains of the energy spent on our namesake or achievements - even if we are called to do these things.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
- Hebrews 4.8-11

There are many theological dives we could take, exploring the necessity and importance of Sabbath.  But at the core of it, the Sabbath is a time of rest, a time of connection with God, a time of intentional relationship.  It's the reminder that our works do not save or sanctify us, they do not justify us or redeem us.  And those are the things that matter most; those are the things that come solely from the grace of God.  It is a matter of balance.  God calls us to fulfill His work, but He also calls us to rest.  The two hold hands.

For workaholics such as myself, taking intentional rest is an act of humility, to admit that we cannot do it on our own.  Our strengths, thoughts, abilities, and convictions are weak and meaningless without Him, and we cannot give what we have not first received.  We need His strength; and His strength is found in rest.

In repentance and rest is your salvation.
In quietness and trust is your strength.
- Isaiah 30.15


Sunday, May 4, 2014


I like drinking cappuccinos or cortados.  It is comfortably warm and short enough to enjoy (and get caffeinated) quickly, hence it’s my daily drink of choice.  I don’t drink drip coffee often, only because I end up nursing it throughout the day, having a sip or two here or there, and it gets cold, which is fine, but it’s never as enjoyable as the first two sampling slurps.  Essentially, I don’t drink drip coffee because I don’t have the time.

I only have time for hi-bye and sweet, strong punches.  I don’t have time to sit and enjoy and hold a warm, hearty mug in my hands.  Heck, I make my cortados in a gibraltar glass; I don’t even have time for handles.

It’s the weird reality of the current state of my life (and also why updates have been nil).
I don’t have time for these warm, hearty, meaningful journal entries.  I don't have time to pull apart flavors and gather mouthfeels and aftertaste, or process or think, or remind myself, or act upon my resolutions or pause.  I do have a bit of time to like your photos and possibly post a status update.  But I ought to make time.

Ironically, this post is a little placeholder, a little capp if you will, and I assure you I will make time to give you an update whilst drinking a cup of drip coffee.  I have yet to try an array of available drip coffees, but have no time, so I keep going back to our espresso.  These Rwanda, Burundi, and Guatemala coffees can’t drink themselves.  Likewise, I've found myself with a queue of things to talk about (when I have the time)..

- Sabbath
- mission life
- relationship life.
amongst other occurring lessons and revelations.

I'll be back.  For now, there is no amounts of caffeine that can substitute the necessity of sleep.
That is what I will do.  (And then I'll have a cortado in the morning..?)


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Watering Acres

My life as a single unit is perpetually busy.  

It's not a season, I'm either busy or extra busy.  I think I'm attracted to doing multiple things at once, which is ironic, seeing that I am awful (that is, inept) at multi-tasking.  I'm living in a Keiki Community House, volunteering as the Assistant Manager of a non-profit coffee shop, working at a specialty/brew-to-order cafe, and balancing all different kinds of necessary human connections (friends, family, relationship).

I hit a wall the other week (okay, so I hit walls often, but this one really hurt).  I melted into a puddle of "my best isn't good enough."  And it wasn't the feeling of inadequacy, or low self-esteem, or pity; it stemmed from the notion that I have spread myself way too thin.  Even if I tried, I am humanly incapable of giving 100%.  Divinely capable - that is a different story, because He is entirely capable.  (And with Him) I know I have the capacity to do anything.  But should I be doing everything?

I have the arguments that can justify every single thing that I am committed to: Reaching out to my community.  Stewarding my God-given dreams and visions.  Learning to be vulnerable, honest; learning to love again.

But I do not lean on my own understanding.

So everything is on the table.  
Nothing in my life is untouched by the opinions of my Abba.  

I've laid my life bare, asking Him to shed Light, shed Truth.  I want to know what He thinks, I want to know what He prefers.  He is faithful in that, as I glorify Him in my words and deeds, He blesses the works of my hands.  But I need to know - is He calling me to do this, or is He allowing me to do this?  It's different when He merely approves my path and when He chose that path.

It's hard to come to grips with these decisions.  I can't imagine letting go of any of the things that I am involved in.  But I am already exhausted, already spent, and it unfortunately the quality of life that I live, and the quality of investment that I am attempting to give.  I don't want the people I am with feel a loss - they deserve a fullness that I am too weak to give.  And what if I am simply in the way of another's opportunity to step into their calling?  What if my ambitions are blocking a surge of blessing?

I have been allotted a pitcher of water; I should water a few pots of plants, than attempt to water an acre.  Thankfully, I've felt so much grace from everyone around me.  They've seen me, they understand that I am spent, and they feel sorry for me.  And there has been grace.  But I want to be a heart that is fully alive.  I don't want to be a mere busybody that extracts good graces.

The more I exercise my will to choose peace and joy and wisdom and humility, the more I grow in character and maturity.  And as I grow, in turn I am strengthened with the ability to carry more, bear more, and give fully, without being spent.  I am still growing.  I am still being pruned and broken, and stretched and strengthened.

Today, I will be faithful with keeping a few potted plants alive.
And one day I will water acres.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those He loves.
- Psalm 127

Abba, teach me not to labor in vain, and to take the time to rest, that I may be actually useful for Your service.  Amene.

I stand on strong shoulders.  
Shoulders that have watered acres upon acres.


currently listening: The Have Nots, by Scribbling Idiots
currently watching: The Walking Dead