Who Am I?

It’s been a long time since I blogged. Actually I wrote a couple of posts but didn’t publish them, because I hadn’t fully worked out what I was finding so hard – what was at the root of some negative thought patterns and behaviours. But I think I see it now.

It seems to me that my identity has been under attack ever since I came to Thailand. In some ways, my identity has been under attack my whole life – Satan does not want me to be confident and secure in my God-given identity. But being in Thailand, it’s more of a blatant, full-on assault.

It comes in the form of being unknown, in the getting-to-know-you process when you move somewhere new, when you realise people have a view of you that you don’t have of yourself and you wonder if they are right. It comes when people don’t know how far you’ve come or how hard you’ve worked to get where you are – so they judge you for where you are not yet, or joke about it, or push you to change. It comes in whispers that tell you that you are unattractive, that no one would ever want to date you. (That one came out of the blue – I don’t haven’t thought or believed or even really cared about that for YEARS). It comes in fears that you can’t do what you’re trying to – who are you to think God would call you to do this?!

I know the answer. I know that God made me, that He likes me and created me this way on purpose. I know where I’ve come from and where I’m going. I know what God has done in my life (although I’m sure I don’t know the full extent of it). I can recognise the lies (and the twisted half-truths) of the enemy, who tries to steal my trust in my Father. I know I am where God has called me – and that actually I can’t do this on my own, but only in Him.

Sometimes I know all that in my head, believe it intellectually, but I don’t believe it deep in my heart. Last night, as I struggled with all this, I read Psalm 27. In the Message, verse 4 says:

I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing:

To live with him in his house my whole life long.

I’ll contemplate his beauty;

I’ll study at his feet.

And really, that’s what matters. I will stay with God. Because when I do, everything else falls into its right place as my perspective transforms and my eyes are lifted to Him, to His beauty and grace and glory. My identity is given to me by God and my life is hidden in Him. So I’ll listen to my Father’s voice, not the others. The voice that calls me daughter and friend, beautiful and beloved, redeemed and precious and free.

Faithfulness and Grace

I wrote a long post last time about some of the things I’d learnt during the DTS (Discipleship Training School). But as I’ve reflected a bit more, I’ve realised the two most important things I learnt. They aren’t new things. Rather, they are truths I gained a much deeper understanding of and experienced in new ways, as God proved them over and over again.

One, God is faithful.

Two, God gives the grace for each day.

The recurring verse over the past year has been: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). In fact, I mentioned this as I thought back over 2012, just before the start of the DTS (https://riversofjoyblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/old-year-new-year-reflections-and-expectations/). I’ve seen the truth of this again and again and again, as I’ve been homesick, physically sick, trying to cope with the shock of India, engaged in endless spiritual warfare, tired, hearing bad news from a distance, lonely, frustrated, hurt and always far too hot! God has given me grace for all this and more. And he has also given me friendship, laughter, fun, health, victory, freedom, joy, forgiveness, hope, good contact with loved ones, dancing and cooling rain. He is so good.

I have seen the Father’s faithfulness to his people, to me – his child. How he not only meets my expectations, but far surpasses them. How he surprises me. How he never leaves me. How he continually transforms me, making ‘beautiful things out of the dust’, as the song goes.

I’m amazed by my incredible, gracious, loving and faithful Father. It’s all about him.

Learning, Growing, Becoming – DTS Reflections

I sat down with my journal to reflect on the biggest areas of learning and growth for me during the Discipleship Training School (DTS), which finished last week. Turns out there are more than I thought! This has been 6 months of incredible stretching and growth, so I share these areas of learning with you in the hope they might encourage you as you see how God is transforming me.

The entire DTS at graduation.

The entire DTS at graduation.

Unsurprisingly (given that I’ve spent all my time since January with the same 30ish people), I have had no choice but to grow in how I relate to others. Some of that has been in laying down my rights, preferring others to myself, learning to criticize and judge others less and lift them up in prayer more and some has been in not taking the blame for everything – acknowledging when someone has sinned against me and offering forgiveness instead of denying my hurt. I think I’ve made a little bit of progress in asking for help and addressing issues with others too.

I’m learning to love people fiercely, even when I know the close relationship is short-term and the investment feels too costly for the reward – to let people in to my heart without worrying about getting hurt or the inevitable goodbyes, trusting that God will pick up the pieces if necessary. I’m commanded to love, not merely be nice.

I’m learning to walk in an attitude of submission to those placed in authority or leadership over me, even when I disagree with them most vehemently. I’m learning to be a better team player, to be less independent. I’m learning to lay down my inclination to lead and to seek to develop people or ministries – sometimes this is just not my place, especially when my involvement in a ministry is very short-term. I have greater insight into what I understand ‘leadership’ to mean and how my definition is not necessarily the same as yours, and that that’s ok.

I am becoming more myself, more who God created me to be, without worrying about looking a bit silly or about what people will think. My playful, light-hearted, maybe even goofy side is emerging and I think I’m getting better at having fun, strange as that sounds. This has been a significant release for me.

I’ve grown in relating to God as Father and in seeking to encounter his presence every single day, not settling for less and always seeking more. I have again and again been challenged to surrender to Jesus, at a deeper level each time. He is worth laying down everything for. I’ve learnt to walk in God’s grace every day – his grace is always sufficient and his power is made perfect in my weakness, and this has been made very evident to me through all the challenges and difficulties there have been. I’ve learnt to press into God in the tough times more than ever. I’m learning how to deal with frustration, disappointment and unmet expectations. I’ve learnt that sometimes God’s purposes are not what I think they are!

I’m beginning to understand the authority I have in Christ. I heard God say that I have a voice. I’m slowly gaining understanding of what this means, but it’s to do with the authority I have when I speak God’s Word, when I pray. I need to use my voice, not letting it be silenced. I’ve grown in my understanding and practice of intercession. Prayer has been a big area of development for me.

Spiritual attack has been sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle. Fighting often involves standing on the truth, letting God remind me of the truth, what really happened, not being dictated to by my emotions. It involves pressing in to God regardless, in worship and obedience. (Of course, there are many ways of waging spiritual warfare – these are some I’ve been developing).

I’ve learnt that Thailand is my home too. God told me clearly (This is your country now) and when I was in Kolkata, I learntthe emotional truth of it as I became homesick for Thailand! During this DTS, God has given me vision and dreams for the future and has opened the door for me to start to walk out those dreams in Thailand. I’m thrilled both to know the next step and be ready for it.

So there you have it – a summary of what has been going on in my heart and head and spirit over the past 6 months. I know it’s quite long, but it really is only a summary. I can’t express how wonderful, faithful, kind, gracious, loving and good God is. I’m so grateful to him and excited to see how he will continue to bring transformation in these areas as well as teaching me new things. To him be all the glory!

To finish, here’s a link to six-minute video summary of our six-month adventure. Enjoy!  CARM DTS 2013

This is your country now.

I got back yesterday from Camp Zoe, a Christian camp for some of the teens we work with here in Thailand. It was a great 5 days of building relationships, having fun, playing crazy games and helping the kids get to know Jesus a little better.

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My team at Crazy Night. Our costume theme was… crazy?

The last night was a worship night and we spent some time thinking about being a light to Thailand. There was an outline of Thailand marked on the floor, with a large wooden cross in the centre. On the cross was a candle. The idea was that we would light our own candles from the one in the middle and set them round the country outline as a symbol that we want to be God’s light in the darkness in this country. My friend Brandi, who facilitated this, asked everyone to consider what purpose God has us here for. I started thinking about this for myself, not just for the young people.

Very quickly, and very clearly, God said that if I lit a candle, it would be a symbol of committing to stay in Thailand – not just shining God’s light in Thailand during this DTS outreach, but staying here long beyond that. I knew I was staying in Asia, but I hadn’t quite been sure what specific country. I hadn’t been fully committed to Thailand longer-term. So I took some time to think about if I wanted to make that commitment by adding my candle to those others were lighting.

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Shining God’s light all around Thailand.

I did light the candle and add it to the map. In some ways, it wasn’t easy – I needed to again surrender some of my own ideas and hopes and dreams. But as I made this symbolic gesture and sat looking at the map, I felt the Spirit whisper, ‘This is your country now.’ Not that Northern Ireland will ever stop being my country, but now Thailand is my country too. This makes me really happy.

So Thailand is where I’m staying, where God is calling me to shine his light into the darkness. For how long? I don’t know. I’m not completely sure in what capacity I’m staying either, but I think I’m getting closer to knowing that too – watch this space!