Wednesday, January 30, 2013

baptize

There is something so powerful, so inexplicably moving about baptisms. I am so humbled every time I have the privilege of watching someone be baptized - it reminds me that the cross is indeed the power of God to those being saved.

I love redemption stories. At Reality, there were two that stood out. A young, burly college guy, who held himself with so much confidence, I assumed he was a business major, stood up and shared his name. But when he started sharing his testimony, there was a long pause as he began choking up. Finally, all he could manage to get out through his sobs was, "Jesus has changed my life!" Such a simple phrase, but it was powerful. Clearly, God's grace was so tangible in his life. It was a glorious day to share that moment with him.

Another girl, Jennifer, spoke so quietly I had to really strain to hear her words. Everything she said was well thought-out and very intelligent. But when she began to explain why she wanted to get baptized today, she also choked up. "I can no longer deny the grace of God in my life." Death to self never looked so beautiful.

Amazing how all of our intellect and strengths and self-esteem are rendered worthless in light of how wonderful and unjust Christ's sacrifice was for us. Sometimes God's grace feels close to me and other times, I wander far from Him, but moments like these remind me of what it cost to have my relationship with my Creator, and how much He still finds me worth it all.

"Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

stewardship

Happy 2013! A little belated.

I want to do a look back on 2012 to see what God has taught me in the past year, but first, I just wanted to get my thoughts out on why I spend the way I spend.

I never thought I would be that girl. You know, the girl who focuses on frugality and wants to have her own garden and stay home and enjoys cleaning and all that domestic jazz. And yet, the more immersed I become in the frugality mindset, the more I find myself longing for a little house in the country with a gorgeous garden and fruit tree orchards.

Let me back up. Frugality isn't just about money. It's about choosing the way you live your life.  As I try to be intentional in every aspect of my life, it isn't surprising that I would strive to be intentional in my money habits. Frugality allows me to live the life I want to live. I don't take for granted the fact that I have a job that pays me an amount that allows me to live comfortably. Yet in my field, I am on the low spectrum. In my city, I make below the median salary. I see my coworkers and colleagues constantly strive to earn more, because they feel like they "deserve" it. There is a rampant sense of entitlement to the excessive wealth in San Francisco.

Frugality is anti-entitlement. Who decided that we should be placed where we work making what we earn? The fact that I have a college degree has very much to do with the fact that I was born to college-educated parents in a first world country. I didn't ask to be born into my family. I could have easily been born to a very poor family in rural China. I am not entitled to my salary just because I put in 9 hours a day at my job - I was not in charge of most of the circumstances that led me here.

God is. Was. Will be. So I try to spend money in a way that is consistent with stewardship of God's gifts in my life.

I'm frugal because it allows me to use my money in different areas of the world to build God's kingdom. I love that I am equipped to make a difference in people's lives in such a tangible way. I don't really need all the money I make. Other people need it far more than I do, actually. It's easy to forget that, though.

I have never been so challenged by the lack of my participation in social justice and poverty advocacy than in San Francisco. Reading the Bible, I am constantly humbled and convicted by Jesus' teachings about loving the poor and powerless. If I have to be honest with myself, have I taken care of the least of His kingdom? Have I been obedient to His calling in all aspects of my life, including my finances? Does my spending clearly point to my priorities? Could people look at my expenses and believe I am a Christian who loves and cherishes and obeys God's commandments? 

While my peers complain about the high cost of living and salaries, I will choose to be disciplined in an area where most people have forgotten discipline. Yes, it's counter cultural and that makes me weird, I guess, but I am seeking the approval of something far greater - Someone, who, at the end of my life, will say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."