Take HIM to Dinner, God?

Take him to dinner.
What? That’s crazy! NO!
Ask him. Tonight.
God, I can’t. That is too weird.
Corrie, trust me. Take him to dinner.
But I don’t want to. I’m not ready. Next time.

November, 2010. I sat there in the pew, wrestling with God. Why couldn’t I get this thought out of my head? The homeless beggar man I had started saying hi to outside of church, Dugang… I knew would be there again after the service.

I looked down at the origami cranes and twiddled them through my anxious fingers. I remembered the warmth that had filled me just an hour earlier when Dugang had proudly held up this gift to me with his gnarled and scabbed stubs, once his fingers. He was beaming.

And now I was grimacing, wincing in awkwardness. I don’t want to get involved, God. I know this would not just be one step. It would be the first of many. Ahh… it’s just too complicated. Too uncertain. I hate this feeling!

Corrie, I’m in this. Trust me.

But God, I’m hurting too much. I can’t give anything right now. My marriage just broke. I’m hurting so bad.

I know. I have a plan. Just take him to dinner.

Argh!!! Ok, God. Ok.
I built up my resolve and waited for the closing cadences of worship, then almost robotically marched out to the gates. He was there, with his mom pushing his wheelchair. I forced out the words, then found myself walking toward a Chinese restaurant down the street. Would they even have wheelchair access?

They did.

So we sat. I ordered a few dishes, and they just smiled back at me, insisting I not get anything too expensive. Ok, God. Here I am.

The conversation started. They were from the countryside, central China. Where? I asked, as my thoughts wandered to the one place I knew in central-ish China: Jingzhou – a small no-name city my husband and I had visited years ago to see friends who were teaching English out in the middle of nowhere.

They smiled and said I probably wouldn’t know the place. It was outside of Wuhan, a city named “Jingzhou”.

My heart stopped, and I almost dropped my hand sanitizer. “Jingzhou?”

They answered yes, and I told them of my connection to the city, that I had been there. They were amazed. Immediate common ground.

The food arrived, and I asked if I could pray. They said yes, and that they were Christians, too. I sat there further stunned, then bowed my head, thinking of what Chinese words I knew to pray. Before I voiced anything, though, I heard whispers, and peeked to notice they were already talking to God. Both of them. Whispering phrases with heads bowed, pouring out their hearts to Him. I sat there with no words except, “God, help” coming to mind as I faced an impossible situation right in front of me.

A 35 year-old man who has suffered from a rare skin condition since he was 3 years old. A condition that has literally eaten away his feet, lower legs, and hands. Rough skin that grows out of control even on his head and face, and must be scrubbed daily to keep his appearance from becoming more unsightly than it is already.

And here he sat, joy and life coming out of him as he carefully lifted food to his mouth with chopsticks, asked me questions about my life, and told me of the overwhelming sense of peace that had settled on him and his mom since they had become Christians 2 years before. “All of our fannao (worries/anxieties) used to weigh on us so heavily, but after praying, He lifted them off of us.”

I felt activated, engrossed. This was not hard. This was right. This was from you, God. This was a set up. You made it easy for me. You knew I would be ok.

They shared with me that they were struggling to afford the medicine they had come to Shanghai to get prescribed, with Dugang taking just half a pill a day instead of the full pill. So his joints were getting stiffer, and skin layers tougher. A tear escaped from my eye, and I said I thought maybe some people in my small group could help them. It was about $10 a day that they needed for the specialized medicine.

As his mom wheeled him out of the restaurant that winter day, I felt relieved, filled, and moved. God, you love these people. They are so “normal”! My common ground with them extending even beyond my familiarity with their hometown, and the shared faith.

I was desperate too. I was desperate for God to help me. For someone to help. For someone to notice me. I was in pain too. I was dying inside, being ripped apart moment to moment as I was attacked by fear, hurt, anger, rejection and loneliness.

But God. You’re here. You see me. You see them. You’re doing something. Somehow, it’s all connected. Them. Me. My husband. I can’t see the full picture yet, but I would have never reached out to them if I hadn’t been in my crisis.

I’ve never been this desperate, God. I’ve never needed you so much. I’ve never been this quiet to listen. But I’m hearing now, I’m listening, I’m following.

Thank you for this season. Heal Dugang’s broken body, and heal my broken heart.

P.S. Dugang now?

Well, over the last 2 years, we’ve continued to support him get medical treatment/medication, helped him pursue a temporary job (which lasted 2 days, but was a good first work experience), and prayerfully bought him an electric scooter to give him independence and mobility.

He still struggles to know how to “move forward” and out of a begging lifestyle, given his physical limitations (no lower legs, shriveled hands). And his mom can’t take care of him so intensively for many more years.

When we get overwhelmed and frustrated with the situation, God reminds us that Dugang is not a “project”. He is a person who we are to love. Dugang’s life vision is to somehow earn money to start a church in his hometown so that others can discover the peace of God. He constantly prays for me, and for my husband, and for every person in our group.

Dugang LOVES people, and we are learning how to just be friends with him, listening to God about next steps – His plans for this unique man, and His plans for us. Your prayer over this situation is VERY welcome, as you feel led.

Dinner at my house with Dugang and some people from small group.

 

Facing “Reality”… and God

Corrie, move on.
Corrie, you’re crazy.
Corrie, just call a spade a spade.
Corrie, you’re in denial.
Corrie, you’re just seeing what you want to see.
Corrie, you need to think about dating again.
Corrie, you can’t wait around forever.
Corrie, your head is in the clouds.

Am I making all of this God stuff up?
Or part of it?
Am I psychologically “fixated” on a certain outcome?
Hearing what I want to hear?
Addicted to suffering?
Attached to and/or conforming my identity to an unhealthy degree with certain (even good) associations people have of me in crisis-mode?

“Corrie, you need to be aware of all the psychological dynamics at play here.”

Ok, ok. I’m aware.
Yes, I’m aware.

I’m all for awareness.
But when is “awareness” just a mascaraed of doubt, mistrust, control and self-reliance?
There can be a thin line.

I’ve tried walking this out differently, in the name of being “aware” and “facing reality.”

I’ve tried questioning and second-guessing every step.
Second-guessing everything I “hear”.
Being “moderate.”
Sifting each experience I have with God through a psychological sieve.

But life is simply not found there.
What drains through is a dead analysis… not joy. not purpose.

And I don’t want to just live a psychologically analyzed and aware life.

The awareness I’m most after is an awareness of God.
Abandon.
Abundance.
Childlike trust in the creator of my mind and my thoughts, the holder of my future, and the straightener of my path.
The One who is most aware, the One with the all-encompassing perspective.
The One who has corrected me, and will continue to correct me when I start fixating on anything but Him.

I don’t really have a lot of answers. I’ve never done this before.
I just have my experiences.

Experiences hearing God’s voice whisper His heart for a plan so incredibly massive and beautiful, I can barely take it in. Experiences following and responding to that same voice, and seeing incredible things happen in the “natural” world of my circumstances. Real people getting real help from Him too, right along with me. Not just me and my “fantasy.”

Am I in denial?
In a way – sure. I guess you could see it that way, in that I don’t look first or primarily at my circumstances to determine my response to this crisis.

Am I fixated?
Sure.
I have to be.

I am learning to fixate with a brand new pair of eyes.
On Him.
Not my outcome, not my circumstances.
Eyes filled with joy and wonder at a God who is writing a story that is much bigger than me, and even my marriage.

A God who constantly reminds me that He is the primary provider of fulfillment, not a husband. He corrects me when I wander into focusing on outcome, helping me to fix my eyes on Him instead.

Am I crazy?
Maybe.
But being crazy is kind of fun.
And faith is definitely crazy.
Fully dependent on a power bigger than me.
Releasing control.

“But, Corrie, you deserve to be happy, protected, cared for.”

But what is happy? Being in a relationship?
What does that solve?

I guess it brings a level of “certainty” to things, which of course, some concerned people around me want for me.

But, is certainty of my circumstances the goal? Locking them down?
No.
I feel that uncertainty in the natural world of my circumstances is exactly where I’m meant to be right now.

There is a storm.
It’s a huge storm.
But I’ve found some strangely stable footing amongst the waves.
A solid narrow strip of certainty as I lock my eyes on the One whose mere breath can silence the storm in a moment.

God’s voice is calling me forward.
To walk boldly, without fear.
Without hesitation.
And to walk gently, savoring this journey.
Each step the beat of a dance with the Creator of the universe.

“But, Corrie, you deserve to be happy, protected, cared for.”

I am.
I am.
I am.

“…to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)

God, I’ll let You keep writing this story, leading this dance.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

 

Fibers in a Tapestry

It was already dinnertime. I locked up my computer and walked out my office door. Shoot, it’s raining. Walking toward my bike in the side lot, I realized I also did not have my rain poncho with me that day.

(Sigh)

I unlocked my lock and grasped my handlebars to roll my bike back. Nothing. It didn’t budge. Totally stuck, the front wheel not turning at all. What? I had just ridden it to work that morning! So strange. I guess a heavy scooter must have hit the front and jammed the gears.

(Sigh)

And all this is after my scooter was just stolen last week.

Ok, Lord, I guess I’m catching a taxi home. I walked out the main gate and off campus. Slowly. Rain splattering on my umbrella and parked cars silently lining the street for parents’ night.

Then I heard it. A tiny cry. And then another one. Meow. Meow. Meoooowww! Growing with an intensity and pitifulness that funny enough, felt like a perfect expression of my transportation woes. I was curious. Then a thought occurred to me: If my bike had not been stuck, I would have raced by and not heard the cry at all.

Approaching the sound, I immediately found myself asking, “God, are you setting me up to rescue a kitty?” The thought totally resonated in me. That would be so cool! More than cool, that would be so… intimate of you, God. So thoughtful, so amazing. Something to greet me when I come home at night, something to cuddle with on the couch, something to remind me of rest, and quietness, and stillness. Hm…

I knelt down by a parked SUV and sure enough, spied a little gray kitten crouching on the dry top of front tire, wild eyes and shaking legs. So cute! Ok, Lord. Is this my kitty from You? I reached for it. But it flinched and scurried further under the vehicle.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that God had caused me to notice this little cat, so I tried again, to no avail.

Ok, God, if this is from You, could you have him walk out and cuddle into my arms in the next 10 seconds? That’s really all I have, or else I really have to go.

I counted. …slowly….. 8….9….10

(Nothing)

So I kept walking.


But then I turned around.
Maybe I hadn’t tried hard enough.

So I got a big sturdy canvas bag from my office, then came out and crouched down again, making kissing noises and clucking noises. I coaxed him to the front of the tire, finally, then reached out slowly, this time successfully letting him sniff me as I gently encircled my fingers around his tiny body.

I smiled. Wow! So close! I pulled my hand toward the bag, but noticed the kitty had dug its nails into the tire and was clinging to it with all its might. A tug of war.

Finally, he released his grip and I seized the moment, lifting him up and over into the bag. His head jerked up and eyes went wild as he frantically scratched around the bag, writhing his body around. Before I could react, he had leaped up and scrambled out of the bag… and right back under the car.

My heart was pounding.

Ok God! I tried! But why did you show me this cat if you didn’t want me to save it? Err…… What are you up to?
I paused. (Nothing)

Well, I know you know what I’m thinking. And you’re definitely up to something. I suppose you could still have it show up at my office tomorrow… or something. I’ll just leave this with you. I’ve done everything I feel I can, and more, and now I’m late to dinner.

I finally walked off, a bit disappointed, but choosing to let it go, knowing that God would have made it clear if He had really wanted me to take that cat home. It would have had to be a perfect cat, because my life is crazy busy enough, and I have no time to deal with a wild and jumpy street cat.

So I went to dinner and told my friend Lisa about the cat I thought God might be giving me. She smiled wistfully: “Oh, Corrie, it would have been so great for you to have gotten a little kitty from God! It would be so like Him to give you one!”

“I know!” I exclaimed, which had been the reason I had tried so hard.

The next day my eyes darted around the street as I approached my office. No kitten. No meowing.

(Sigh) Oh well. God, you see the bigger picture.

Fast forward one week. Thoughts of the kitty behind me. Just enjoying a night full of “chance” but divinely-timed encounters, ending with an intense and incredible sharing time with two close girl friends in downtown Shanghai. The night stretched to 1:00am, and finally as one of them (Andrea) and I walked down the stairs from the other girl’s building to catch a cab together, it was such a nice cool and beautiful night that we decided to walk a ways down the deserted old city street.

Not being familiar with the area, we just picked the least smelly direction and started walking. My eyes wandered up to an old building on my right, a glint of gold from a symbol on it catching my eye. A gold eagle with two snakes. I wondered at its meaning.

I stopped walking and pulled out my phone, snapping a photo of the symbol and of the characters next to it, so I could look them up later.

Andrea, who had paused with me, suddenly made a little squeak as she and I both noticed at the same time a little black and white street kitten padding over toward us. It encircled our ankles and calmly blinked up at us.

Then it hit me. I started to smile. Laugh. I looked around. Deserted street. Really, God? Actually, of course.

I reached down and gently, easily, lifted up the little precious creature into my arms. It immediately settled comfortably and started purring. Not a flinch, not even a twitch. Andrea laughed and gave me a quizzical look. I just smiled and told her I’d explain it on the way, feeling the gentle purring against my right arm as I hailed a cab with my left.

Tonight, I felt energized, full of life, not late to a dinner, not fighting the rain. Tonight, I “happened” to be with a friend who grew up with cats (I had not), and knew exactly how to help me set up my apartment for this cat to get through the night.

Wow. Taking it all in. I didn’t even have to try. No forcing. Just recognizing, responding, receiving. Realizing that I had been perfectly prepared a week prior to receive this gift.

Watching in awe as Andrea gave him his much-needed bath, then held him out to me to take to the couch and cuddle up with. He was purring, and it seems he hasn’t ever stopped. Perfect kitten. Too perfect.

But what is your name, little one?

The next day, my Chinese colleagues peered at my phone as I held it out to show them the photo I had snapped of the old building. “Oh!” they said, instantly recognizing it. “That is an old government building, a lab and center for the analysis of fabric fibers. It’s the place they examine fibers under microscopes to determine if they are authentic.”

I just stood there.
Of course.
His name is Fiber.

And here I am, a small fiber in God’s tapestry, His plan. Seeing only the messy reverse side at the moment, my crisis. It’s such a mess.

How could there be life here, God? How could there be good in this, God? Make it right, God! Make it right. You have to make it right.

Then He says; It is. It’s beautiful. You can’t see it yet. You will. It’s so beautiful. You’ll see. Just wait. You’ll see. Just wait, Corrie. Just wait. Trust me. Everything that looks messy to you, I am weaving perfectly.

Corrie, you are being extracted of every synthetic and inauthentic thing in your life. You are becoming wholehearted. Able to walk in abundance.

I know the pattern. I use it ALL for good. ALL of it. Every part of it. None of the pain is wasted. None of it. You’ll see. Every fiber. All these encounters with me. I’m weaving them. You’re right where I want you to be. Fiber is a reminder for you. I know you. You’re ok. Just rest.

Ok, God. Ok.

God Through Music – Natasha Bedingfield

Ok, so here are some cool ideas: God’s voice in a song. God singing over the earth. Like radio waves. Constantly. His heart for people. His piercing love. His Truth. His sheer joy over me, over you. His confidence in His redemptive work and plan. His confidence in the power of His love that has conquered death and fear.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

If we are open, if we listen, I believe we – anyone, no matter whether or not they are trying to write a “Christian” song – can pick up on this music. I have experienced and heard it most accurately described as getting a “download” of a song, sometimes complete, sometimes in pieces. Tapping into melodies flowing out of heaven, inspired melodies and lyrics that can reveal God’s heart…

Bringing freedom
Bringing joy
Bringing healing

Music is also an amazing medium for us to hear Him speak to us.

I was thinking about these ideas several months ago, standing by my air conditioner (ok, so I have a thing for random details), when suddenly a simple and only slightly familiar name popped into mind as I stood there with God:

Natasha Bedingfield.

Huh? Who is that again, God?
I heard it again, clearly in my mind:

Natasha Bedingfield.

Why would I be thinking that on my own? Um… Ok. I think this is you, God. Hm… I was curious.

So, I walked over to my computer and Googled “Natasha Bedingfield – most recent album.” Two clicks later, I arrived on a page with the lyrics to her most recent hit song “Strip Me”.

My curiosity heightened as I began to read the words that I quickly noticed were about figurative and not literal stripping. Just like I was experiencing in my life.

And if you strip me,
Strip it all away
If you strip me,
What would you find?
If you strip me,
Strip it all away
I’ll be alright

I’m only one voice in a million
but you ain’t taking that from me

Ok, you have my attention, God. I’m being stripped too. It feels like everything’s been taken from me. Ripped away. My husband, my source of confidence, my sense of identity, my comfort, my security, my future.  Everything. All wrapped up in him. With him out of the picture, what do I have left? Who am I? I kept reading.

I don’t need a microphone, yeah,
To say what I been thinking
My heart is like a loudspeaker
That’s always on eleven

That’s when my heart stopped. I read it again: “My heart is like a loudspeaker that’s always on…. ELEVEN?” You’re kidding me. 11. That is my number with God… ever since college. Like, I would be reading verse 11 of something in the Bible and just be overwhelmed with peace, then look over and see it was 11:11pm, or notice that my clunker college car had just in that moment reached 111,111 miles. Things like that. God had always used 11 to get my attention, and remind me of His acceptance over me RIGHT where I was, his perfect sense of timing.

And here it was in the song lyrics, jumping out at me off the page. “My heart is like a loudspeaker that’s always on eleven”. I searched the other lyrics to try to extract some contextual meaning.

Nothing.
Just that “random” phrase sitting in the middle of this song about being stripped.

Ok, God. You’re here. You’re showing me this song. You’re allowing this process of me being stripped. I see that. Your perfect timing. I see that too.

I didn’t have access to YouTube or Itunes at the time, so I couldn’t download the song. Instead, I just made a mental note to try to find it or get a friend to download it for me.

After a couple of weeks not having time to get the song, I was walking past the DVD shop by my house that I hadn’t been into in over a year. But today, as I walked past it, the idea suddenly struck me to go inside. But God, surely they would NOT have Natasha, only the really big names.

So I kept walking, but felt the idea persist. Why couldn’t I let it go? Ok, God. This is crazy, but I’ll go in there and try. Why not?

I stepped into the once familiar shop, wall to wall with “real” DVD’s and CD’s. I scanned the 30 or so CD’s on display, and sighed as I noticed of course, only the most famous names – Mariah Carey, Justin Beber, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, etc. Typical for China.

Just for kicks, though, I called over the store attendant and said in Chinese “Do you have a CD by ‘Na-ta-sha Be-ding-……

That’s when I saw it, right at that moment. I stopped short and sucked in my breath. The “Strip Me” album. Right under a stack of other CD’s in the middle shelf!! I pulled it out in disbelief, and held it up to the lady, asking if it was new.

She looked down and studied the CD, furrowed her brow, and replied (in Chinese) “Strange. I’ve never seen this CD before. It must be new. Only one of its kind. You want to buy?”

I smiled. I laughed. Of course.
“I’ll take it.”

As I listened to “Strip Me” that night, the powerful beat and melody filled my senses. I felt the “fight” in me rise up. The “fight” against the voices of fear and rejection that weighed me down day in and day out. This is a battle. And God’s love wins. Of course. It has already won.

God, you are SO in this song. WOW – awesome!

I stood up and walked around my living room as I played it again.
This time, thoughts about my website started popping up. I had just been exploring the idea to start a website. But what, God? What would it be? How would it be focused? I need you to focus me. There are so many directions it could take.

The music kept flowing.
Then, it was so clear, in an instant.
A slogan. A focus. Three words. But what, God?

Then I knew.
“Stripped.”
That was the first word.
Natasha sang louder, and I paced my living room, feeling alive and free and excited.

Another word flashed to mind.
“Surrendered”.
Yes! Exactly! I knew it was from Him.

This was my journey.
“Stripped. Surrendered….”

The last word felt like it crashed on top of my head.
I laughed out loud, tears of amazement welling up.
“Soaring”

Of course, God! The perfect summary of what You’re doing in the midst of my pain. You allowed it in your wisdom. Allowed me to be stripped of what I thought I needed, bringing me to a place of surrender, then letting me SOAR in your freedom. SOAR over this storm.

The song finally ended and I plopped down on the couch. Activated by the melody. Aware of Him. Tuned in to hear those three words… right from God’s heart… for me. For the website. My website. His website. Stripped. Surrendered. Soaring.

How fun. How brilliant! That was EXACTLY the sense of focus I had been crying out for.

I felt so alive then, and still do every time I listen not only to Natasha, but so many other songs that He uses to release His heart to me. Is Natasha’s music overtly “worship” or “Christian”? Nope, but I believe she has (knowingly or unknowingly) tapped into the radio frequency of God’s heart, his singing over the world.

Maybe that’s what she meant by “My heart is like a loud speaker”. A loudspeaker for God’s voice, amplifying and releasing pieces of His beauty, His peace, His Truth, and reminders of his perfect “11” timing to the world.

I want to be a loudspeaker too.
Tapping into His melodies.
Hearing His voice. His words. His song over me.
Helping others do the same.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Crumpled up Message from God

God’s voice. Sometimes He speaks to me through signs, everyday objects. I’ll be walking down the street and something I see will grab my attention.

For instance…

The street next to my office is a loop that takes about 10 minutes for me to walk around. A few months ago, I was taking a break, walking and thinking, letting my mind drift away from work and starting to feel the familiar pain, creeping up into my lungs. Breathing it in, breathing it out. Throbbing uncertainty.

Slower and slower I walk. Step, step, step.
Why, God? How could this be happening?
It hurts, God.
It hurts so bad.
I’m so scared.
Where are you?
I need you to speak to me.

Then, a stillness.

Corrie, I’m here. I’m all around you.
[Mute.]
Oh, now it’s quiet.
Here we are, together.

Breathing in peace, breathing out peace.
Thank you.

Step, step, step.
(Giggle)
You’re really here.
Yep.
You’re speaking.
Yep.
I’m seeing it. Feeling it. You’re speaking through everything. All the time.
Yep.

Mid-sentence with God, mid-step, and mid-scan for dog poop on the ground, my eyes naturally fell on a bush by the sidewalk…. with a rounded crumple of newspaper, that had been tossed on top of it, somehow inviting me to pick it up.

God, you’re funny.
Why would I notice that?
Should I really pick it up?
Sure.
Gross.

So I reached over. While I was figuring out which two fingernails to grab it with, the last two Chinese characters on a line of crumpled text seemed to stare back up at me. I only knew the first one – tian, meaning sky or heaven. I had no clue what the second one meant.

Ok, God, what do you have for me in “tian _____”?
(silence)
(Just the knowledge that He was there.)

The 3 minute return walk back to my office was uneventful, heightened only by my
twinge of curiosity for what these two characters meant.

An online dictionary popped up with “Tian Lai – an ancient musical flute; also refers to nature sounds”.
Hmmm…. Ok, that’s cool, I guess.
But not that cool. Doesn’t really move me.

Oh well, God.
Thanks for my moments of peace with you just now, anyway.

But…I did sense that You were right there with me when I picked up that newspaper, so… are You going to like, have a Chinese guy playing an ancient musical flute come up to me on the street later or something?
(giggle)
That would be cool. Well, I’ll just wait and see what You might do. I know You’re here, and I know You know exactly what I’m thinking, and what I need, so I’ll just trust that You have something in mind.

Honestly, I almost forgot about that crumpled piece of newspaper the rest of the day. Until about almost midnight, when I was saying goodnight to my Chinese friend Joanne who was staying overnight at my house.

Oh ya.
“Hey, Joanne, what do the words ‘Tian Lai’ mean to you?”
“What?”
“Tian Lai, the Chinese word.”

She grinned and lit up: “Oh, Corrie, who said that to you?”
My curiosity peaked.
“It doesn’t matter, just tell me what you think it means.”
My heart started beating faster.
“Oh, well, obviously. Someone told you that about your voice, right? Your singing. Corrie, that’s the highest compliment someone can give to a singer. It means your voice is pure, open, and heavenly… So who said that to you?”

I sat there, stunned. Sucked in my breath. Tears rising.
Heart pounding.
“God.”

I showed her the newspaper, which I had brought home. The words were used as part of a car advertisement. She shook her head and smiled: “Like I said, Corrie. That’s the highest compliment someone could give to a singer.”

As she closed her bedroom door, I sat there with God on the couch and shared a moment of joy with Him. My dad. My guardian. My best friend. My love. My warrior. Who in the midst of my crying out for my former love – my beloved husband – had decided not to talk to me about my husband, or what to do, or how to move forward in my marriage situation.

Instead, He cut to the core of me, and only He knew how to do it. Singing. Expressing my longings. Truth. Music. His heart. My heart. Beating together.

I’m not rejected. I’m not alone.
I’m known. I’m ok.
I’m loved. I’m adored.
Singing to cut through lies, seizing His heart and reveling in how quickly a painful moment can become a soaring one.

I don’t think there is anything inherently special in objects or signs in and of themselves. We really don’t have to go around hunting for “things.”

What is special, though, are the moments during which we become aware of how surrounded we are by the indescribably powerful, supernatural, and calming presence of God. During the pure delight of these moments, I find He sometimes highlights to us certain objects that happen to be around us.

Tangible exclamation points to what He is already speaking out.
The intermingling of the natural with the supernatural.

Looking up

I live in the tension of two realities – one supernatural and one natural. In the natural, I’m easily scared. Weak, fearful, anxious, looking at my broken marriage and doubling over in pain, twisted and uncertain.

Then I look up.
I blink.
And I breathe in.

There you are, God. This is reality. It is the supernatural. The place of knowing
how immeasurably loved I am. I am free. I am joy-filled. I’m having a massive party in the presence of my enemies who seek to whisper in my ear that I’m alone.

I’m not alone.

I’m part of a supernatural and massive story that has connected with me with dozens of people across these two years of massive life shift. People who have poured Life into me. People I have poured Life into.

People, circumstances and experiences that were synchronized and beautifully written as notes, rests, and measures on a musical score, a tapestry of His kingdom.

As the conductor, God is trustworthy to compose music that infuses Life, abundant Life, into his beloved creation, music that is especially joyful when the natural reality looks and feels bleak, confusing, and Life-threatening.

I can’t go back.
I won’t go back.
The natural is not the complete picture.

Let me stay in this place, looking up.
Up.
Up.
All around, in wonder.

Hearing the music of Your heart.
Seeing the restoration of broken hearts.
In a broken world.

Your kingdom come.
On earth, as it is in Heaven.

 

Under His Wing

“Party of one. Van Ve…zelle.”

“Here.” I raised my hand and walked over to the big orange bus with my yellow helmet and life vest clicked into place.

Colorado. The Arkansas river. The Royal Gorge rafting trip. And me. Party of one. Brilliant.

I knew this was my trip. This was my trip with God. As we bumped along the dusty road, I smiled as I thought of the guy standing in front of me a few minutes earlier in line for gear – a tattoo of a flying eagle stretched across his back. And earlier that day, the eagle sticker on the truck in front of me on the highway.

God has gotten my attention with eagles many times over the past two years. This is a bird that looks an incoming storm in the eye, and instead of running and hiding with the other animals, launches itself into the center of the storm, and is propelled to soar above it.

Not whining about the storm. Not complaining about it. And not just bearing it and waiting it out.

LAUNCHING into it.

There is intentionality in that. There is intensity in that. There is fearlessness in that. It’s not logical. But. . .

It’s truth.

It’s the kingdom.

The upside down, inside-out kingdom.

And so I have launched into this crisis. I am pursuing my dreams with God. This was a small one, but an important one nonetheless – doing something fun on my otherwise packed U.S. holiday. Rafting. By myself. It’s funny because in this season, I find I’m not scared of doing things on my own anymore. In fact, I often look forward to them.

“Party of one. Van Vezelle; You’re with Schwartz, party of 4.”

I walked over to meet the Schwartzes. Mom, dad, brother, and sister, in Colorado on vacation from California. The Bay Area? Oh, that’s where I went to high school. “Oh, you both went to Monte Vista high school as well?” How am I not surprised? Some days, everything feels like a God set-up.

And so I became kid #3 in the Schwartz family. And we soared down the Arkansas river together as a team, hilariously cracking each other up and trying to paddle in sync as our guide (who we nicknamed “Scrappy”) yelled commands over the roar of the Class 3 and 4 rapids.

We screamed together as we stopped to jump off some high rocks. Shivered together as the fast breeze whipped through the canyon. Exhaled in relief together as the sun quickly warmed us up after the splashes of each rapid.

According to Scrappy, this was the first clear afternoon they had had in a while, and not too hot. I drank in the beauty, eagerly awaiting the “Soaring Eagle” zipline ride to follow the rafting trip.

But the zipline ride was closed when I got there. Closed. You’re kidding me. It was 6pm, and it closed at 5:30. Since it’s a new trip combo, even the rafting people didn’t realize that. Here I was from China. The Soaring Eagle was closed.

Frustration came quickly. I was mad, irritated, thrown off. I drove back down the mountain feeling pain bubbling up. Why was I so mad? Deeper pain than realized. Fear that I was somehow living in a state of denial about my circumstances, that God is in fact not real, fear that I was alone.

God, why? I thought You were in this. You showed that zipline to me online. What the heck? I drove in silence and felt pain creeping up. Fear. I’m alone. Tears falling onto the steering wheel of my rental car.

Then a thought came, crystal clear. “You’ll be back to Colorado. Back to ride the Soaring Eagle zipline.”

I sat with it a moment. And then I knew it was from Him. All of sudden, I felt myself relaxing. That peace I’ve come to know. The Soaring Eagle was from Him. Just not for now.

Exhale.

I noticed the sunset starting on my left. It looked like a huge wing, half of an eagle, arching across the sky. It was what I felt. One wing intact, and one wing missing in my life. But… it was also like the wing of God, a place of refuge for me.

Then the road turned, and the wing was now in front of me. Actually, here I was, driving directly underneath it! My body relaxed even more. God, you knew exactly what I was thinking. I’m safe here with you, God. Under your wing.

What an incredible day. Hearing God’s voice. Launching forward and now resting in that quiet place above the storm.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a license plate that said: “1FLUOVR”. Yes, You did.

 

Led to Castlerock

“If it’s not too good to be true, then it’s not God.”

That’s Graham Cooke. A speaker and author who has been a huge positive influence in my life. I got to shake his hand on Thursday night at his conference in Castle Rock, Colorado.

He wears purple or red socks when he speaks, and he has a brilliant relationship with God.

I’ve listened to Graham talk about God for more than 10 years, and each time, I find I can just breathe easier. That’s what Truth does. That’s what God’s voice does.

I was reminded in dozens, literally dozens of ways this past week that I am loved. A beloved child. A beloved daughter. A friend of God. That’s what Graham talks about, and that’s what God did.

I felt bombarded by signs of love from Him. Ways He let me know that He is around. That I’m ok. That His plan and His love are bigger than this pain I feel.

This pain I feel is still very real. It seizes me when I watch movies with any kind of romance (so I don’t). It causes me to easily slip into irritability and anger if I’m not careful. Pain. It’s just always there, right below the surface. How could this be happening, and how could my husband not be here? Endless swirling questions.

But God. You are my focus, not this pain. You brought me here. To see Graham Cooke. I had been dreaming months ago about this year, and things I wanted to do. “Meet Graham Cooke” had seemed like a random thought, until I had sensed an immediate “Yes” from God. God’s voice.

What? How? Would he be in China on tour?

I remember looking online. Nope. Not China. But Colorado! In August! The same place and time I would already be there for my family reunion, the one time it would work for me.

So I met him. Attended his conference. Soaked for 3 days in truth that affirmed every part of my journey with God, reveling in his spectacular love and kingdom that must be too good to be true. But that’s the point.

I had also sensed that I was to meet the pastor of the church where the conference was, because I felt compelled to share with him how God had highlighted Castle Rock (the town) in a couple of ways to me, and how He had brought me from China. But I had not yet had the chance.

It was the last day of the conference, and I had to leave early. He was sitting in front, and I couldn’t disturb him. Shoot. Oh well, I’ll just email him.

I got up with my things to head out, and walked toward the back of the sanctuary. I noticed movement on my right; someone else was also walking out mid-session, down the center aisle. It was the pastor! We got to the back door at the exact same moment, and I knew this was God giving me my opportunity. We stepped into the foyer.

“Hi, do you have 10 seconds?” I asked. He said sure.

The 5 minute conversation that followed gave me chills. He had been to China and has a heart for it. He had also encountered a similar marriage crisis in his life. He had also gotten several other confirmations like mine about Castle Rock. Wow.

We parted ways, encouraged by a God that causes paths to cross. As I turned to walk outside to my rental car, I noticed he was actually headed toward the restroom – the reason he had gotten up mid-session.

God, you are funny.

So intentional. So intimate. Up to something huge in this city of Castle Rock, Colorado, and allowing me to be a part of it for the weekend. With Graham Cooke. Awesome!

Thank you.

 

Surprise from God in the Comfort Inn

Stuck.
Frustrated.

Up late again in my apartment.

Turns out I made a mistake in my flight booking and had to cancel my ticket and buy a new one, which meant I would be stuck in the Denver airport from 1:00am-7:00am before my morning flight to Virginia. So… looking online for motels, airport sleeping lounges, reasonably priced hotels.

An hour ticked by, China Internet painfully slow. Found a few things, but just couldn’t decide. Why pay $100 for a few hours of sleep? Should I sleep in the airport?

In this new season I’m in, listening and responding to the voice of God, normally I’m very decisive and don’t second guess myself, so I was caught off guard: God, help! Could you help me give me peace as I book a hotel?

Crickets.

Where are you, and why are you being silent?

[Sigh]

Another hour of hotel search engines and prices popping up on my screen. Frustrated. Couldn’t commit. So I went to bed.

About to fall asleep and an idea occurs to me. I speak it out: “What if I’m not feeling peace about booking a hotel, God, because you don’t want me to book a hotel yet? Hm… maybe you have something else for me that night in Denver?”

I sensed a “Yes” from Him in my spirit, and fell asleep with the beginnings of peace.

So I started wondering and looking for God as I took my flights a few days later. Shanghai to LA, LA to Denver.

Would the nice family sitting next to me invite me to their house for a few hours? Would the flight attendant know of a secret lounge she would let me into with a couch to sleep on?

Nope.

Nice family next to me. Nice flight attendant.

No invitation. No secret free lounge.

Still no place to sleep.

Ok God, I’m not seeing or hearing anything from you, but I know you know that…

Still feeling that sense of anticipation that He might do something, and was asking me to trust Him.

I walked around the empty airport for a few minutes. 2:00am

Crickets.

Suddenly, a mural painted on the wall caught my eye. A purple bird was there, rising up from a fiery scene. Like a purple phoenix. That’s funny. Am I on the right track? Hm…

Ok, God, you’re here. But what are you up to? I do still need a place to sleep. Should I just sleep in the airport? You know I want to take a shower, though, before my reunion later…

Now what?

I saw the hotel board and courtesy phone in front of me and decided to just move forward and call one, and probably pay a high rate. Oh well. I needed to take a shower. And maybe God had just wanted me to see that cool mural, and practice trusting Him. Maybe I was just delusional and should have booked my hotel earlier and been more decisive. I don’t know.

I was too tired to think anymore. But strangely calm. I called a few hotels from the courtesy phone.

No answer.
Fully Booked.
Fully Booked.
No answer.
One with a room, but $139. Eek!
Indecisive feeling again.

Ah!! Are you kidding me?

God, come on! Are you really going to have me sleep on the floor in here?

“Hello, this is Aaron.” The Comfort Inn. Finally, I got through. Aaron had a clear voice, like a friend. He said he had a free room; I said great, and then strangely, he said: “Wait, so you’re at the airport right now?” I said yes. He said, “Oh great, would you mind to help me see if there are customer service people around? I have a situation here, and I’m trying to get a hold of the airport.” I replied, “Sure… then could you give me a good rate?” He said, “How about $69.99?” I said “Sure!” and then proceeded to run around the airport looking for a service person. Empty. Everyone had gone home.

I called back and told him, and he said thanks for trying. Hopped in the airport shuttle and arrived 30 min later at the hotel. Oh well, God. Thanks for at least giving me a good rate at the last minute to this hotel. Maybe you still have something up your sleeve. Whatever it is, I’m open.

Walking into the lobby. An anxious hysterical woman is pacing back and forth across the lobby. She looks at me: “Oh, YOU’RE the one who was trying to help me and find an agent at the airport. Thank you for trying!”

I stared at her blankly. Oh ya, Aaron’s request.

Her story spills out. Cancelled flight. Hotel voucher. Cab brought her to the wrong Comfort Inn, and wouldn’t come back to bring her to the right one. She was out of money. Had a flight the next day and didn’t have a place anymore. Had been on the phone with the airline management an hour and a half. At her wits end.

Ok, God. There You are.

I talked to Aaron about changing my king to two queens, and he said “I have a better idea, since you’re doing a good deed.” 3 clicks later he was handing me a key for a room with a FREE upgrade to a suite – two queen rooms connected by a bathroom.

I walked over to the woman and told her to turn off her phone; she was staying with me for the night.

Exhausted relief and a handshake. Robyn. Corrie. “Nice to meet you, roomie!”

Crisis averted, and God’s answer to this woman’s prayer and mine. I tried to suppress a torrent of giggles under my breath with Him.

Why would I ever want my previous mindset back where I’m trying to be in control all the time, and never really expecting to hear from God? I had tuned out for so long to His intimate involvement in my daily life.

Now? My job is to listen, follow, and trust, even when I sometimes just hear crickets or the dreaded word “wait”. To enjoy God’s intimate voice and presence every moment, knowing His answer to my questions and prayers are waiting to be found just around the corner, in His perfect timing, not mine.

I feel like I’m in training. On a fun adventure.
Surrendered.
Soaring.

 

God’s Voice – Piercing like an Arrow

I find myself sitting here thinking of ways to describe what encounter with God is like, what hearing God’s voice is like. Sometimes it is like a mute button. The noise of my thoughts and fears and life get drowned out and I feel a calm and stillness, the sense of being seen and noticed, loved.

Sometimes, it’s like an arrow – a sharp, distinct act of God’s kindness catching me off guard and hitting me right in the heart. Almost knocking the wind out of me.

When this happens, I find myself bursting out laughing, or crying, or both. Such a relief to feel seen, known and loved so precisely and intimately.

One such experience happened just the other day as I was staying up late booking my flights online for my upcoming trip to the States. Anxiety and guilt came to hover around me on the couch as I glanced at the minutes ticking by… 2:03am, 2:04am… reminders of how miserably I had been failing at my goal of getting to bed by 11pm. I thought about how tired I would be the next day at work. And fares were all high. Shoot. I should have been looking earlier.

(Sigh)

Pressing on. I skyped my parents to ask for details about my family reunion in Denver, and what events would be happening when, so I could book flights accordingly. They surprised me a bit when they said, “Why don’t you just make an appearance at the reunion instead of trying to stay the whole time, and take some time to just get away and relax?”

Relax? On a trip back to the States to see family and friends when I’m only there a couple times a year? That’s rather unheard of for me, but wow, for some reason when my parents mentioned that, it kind of resonated with me, and I felt a twinge of excitement.

I looked at my dates again and suddenly realized I was scheduled to leave Denver (back to Shanghai) a full day later than I had originally thought. That left an open Saturday on the calendar, just staring up at me from my computer screen. The excitement twinge grew to a flutter, and for kicks, I googled “Things to do in Denver.”

One click later, I landed on a white water rafting site, which was the first thing that caught my eye. The site boasted a discount for any raft trip (I love discounts!), as well as a new combo deal: a half day of rafting, plus a cable car/zipline ride at dusk. Then my eyes fell on the name of the rafting trip, and the name of the zipline. That’s when I gasped and burst into tears.

The “Royal Gorge” and the “Soaring Eagle”. An arrow of God’s kindness straight to my heart (see “The Name” section of this website to find out why).

Instantly feeling released to enjoy a day with Him, relaxing and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Anxiety about seeing every single family member possible? Gone.

Guilt about staying up late and being a disappointment? Gone.

That’s what an arrow of kindness from the living God does, cutting through our fearful fog. What a relief to know my trip is in His hands, and to be reminded that I too, am in His hands.

His very capable universe-sized hands.