Sunday, April 14, 2013

Love and Goodness

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This verse from Matthew 28 is the verse that many evangelical Christians base their ministry on: making disciples of everyone and baptizing them, embracing the idea of washing them of their sins. However, this morning I heard a sermon called "Manifesting the Goodness of God" by at The Rock Church of Asheville that really put the idea of evangelism and the spreading of the Gospel into perspective. It was based off of the apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Romans: "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent in knowledge and competent to instruct one another...I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done--by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit... It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written:
'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.'"
(Romans 15:14-21)

Paul did not force the Gospel on anyone, rather he let God's goodness radiate through his words and actions. I know I say it a lot, but I don't think I can advocate it enough: the best way to reach people is through simple love and hospitality. It is, believe it or not, possible to manifest Christ without deliberately doing so. Many Christians make the mistake of over-Christianizing themselves. Sounds weird, and you're probably offended right now (which would kind of prove exactly what I'm trying to say)...just bear with me.
Take, for instance, the example of a simple dinner party or a neighborhood barbecue. I can speak from experience, having helped my family plan many such a party. Christian music pouring through the stereo, not a drop of alcohol in sight--most of you know what I'm talking about. Everything is catered to the host's taste. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Christian music or sobriety, I fully advocate both. However, hospitality is about the guest...this is probably news to a lot of people.
People are much easier to reach in an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable.
In the words of Ian Green, our homes ought to be fishing boats rather than castles. We should be more interested in the person and soul that we're reaching than in the words we plan to use to pour into them. Become a friend. Use love to build a bridge into someone's life, and the draw toward the Gospel will follow as you love them and consequently manifest God's love and goodness.

But seriously, think about it. You can deny it all you want, but it's impossible to deny that the simplest things can turn everything around for any person at any given time. It's part of who we are; we're programmed to fall in love with the most simple forms of love and beauty, and I wholeheartedly believe that it's because God shows himself in the simplest ways. He works in simplicity. In fact, I think God's life epitomizes simplicity: he loves us unconditionally. We all know that, and we ought to strive for that kind of love: love without restraint and love without judgment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It's been well beyond a year since I've even touched the link to this blog, and that needs to change. I think this is a yearly thing for me: new year, back to the blog about simplicity and Jesus and what not. But let's be real here, the new year brings nothing but passing time. A fresh start is something that should never wait for a changing number.
So here I am, well into the process of my own personal fresh start, and by no means oblivious to the fact that  my level of consistency is currently at a pretty stagnant negative. That's beside the point though, because the deep-thinking portion of my brain is working again as I prepare to close the book on one of the Watanabe family's few and far-between family holiday vacations.
Today was our final day of holiday celebration. My youngest cousin is currently four and with each farewell gesture between myself and the little rascals I call my family, my heart lurched in attempt to remain as close as possible for as long as possible. It's a relatively regular occurrence during such times, but this time it was magnified. I was rendered numb and completely speechless, a feeling I've known only a few times before.
Finally, hours upon hours later, it hit me: Sandy Hook--the most sickening and devastating incident this year and possibly in my lifetime thus far. Even a month later, my mind is unable to put aside the revulsion it feels toward the entire situation. Every time I hear a word that even remotely relates to the tragedy, my heart shatters and leaves me senseless. I simply am unable to absorb a single word spoken on the incident and my mind will never be able to wrap itself around the kind of evil involved in that kind of devastation. It's not that I can't or won't sympathize with the families, it's that I don't possess the capacity to accurately express just how much my heart breaks with and for them. The faces, the stories, the tears--I've never been more overwhelmed in my 18 years of existence. And now I get it. As I embraced my younger cousins, it sunk in that I have no way of telling when I'll see them again. I have missed and will continue to miss numerous triumphs and tribulations--birthdays, graduations...milestones that can never be relived. Milestones that a group of Connecticut families no longer have a hope of celebrating. And as easy as it is for me to sit here in this recliner and spew out lines about how God has a plan and everything will turn out well, I refuse to think, speak, or even type those words regarding the death of innocent children and their caretakers. I can't do it and I won't.
I take so much for granted on a daily basis, and it took the pain of these families for me to realize that everyone that walks in and out of my life is a blessing whether I want to believe it or not. And no matter how often I say that I can't wait to see my loves again, I have no guarantee of that.

20 pairs of chubby hands will never again stretch out to embrace their mommies, to color a page, to chase a pet, to grasp a pencil, to obtain a diploma, to shake the hand of an employer, or to hold the hand of a spouse, now wrapped around the arms of the same God who reaches out His hand to give us breath and the ability to live the lives that those little angels never will.

If for nothing else, I encourage you to live each and every day in this new year with conviction and purpose for those whose potential will never come to be.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taking Hold

We all know those times in our life when we hit a peak spiritually and we feel like our relationship with God has hit it's pinnacle and we are just on fire to impact the world and dive deeper into what Christ has for us. And we also know those times when our footing slips and we plummet into a valley so deep we doubt that we'll ever emerge. Sometimes, these valleys manifest themselves in our physical, everyday lives and other times, they come about just through doubts or stresses that cause us to have problems with and within ourselves. But here's the thing: sometimes we have to fight. Actually, there will almost always be a struggle. Christianity is no walk in the park but there is a ray of light: we have help. When I say help, I'm not talking about those around us (even though they were placed in our life for a reason and they're great too), but God. He will never leave our side no matter how many relationships come and go, how many illnesses we suffer, or how many times we stab Him in the back. God's love never fails. However, in His unfailing love, He intentionally leaves us the room to grow on our own. That's what the valleys are for.
See, I'm the type of person who, when I fall from my peak, I mope and wallow in my low state until God sends something or someone along to literally drag me from my state of distress. But it dawned on me today as I felt myself physically and emotionally begin to stumble, that I didn't have to even let myself slide. Jesus is always throwing down a rope and I have been failing all along to look up and take old of it. Today I did and while the suffering is still there, I know that the hope I cling to now will sustain me and pull me from my descent into the cavern.
Now that I've read over that, it sounds pretty simple. But it takes a lot more work then one would expect. The thing I personally must remember is that the hard part is not being pulled up, it's taking the time to realize that the rope is there. And that means that at all times I need to strive to keep God as my focus so that when I slip, my natural reaction is to reach up and take hold of the rope of Christ's unconditional Love.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Power in Being Powerless

You know those times when you just want to curl up in the corner, snuggle up with something warm and soft, and just cry? Those times when you feel like the weight of the world has just crashed down on your shoulders and the only thing to do is sob until you can't breathe anymore? Well I know these times all too well.
Tears can represent so many different things to me; they can be tears of joy or tears of sorrow, painful tears or angry tears, and sometimes they can just be tears. But what is the purpose of them? The times I cry the most are the times that I'm a wreck--a big ball of jumbled emotions just waiting to explode in whatever way they can to release the pressure on my heart. And I always feel the aftermath of these random emotional breakdowns: red puffy eyes, dehydration, loss of appetite, shakiness, and fatigue...not pleasant things, in other words. But when I'm broken is when it's the easiest to reach me. When I'm completely run-down and have no idea where to turn, when all I can do is cry because I don't know what to do other than fall apart; these are the times when my life is most effectively changed. 

"What if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?"

I've always been told things like: "As women, sometimes we just need a good cry, because we have a lot of pent-up emotions." But I've never really contemplated the power in tears until this morning when I heard "Blessings" by Laura Story. "What if your healing comes through tears?" I've never thought of that. I've always just let tears flow when they need to, but I've never thought about them as a blessing. There are always going to be valleys in life, and as much as we'd all like to say that we can "do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]", we can't always expect to be able to stand tall and weather every storm that comes our way. This is a huge struggle for me especially, but it occurred to me today that maybe instead of asking God to give me strength or courage or patience, maybe it's time to just let myself break down and allow God to carry me through the valleys so that I'll have the strength to climb the mountains.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

You know those days when you just feel like you've lost a part of your life? Well, I do. And the past week or so have been lacking in a sincerely vital part of human existence: SLEEP. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, 'tis just a fact that sleep is needed. But between exams, job searching, exams, prom, exams, drivers' ed (yeah, I know, it's late), exams, plays and their parties, exams, Ghana Rock, exams, and other things such as exams, there isn't much time for vital functions such as eating and sleeping.
However, in this hectic few weeks before my summer officially begins, I've been reminded of a few things.
First, patience and self-control are very good things to have not only to deal with others, but also with one's self. Without them, you'll do silly things like allow yourself to become unnecessarily stressed, and possibly contract Shingles. Lemme just inform the world right now: no matter what anyone says, having Shingles is not a fun experience.
Secondly, just when life seems the darkest, is when it is bound to become the brightest. Perhaps I'm wrong on this one, but the way the world works is that the dark comes just before the why wouldn't life work the same way? I'll admit that in this case my analogy might be a bit skewed, but bear with me...the darkness in my life is my personal "calm before the storm". Why is this, you may ask? Because think about the power and beauty behind a thunder storm. Have you ever really taken the time to sit through the cool, whistling breezes before a storm? If not, take the time to, and then sit back and watch the skies unfold and the clouds roll as thunder, lightning, and rain strike the earth with a terrifying strength. In my opinion, a thunder storm is a divine display of our Savior's ultimate power. When I see a thunder storm, I can only imagine God's thought process...I feel like He must have a stunning smile on His face as His power is displayed in some of the most powerful forces of nature. In short, I believe that a storm is a huge tool for God to show Himself.
And that's what I want to be; I want to be God's "thunderstorm". I want to be someone that He can use to display His supreme power and beauty; and, if that means going through a few rough patches (the "calm"), so be it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Everyone's heart can be related to a location of some kind. Whether it be an open field, a house, or a fortress, everyone's heart has its own qualities, residents, and security measures. But if each and every human heart is, in reality, some form of fortification, what does it mean to be broken-hearted?
According to Webster, to be broken-hearted is to be "overcome by grief or despair", but I don't believe this definition to fully encompass the meaning behind a truly broken heart. As I was reminded on Sunday morning, the only way for someone to break another person's heart is for that person to break through the heart's "security", and become rooted in it in order to break it down from within. After having their heart broken enough times, a person begins to become hardened, as they are forced to refortify the guard around their heart. When someone's heart is broken by someone or something around them, it is a hard and tedious process to rebuild the guards around it without hardening themselves to another situation or person. All that said to state the obvious: a broken heart is a negative thing.

"Break my heart for what breaks yours..."
So why is it that as Christians, we ask God to break our hearts? For some, it's just an impulse...we enjoy that brief spiritual moment when we feel broken over something God brings to our attention. But for others, it's so much more than that. For God to truly break our hearts, we must be willing to let Him through the walls and allow Him to take root in our lives, captivating us and breaking our hearts completely in the process.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What if Everyone...?

A very thought-provoking question, and one most people ask quite frequently.

What if...

What if everyone served their community in a practical way. Take a moment to think about it. What if everyone took the time to attempt solving a piece of the world's needs. Perhaps I am mistaken, but the domino effect works anywhere it is powerfully applied. Imagine for a moment that the need in the world is equivalent to a game of Jenga. Every time one person pulls one block from the tower, it becomes weaker until finally, it collapses completely. Sure, there are parts of the world that are significantly poorer than others. But if one place can be affected, are those peoples incapable of spreading their newly acquired resources to other less fortunate peoples? On the did America become a super-power country? Were we always a world power? We fed off the successes, desires, and passions of a few people, and ran with it from there. What if everyone took the same passion that some have for reaching the world, and applied it to themselves. Imagine...this should be a world-wide vision: to inspire everyone to serve humanity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Step at a Time

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. 
~Victor Hugo~

The past 3-4 weeks have been the definition of insanity: insane people, insane schedules, and insane amounts of work. And as I came out of the month of insanity today, I realized that it is not over. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We cannot expect to change other people, or the way they see us, or the things they say to/about us. There is only one thing I know I can change without a doubt: myself. Does this mean that to stop the insanity, I have to change myself completely?
On the contrary: in order to handle the insanity, I must remember to keep my focus on God and God alone.  And rather than sit here in my bedroom fuming day after day about the fact that I cannot find the solution to life's insanity, why not get up, get out, and live my life taking one careful step at a time?

Don't let the momentary trappings of this world hold you down, but cast your anxieties on God, and remember to "go to sleep in peace" because His mercies are new each day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"...nothing...except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

Every human seeks wisdom.

Whether this desire for wisdom stems from a power-hungry mindset or simply a servants' heart, wisdom can be just as dangerous as it can be helpful. Wisdom is formally defined as: "accumulated philosophic or scientific learning" and is commonly held as synonymous to words such as "knowledge" or "insight". However, what is biblical wisdom?
As much as I would love to say I have the answer to this question, I do not. However, I do have an opinion.

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith may not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
~I Corinthians 2:1-5~

Perhaps I am misreading this verse, but this is my take on it: let God's wisdom speak for itself. And do not always be quick to speak out of your experience or wisdom. Wait for God to use you and speak through you. And when He does, give him the glory for it!

In this way, you not only draw others to God (rather than your own sufficiency), but you also draw yourself closer to God in knowing "nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified".

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Broken & Poured Out

"The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want."
~Mark 14:7

I have read the above passage many a time, but never truly taken the time to dissect it and really focus on each verse, sentence-by-sentence. When has there been a time in history when everyone on the planet has been well-off and lacking the need for help? Never. We may not be able to physically throw ourselves down at His feet on a day-to-day basis, but I think the command in Mark 14 is quite transparent: help the poor. In doing so, we are not only providing for and blessing other mortals, but we are also bringing glory to our Savior.

"She did what she could."
~Mark 14:8

The woman in the story reflected in her own mortal way what Jesus did for all mankind on the cross. He gave all he had, broken and poured out to save us from eternal damnation. Shouldn't we do all we can for God?
Forgive the sport reference, but one thing I tell myself and my teammates before a basketball game is to give 100% and leave everything out on the court so that each and everyone of us can say that we gave our all, win or lose. I firmly believe that this also applies to our lives as Christians: give 100% of yourself and your resources to God, and "leave it all on the court".