Christmas Reflection 1 – Strength in Joy

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Christmas is my favorite season of the year. The spirit of rejoicing and giving that comes with it is contagious. Although it has been commercialized in many ways, the true essence of Christmas is still very real in my life. There are three more days until Christmas so it has been impressed on my heart to write a personal reflection each day on Christmas.

I was inspired to share my own Christmas reflections after reading my Christmas devotional on the Bible app. Initially, I was going to journal this then I remembered stumbling over my blog and how encouraging it was reading my previous posts so here I am blogging again. Below is an excerpt from the Chris Tomlin devotion that inspired me:

“When God sent His son as a baby, no one knew the birth of this child set into motion God’s epic plan to redeem mankind. Today, this is not only where His story begins, it’s where our story begins, too. While we were yet sinners, God decided to send a Savior for us. And while He did it in the smallest of forms and the unlikeliest of ways, His perfect plan was unfolding all along. Two thousand years later, it’s easy to see the bigger picture. Looking back, it’s easy to trace the fingerprints of God’s larger purpose at work.

When we reflect on the past, we can see God’s faithfulness more clearly. We can remember how He’s come through for us and how He’s uniquely woven His plan into our lives.” -Chris Tomlin

SO here I am remembering the past in order to see God’s faithfulness and renew my trust in Him.

I read through Luke 1: 26-56, which is when Jesus’ birth was foretold to Mary then she visits Elizabeth to share the news with her. It is such a beautiful story of strength and joy.

Why strength? In the age we live in today, many are very concerned with people and their opinions on their lives. During my time as Miss American Samoa, it was ALL that I was concerned about. I wanted to portray the title the way everyone else saw fit. Going back to Mary, she displayed strength that I truly believe was not her own but from the Lord. She was basically a teenage girl who wasn’t married, but about to be pregnant. If it’s somewhat shameful in our society today, just imagine how much more in the Bible times. YIKES!  Yet, she didn’t complain. She was scared I’m sure, but her response is one that has been used in sermons all over the world…

“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.”  – Luke 1:38 (NLT)

I have read this story many times, but this statement hit me hard for the first time. I was sitting here thinking, “WHAAAAAA!?!?!” She was about to be pregnant without a husband yet HER FAITH! Her faith in the Lord and His plans blows me away. The story continues after this with Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth who the Lord had also blessed with a child to pave the way for Jesus. When Mary gets to Elizabeth, the Bible says Elizabeth’s baby leaped within her and the Holy Spirit filled her.

42. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43. WHy am I so honored, the the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44. When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”
-Luke 1:42-45 (NLT)

This is when the joy factor comes into this story. They rejoiced in the Lord’s plans. Although I’m sure they knew it would not be an easy road, they rejoiced none the less. Mary even has a song of praise she says after Elizabeth said what she said.

I thought to myself. Do I have that kind of strength to trust the Lord? How many times have I rejoiced in the Lord knowing the journey is about to get “interesting”? How many times have I relied on the Lord’s strength and submitted to Him when He asks me to do something unheard of?

To be honest, I don’t have that kind of strength. That kind of strength comes from spending time with the Lord and cultivating a relationship with Him that I’ve lacked. The relationship that I relied on for the past year is now wavering and because of that I’m falling a part. It’s interesting how the Lord always brings us back to Him when we start to stray. He allows the consequences of choices hurt so He can heal. Like Mary, we need Elizabeths in our lives to remind us that we are highly favored by God and that we should remember we are blessed because we believe in what God is going to do. I’m reminded I can find strength when I rejoice in what the Lord has planned. I’m reminded I  can find strength by believing His Word. I’m reminded I can find strength in His joy. If there is anything I love about Christmas, it’s the JOY that surrounds the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Thank You Jesus for allowing Your joy that brings strength to fill the world especially during the Christmas season. I pray that everyone especially those who are hurting during this time can experience the same gladness Mary and Elizabeth had by remembering Your perfect plan and that Jesus is the reason we rejoice every Christmas season.

Joy to the world/ the Lord has come/ let earth receive her King/ let every heart prepare Him room/ Let heaven and nature sing/ Let heaven and nature sing/ Let heaven/ Let heaven and nature sing.

Three Days Later

Sometimes I wonder what was going on in the heavens on the second day before Jesus rose on the third day. So many different things could’ve been going on in the heavenly realm and even down below.

All I know is Jesus died on the cross and rose again three days later. I like to think it was specifically for me. He sacrificed His blood for me. Every drop of blood that fell from Him was so I don’t have to die in my sin.

He died so I can live. It’s the simple truth. When He rose from the grave, I received power to live the way God intended me to live. Thanks to Jesus, I can now have a relationship with God freely. I don’t have to live in fear of where I will spend eternity. Three days later, I have hope. I have peace. Most of all, I have love.

Thirsty ?

Imagine yourself running a race. You had water in the beginning but that’s it. You’ve gone for at least half an hour and you can feel yourself longing for water to rehydrate your body. An hour passes and you still haven’t had any water. Your pace slows maybe even to a brisk walk. You’re still going hoping to finish the race. Finally you can’t take it anymore. You need water, but you won’t settle for the disgusting public water fountain that everyone puts their mouths on. No. You won’t get off track for that. You know there’s a water station up ahead so you push until you reach that place where there’s water specifically for those running the race.

For the past couple of weeks I found myself at a place where my spirit was dry & thirsty in this spiritual race I’m in. I longed for more than just a touch from God. I longed to know God personally, but I was too busy running I didn’t want to stop at a water station to rehydrate myself in His presence. I forgot the importance of really getting in my word and spending time with Him.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.

(Psalm 63:1 NLT)

This was my cry. This is exactly how I was feeling. I’m sure we have all come to a point where we thirst for something. We want it. We need it. We cry out for it. Our body can’t function properly without it. This is how much we should want God. God wants us to thirst for Him. You think you’re the only one who loves to feel wanted? How much more does God want you to want Him? I’ve learned He desperately does because He wants to be intimate with us. He wants His Spirit to be the water that rehydrates and strengthens on this race we’re running. My question for you reading this is just how thirsty are you for God?

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Empty My Soul

I have two God-fearing ladies that I turn to because they really help me do life God’s way. My Ikki-Ikki and my Chen Chen (kind of just clicked that my nicknames for them both consist of a repetitive weirdness. Haha) have been my spiritual sisters for a while. We all have shared sins and scriptures throughout the course of our relationship with each other. We’re all very different in many ways, but we have a common denominator. We are all daughters of the King living life on earth learning to bring Him glory and honor. One confession session with these ladies and I feel refreshed and ready to allow God to help me take on any situation.

God desires us to have fellowship with people who will uplift us and uplift Him at the same time for our benefit. When we confess to God and others, we are literally emptying out our soul. People go on breaks and vacations to clear their mind. Your soul needs the same type of “clearing” from the guilt that sin binds us in.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16 NLT)

In confession and prayer, we find a feeling of renewal. I’m not saying go and sin some more then confess and get cleansed again. Like the woman Jesus forgave after she was forced to confess her sin of adultery; Jesus tells us the same message after we confess, “Go and sin no more.”

Emptying your soul is simple, but you need to be in fellowship with God and the right people. Find your Ikki-Ikki and Chen Chen in your life and let the healing begin. Trust me when I say you haven’t experienced the power of freedom until you’ve experienced the power of prayer.


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These Are My Confessions

Boy did I love Usher while growing up. I remember when he released his album Confessions I memorized every word for every song (yes I was that obsessed with him.) I would even use his lyrics when I had no words to confess whatever it was I was feeling.
David used music to confess too except, unlike me, he confessed how he felt towards God. Because he confessed daily his love for God while alone, he was able to confront Goliath and confess before him and all of Israel the awesomeness of God and what He was going to do.
God wants to help us with the Goliaths in our lives, but if we don’t memorize His Word like we memorize songs how do you expect to know what to confess? When a person comes to the realization that they need God it is because they heard His Word somehow, somewhere. Once we become saved we need to continue to seek God by discovering the truths of His Word. The Bible is like His lyrics except its the soundtrack of our lives that we need to confess daily.

“God’s Word goes on and on forever. This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.” (1 Peter 1:25 MSG)

Best part of confessing God’s Word in your life is it remains the one constant when everything else seems to be very fluid. 1 John says when you confess that Jesus is the Son of God you will find yourself becoming more intimate with God because He resides in you. This is where we draw strength from. There is great power in the tongue, but even greater power in confessing the Word of God in your life. “These are my confessions.

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Space Jam and Faith

One of my favorite movies of all time is Space Jam especially because the soundtrack is awesome. I remember when I was younger I used to think our world was connected to to Looney Toon world through golf holes because of this movie. Yes I was a very gullible kid (actually I still am). I also believed that I could be victorious as long as I did things the way I was created to do it. I watched it for the first time in years today and saw it in a different light. I saw the effects of faith. When Michael Jordan was making a deal with the Monstar’s boss, he did not hesitate because of his faith in his team.

Bugs Bunny: “You shouldn’t have done that Doc
Michael Jordan: “I have faith in my team.”

 

Because of Michael Jordan’s faith in what the Toon Squad could do as a team, they were victorious. It’s the same way when we have faith in God. When we believe in God and the power that He possesses to help us face situations, we are victorious against those situations when we put our faith in Him and His play book. In the movie, Bugs Bunny said Michael Jordan had special stuff that made him the amazing basketball player that he was when it was actually just water and because of that they believed in their ability to play the game according to the rules but the way they were created to play it by being their looney selves. In the same way, we need to believe and have faith in the “special stuff” that God gives us in His Word in order to receive the faith that God wants us to have in Him to play this game of life.

“for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4, 5 NIV)

Believing in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross brings us the victory we are searching for in life. It’s only when we have faith in God and let Him be the Michael Jordan in this basketball game of life we will be victorious because it’s promised. So go ahead and “wave your hands in the air if you feel fine, we’re gonna take it into overtime welcome to the space jam. It’s your chance do your dance at the space jam.”

Go Go Power Rangers

When I was younger, my brothers and I loved watching Power Rangers. We thoroughly enjoyed how they were able to transform into these really cool heroes even though they were just ordinary teenagers. Not to mention their awesome dinosaurs that morphed into this mega-robot. As little kids normally would do, my brothers and I all claimed that we were a certain character. Then we would enact the show and I would always secretly hope to transform whenever I would say “It’s Morphing Time!”

I’m reading a book by John Ortberg called “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”, which is what triggered my memory of my power ranger days. He talks about transformation in our lives and how we long for it which is why we make resolutions every year and put ourselves through therapy, motivational seminars, and anything that will inspire transformation emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Transformation is not an overnight process and we can never stop transforming until we leave earth. Imagine if we had reached our our full potential and purpose in life, what more would you have to live for? We weren’t created to be perfect. We were created for a purpose that God wants to fulfill in our lives in His time.

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:2 MSG)

God wants to be the one to transform us. Why shouldn’t we trust God to? After all, He did create us and He truly does know us better than we’d like to think. As my beloved power rangers would say, “It’s morphing time.”

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Raining Restoration

I love it when it rains. It takes me back to the days when my brothers and I used to play in the rain. We would have mud fights, football or soccer in the rain, guns, or even just to simply go slide in the mud or the puddles. Regardless of how dirty we got, we could always count on the rain to wash us clean again. We would take our shampoo and soap outside and shower out in the rain after we were done playing.

God’s grace is like the rain that comes to cleanse our lives. Regardless of the mess we make of our lives, God’s grace pours out on us when we need it the most to wash us clean of all the dirt we get involved in. There are days we go through the valley and we fall and stumble. When the rain of God’s grace comes upon us, we feel restored and refreshed and ready to go at it again. God will only send the rain to restore when He knows we need it.

“We’re ready to study God, eager for God-knowledge. As sure as dawn breaks, so sure is his daily arrival. He comes as rain comes, as spring rain refreshing the ground.” (Hosea 6:3 MSG)

God comes to bring restoration when we seek Him out. Just like the rain cows to refresh the earth so the grass doesn’t get brown, dry and disgusting, God does the same with us daily when we ask. God’s ready to make it rain. Are you ready to let Him pour onto you?

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

I walk home a lot from work. There are certain days I dread walking home because there are very perverted guys that call out and say stupid stuff when they play cricket out by the main road and see me walking. I always pray and ask God to either make them shut up or provide a way for me to avoid them on the way home. God never fails. He always brings around someone I know that is able to take me home so I don’t deal with those guys.

This may not be a huge deal, but the fact of the matter is God still takes care of me regardless of how small the troubles. God doesn’t just want us to give Him the big things in our lives. He wants us to trust Him with every part of our lives regardless of how big or how small.

“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail-even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” (Luke 12:6, 7 MSG)

God delights in us making Him a vital part in every situation and every aspect in life. He smiles when we smile and holds us when we cry. You were created to be happy and satisfied with the life that God has planned out for you. He cares so much for you that He knew your name before you were even born, it says so in Isaiah. To find that happiness, you and I need to simply let go and let God.

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Good Company (Dedicated to my Best Friend – Ashley AhLoo)

Since it’s my best friend’s birthday, my blog is dedicated to our friendship today.

I had known Ashley all my life, but we hadn’t become friends until the summer of 2008. She was dating my brother (actually my first cousin) and I was pretty much the third wheel. He had left that summer to go to basic training for the Marines and so we slept over at our friend Angel’s house that night. We discovered that night how much we balanced each other out as far as personalities go. As different as we were, we connected so quickly. That night by the pool, I realized I had a found a friend for life. Since then, we have been to so many places and endured the best and worst of times together. Even while living in different places, we managed to stay close. Distance never affected our relationship because we always encouraged each other with scripture and continued to keep each other in prayer. The one thing that gets me about our friendship is that whenever I’m depressed or feeling out of it, she always manages to call right when I need her the most. It’s never when I want her to, but it’s always when I absolutely need her to.

One moment I’ll always remember from that summer, her and I decided it was a  cool idea to go lie down in the middle of the road to take pictures. We got bored waiting for a car to come pick us up so we just kept running on and off the road like crazy people and kept complaining about how Samoa had too many cars.

A best friend isn’t someone who just laughs with you. They cry, fight, get mad, get happy, go crazy and are simply there so you can rest your head on their shoulder when you need to just relax. Someone had told me once, you know when you’ve found a best friend when you can be in the same room with that person and not say anything whatsoever and not have that awkward silence feeling, but be absolutely comfortable with just their presence.

God places people in our life that we can relate to so we don’t feel alone in this world. That’s why He created family, but sometimes we need to get away from the family drama and that’s where friendship comes into play. My favorite Bible story on friendship is the story of David and Jonathan. The bond that they had even when they were separated from each other remained strong because they had God in the center of their friendship. Even though King Saul (Jonathan’s father) wanted to kill David because of the calling God had on David’s life, Jonathan’s loyalty to his friendship with David remained strong. The bond they had was unbreakable because God was at the center of their friendship. In 1 Samuel 20, it tells the story of how Jonathan protected David and the covenant Jonathan had made with David concerning their friendship. This was the covenant Jonathan made to David.

Jonathan said, “As God, the God of Israel, is my witness, by this time tomorrow I’ll get it out of my father how he feels about you. Then I’ll let you know what I learn. May God do his worst to me if I let you down! If my father still intends to kill you, I’ll tell you and get you out of here in one piece. And God be with you as he’s been with my father! If I make it through this alive, continue to be my covenant friend. And if I die, keep the covenant friendship with my family-forever. And when God finally rids the earth of David’s enemies, stay loyal to Jonathan!” Jonathan repeated his pledge of love and friendship for David. He loved David more than his own soul! (1 Samuel 20:12-17 MSG)

When God is at the center of any relationship, the bond is unbreakable because its not just between you and that person. It’s between you, that person and God. Ecclesiastes 4:12 clearly says on our own we’re not safe, but with a friend we can face the worst and with a third you are like a rope woven with three strings that is difficult to break.

Ashley, I pledge the same covenant friendship Jonathan had with David will continue to be the type of friendship we hold onto as time goes on and that our families will have the same covenant bond to unify them as God has unified us as best friends. I pray for blessings, happiness and prosperity in your life. Enjoy your birthday in Hilo, Hawaii and I promise we’ll celebrate when you come home to Am. Samoa. YAHSII ! =)