Saturday, November 25, 2006

Transformation: Becoming Myself

On a Thursday evening in October during one of my typical calls to one of my best friends on the planet I became unraveled. I don't really know what brought it on but I do know that it was intense. That evening, as I do for all my conversations with my friend, I took a look at my life and when I looked at it this time, I was filled with frustration. I was frustrated because when I looked at my life I saw a bunch of unfulfilled goals. I don't mean unfulfilled goals like forgetting to take out the trash, but big life transforming goals. I was frustrated with the progress that I had made with my battle to have pure eyes, and I was frustrated with my closeness to God. Now don't misunderstand or try to judge how bad it is. The degree to how good or bad it is, is unimportant. The important piece was that I looked at my life and I found that I was not as far along as I felt that I should be. I felt like I had been working on these things for years and barely had scratched the surface of being who I was meant to be. Understand I was not trying to do any remodeling of my life, I was just trying to live it as I am designed to live it. It was like I had been cleaning my office of trash for a week only to find that I had replaced the old trash with new trash. So, instead of being able to see my office, all that was visible was the mess. And just like the trash in my office, it became apparent to me that I was covered with my mess.

So there you have it, I am a mess. This is not some 'let me show you how holy and humble I am by calling myself a mess' mess. No, It was a very real gut wrenching, tears flowing, snot running mess that I had found myself in. I was completely frustrated and helpless to alleviate the problem. You see I had already tried everything I knew to try. I had tried spiritual disciplines, accountability partners, web monitoring, confession and more. With all my best efforts I would look at myself and still find a filthy mess. Don't get me wrong I am not saying that the things that I tried are bad. On the contrary, I think they are extremely helpful. I even recommend them. The problem was not the things that I was trying. The problem was me. Give a pig a water hose to clean itself and it will make mud to wallow in. The water is not the issue it is the pig. So, I found myself helpless. I had tools I could use but no ability and sometimes there was even a desire to do the things that would let me truly experience the abundant life that God has in store for me. I found myself truly helpless. I was exhausted and frustrated, like a man in the desert who is looking for water but all he can find are mirages.

So, I spoke to my friend about my mess and my frustration and he suggested that we pray. So, we began to pray and then something happened to me. It was something new. No, I didn't see an angel or anything like that but I believe the Spirit of God guided my prayer. My typical prayer in a time like this would be to address issues of frustration. An example would be 'God make me more disciplined' or 'God, purify my eyes.' but I found that those things weren't the deepest desires of my heart. These were my desires but not the deepest desires. The deeper desire was that he would, 'Get close enough to me to get messy while being with me'. I just wanted God to be close. Like a child who wants his father or mother to hold them when he gets a 'boo-boo' on his knee and somehow that makes things better, I just wanted God to be near enough for me to feel him. I needed more than tools or skills to overcome. I needed the one who overcomes. Thank-you Spirit.

Here is something that I am learning concerning what happens when we ask God to come near to our messy selves: He likes to make good out of our messes. Recall Genesis 1:1-4. The earth was formless and empty (translation: the earth was a mess, a big shapeless mess) and God came hovered over the mess and began to change it. He created light and where there had been mess, now there was beautiful good light. This continued for six days until he was done. Each day he took the mess and created something good. I believe that is what God is doing in you and me. When the time is right he will hover over the mess of our lives and make something good. Notice that he will come and hover over our mess. A word of caution though, it is likely that when he comes and does his good work it will be a radical change but rest assured the change will be good. In the last month,God has been working me over and surfacing the me underneath the mess. He is making me good. I will share more about this in future posts. May God be near us all and may we all become the selves that he has created us to be.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Eleven years ago in June 1995. God placed me and my wife here at West Houston church of Christ. Now he is releasing us from the ministry here to a place that he will make known later. At the elders’ initiation and my mutual agreement, we have determined that the vision paths that we have will lead down different paths in the kingdom of God.

Therefore, thanks to the graciousness of our elders, my plan is to take a month long sabbatical to seek God concerning the details of plans for me and family’s future. The sabbatical will last from December 10th – January 10th and then to I plan finish my duties as a youth minister on staff on February 25th.

My dear church family, my love for you runs deep. You have watched me grow up. You have always welcomed and cared for us. You were there when we struggled through three years of waiting to have children and you have loved my family as if they were your own. My prayer for you is that you grow in deep relationship with God and each other and that you will make disciples of Christ as you are transformed in the your relationship with God and each other.

I want you to know that I love you and entrust you to God. Many times when a minister leaves a church many wonder and speculate as to the reasons. Please don’t do this. It will only grieve my spirit and I believe it will grieve God’s as well. The elders here love me and I love them and we both love you dearly and desire what it is best for you. Even though the visions that we have are leading us into different paths, there is no bitterness, anger or strife - just different paths. God calls each of us to where he will lead and no matter where we are or where we go God ultimately is directing all.

Please feel free to speak to myself or any of the elders with questions that you may have. I love you with the amazing love that I have received from Christ.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Transformation Series: Word

Words can produce so much change. Consider Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke of a dream that has been changing the culture of the United States of America ever since. Consider Hitler who, through his words, convinced a nation that they were superior to the rest of the human race and left a blemish on mankind forever. With words men are inspired to give their lives in battle. With words children become the people that they believe that they can become. With words women change their names to be the same as some young man as they plan to spend their lives with.

Why is it that words can produce such change? It seems pretty random to me. Let me explain. The process of speaking goes something like this- air that is stored up in your lungs get pushed out and that air passes over muscles in your throat called vocal cords. These vocal cords tighten and loosen to create distinct sounds. We call these sounds words. Generally these sounds carry meaning. For example: Say this phrase (Make sure to run the sounds together like a sentence) 'Ay em gud lukin.' Now smile. Did you catch it? If you didn't, then read it again. What I asked you to read is not a sentence in the English language. Yet, hopefully as you sounded the phrase out it meant something to you. You should have heard yourself say, 'I am good looking' (By the way, I hope it made you smile. I am sure it is true.)

My point is this, what you heard/said meant something to you. Whether you believe the phrase you spoke or not, it meant something. It affected your thinking even if it were on only for a moment. It changed your thinking from whatever you were thinking about to whatever you thought about the phrase. How do words do that? Why do the words 'I love you' cause my daughter to light up everytime she hears them? Why is it that while I was in school, when students said my nose was too big, I would look in the mirror and think I am ugly because I have a big nose?Here is the reason - It is because words carry meaning and things that have meaning infiltrate our hearts and minds and things that infiltrate our hearts and minds shape our belief and then once we believe something, then we do as we believe. (Side note: We don't always do what we claim to believe but we always act is agreement with what we believe.)

It is likely that you hear thousands of words a day. Some things you hear are true, some are false. Some things you hear encourage, some things discourage. My daughter believes she is a princess, because I tell her she is (and so does Disney by the way). Those words affect how she carries herself. Now imagine if we always spoke words of love, truth, encouragement and hope. What do you think that would do to the people around us? I think it would help them become more of who they were created to be. Will you tap on someone’s heart and mind with words of love, encouragement and truth?

To those of you who care to join this movement of transformation, I ask you to speak words of life to people. Jesus was said to have had the words of life. Speak words that refresh and build up. Do not speak words of death. Do not speak words that make people weary and tear them down. Your words will help produce the transformation in people that they long for. Will your words help them be the people they were meant to be or will it destroy even the very hope of becoming who they were meant to be? You decide every time you open your mouth. Transformation is on the tip of your tongue.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Transformation Series: The Call

Do you remember when all that you wanted to do was be big? My eldest daughter is almost three and she has a list of things that she looks forward to doing when she gets 'big'. This list includes buckling a seat belt all by herself, being able to tie her shoes, going to school, (I'd better cherish this one while it last) being a mommy and much more. My daughter is envisioning her potential. Potential – Do you remember that word in school? School is where I remember it from. My teachers used to write about potential on my progress reports. They would say, "Tquan is so bright and has such great potential. If he would just apply himself then..." and you know the rest. Potential is a word that carries so much weight and hope all at the same time. Our potential is the untapped part of us. My potential is my dormant self that has not awakened from its slumber. It is a part of us that, many times, we don't even know how to reach until someone helps us.

My daughter often says confidently, "I do that when I big,” referring to some future achievement she envisions. Even though her tone says confidence, she still looks at me as if to say 'Right?' She wants some confirmation of this hope that she has, because it is hard for her to believe it without someone else affirming her vision of her future. Why is it so hard for us to see what we could be? I really don't know. There are probably a plethora (I like that word) of reasons. But I do know that everyone that I know who is stretching to reach their full potential can point to people who are being instrumental in their transformation. There are no flowers that blossom without help from the sun, rain and soil.

So I write this to call to action all those that would be the sun, rain and soil for would be blossoming flowers. There is a massive shortage of those who would give of themselves to help someone else to become the truest version of them self. How do I know of this short fall? I say there is a shortage because I see many who are frustrated at this desire to have something more than what they have, but they are not knowing how to grab hold of it. I see families who don't really know what is like to live in peace with each other because they can't even visualize that potential reality. I see church goers who really wish that they were sold out Christ followers, but they don’t know how to get out of the rut of pew sitting. Many just need someone who will walk along side them and encourage them to take each next step to becoming fully who they were meant to be.

Here is my call. Will you be poured out like rain on a person who is withered by life? Will you be like sunshine on someone who has only felt the cold of a harsh world? Will you give of yourself to nurture someone else’s growth, like the soil gives nutrients to the flower? As one who is seeing much untapped potential around me, I ask, with piercing eyes, deep conviction and a sincere heart, will will join me in this movement of transformation?

This is not a movement driven by any institution, constitution or other organized entity. No, this is one man with a passion for the world around him, calling others who share that same passion to turn their passion into action and be poured out for the community of people around them. Will you join his movement? Your world needs you. And frankly, if this resonates in you, then you need to do this. You need it just to live up to your full potential. Consider yourself rained on.

May God give us grace, power and success through his Spirit and may the world be a transformed place because of it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Mirror

I sit here at the computer with a mirror in front of me and as I look directly into it you may think I see myself. Sadly, that is not what I see, at least not this time. I see what I have been taught to see. I see misplaced hairs, blemishes, acne, gray hairs that peek out from my beard like flags of conquest and the redness of tired eyes. Then there have been other times after a good bit of primping and touch-up work to my face and hair, a hero appears in my mirror and he has it all together. He has the coolness of Shaft, the integrity of Superman, the intelligence of Einstein and the wit of your favorite talk show host. Yet this picture is still not me. Why is that I (and maybe others of you who are reading this) have so many differing views of the same person that I see in the mirror everyday? Maybe it is because we have been taught a faulty way to look in the mirror and see ourselves.

Let me explain with a story. I once saw a yard that was filled with wild flowers. When I looked, I saw what looked like just a bunch a blossoming weeds that had completely swallowed up this yard, especially when seen next to one of those subdivision manicured "yard of the month" lawns. Now, If my daughter were to lay eyes on that wild flower monstrosity. She would say something like, 'Look at the pretty flowers, Daddy.' My daughter sees the beauty in the wild flowers because she has not received the Homeowners Associations letters that say you can not let your yard grow wildly. I, on the other hand, have learned very well what a good yard looks like. It is one that doesn't embarrass the neighbors or make other people fear the loss of value to their homes. It has evenly cut yards with beautiful symmetrical flower beds and absolutely no weeds. Can you see where I am headed? I have been taught to look at yards based on a communal standard. The home owners, neighbors, parents, and even I have set the standard. So now I look with a comparative lens at each yard I see, as opposed to taking the yard for what it is.

In the same way I believe that, at times, I see myself through a comparative lens, comparing myself to one person or another and I thereby judge myself based on this standard that has been handed down to me. This leaves me feeling at times like I am on the top of the world and other times like I am on the bottom of the manure pile.

So what do I do? Do I just accept this standard that leaves me feeling up or down at any given moment, do I just chunk the mirror to never consider what I look like or could there be another standard?

I want to explore that latter option. Let's look at this other standard. My Father (I mean my heavenly one) says he doesn't see people like we do. He looks at the heart. When he described David he described him as a "man after his own heart." Was David perfect? No. But he was seeking to know God and striving to be like him. We are made in God's image. I believe God sees us as that. Yet, we have blemishes, faults or sin (to use more religious language) that taints the image that we have been made in. Here is the thing about a blemish. It may change my appearance but it doesn't change me.

So here is what I am suggesting, when we look at ourselves we should look through the lens of how God has created us. This means when I look in that mirror again I will see myself ... but I will still see blemishes. Remember Isaiah in Chapter 6 of his book, he sees God (the standard) and says, 'Whoa, I am unraveled because I have unclean lips.' Our natural response in the face of perfection is to recognize our imperfections. You may say, "Well, how does that help? We are in the same position we were in when we had the communal standard." Then I would reply, 'Not exactly.' If we look at the mirror through God's standard then we see the image of God in us. Yes, it has blemishes but we see the image of God instead of just seeing the blemishes. Then a beautiful thing occurs when we realize that we were meant to be blemish free. We turn to God (we confess our sin) and he begins to give us a complete makeover. Isaiah's makeover came when a hot coal from God's altar was placed on his lips to clean them. After we recognize our blemishes and turn to God, then as time passes and we allow God to work he removes our blemishes and we begin to experience who we were created to be. We experience the fullness of God dwelling in us.

Don't get rid of the mirror. Get a new standard so you can see clearly into it. Then turn to Jesus and enjoy becoming who you are.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The whole earth is full of His glory

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory." Isaiah

I was reading in a book by Rob Bell last night and he brought up the idea that God is always around and we are the ones that are missing him at times. So I read the passage in Isaiah 6 and here is the imagery....

God, himself, is seated high and exalted on his throne. There are six winged creatures that with four of the wings they shield their eyes and their feet and with other two they fly. Then as they speak their voices shake the doorpost and the threshold of the very temple of God. Isaiah is taken back at the scene and assumes he is toast because his imperfections are being consumed by the perfection the Lord of host who is right in front of him. While all of this great scene is going on, the seraphs (the six winged creatures) say, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." How do these beings who are in the very prescence of God, in their praise, leave this temple and the Most Holy place where God would dwell and speak of the whole earth? I suppose that they can say, " the whole earth" because they have eyes to see, with great clarity, how God's glory burst past the walls of the Most Holy Place, past outer courts of the temple, through Jerusalem, beyond Judah, out of the middle east, past the oceans and engulfs the world,

They see it as clearly as I can see my hands typing this blog. I want eyes like that. Eyes that can recognize everywhere God's glory is. How peaceful a person can be when they see the glory of the Lord everywhere. I want eyes like that.

I want to see His glory in the homeless man who is bothering people for change. I want see him in the storm before the rainbow. I want to recognize him in the beautiful and the ugly. I want to see like Jesus did when the town whore came and interrupted a highly respectful meal with her tears and perfume. (see Luke 7) The Pharisees saw a whore, an inconvenience, and shame. Jesus saw a woman created in the image of God and living it out by placing perfume on him and cleaning his feet with her tears. How beautiful God's glory is.

I want to see clearly , like Jesus did. I want my vision to be swallowed up in God glory.

Give us sight Lord

In the name of Jesus