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.