Best

A short poem

Lord, You know

Who is best,

When it’s best,

How it’s best,

Where it’s best,

Why it’s best,

Because You are and will always be the Best for me.

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Sleep-deprived Satisfaction

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Recently I had the opportunity to share and reflect on small group leadership at a church retreat I’ve been involved with throughout childhood and college.  I had the opportunity to encourage old members to return, and new members to step up and serve.  So here’s what I wrote:

Why lead at MCCA?  Won’t I lose a bunch of sleep?  Won’t I lose all personal time and social time with my friends?  Why should I give up my retreat time away with God to lead a group who I might not even know before I get there?  These kids might not even want to be there!  Their parents may have just dragged them here with them.  Why give up my time for people who may not even want my help?  A lot of these questions may surround you as you decide to answer God’s call in becoming a small group leader this year.  But I’ll tell you why I answered God’s call, how He led me there, and why I kept going back to this sleep-deprived experience.

I grew up attending MCCA because my parents went, so I got some exposure to the fun middle school program; they had candy on the last day, and I always looked forward to getting more candy thrown at me.  I did learn a lot about God, but I always felt lonely, because my close church friends and people I hung out with all the time never went.  Imagine a lonely middle schooler having to find a friend or two every year, or just wandering around with no friends because everyone was with their own church group or circle of friends from home.  After high school hit, academics and career decisions took priority, compounded with the feelings of loneliness at retreat, so it wasn’t until sophomore year of college I returned and answered God’s call to become a small group leader at MCCA.  This was also the start of a revamping and new beginning to the English track at MCCA, and God was moving.  I had been developing a new burden to disciple young women and I believed God was giving me a chance to be used by Him to impact their lives.

It wasn’t a glamorous, awesome restful time though.  During my first year of leadership, the entire female high school junior class was in my “small group.”  There were sixteen women in my group and another group had thirty members.  We simply did not have enough small group leaders that year to accommodate the number of attendees.  But God doesn’t call us to instant satisfaction and gratification, since we have a hope set before us after we finish the race (Heb. 6:18, Col. 3:1-3).  After my first year of leadership, I went home with a new burden to disciple women at my home church, and God certainly blessed this burden (I had the opportunity to disciple a young woman in college for two years and God has certainly blessed us both, teaching us how to live life together and how to love).  Over the years, God proved faithful and was gracious in allowing me to see the growth in number and spiritual maturity of our leadership circle.  We went from seven to ten small group leaders the first year I led to thirty small group leaders, providing for more attention per member and decreasing the small group ratio.  They actually became true “small groups” over a span of four years.

Each year of leadership has been a blessing and a joy, as I’ve surrendered myself more and more to Him as the years go by.  There are varieties of nonbelievers, new, growing, and mature Christians spread throughout the groups, but overall, these high schoolers need mentors and people who are not apathetic but passionate about their life in Christ.  Being in leadership, I’ve gained many skills in communicating with younger women, discipling them, sharing experiences, living life with them, answering questions, and growing in God’s wisdom and vulnerability in my own life; through this process my love for and desire to disciple young women in the Lord continued to grow.  Group messaging before and after retreat to check-up with my assigned group has proven to be so fulfilling (some of us are still in contact with each other after all these years).  What I’ve learned is that you don’t need to and will never have all the answers, in all things we point to God who is our refuge and our portion (Ps. 73: 23-28).  We’re just stepping into a very small window of our group’s lives at that appointed time God has given us.

So you ask what about me?  What will I get out of this?  If you’re still feeling like you’re inadequate to lead, you’re in the right place, because God can use you (I’m not talking about if you’re wallowing in sin or seriously struggling with an area of your life which may cripple you to lead).  I’m talking about some doubts or fears about your lack of leadership skills or if you feel like you’re not “spiritual enough.”  Take heart.  We are merely vessels for His use, just treasures in jars of clay so that the glory of God’s work points to Him and not to us, we just need to obey (2 Cor. 4:7-9).  And let me tell you, this mindset has shown me more of His glory and His doing than any other time I felt like I could handle a situation because I looked to God for wisdom and strength instead of my own.

So what does leadership look like? Our leadership community is in constant prayer and sharing months before retreat begins, and we have a few training sessions the weeks leading up to retreat to prepare you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the event ahead.  During retreat, we continue to share testimonies of God’s work, we have daily meetings to encourage one another and debrief about the day, and we have mentorship groups to help guide newer leaders; we also pray for other as the retreat progresses.  Being in leadership has allowed me to make friendships with other church leaders in other states and cities that last a lifetime; and we continuously encourage each other throughout the year.

Leading has taught me to be more selfless, to love sacrificially, and to understand His gospel more with the group He’s given me.  Each year I have an increasing understanding that leading is not about me, but about God, serving the team and whoever God wants me to minister to during that time.

So pray and seek God’s will.  Are you afraid that God might not be able to use you?  Jesus is with you (Matt 28:20).  Is God calling you to build up the ministry at MCCA?  He’ll supply everything you need as we give back to Him (Phil 4:19).  I’ve seen leaders come and go for the wrong reasons, just because their friends are leading, but ultimately, God’s looking for your heart to be in the right place.  Small group leadership is about loving the people God puts you in contact with during retreat and with the group He’s called you to shepherd.  That one recent struggle you had may just be the one thing that young man or woman needs to hear in his or her life right now.  Some good questions to ask if you’re considering leadership are: Are you in a consistent, growing relationship with God?  Or are you in a place in your life where you think your struggles would hinder you more than help you to minister to the people at retreat?  Do you think you’ve been able to find God in your struggles and are ready to share that with others during retreat for His glory?  Are you ready to share what God’s done in your life?  After you’ve had some time to ponder these things and whether or not God calls you to leadership here, I pray you grow in Christ as this experience has certainly blessed me.  Will you lose a bunch of sleep?  Maybe.  But, oh, the eternal weight of joy you’ll gain from other leaders and pouring yourself into others, and the exponential growth you’ll experience if you let God work!  I pray you’ll be able to discern God’s will as you consider small group leadership at MCCA.

Identity

 

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Sanctuary venue at UALC Mill Run Campus
This past September, I started one of the best jobs I’ve ever had as a worship leader (conducting a choir with a praise band at my disposal) at a new church in town (I had been connected to a few people there before, so God had been stewarding these relationships since my middle school years, phew!).  Recently, I submitted an article to the church’s newsletter introducing myself and my walk with the Lord up to this point.  Here’s what I wrote to the church body:

“Hi everyone!  I’m so excited to be working with the music ministry here at UALC [Upper Arlington Lutheran Church]. Thank you all for welcoming me so warmly and integrating me into your family.  I grew up attending Columbus Chinese Christian Church, and that’s where I found numerous opportunities to serve in music ministry, small groups, and bible studies.  It was really after graduating Christian schools in 8th grade and enrolling in a public high school that I realized I didn’t have to be part of one group of people or friends to make an impact.  I also had to struggle through discovering my Asian American heritage throughout childhood, living in a minority group, even throughout college, and what that meant to me.  Ultimately, I realized that neither race nor culture defined my whole identity: Christ was my identity (2 Cor. 5:14-17).  But I also realized I needed to embrace who He had created me to be.

I began freshman year at The Ohio State University as a pre-nursing major and piano performance minor.  By God’s grace, He sustained me through the grueling college years and terrible scheduling conflicts; I decided to audition for the piano performance major sophomore year. I am in awe at how God allowed me to survive and finish these two degrees.  The Lord is teaching me that living into who He has created me to be – my gifts, abilities, and experiences – is truly freeing, fulfilling, full of joy and satisfying (2 Cor 3:12-18, Ps. 16:11).  When the opportunity to lead worship opened up the Friday before graduation this past spring, I jumped on it immediately, sensing that leading worship in the church was something God may have wanted me to continue for the rest of my life.  I sensed God was leading me into a musical career path at this point in time.

As a worship leader, I absolutely love to blend fresh contemporary styles with traditional styles in the worship setting.  Please pray that I always lean on Christ for direction as we move towards a church vision that unites us all, brings people to join our church family, and makes us one in the same love (1 Corinthians 13).  I am so incredibly thankful to be here with such a gospel-saturated staff and church body.  I cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, but our church can trust in Christ Jesus who is sure and never-changing.  God is moving in our church and the world!

So I ask you to join with me in singing,

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided –

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

I encourage you all who are working in full-time or part-time ministry, especially those serving faithfully at churches, to lean on God, not your own strength, and to lead others to lean on God and not you.  Ultimately, His Spirit will guide and sustain you!

Darkness Cannot Overcome 

Isn’t it amazing that even if the whole world seems hopeless, that cruelty seems to win over the innocent, that victims seem to be lost in injustice, that leaders may seem to lose their focus; and yet God still wins in the end.  I love this verse where John writes that Jesus, being the light, was coming into the world, to conquer sin and death, to redeem a lost people, a lost world.  

My friends, let’s not lose heart because Jesus has overcome the world.  He has redeemed it and we wait in eager longing for His return to bring us into His presence eternally.  When all seems lost, when our reality seems to come crashing down upon us, when all in the world seems chaotic, void of anything good and true, just remember that the darkness has not, cannot, and never will overcome the light of the world.  

To Never Lose the Wonder

The greatest of all sinners recognizes their need for God’s grace the most! Oh Lord help me understand how my sin grieves your heart and how I need you everyday.

How I am reminded of these songs that shows my great weakness and His great strength:

Lord I need you oh I need you, every hour I need you, my one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need you.

May I never lose the wonder, Oh the wonder of Your mercy, may I sing Your hallelujah, hallelujah, amen!