Friday, October 9, 2009

Shadow & Light

Today I sat down to pray wondering if God would really speak to me or not. I felt kind of complacent, but I wanted to be open. So I sat down and I closed my eyes to shut everything out. I asked Him, “What do you want to show me?” and then I waited. A few random things came to mind. Then I saw a picture in my mind of a shadow cast during the daytime from a flagpole.

It was long and skinny and the light from the sun shone on everything else. I nearly skipped the picture, but then remembered that God speaks to us in pictures sometimes and about things and in ways we do not expect. So I continued to focus on the picture in my mind.

Then I felt God telling me, “Joel, you have a choice. All people have a choice,” and He went on to tell me about how the shadow represented the freedom people had who lived in their way without God, and the light represented the freedom people had who chose to follow Him and live more by His understanding, trusting He is love.

The idea was that the path we can take on our own is wide, most trodden, and seemingly to many people, freer. But in actuality, the path that is less trodden, the one that is pursuing God and living with Him as the center and is thinner perhaps, is the path that has more freedom, joy, truth, love, fullness, etc. It’s where the light dwells.

It is that those who live in the light of God’s understanding have this expanse of freedom while those who live by their understanding are limited.

Limited in changing the world. Limited in serving and loving others. Limited in reducing poverty. Limited in helping HIV/AIDS victims. Limited in experiencing a constant, true love.

Monday, October 5, 2009


“So what is your dream in life?”

“My dream? I want to be happy.”

“That’s good.”

“How about you?” I pondered the question for a second and turned back to face her.

“My dream is to learn more and more how to love God and love others, to learn how to serve other people with love.” The airplane continued to rise. I continued.

“We have so much freedom, me being from the United States and you being from Korea. We have so much freedom, and I don’t want to live using my freedom to satisfy myself. I want to learn how to use my freedom to serve others with love.”

This was about 10 minutes into my conversation with the woman next to me on the airplane. She was 33. Born in Seoul, Korea. A doctor. By the time we had this conversation we had exchanged names, I had learned she wasn’t married, and that she was going to Hong Kong for a 3-day, well deserved vacation. She’s very busy as a doctor and hadn’t had time for a vacation in about a year working at least 6 days a week, sometimes 7. I had shared that I worked with a mission organization and explained why I was in Korea and what I was going to Perth, Australia for (more missions training). She guessed that I was a Christian and I said, “Yes.”

“Have you ever broken a bone?”

“No. Try to keep healthy,” she said in her broken English.

“Well, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”


“You like to drink?”

“Yes, how about you?”

“I enjoy a beer with a meal here and there, and wine goes really well with some meals. I’ve felt buzzed before, but I’ve never been drunk. It’s something I have thought about throughout my life though. I don’t think it’s good when we let things take control of us whether it’s alcohol, cigarettes, watching television…” She laughed, and I could see a glimmer of understanding in her face at what I was getting at. I continued.

“There’s a man who once said, ‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.’”

We kept talking and then as the airplane leveled we went to doing our own things. I don’t know what she did, but I watched a film. A few hours later we resumed our conversation and at some point came to this:

“So do you keep in touch with your friends from university or high school?”


“Who do you drink with?”

“My friends from work.”

“Have you traveled to many places?”

This last question led to her asking me the same in return. We had about 40 minutes till landing. I started with, “I’ve been to many places since March, but none of it was my plan.” She looked at me waiting for me to continue. “There’s a story behind it. Do you mind if share it?”

“Go ahead,” was her reply.

Over the next 10 minutes I shared my life from how I ended up with the mission organization OMS International when I didn’t want to join, and what happened that led me to continuing with them overseas rather than finishing in April.

She listened attentively as I shared about God’s love in my life. As we continued with small-talk she made a few comments about the way I lived my life and the way I spoke about life as well. I would just tell her that it honestly was only because of God, which was the simple truth, a fact that cannot be changed.

With all the good I can accomplish with my own ideas and direction, God’s ideas and direction go much further in sharing true love.

What I in fact had shared with her was simple, my story. Or as some might say, my testimony. We had a lot of laughs and really enjoyed our time together. It was great.

“So, what is your idea about spirituality?” I asked, surprised at how confident I felt asking the question.

“My parents are Catholic, but I’m not. They don’t force me to be Catholic.

“That’s good. No one should have God forced on them. That’s never good.”

During our conversation at one point she asked for my e-mail. I was so glad she asked because I was pondering giving it to her anyway, but wasn’t sure about it and had prayed God would work it out for me to give her my e-mail without feeling uncomfortable.

Before we parted at Hong Kong airport she said, “If you come to Seoul you can e-mail me.” I said to her with a smile, “Ok, but make sure you send me an e-mail so I have yours. I’ve had a lot of people ask for my e-mail and then never e-mail me, so you better e-mail me.” I smiled and said, “Let me know how your time in Hong Kong goes” as I walked away. She agreed to write and turned towards baggage claim.

I can only thank God for our time together because I was so out of it and tired. I hadn’t had much sleep in the 2 weeks prior and I had gotten a really bad cold the day before…bleh. I had prayed that if God wanted to use me, He would do it regardless of my weakness. Then when she sat down next to me I suddenly felt I should say “hello.”

And that’s where it started.