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Blurb on Cali, Community, and Real Joy

Wooo… Bomb diggity. Wuuuddduup?!

So it’s a New Year! Yaaayy. Another year over and a brand new one to start. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in Jackson for like 3 years. Haha.

Anyway, I’d have to say that the year was full of awesomeness and great experiences full of worship leading, meeting new people, traveling, growing… man. The Father’s House, West Virginia, ministry trips, Georgian Banov in Jackson, being on stage with Justin Rizzo, Jesus Culture Awakening in Chicago, hanging with the Paughs, God speaking in deep places, learning how to rest, to pace myself, what faith really means… love and peace. ToNS of good stuff. There’s so much I can’t even begin to tell all of it!

I have to say that the year wrapped up for me with an awesome trip to California that set up such a great momentum for me going into the New Year. For a week and a half, Leann and I were in California being transformed and poured into in ways I can’t even begin to explain. We visited Gloria and hung out with her near LA, met some friends, traveled up north to San Jose, sat in on a living room session with David Hogan, met some more friends, pranced around on the streets singing Christmas and worship songs, prayed/sang over strangers, traveled even further North to Redding where we hung out in a house full of the awesomest guys in the world! We visited Bethel Church, went treasure hunting, hung out in the prayer house, got ministered to, ministered, listened to great music, worshipped, laughed, relaxed, and just hung out. It was such a good time for my heart. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that we finally ate In-N-Out and Pink’s Hot Dogs! So good. I have yet to fully edit and finish my video documentation of the trip. Stay tuned for that!

All that to say, it’s been a good year, and a great way to finish off 2011 for me. December 2011 will be one that I will never forget. I just KNEW it was a God opportunity  when it came and it proved to be true.

Here, I’d like to just share some thoughts of my experience and where I am now.

I feel like a totally different person. Maybe not different as in someone else, but maybe more like the real me.

It’s kind of weird to say, but it’s true. There was no big conference, no big shot speakers at center stage, no big prayer line, no big ministry time, a church packed with hyped up people and rockin’ music. I did get ministered to, I did get to worship to great music, I did get prayed for, was provoked and wanted to learn, but it was all majorly in the context of community. It was the people I was surrounded by and was living life with for a short period of time. They were my community for a week and half. It was such a natural and uplifting kind of environment where God was not a side thought, but on the forefront of everyone’s minds and hearts. We were passionate, loving, kind, encouraging, but genuine, hungry for truth, hungry to live it out in the everyday, exploring God and the reality of the Kingdom, and ready to see God’s goodness explode in every and any given moment. It was experiencing this community that rocked me. People who weren’t afraid to be who they were, weren’t afraid to be themselves, weren’t afraid to look like fools for the sake of the Kingdom, truly believed in God and the truth of who He is and wanted to live it out to the fullest. People who were willing to throw themselves out there, who weren’t ashamed of what they believed, weren’t ashamed to love complete strangers, welcome them, hug and kiss on them. People who were free to laugh. To me, it felt like I just walked in on a family and was immediately welcomed as part of it. I realized how much power there was in just that. And it wasn’t forced, wasn’t SO intentional that it felt uncomfortable or unnatural, but it just flowed from who these people were. I’m sure they have their faults, I have mine, and I know that getting to know people for a week and half isn’t much, but there was such a love, and a connection on the spirit level because we are after the same thing. It was just plain amazing. And I’m not saying that they had it all down perfect, and I don’t want to make it sound like it we all became completely tight and got to know every deep and dark secret, but I saw a glimpse of what could truly transform people, a home, a neighborhood, a town, a city… And it was just something that I’ve never seen or experienced personally on that level.

In that kind of environment, I began to experience the joy and freedom in being myself, and in being part of them, in knowing that wherever I am, even if I never see them again, that we are on the same team, going after the same things. It brought joy. It brings joy. And I think I can understand when it says in the Bible about joy being made complete in that way.

Since being back, I’ve noticed a more lasting and permanent change inside of me. I know it hasn’t been that long, and I know it could be too soon to say, but I feel this thing in me, like something got unlocked and it can never be closed up again. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I feel more joy, more confidence, more love, more free, more alive, more me… and not a whole lot has changed as far as circumstances around me go. Actually, nothing has changed outside of me. I think that’s a good sign of growth.

I know I’ve attributed a lot of goodness to being in California, but the truth is, it wasn’t just this trip that did all this. I knew before going that everything that I was going through and praying about would somehow lead me to experience what I did in Cali. It was, in essence, kind of like the cherry on the top that sealed it all together and completed the package. Cali just showed me things, answered questions, reaffirmed my heart, encouraged me, and sent me back feeling great. God was with me before, was with me while I was there, and used everything before and after to bring me to where I am now. And I am thankful for it.

The cool thing is the goodness hasn’t stopped. Currently, I am being rocked. So much to the fact that I don’t even know what to do with it. I feel like I’m going to explode. I hope to write about it in the future, but today I have no words. I’m not even sure how I will express them at this point, but I have a feeling it will be very bold, and very different than how I’ve written before. What’s going on? I am rediscovering The Gospel. It all started on Christmas Eve Eve. (It’s not a typo… lol). I read the Christmas story (which I either read or hear every year), but this year it was like I’ve never read it before. It filled me with JOY. Real JOY. Who want’s REAL JOY?? *HIGH FIVE!* I’ve never felt such joy like this before. I can’t explain it.

I hope to try, though. Soon. All I can say is that I think the Gospel is the key to real, deep, consistent, unspeakable, unchanging joy.

Side note:

  • I tweet and gram like crazy (yeah, twitter and instagram!!) Follow me! @vickihong it’s so addicting, but it’s kind of genius in my opinion….

I will leave you with this. Check out John Mark McMillan. This song makes me happy.

John Mark McMillan – Murdered Son

You set us up above all the stars
You set us on a high place by where you are
While we were dead you made us your friends
And scattered our debt upon the wind

Glory to One
God’s murdered son
Who paid for my resurrection
Once from the dust, once from the grave
Daughters and sons from the ashes you’ve raised
And hidden our faults even from your own face
And scattered our debt upon the waves

Glory to one
God’s murdered son
Who paid for my resurrection
Glory to One
God’s murdered son
Who paid for my resurrection

Glory to the one who
Who overcame in death
Glory to the one
Who paid for my offenses
Glory to the one

Once from the dust
Once from the grave
Daughters and sons
From the ashes you’ve raised
And hidden our faults
Even from your own face

And scattered our debt upon the waves
And scattered our debt upon the waves

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