Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Lesson in Diversity

It Doesn't Matter Where We are From, America, Korea, Pakistan, Canada and We ALL Love Jesus!
When I started attending a Evangelical Free Church after years of serving in the Southern Baptist Denomination I thought I was living on the edge of diversity. After all staying home on Sunday and Wednesday evening felt almost like sacrilege. I quickly got used to one trip to church a week and my husband finally felt redemption after missing The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night TV all those years as a child. We still love our Southern Baptist roots and honestly have chosen keep their way of thinking on certain topics but have also enjoyed getting to know people who love Jesus just as much as we do who do not think the same. I guess you could say that move 16 years ago was the first time I saw how culture effects the Christian church. Now, living overseas, I can honestly say that bit of diversity was just the tip of the iceberg!

In January I began a Bible study in my home. I reached out to a handful of my oh so much like me Western friends and then gave them the freedom to invite others as well. What I ended up with really took me by surprise. Our group is a melting pot of countries and culture with one common denominator, we all love Jesus. I am adorn all of my new friends and feel honored and privileged that they come to my home. 

This week’s study was full of deep and interesting conversations. One topic of debate was baptism. For the first time I had to think about this ordinance of the church from a different perspective. For me I have always felt baptism was important but really pretty normal. When my children were baptized no one thought any thing other than, isn’t that nice. In Jesus’s day baptism identified you with that controversial Jesus guy that was crucified as a criminal. My friend from Pakistan can understand this fact a little bit better than I can because being a Christian is something that makes you a trouble maker in the midst of their culture. After all, they are in Thailand because their home was burned to the ground for just that reason. 

We all look at the world and scriptures from a different point of reference. That reference is influenced by your countries’ culture whether it be Korean, Pakistani, Thai, or American, and it is influenced by your church’s culture like denominations. Jesus’ church is extremely diverse yet over and over we are challenged to be one with each other. This is where things get difficult.

It has been very fitting that we have been studying Philippians and Colossians. Over and over again Paul is reminding the two churches don’t get away from the most important thing, Jesus. So often, I forget this and get caught up in how other people are doing life and church. If they don’t think and do like me then they must be doing it all wrong. Honestly, I was extremely convicted with Paul’s attitude toward others who were preaching the gospel with wrong motives. He basically said, “So what? Don’t worry about how they are preaching. If they are preaching Jesus, let them preach!”


I am grateful that God is stretching my narrow mindedness even though it is painful at times. I do want to be one with all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to quit judging and start seeking God’s heart. I want to encourage my fellow believers to seek Him, too. I want to get back to the basics of loving God and loving others. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

God's Heart for Children

My first writing project here in Thailand is to create a training for our foundations Child Protection Policy. As I have done research on the Biblical foundation for child protection these words came to mind.

A simple question was asked, but the answer the disciples received was not what they were expecting. “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom?” They looked to Jesus wit hopeful expressions waiting for Him to point them out as His best and most worthy disciple. Jesus, however, did not look to them but instead He called a child to come and stand before them. Jesus’ reply, “To be great…you must be like this child.” 

A child loves for no reason. A child trust without cause, and faith is not something they must learn because it naturally flows from within. This innocence is who they are before the world has had a chance to sully them. He gives a harsh warning for anyone who does anything to steal this gift from a child. Cause a child to hate, to fear, to doubt and you are better off dead. Jesus charges us to do whatever we can to come against the sin in this world that corrupts the innocence even if it leaves us broken and wounded.

What we do for a child we do for God Himself. They are his proxy in this world. Love a child, you love Him. Bless a child, you bless Him. Protect a child, you have allied yourself with the God of the Universe. 

Jesus warns us to not look down on a child and to not forget them. Whatever we are doing, the safety and welfare of a child takes precedence. Jesus says leave the 99 to find and save the one. Leave the important things that we are working on, and save the little one, help a child. If children should be our greatest priority why is it we so often see them as a something that gets in the way of ministry? Do we, like the disciples, push them aside and tell them to be quiet in our ministries and in our homes?  Or do we simply forget to think about them at all?

To Jesus, children are not an after thought but very important to our work in the Kingdom. God’s plan for this world is not about an individual or a moment in time, but instead, His plan is about generations and eternity. Both God’s discipline and loving kindness carry to the generations that follow so we should not forget that all that we do impacts them.   

(thoughts from Matthew 18: 1-14, Mark 10:13-16, Exodus 10:5-6 )

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tone Deaf

Me in Thai Class
It is no secret that I am NOT a singer, and in the past I have been accused of being tone deaf. This label has never really bothered me but my recent endeavor to learn the Thai language has left me wishing I were a bit more musical.

Just as music relies upon tones, the Thai language is tonal. This means that the meanings of words are often tied to the tone you use when saying them. For example:

Khaw means rice when said with a falling tone.
Khaw means him or her when said with a middle tone.
Khaw means white when said with a rising tone.

Confused yet?? You.Have.No.Idea. My time with my Thai teacher goes something like this:

Teacher: Khaw (with a falling tone)
Me: Khaw (With what I think is a falling tone)
Teacher: Khaw (With the exact same tone as I just said)
Me: Khaw (once again, I repeat exactly what she has just said)
Teacher: Khaw (with a very deliberate falling tone)
Me: Khaw (For the third time, I repeat a word that sounds exactly like what the teacher has said but now I say it really slow and loud because that’s what you do in the south when you are trying to make someone understand what you are saying)
Teacher: (Finally giving up) Okay, you just need to keep practicing

The problem is…I can’t hear the difference! Obviously, what my teacher is hearing is NOT what I am hearing.  I really am tone deaf! Yes, I get frustrated but I will not give up! 

The one thing I know I need to do is practice, so I have committed to use Thai as much as I can. This has caused me a bit of trouble. Like one day when our landlord brought over two workers to harvest the bananas that are growing in our yard. My Southern hospitality kicked in and I wanted to offer them something to drink. I walked out on to our carport and said to one of the workers, “Hang Nam?” He stopped in his tracks and looked at me a bit confused. I thought he must not have heard me so I repeated, “Hang Nam?” The look he gave me in return went beyond confusion to awkwardly uncomfortable. That look triggered the realization that all though I thought I was saying, “Thirsty?” I was really saying, “Bathroom?”  Yes, I wish I could blame it on tone, but I was saying the wrong word entirely. I can’t image what the poor guy thought, “Who is this crazy white lady who is encouraging me to go to the bathroom??” 

My attempts to use Thai leave many scratching their heads. Even when I say the correct word it is often accompanied by the hand signals we use in class to help us remember. There I was standing at a counter trying to explain that I couldn’t find the card the sales person was asking for. I was saying, “Mi haa.” Which means, “I can’t find.” I kept repeating the right words but all the while I am using my hands as if I am digging in the dirt. Again, the salesperson is looking at me as if I have lost my mind! Maybe, I have!

I will keep trying and I am sure I will have many more stories of embarrassing encounters. I will continue to be the strange white lady who says inappropriate things and acts like a crazy person, but one day by the grace of God I will be able to communicate. Until then I will be careful not to call my repairman (chang) an elephant (chang), and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to offer someone a drink without having a potty mouth!








Thursday, August 13, 2015

Return to Sender

Only in Texas
We are back in Chiang Mai and Elvis is in my head. Before you panic and think that culture shock has finally sent me over the edge there is a very good reason why Elvis has taken up residence. We have one English radio station and their idea of what Westerners listen to is a little off. Happy Radio (now when you say this you have to draw out the endings in your best foreign accent “Happyyyy Radioooo”) plays English songs for a good portion of the day but rarely are the songs from this century. Thais must think that Bob Denver, Karen Carpenter and Elvis are currently in the top 40. I will say the Elvis theme is a bit unusual. We haven’t quite figured this out. Now I enjoy Elvis, however, this is ALL they play. I never knew, nor did I want to know how many songs Elvis recorded. 

A couple of days ago I woke in the night with “Return to Sender” playing in my head. As I laid there hoping, praying the concert would end and I could go back to sleep I began thinking how strange it was. Strange, not that our radio station is from a time long forgotten, but strange that it all felt so normal. Just one short year ago I was experiencing life here for the first time and let me tell you NOTHING WAS NORMAL. I can remember walking in the grocery store staring at the isles (yes, I mean multiple) of rice and fish sauce wondering how in the world I was going to feed three teenage boys. We ate out at any and every western restaurant we could find for weeks. This time, as soon as we landed I walked in the grocery store, filled my basket with things my children would consume, came home, and cooked dinner. What a difference a year makes.

We have become comfortable here, and Thailand is now our home. This is a good thing. This is a goal for every missionary, but for me it has come with a very uncomfortable realization, I adapted too well to my surroundings. Because of this, I have adapted to and completely receive this world in which I live when scripture clearly teaches it is NOT MY HOME. In those first days here in Thailand everything was foreign and uncomfortable and we longed for our real home. Do I long for my heavenly home? Most days…no. Rarely do I find this world uncomfortable and when I do…I conclude something is REALLY wrong and set about to fix it at all cost.  

Maybe being uncomfortable is a good thing? Maybe, just maybe, fitting in should not be our goal? Maybe that night God gave me the song “Return to Sender” as an invitation. He wants me to return to Him. He wants us all to come to Him because of a deep longing within our souls, a need to be home in Him.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Best Day in Thailand

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the photos I took at Jon and I’s recent excursion to a Lahu village in Northern Thailand prove it to be true. There are pictures of buildings and animals, dirt roads and dirty shoes which tell us bits and pieces of village life, but the faces that were captured speak volumes. Each face tells a story. So many faces, some smiling, some curious, some dirty, some tired, some bitter, and everyone of them loved by God.

It was my best day in Thailand. I could not help but smile as all the children excitedly ran to our van as we pulled up. They knew we had to come to put on a show and to ultimately give them treats. At the entrance to the small outdoor pavilion mounds of discarded shoes piled high as the children found their places on the floor. The adults came too and mostly stood around the perimeter.

To the audience we were not all strangers. Sure the farangs (foreigners) were unknown but six of the children that came with us had once lived in this very village. For them it was a homecoming. They were excited and a bit scared to be back where life had been so hard. These six children had been destitute. Some living without parental care, and some living in homes where they were in danger. Now these children live at Hope House where they are cared for, educated, and shown the love of Jesus in word and deed.   

Our program was all about the love of Jesus. The children from Hope House sang and danced with hearts full of joy which was evident in the smiles that stretched across their faces. In contrast, The audience sat and watched, their faces showing little emotion. As the story of the shepherd and the lost sheep was told I wondered if these children could ever accept that a heavenly father loved them much more than the shepherd loves his sheep. As I looked into their faces I saw that poverty, and hardship are reality and a loving God is fantasy. My heart aches for them to know who my God is. For them to come face to face with Him. 






After our program we all helped the children with a quick craft and then passed out treats. We had to keep close track of who had received a treat to prevent them from getting back in line for seconds. Before we could even finish with the children the women of the community pressed in to be the first in line to take from the bags of clothes we had brought. It would be my guess that this is the only way some of these people clothe themselves and their families. 

I watched the children leave down the red dirt streets that stretched out in each direction. Both sides were lined with simple bamboo homes. Chickens were free to roam the streets and the few pigs were held in crude pens. I was told that a few of the villagers made a living picking crops for the King’s agricultural project located nearby but the majority were involved in illegal activities. This village is very close to the Burmese boarder which makes it the perfect location for drug trafficking.

When Jon and I got home early that evening, Kevin asked me, “So how was it?” I replied, “My best day in Thailand!” How could it be that my best day in Thailand came being surrounded by such poverty and hardship? It was the faces. Those faces captured my heart. Being with them made my spirit soar. As a watched them I ask the Lord, “How can I be apart of showing them who You are?”  


I don’t have the answer to my question yet, but some things are beginning to change. After this school year I will no longer be teaching at Grace International School. I will be joining the Family Connection Foundation (FCF). FCF in an umbrella foundation for multiple ministries all over Thailand. As part of their team I will be able to help their ministries develop discipleship materials. Exactly who these materials will be for remains to be seen, but maybe, just maybe I will get the chance to go back to that village one day. Next year begins a new adventure. I’m not really sure what it will look like but I am excited. My passion is to show the world who God is and who it is He wants them to become. My prayer is one day I will be able to see the joy of knowing God on the faces of those village children. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Passionate Heart

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”  Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ Mark 12: 28-30

This week we learn that our motto should be: keep the main thing the main thing but “what is the main thing?”  I can’t speak for you but I meet Christians daily that are working so hard to please to God.  And as a direct result they are EXHASTED. As if this work that He has invited us to be a part of will collapse without my involvement.  After all without my gifts, talents or education this particular ministry will fall apart.  I have placed myself in a treacherous place with very loose footing.  Some would even say, “You’re Building the ministry on the sand”.      

I was reminded of a story in the New Testament.

Luke 10:38-42
 38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with [a]all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

For those of us who relate to Martha be encouraged, Jesus is NOT Disgusted, Angry, Disappointed or even Distant.  He is NOT saying, ‘come and I will Ignore you’.  “Come to me all that are Thirsty” What great encouragement to share with our boys that ‘Jesus is THE thirst Quencher”.   And His thoughts towards us outnumber all the grains of sand in the world.  He Loves us.  

A passionate love affair with Christ Jesus is the Main thing.  


PREVIEW CHAPTER 6: THE WILLING HEART

Question: Do I have a Willing Heart?


Key Verse: For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.   Phil 2:13

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Overflowing Heart

I am so sorry; we missed most all of December with our team.  First we lost our copy of the book and then December took over.  Fortunately, we found our copy of the book and December is behind us. Let us press on.  By the way I’ve started reading excerpts of the book to my immediate support staff in my weekly leadership meeting.  They are very excited.   


THE OVERFLOWING HEART

John 7:37-
“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out. Saying, ‘if any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water”.  

What happens when you run into a Christian who is “full of God”?  
What does a “full of God” person look like?  How would we really know if we banged into one of these critters?

Although I agree completely with the examples that Dave Busby sites as examples answering the questions above.   I thought I would let hear what was spoken around our dinner table the other night when we asked these questions to our boys.  

A little background is important here.  In our home there is freedom to laugh at what we call the “Sunday School Answer”.  So if these questions are asked in our home you need to be prepared to be laughed at if you sight the “Sunday School” answer which is or something similar too “Dad, you know you will look like Jesus”.   

So, the question’s were asked and after we distilled all the “Sunday School Answers” one of our son’s replied “so you would look like the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’”.  We had the opportunity to explain that just because you wear the title of “Pastor, or Missionary” does not make you a “Full of God” person.  In fact it’s common among Christians to polish the outside of the cup and just pretend that the inside is “full of God”.   

So the real question may be, how long has it been since you sat underneath the “fountain of living water” and let Him fill your cup? Are you trying to produce the “Fruits of the Spirit” on your own?  Be encouraged we are wired to be thirsty and the one who wired us this way He is also the One who can and does quench our Thirst. The bottom line is....rivers of living water will never flow out of us if they are not flowing into us. 


PREVIEW CHAPTER 5: The Passionate Heart

Key Verse
Mark 12: 28-30
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”  Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 

Question:
What is the main thing?