Monday, December 29, 2014

Hopeless Mourning

Grace International School (GIS) is a complicated mix of culture and custom. There is the international community that consist of students and staff form countries all over the world and then stuck in the middle is a bubble of Thai nationals. There are Thai teachers that of course teach the language and customs of the land and there are Thai administrative staff that help the school stay connected and in tune with the community and government. All of these staff members are Christians. Then there is a third Thai community. What we would call the blue-collar staff, landscaping, security, custodial, and kitchen staff. A few of these staff members are believers but many of them are not. Kevin is the supervisor for most of these areas.

Kevin has truly enjoyed working with and getting know the members of his team and they are enjoying his leadership (completely the grace of God). The week before Christmas tragedy struck his department. On the way to work one evening Khun Tidt, a security guard, was killed in a scooter accident leaving behind a young wife, a 7 year-old son and 5 year-old daughter. As far as we know Khun Tidt and his family are not believers. On December 22 we attended a traditional Thai Buddhist funeral and the experience left us heart-broken.  

Khun Tidt's widow, daughter, son and friend
We followed the two song taos (pick-up taxis) that were full of the Thai staff from the school to a Buddhist temple north of the city. Once there we had the opportunity to greet Khun Tidt’s widow and children. We were surprised to see that his son was dressed in a Buddhist monk’s robe complete with shaved head. We were told that this was customary for a son or close family member to go through the rites to become a monk to gain favor for the deceased. This practice may only last for a few days but they believe it will still create merit for the next life. The coffin was placed in an ornate funeral cart surrounded by flowers. His picture was on placed on a separate wheeled cart and it too was decorated with flowers. 

Funeral cart with coffin on display at the temple.

We ate a lunch of bitter vegetables, pork nam prik, chicken wings and sticky rice and then the superintendent of GIS gave the eulogy which was translated into Thai. This concluded the first portion of the funeral and it was then time to move to the crematorium for the cremation ceremony. Buddhist monks stood on the four corners of the casket sprinkling water and chanting. After this the funeral guest took up the two long ropes that were attached to the front of the ornate funeral cart and began pulling the cart toward the crematorium. We all walked together while music played. Neighbors came out and paid their respects as the procession passed.
Funeral Processionl

Passing Over Ceremony
At the crematorium the passing over ceremony began. They believe that this will cause the spirit of the deceased to pass from this life to his next. What the next will look like is determined by how much merit he earned while living. Honored guest are asked to give merit on behalf of the dead by presenting the monks with pieces of their robes. One by one the guest come forward and place the robes on a table in front of the funeral cart. A long ribbon was draped from the casket to the table connecting the two. Several times during this process the monks came forward to chant and pour water from one vessel to another symbolizing the spirits passing over.   

Cutting Banana to Sever Relationship with the Deceased
The last portion of the passing over ceremony was when my heart completely broke. A banana was placed on the funeral cart and together Kuhn Tidt’s wife and children cut it in two. This symbolized their desire to sever their relationship with their husband and father. As painful as that is to think about what came next is when I lost it. As soon as the banana was cut Kuhn Tidt’s widow grabbed the children’s hands and ran to an awaiting scooter. A family friend was waiting with engine running so that as soon as the three were on board he sped away as quickly as possible. The family ran not out of grief but out of fear. They were fearful that the spirit of the man that they loved would follow them and haunt them. Can you imagine losing a spouse or a parent and the love you had for them being overwhelmed with fear? I cannot explain how deeply this hurt me to watch. 

Once the immediate family left, the cremation ceremony began. The casket was moved from the funeral cart and placed in the crematorium. The ornate cart was placed on a funeral pyre to the side. The casket was opened and the body was washed with coconut water. They are fearful that the spirit will return to the body at this point and the washing of water prevents this from happening. We were all invited to come forward and pay our final respects. We were given paper flowers that were to be placed in the coffin. Then the coffin was closed and the door to the crematorium was shut. So that the fires could be ignited.

Ornate Funeral Cart
The ornate funeral cart was the first to be burned. Fireworks built into the cart ignited the flames and produces a loud wailing sound as if the cart itself mimicked the grief and anguish of the crowd. To say it was eerie is an understatement. From the burning cart a cord had been strung to the crematorium. A spark traveled through this cord a started the fire beneath the coffin. 

At this point the crowd began to disperse. As we turned to go we noticed that fire on the funeral cart had died down and people began to frantically pour accelerant to reignite the flames. We were told this was a very bad omen. This showed that the deceased was not ready to leave this life. Fear was compounded on fear.

It was one week ago today that Kevin and I attended the funeral. We are still processing. We have come face to face with the hopelessness, the lostness that surrounds us. Kuhn Tidt’s fellow security guards are shaken to their core. Some have already said that they have seen his spirit at work creating fear.

We covet your prayers as Kevin and the rest of the Christian staff at GIS try to breath life giving truth into their dark and horrifying world. May the God of all truth, love, and mercy set them free from the shackles of fear that the enemy is using to keep them blinded to life.   


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Receptive Heart

Receiving is hard. Independence is our goal from an early age. It is what we are taught. It is what is expected. I guess this is why when Jesus teaches us to come to Him, abide in Him, we struggle. I know I do. I am definitely a ‘try harder’ kind of person. 

Our motivation is innocent enough. We just want to do all that we can to please God. We want to share His love with a dying world. We want to serve others. We do all this for JESUS. We work hard, very hard. The only problem is that we are doing it all in our own strength and we end up exhausted. 

As we have read and studied chapter three we have realized just how hard we have been working to do good things. We also realize that we are tired. The bottom line is Jesus does not want us to do things for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work in us and through us. My job is to receive from Him and let Him have His way in my heart and my life.

The second thing that stood out in this chapter is this:
Jesus moves toward needy people.

For some reason it seems very unspiritual to be needy. We buy into the lie that a good Christian has it all together. We don’t need help and we don’t need God. This is the opposite of what scripture teaches. Over and over again, Jesus went to the needy. He sought them. He healed them. He loved them. The Pharisees were the ones that had it all together and Jesus rebuked them.

We spend most of our time relying on our own resources such as our education, our finances, or our connections. Only when circumstances come into our lives that we can’t handle or fix do we turn to God. This is exactly where I find myself today. Circumstances over the last month have brought me to the place where I realize my need for Jesus. Even though it is never my intention, I have been doing it all on my own. Lovingly and graciously God has quietly watched as I struggled and strained under the weight of self-sufficiency until I came to the end of my rope. Now, I am hanging on by a thread and I am crying out to Jesus just one simple word, “Help!” His responses to my desperate cry is, “I’m here what do you need from me?” My answer…. “Everything!” 

What have you asks Jesus for?

Preview of Chapter Four

Key Verse:

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31


Over a period of time God’s Spirit will begin to fill us up, as we receive and depend on Him. He’ll keep filling us up and filling us up until all of the sudden there will be a river flowing out of us. 

Well, what does that look like? It might be boldness. It might be joy. It might be the power to forgive. It might be peace in the midst of a “hellacious” storm in your life. It might be patience around someone who literally drives you crazy. It is about the Spirit of God filling you up and releasing His power through you.


In what area of your life do you need God to release His power through you? What are you doing to abide in Him so that you might receive His power?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Searching Heart

In chapter one the author, Dave Busby, made it clear that we are all hard wired with a thirst.  In the beginning of chapter 2 he make’s it clear that we all have a plan to satisfy this thirst.  So the first question is “what is your plan”?  Or maybe you’ve done life a particular way for so long that this part of your heart is calloused or cauterized?  And your heart has convinced you that not only are you good but you are doing way better than your neighbor.  Some one please look up the verse about the heart being deceitful above all else.

Let me tell you about a phenomenon I see here in the mission field.  It’s what I will call “the Tea bag” illustration.  You see Missionaries are Amazingly resourceful people!  (they Must be to survive) This resourcefulness really is quite amazing and I am learning a great deal watching and being a part of this resourcefulness.  

The other day I was sharing a cup of tea with some of my coworkers.  When one of them said, ‘I don’t need an entire single size bag of tea for my cup, may I dip your bag into my cup just a couple of quick dips should do?’.  I can’t speak for you but when I enjoy a cup of tea, I will squeeze every last drop of the bag into my cup for Full Flavor.  But apparently, this workmate of mine will reuse a tea bag Multiple times before they retire the exhausted tea bag.   My question is “at what point has it stopped being a tea bag and become simply a bag with expired tea grounds in it”?   

Here’s the illustration:  You see for years Missionaries due to their resourcefulness have used and reused the same tea bags for years for many reasons and most of them legitimate reasons.  And at some point have forgotten what the “Tea” taste like.  And when they ask ‘for tea’ and you give them a cup of tea it is easily rejected.  Not because it is a cup of tea but because somewhere along the way they’ve grown accustomed to a plan ole flavorless bag of “tea”.  And by default have substituted the real for a flavorless substitute.  

That is NOT a criticism of missionaries in any stretch of the imagination.  These people have left behind most everything to share with a lost world the saving Grace of Jesus Christ.     

The point of the illustration is “to see how easy it is to become comfortable doing life and not realize just how far we have moved off of center”.   

So when Dave ask, “ what is your thirst or what is your plan?” it is easy to not do the heart work and respond with “I’m thirsty for Jesus and I don’t have a plan”.  I would remind you of the “tea bag” let that set on your heart for a while.  

My people have committed to evils; they have forsaken the fountain of living waters and they have taken shovels and are digging wells, broken wells, which can hold no water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

So What is Sin?

It almost embarrassing for me to confess this (almost).  I’ve always understood as a non Christian that it was the fact that I was a sinner that kept me apart from God (understood).  But as a Christian growing up with a fundamentalist background Sin had become this itemized list of things you don’t do.   And then it becomes a matter of just not doing the things on the list (or polishing the cup)  being careful to always present yourself as “one who has it all together”. Dave’s answer to the question what is Sin?  Sin is trying to meet my inside thirst independent of God.  Good-bye God hello, false well.  Apparently, we all have more in-common with the “woman at the well” then we originally thought.   

Are you tired of Digging?  I say put down the shovel and turn to the “Living Water for thirst quenching” Or to borrow an old soda advertisement “Obey your Thirst”.  

We are praying for you and are truly thankful and blessed that you are a part of what God is doing in Thailand through us.  Our boys are growing in so many ways here in Thailand.  We believe if our boys can in their own way get their heart around “understanding their thirst, and how to quench this thirst” it would be revolutionary.   You can pray with us in this way.  

Preview of Chapter Three

Key Verse  
And on the last and greatest day of the feast Jesus stood and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 
John 7:37

If Jesus Christ pulled up a chair next to you and ask a simple question, “what do you want me to do for you?” What would you tell Him?         

Is Jesus my Only Hope?  
How am I at receiving?