Reflections from thailand
Because of lack of time to write new blogs for a while, I want to share some entries with you this month from one of the most transformational summers of my life. The summer before I met my husband I was blessed to spend in the land of my birth: Thailand. These entries are from a journal I kept that summer, and many include prayers. I hope they can bless you!
June 15th, 2009
My dear Heavenly Father,
Oh how I miss Your closeness. It's so easy to go through the motions without stopping to gaze at You, my Rock. Sometimes I feel so lost and alone in this walk, but I know You are there and my hand is in Yours. I worry I will not know the turns to take when I come to the intersections of life. Let me hear Your Spirit when He whispers in my ear.
There are so many dreams I have, Lord. But are they selfish or are they placed in my heart by You? I want to travel and meet people and hear their stories. I want to see all of Your world. I want to learn the cello. I want to climb mountains and sleep under the stars. I want to write song lyrics that encourage my brothers and sisters in their faith, and songs that will touch the ears of unbelievers. I want to see the United States by bus and train. I want someone to experience these things with...
This past weekend was a special one and I met two people I will never forget. James Hla and his wife Shell invited Ashley and I to go with them to Mae Sai, a border town of Thailand and Burma. It was a three hour drive from Chiang Mai. We drove through the mountains and it was beautiful. When we got there to the church, James told us we could go walk around if we'd like. "Just don't walk into Burma," he said with a laugh. So we walked through the market for a couple of hours. For our beds that night we slept on pads on a concrete floor. I wasn't used to it, but I have to say I liked it, sleeping on the floor. That's not to say I didn't wake up several times through the night!
The next morning (Sunday morning) we got up and walked to a Muslim restaurant with Shell and another lady. The tea was delicious! It was Thai tea and Burmese tea with sweet condensed milk. Mmm! I'll never forget that tea. We walked back to the church and Ashley and I went back to bed. Church wasn't until 10:30 a.m. The building we stayed in was across from the church. As we walked over to the church we could already heart the people singing in Burmese. It was beautiful! Although I couldn't understand the language I stood mesmerized by the outpouring of hearts praising the same God and Father who created those very hearts. I could feel the Holy Spirit there and moving, and the singing brought tears to my eyes. I serve a God who unites the souls of His children despite racial differences and communication barriers.
After the singing, James invited Ashley up to share the story of the minister and his wife in California who were told they needed a permit to hold a Bible study in their own home, or else they would be fined. Ridiculous! After Ashley shared, I went up to share my testimony. Mr. Hla translated for me and I felt the Spirit guiding me as I spoke.
The best part of the whole weekend was meeting two very special people: Paul and Lydia. As we sat down for lunch we were sitting next to them. Lydia thanked me for my testimony. "When I look at you, I don't think you struggle because you look so nice. But then you started talking and as I heard your story I remembered that everybody struggles! I used to think God couldn't use me, but then I realized that He uses the weak to accomplish His purposes. He chose to use me. Then Paul, her uncle said, "Yes, I was encouraged by your story. I, too, wanted to die before I was a Christian. My father made me be a monk for five years, but after five years I decided to leave against my father's wishes. I felt so hopeless and without purpose. I thought there was no purpose in living." But then Paul met Jesus.
Lydia came to the Lord through her uncle Paul. At first her mother and her two brothers hated her, but after a while they understood better. Her parents divorced when she was two, and her father has been a monk for 25 years. She hasn't seen him in twenty years and he doesn't know she is a Christian. "Are you scared to see him?" I asked her. She looked down and smiled, "A little," she said.
Paul and Lydia are from a tribe in Burma called the "Kham Ti Shan." 'Kham Ti' means "Golden Place." They are working towards translating the Bible into their language to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to their people. Here is what makes this so difficult. First they must organize the written language because it currently has no organization. In fact, only 10 out of 17,000 members of the Kham Ti Shan are able to read the scrolls of their tribe. So Paul and Lydia are first working on a dictionary for their people. It takes a special sort to do this kind of grueling work.
What amazed me was Paul and Lydia's humility! They were so surprised that Ashley and I showed so much interest in their work. They do not view themselves as much, but they believe in the power of God. Lord, I pray to hear about the day they finish this enormous task that lies before them. I would love to celebrate with them!
dare to look deeper
So often we take things at face value. For example: If someone is smiling, they must be happy. There are many faces in this world, but what is shown is not always what is real. I remember teaching a class at a Junior High church camp while on camp teams with my Bible college one summer. I gave an example of how often we don't take the time to look beyond a face and into the window of someone's soul. After the class a girl stayed behind sobbing. She said no one knew what a hard time she had been having. She'd been carrying her heavy burden around silently, plastering a smile on her face that fooled all those who thought they knew her.
When I was in Junior High I was this girl. From everyone else's perspective I had no reason to be sad, to be hurting. I had good grades, was involved in extra-curricular activities, and smiled A LOT. I actually had a counselor tell me, "You don't have a good reason to hate your life. You have everything going for you." Needless to say my parents didn't take me back to that counselor. I was hurting inside deeply. I was having a crisis of faith and asking hard questions. "Did I only believe in God because that's what my parents believed? If there was a God how could He allow so much evil in the world?" Every single day I got on the bus my friend Tera and I were bullied by two boys. They made fun of us, told us how fat and ugly we were, and taught us a lot of perverted words and gestures that I didn't want to know. One of my closest friends in school turned on me and instant messaged awful things like, "Why don't you just go ahead and kill yourself."
Unfortunately even the things I experienced in Junior High are minor compared to the world of kids today. The pressure of sexting, unlimited access to media and the ability to ruin someone's reputation through it, drugs, alcohol, and the ever more prevalent obsession with sex, and girls putting their worth in how 'sexy' they can be. Gah! Our kids are beat on every side with these things. I had supportive parents who sought out counseling for me, and I had a youth sponsor who would take me out to ice cream and talk with me. There were several people during this time who were willing to look beyond the plastered smile and into the window of my soul. They weren't afraid of not having the right answers or saying the wrong thing. They were there for me and I knew it. I knew they cared. They believed in me when I could not. When I questioned my faith they encouraged me to question, but to not stop at the questions! They encouraged me to search out the answers in the Bible and the historical evidence that helps verify it's truth. These people were safe to be real with, to be raw and without the fake smile. They were safe. They dared to look deeper.
I agree that not all of us are in a position to foster, but I believe that all of us are in a position to influence a child for the better. It might not be as hard as you think. Simply lending a listening ear, giving encouragement, sponsoring a child that might not otherwise get to be involved in extra-curricular activities such as music, dance, or sports. As a neighbor you might be the only kind, safe, and stable person your neighbor child knows. As a coach, spend the extra time on the kid who struggles more or doesn't have as much natural ability. As a teacher, go beyond the grades and academics and inspire your students through your own life, Live the example, don't just teach it. As a church youth sponsor, don't just show up for Wednesday night youth group. Find a child you can invest in, mentor, and love on. As a church elder or deacon, invest in the youth! They are the future! Don't be afraid to throw money at your youth program if it will change the future generations. As a foster parent, don't believe the devil's lies that you aren't actually making a difference because you're not "the ideal or perfect" foster parent. Remember that Christ's strength is made perfect through your weakness and inadequacies. As a parent or foster parent, let your kids see what matters most in life through your own life. What you spend your money on, what you talk about the most, what you spend the most time on. They will see easily if it's material things, a successful career, entertainment, or if it's Jesus. The most important thing in this world is not education. It's not money. It's not even family. It's knowing your Creator and loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Do the children in our lives see us living for the only thing that matters? Or do they see us chasing after the wind...
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." ~Hebrews 4:12-16
The shave darin challenge!
is a rural Missouri preacher's wife who stays at home with her son Winston and 4 foster sons whom she and her husband are in the process of adopting! (Looking forward to the day I can put their names on here!)