Saturday, June 06, 2015

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Yesterday, my tender hearted, animal loving, 9 year old found a baby bird. An ugly thing with eyes sealed shut. It had fallen nearly 3 stories from it's nest in the top of one of our tallest trees. Really, the fact that it survived the fall was a bit miraculous. My son made a little nest for it, and gently placed in a smaller, shorter tree. He tended to it all day, quietly checking in on it, and even feeding it bugs as it chirped with a wide open mouth.

I googled "how to rescue baby bird".

We tried to figure out its breed. We tried to feed it water, and egg, as per internet info.
When my husband got home, he tried to put it back up in it's nest, but the nest was just too darn high.
So, the bird came inside the house, while we tried to feed it egg when it squawked...
After the kids went to bed, and I realized the little baby starling was breathing shallowly, and would not likely live much longer I began to google again.

I googled "how to kill a baby bird".

The methods were all quick, all heart breakingly gruesome. Scissors and boots and plastic bags and freezers...
And my heart was quaking. This was such a tiny creature, ugly and fragile. And yet, I cared. I know God cared too. I felt it. I felt His eyes on this tiny living thing.
In the end, our little baby bird was euthanized in a hopefully more humane way than letting it starve, or become riddled with infection, or picked to death by ants.
But I cannot get out of my head how God saw this little baby bird. It didn't escape His attention that this little creature had fallen so so far. God knew what breed it was. And maybe, God gave us this little bird to be with it in it's final moments. To save it from further suffering... and Maybe God granted us a little glimpse of His concern for all His creation...
To understand, in this small little way, what it means to be seen by the God who sees.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Shame and Lament

     I’ve been walking in the mornings lately.  Trying to take in the scent of frangipani and falling mangoes, the beauty of a mountain covered in green and sunshine.  Trying to sort out 2.5 years of wrestling with Thailand… wrestling with an ever present sense of guilt and shame.
Thailand, like many countries in this region, is a land of vast juxtapositions.  It is known for lavish beauty, gold, silk, smiles… but also desperate poverty, sexual depravity, and human injustice.  And for a person who so desperately wants to be Jesus, the weight of human need is crushing.  Families can easily be seen lodging in shacks, and children with very little but rags to wear.  There are stories of familial desperation so intense the only solution seems to be to sell your children to ready buyers. 

Where does a person start? Is it my job to bring them all bags of rice? Or give them all clothing?  Subsidize their lives?
With much of the year reaching temperatures of 40C (100+ F) we use our air conditioner at night, regularly.  And nightly, there is a sting in my heart knowing that many people, including people I’ve come to love, are sleeping without air conditioning… or not sleeping, because it’s just too stinking hot. As I buy meat to feed my family with, I twinge with guilt knowing that many people can’t afford this simple luxury.
I have felt shame in all I have, and my inability to “fix” it all.  I’ve felt ashamed of all the many priviledges I’ve had in my life… and it is frequently overwhelming… 
So, on my walk a few days ago, I was listening to music and one phrase came through “Are you He? Did you die on the tree?” Silly rhymes. Massive meaning.
 I am not He. I did not die on the tree. I am only one small part of “He”.

 It is not my job to fix everything, to heal every wound,  pay every wage, save every person… but my job IS to see. To lament with my fellow humanity in their hardships. Aching with Jesus, as we see their suffering. 

Shame is crushing. Immobile.  Seeing only me.

Lament moves. It sees outside itself.  It sits with the hurting... aching and praying.

I’m trying to move past my shame. Trying to move forward towards lament, and attempting to understand the peace that passes all understanding.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Holy Moments and Muscle Mashes

     I don't often get massages. I have had about three since we moved to Massage Town (aka Chiang Mai) but last night I was offered some free time, and I thought I was due for my 8 monthly massage. Normally, I feel quite self conscious, but I suppose because last night it was a rather last minute decision I didn't have time to work myself up.
     As I laid there, being pummeled by elbows and possibly knees, and maybe even a mace (?) I thought perhaps it might be a good time for me to chat with God. I have mentioned in my previous posts, my struggles with the Ex-pat community here, and I have limited Thai relationships due to a language barrier. I have struggled desperately with my "role" in "our" ministry. I don't help victims of trafficking, I don't help street kids. Chad does. I don't counsel frustrated, fatigued, struggling missionaries. Chad does. I don't take beautiful pictures, and collect moving stories from all over Asia. Chad does. I simply try to make sure everyone gets something resembling food, daily. I try to juggle the kid's school life, and the littlies home life. I try to push myself to be social. And I sometimes even do a load of washing. My confidence and capabilities to do much for myself seem to have disappeared. I feel limited and tied down. Restricted. Trapped. And meaningless. With four dangling weights strapped to my legs...

     So, these were the things I wanted to address with my Almighty Creator. While being mashed by a woman half my size.

     I complained. God reminded me that this is all He wants from me. Just the kids. Just being their mum. Just being a wife, and support system. Just being satisfied in what He has for me. Just being. Not chasing cooler, sexier ministries.

     When I was called forth from my reverie, I began to have a conversation with the masseur, just chit chat (limited Thai, remember?) I told her I have 4 children. She was quick to tell me she had no children. I asked her if she wanted them, because you can ask questions like that in Thailand. She answered in the affirmative. She had lost one baby at 4 months. She confessed she had cried and cried. She prayed to Buddha regularly for a baby. She said, "Oh, 4 children, you must be very happy!"

     "Uh-huh" I answered... because, no, I wasn't... and I began feeling the Spirit of God descend and speak through this incredibly powerful, yet small, Buddhist.

     When she finished her muscle mash up, I, sitting there mostly naked, asked to pray for her. I NEVER ever do that. Not with Christians, and certainly not with Buddhists... But I prayed for her in broken Thai, and then in English. Prayed for God to grant her a baby, because I KNEW God was asking me to. When I glanced up, she had tears in her eyes, and told me she had goose bumps.
It was a holy moment. And I hope one I can cling to, while slogging through poopy nappies, and endless requests for snacks, and conjuring up food from whatever is left in the fridge.

    It was a holy moment, a holy muscle mash-up moment, where God spoke so clearly through this lovely woman. Reminding me to be content. Content in doing only what He has asked of me. And listening for His voice everywhere... because sometimes He speaks through strong, small, Buddhist women...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Theology of Need

       A while ago, I had a conversation with a new missionary who had been here for three weeks, full of hope, excitement, and perhaps a little bit overwhelmed (although she could recall her name, so she was doing MUCH better than ME at three weeks.) We were discussing the topic of hiring house helpers. She was reticent to hire one, because she "didn't want anyone to think she needed help." To which I tactlessly replied that indeed she was helpless. She couldn't read, write, speak, or understand, not to mention that the dirt here is constant and very likely different than home. Plus, hiring a house helper helps the economy. 
If I could, I would rewind that moment, and think INSIDE my head next time (first impressions are not my forte)... But it has had me thinking for months now.

Why are we so ashamed of looking like we need help?
Why are we happy to come and "serve" people who "need" our help, but find needing help offensive?
How can we truly honor the people we came to serve if we don't need them?
If there is no reciprocity, can it be a relationship?
Why are we ashamed of needing help?

So, here are my thoughts on the matter, for what it's worth.

I believe we cannot truly serve anyone, if we don't also need them. We can't be truly humble, if we have no needs. 

I think Jesus truly demonstrated this. He came as a baby. I suppose he didn't need to. He could have just "shown", up as he has periodically throughout history. He could have walked in from the wilderness. Instead he came as one of the most helpless, need filled creatures, a human baby. There are very few babies as needy as human babies. No doubt his mother had black circles under her eyes from the sleepless nights of feeding him, wrapping him and unwrapping him in clothes as he would have pooped and wee'd all over himself, a lot. Because he was a baby. He had to be carried around constantly. I wonder if he had to have his hand smacked as he grabbed dangerous tools for the 78th time that day. Maybe he toddled a bit too near the fire, spilled hot water on his foot, and ran with sticks.  

He, like every human child born, would have been a constant, bottomless well of need
Perhaps a quadriplegic would have some insight into what Christ would have experienced. He went from having limitless power, and ability, to nothing. Nothing. Absolutely no ability to do anything for himself. He needed

He spent ALL those years needing for only 3 years of ministry. Now, I think most mission agencies would balk at the idea of missionaries spending 32 years learning, and growing and changing and NEEDING for only three years of professional ministry. Quite frankly, I think we would all go a bit nuts... but maybe there is something there. Maybe we show up with too much... Perhaps we land in our new country with too much "ability", too much "knowledge", too much "understanding".  Maybe we don't spend enough time needing help. 

Perhaps our biggest contribution to our new country is allowing ourselves to need. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Psalm of the Alien

When the homesickness washes over me in wave after painful wave,
Whom have I but You?
When the language mystifies, when the markets overwhelm,
Whom have I but You?
When children cry, and need, and destroy, and hurt,
Whom have I but You?
You sent us as Abraham into a great unknown.
Like Abraham, we obeyed, currying our idols, anxious to serve ourselves and You and anyone else who got in our way.
Like the Psalmists we have loved and hated our lives, our new land.
Like the Psalmists we have felt abandoned by You.
But without You,
Whom do we have?
Like the insane prophets of old, we have trusted You.
We trust You.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

On Forgiving the Community

I recently had a conversation with Counselor Man (a.k.a. Husband) about how one needs to acknowledge injury before one can truly forgive. It was all very theoretical. It sounds obvious, of course, but for some reason, isn't my instinct. I usually assume that injuries are my fault, or because of a rough time someone is having. Periodically, I write the person off as being mindless.

Since we've been here, however I have been confronted with a community culture that I can't seem to navigate. One that is more mystifying, perhaps, because I never expected it to be. The ex-pat community on our side of town has been slowly chipping away at me, making me more insecure than I have ever been.  It's not an individual thing, it has been a community effect.

And as I have laid in bed trying to figure out the culture of this group, and trying to sort out the why's and how's of how it works, it doesn't make the injuries smaller or less painful. So, I thought perhaps I would exercise forgiveness, as discussed with Counselor Man. Acknowledging the injuries, whether they are totally understandable or not, and try to continue to love the people in the community without the unhelpful anger that has been building up.

I also sincerely hope to be a part of healing this broken community.

So, Ex-Pat Community:
I forgive you for being unfriendly.
I forgive you for ignoring my messages.
I forgive you for your discomfort in pursuing deeper friendships and wanting to maintain an incidental relationship.
I forgive you for abandoning me in moments of truth, confession, and honesty.
I forgive you for being too busy.
I forgive you for forgetting my name, or that we ever met.
I forgive you for pursuing the presentation of perfection that only ever isolates and condescends.

I hope that perhaps this blog post can be the beginning of healing here, not just for me, but for others who may feel mystified, outside, injured, and rejected... which I suspect is more people than would ever readily confess. I hope to blast the face of perfection from this flawed crowd, so we can TRULY honor God with our brokenness and restoration.

Monday, February 02, 2015


I am convinced that without community we cannot experience God. Without the weird, the awkward, the inept, the hurtful, the hilarious, the mothering, the teaching, and the forthcoming we cannot get a true picture of who God really is.  Unity in the Body was one of Christ’s main messages, one of his main battles.   Sometimes, I wonder if Jesus is more at home in the healing contentions within the church than he is in the painfully comfortable, well maintained prayer meetings, free from honesty.   Perhaps Jesus is more honored by our confessions of failure in a community setting, than by the quiet internal battles we believe to be noble.

If we don’t encounter the irritating, how can we learn mercy? If we don’t encounter the hurtful, how will we ever learn grace?

Our lives are changed by our interactions with people. Our hearts are sustained by loving relationship and support. We are challenged by the annoying, and edified by the elderly.  We get more growth in compassion as we sit beside the tired haggard mother who is desperately trying to keep her kids quiet and in one place for 2.3 minute, than being able to listen to the sermon on the same topic.  Perhaps it is more helpful to hold the hand of the single mother, to sit next to the drunk alcoholic, to engage the socially awkward than to have a really good prayer time for them.

How are we doing community?  Are we committed to the “other” even though they are so annoying we’d rather throw coffee at them then sip it with them?  Do we hold the tired mother’s baby? Are we hugging the reeking addict?  Do we converse with the missionary who is “doing it all wrong”?
Or do we sit in our comfortable seat, with our comfortable friends, presenting a very comfortable image?

Perhaps the old adage “You cannot love another until you truly love yourself” is less true than “You cannot love yourself until you truly love another”.