Saturday, October 30, 2010

how do you pray?

As I was listening to a podcast while I ran ten miles this morning, I was challenged to pray in a new way. The pastor shared about how when we pray for people, especially those on the mission field, we consistently pray for their safety. We pray that they will be safe and that God would protect them from danger, that they would not face any trials or tribulations. We essentially pray that their lives would be trouble-free.
Now, while most of us would gladly accept a pain-free life, the reality is that is not just going to happen. We live in a fallen world. There is an enemy out to destroy us. But, we know that ultimately we have victory. We already know how the story ends.
In the podcast, the pastor shared that we should pray that God would show up in our lives, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. We should pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. We should pray for divine appointments that will further the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be apparent in our lives. We should pray for patient endurance and ultimate victory in every challenge that comes our way.
God has not called us to a life of safety. Jesus did not lead a "safe" life. Paul did not lead a "safe" life. "In everything that we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our priority, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit with us, and by our sincere love." 2 Corinthians 6:4-6
I think that those words imply that Paul lived anything but a safe life. I am reminded of Lucy's question in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She asks, "Is he safe?" To which Mr. Beaver responds, "Safe?! Of course he's not safe, but he's good."
How true are those words! My God is not a God of safety, but He is most definitely a God of goodness. So, when we pray, maybe we should focus more on bringing forth God's goodness in all situations than praying that God would protect us and keep us safe from the things He may want to use to teach us.
My prayer today:
"I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called--His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority of power or leader or anything else--not only in this world but also in the world to come." Ephesians 1:15-21

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

emergency

I recently finished the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan. It was an excellent book, and one I am sure that I will be going back to reread very soon. But, the book in and of itself is not really what I am going to talk about today. Rather, I am going to share some quotes from the afterword that served as both an encouragement and a challenge to me.
Francis Chan shares a story of how he sat next to an individual who runs an anti-trafficking organization at a dinner and how he learned about the children who were caught up in this horrific "industry." (I use the word "industry" because it is one of the top money-making industries in the world, despite being illegal.) He speaks about how his heart broke hearing the stories, how we wept all night, how he imagined such things happening to his own children, how he heard God call him to love these children as if they were his own. But, then he talks about how his zeal fizzled over the course of the next several months as he became distracted and discouraged, as he encountered individuals telling him that he couldn't save the world and that he was already doing more than his fair share.
Then, he shared that he and his wife had decided that all the royalties from the book Crazy Love would be donated to a charity that assists in alleviating poverty, bringing freedom, and empowering communities around the world. And this is what he says as quoted in Forgotten God,
"People told us that we were being foolish and irresponsible with the gifts God gave us. They said we should have at least put some away in case of an emergency. My response back was, 'Is it not an emergency that children in Cambodia and Thailand and even the United States are being raped every single day of their lives? Why is that not an emergency?' I think the church often inadvertently teaches that the sex-slave trade is not an emergency. And this, I believe, is sin. Is an emergency only an emergency if it affects me and my immediate family?"

As I sat in my kitchen in Cambodia reading this, I wanted to cry. Why? Because it is an EMERGENCY! It is an emergency right outside my front door. It is an emergency that I see children every day who are being abused, raped, and sold. And, it is not just an emergency in Cambodia. It is an emergency everywhere. Yet, the church has often downplayed the emergency by sending band-aids when an ambulance is what is required. It is easy to read a book or hear a story about the children who fall victim to the sex trade, but I assure that it is different when they have faces and names. I assure that it is different when you sit in the dirt and color with them, knowing that in a matter of hours they may be raped yet again. I assure you that it is different when you hold their dirty hands. I assure you it is different when you teach them to sing their ABC's. I assure you it is different when you see them slowly dying of HIV. I assure you that if you saw these things you would think it was much more of an emergency, and I assure you that my God believes it is an emergency.
It's time to sound the sirens, church!

"Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them." ~ Psalm 10:17-18

Saturday, October 16, 2010

pink or blue?

If there is one thing that living in another culture does to you (though it does many!), it would be that it forces you to evaluate your "normal." As much as we may hate to admit it, we are a product of our culture. We have been influenced and swayed and petitioned to believe certain things are true and factual and, in essence, normal. Then, if we go and plop ourselves in another culture, our entire world is shifted as a drastically different normal sets in. This can happen anywhere. Take a kid who grew up on the beaches of Florida and set him on the streets in Harlem. Or, take a kid who grew up on the streets of Harlem and set him on a farm in the Midwest. Or, take a girl who grew up on a farm in the Midwest and plop her in Cambodia...

I just thought I would share some of the ways God has challenged me and revealed to me some of the cultural things I grew up believing to be normal but have since realized are a bit flawed. The title of this blog post is but one of them. Pink or blue? Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. This is normal and acceptable, right? I mean, yes, girls can like the color blue and wear blue clothing and the like. And, boys can even pull off a pink shirt, provided that it is the right shade. But, we dress our baby girls in pink and our baby boys in blue. Because pink is a feminine color, right?
Hold on.
Stop right there.
How can a color be feminine or masculine?
Colors do not have any anatomy that would suggest they are male or female. They do not give off any kind of hormone or other indication of their femininity or masculinity.
They are merely colors.
In Cambodia, there are no gender-based colors. Grown men drive down the street on pink motorbikes with absolutely no shame. Baby boys and baby girls are more easily distinguished by their lack of diapers than by their pink or blue booties. One of my male Khmer friends commented the other day about how much he liked my bright fuchsia-colored phone. Instead of being surprised by this, I just thanked him and told him how much I paid for it.

Which brings me to my next cultural point. In America, it is certainly a cultural taboo to go about asking people how much they paid for things. I mean, everyone likes to share about a good deal that they got on something. But, it is not appropriate to walk up to a stranger on the street, tell them that you like their pants, and then ask how much they paid for them. It is kind of on the same level as asking someone how much they make. It is a conversation that you may have with family or good friends, but it is not one that you discuss with strangers while standing on a street corner waiting for the light to turn green. Or is it?
I recently learned that a perfectly appropriate and expected question when someone is speaking with you and likes something you are wearing or carrying is "How much did that cost?" Being from a culture where that is not an appropriate question AND realizing that I live on considerably more than the average person here, I am naturally uncomfortable with this question. However, I am learning that it is just part of life here, so I suck it up and hope that my bartering skills allowed me to get a good deal. Or, I revert to my old familiar lie, "I don't remember."

Culture is a fascinating thing. Can you think of any aspects of your own culture that you have caught yourself questioning?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

hand wash only?

Ok, I will be completely honest. I have always been one of those shoppers who checks out the washing instructions on clothes prior to falling in love with something. Why? Two reasons. 1. I do not want to pay to have something dry cleaned, and 2. I HATE hand washing clothes. In order for me to buy something that requires hand washing, I need to really love it...and also know that I am likely not going to have to wash it every time I wear it (i.e. sweaters or dresses).

But, Cambodia puts an entirely different spin on things. Cambodia (at least where I am currently living) stamps "hand wash only" on every article of clothing I own. T-shirts. Yes. Jeans. Yes. Athletic shorts. Yes. And even towels. I thought I would put up a little video of what my "laundry room" looks like.
video
That is where the hand-washing festivities take place, folks. And, they happen there every three days or so because if I wait longer than that it literally takes me HOURS to do my laundry. If I do it every three or four days it is manageable to stay on top of the laundry mountain.

Now, with all that being said, I just want to say that I have learned not to despise my laundry time. It has actually turned into a great opportunity for me to be quiet and pray or to put on my iPod with some worship music. The Bible tells us to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16), so for this season of my life I realize that means praying for mountains to be moved while I wring out my running shorts...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

a spirit of fear

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear. It is something that runs wild in Cambodia. Fear of shame. Fear of man. Fear of evil spirits.

This week in Cambodia is Pchum Ben, or Ancestors Day.

Pchum Ben is a Cambodian holiday during which the gates of hell are thought to open and the spirits are released. People travel to the pagodas to offer food and clothes to the Buddhist monks on behalf of their deceased ancestors. The thought is that by offering food to the monks it will vicariously feed their ancestors. There is great fear during this time that people will be haunted by evil spirits, but if they feed the evil spirits, they will be too busy eating (or something) to bother people. Other practices involve scattering rice in open fields and throwing sticky rice balls onto walls for the spirits. Many people travel to the provinces around the country to visit their hometowns and the pagodas there. They are incredibly fearful of the spirits of their relatives coming back to haunt them or kill them.
The darkness here makes me more and more aware of my great need for God and my incredible thankfulness for His love and power. "But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world." ~ 1 John 4:4

My heart's desire is for the people of Cambodia to realize the futility of the sacrifices they make and to turn their hearts to the One True God who delivers them from fear and infuses them with power and love. May they know that once they taste the Bread of Life that they will never hunger again--no need for throwing sticky rice balls at the gates of hell.

Please join me in prayer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

but, will you?

"A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. 'If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,' he said."

Faith. Believing God. Being confident in that which we cannot see. Being assured of that for which we hope.

It is a simple idea. Not too difficult, right? Well, maybe it isn't too difficult for some, but I think for most, including myself, it is much easier in theory than it is in practice. And, actually, I often find myself like the man with leprosy. I don't doubt that God can do what He says He will do, rather I doubt whether He will or not, whether He will do it for me. I am quite confident that I am completely undeserving of the grace He grants me each day. His mercies are new every morning, and believe me, I know that I need new ones each and every day! And, just in doing that, He has already given me more than I could ever repay. He sent His Son to endure pain and hardship on this earth, to die a sinner's death though He was without blemish, and all of it was for me. So, who am I to ask for anything more than that? I do understand that if He chose to, He could do much, much more for me. But, is He willing?

"Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. 'I am willing,' He said. 'Be healed!'" ~ Mark 1:40-41

Yes, my friends, He is willing...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

walking

"No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." ~ Micah 6:8

Walking with God. This is something I have been thinking on a lot lately. What does it mean to really walk with God? I don't know that I have the answer, but Enoch did.

"Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him." ~ Genesis 5:23-24.

Enoch understood what it meant to walk with God. He walked in close fellowship with God. Fellowship is a word we throw around a lot in the Church. We have "fellowship time" and "fellowship dinners." But, what does fellowship really mean? Fellowship means unity. It means partnership and close friendship. Those are words I would love to use to describe my relationship with God, but in good conscience, I am quite sure that I shouldn't. I don't walk with God like I should. I do not have fellowship with Him as I should. Why? Because I fail to hold up my end of the partnership. Does He require too much? What exactly does He require?

He requires all of me, and no, it is not too much. Enoch understood that.

And, when he did, God took him. But, I do wonder, since Enoch walked in such close fellowship with God, did he even notice right away that he had left this world and gone on to something better, or were his eyes so fixed on the Lord while he was on earth that the transition into eternity was seamless?

Dear God, may I live knowing that today is the beginning of eternity with You.