Tuesday, December 18, 2012

bad blogger

i have been a bad blogger as of late. i apologize. i like to write regularly. writing is good for my soul. i process a lot of life this way.
but, sometimes i go through times when i simply do not write as much as i would like. often these times are those during which i should probably be writing the most because there is much going on, much to be processed. but, i just get overwhelmed and words escape me.
this is the place i have been for the last several weeks. stress levels are high. final projects are creeping up. decisions about the future must be made. and, i am still wondering what happened to 2012.

so, instead of writing, i have been sitting...or at least trying to. sitting at the feet of a Savior. marveling at how He became flesh. anticipating the celebration of His arrival. listening for His voice beckoning me. living in His glorious light.

the writing will return. it always does. but, i wouldn't hold your breath for much more here until the calendar turns another page...

Friday, December 14, 2012


Confession: I have a very competitive spirit.

Now, as I have grown up (some), I have learned to control this spirit a bit more. I can still have fun playing games that I am not winning. I have learned to graciously accept defeat. And, I no longer explode in anger at my teammates when they are not performing at my desired capacity...or, maybe that is the reason that my chosen athletic competition is running--an individual sport. Hmmm...I will have to think on that one. But, moving on...

On December 2, I ran my third half-marathon. This was the second time I have run the Angkor Wat Half-Marathon, and I was determined to set a personal record this time. My first half-marathon was in 2009, and I completed it in a time of 1:57:00. For those of you who are not runners, this is a pretty good time. I ran 13.1 miles (21km) at an average pace of under 9 minutes/mile. As someone who had begun running less than 2 years before that race, I was quite pleased. In 2010, I ran the Angkor Wat Half-Marathon for the first time. And, I was sorely disappointed with my finishing time of 1:58:38. This is NOT a bad time, but it was disappointing to me because it was slower. Never mind that my training conditions were not ideal (tropical heat & humidity + a treadmill).
So, fast forward to 2012. I was determined that this time I was going to beat my time. I trained hard. I rose early to beat the heat. I mapped courses all over Phnom Penh because I know I run better outside than stuck on a treadmill. I ran even when the humidity was so high it felt like breathing through a wet towel. I dodged motorbikes and noodle carts. I endured the "1, 2, 1, 2" comments of bystanders noshing their breakfasts of pork and rice. And, for the most part, I enjoyed my early morning runs. But, there is something wonderful about racing, about running alongside others and passing them...

The long-awaited race day arrived, and this was the view at the starting line.
Stunning. Absolutely stunning.
This is easily one of the most beautiful (and historical) race courses I can imagine.

I shuffled up to the starting line with everyone else and started my watch as my feet hit the starting mat. And, then, I ran...and ran...and ran...

I finished the race in 1:55:40! It did not matter that my legs were shaking or that I was dripping sweat or that my feet were wrought with blisters. I raced, and it felt so good! It was such an amazing feeling to run with and past people. It was exciting to shatter my personal best time, even if others' enthusiasm was not paralleled by mine.
But, I suppose that is the story of life. We have to race on to the finish, whether others are cheering us on or not. It was only in the last 2 minutes of my race that I heard the cheers of familiar voices. The rest of the way it was just me and my own determination...and Jesus. (He and I talked a lot over those 13.1 miles.) Racing is about pushing through the pain because the joy and satisfaction at the end will be more than worth the exhaustion. That 1:55:40 represents a lot more to me than merely a fast time; it is motivation to race on!

Friday, November 23, 2012


The fish was THIS big!
I was THIS close to getting that 14-point buck!
It took me FOREVER to get home because of that traffic!
I almost DIED after that workout!
Children are ALWAYS so ill-mannered these days!

Do you know someone who always over-exaggerates everything?

I will admit that I exaggerate as much as the next person. I did NOT actually feel like my legs were going to fall off after a 12-mile run a few weeks ago, albeit they were tired. The traffic I got stuck in the other day was NOT the most annoying thing ever, but it was an inconvenience. I realize that the amount of sweat I produce on any given day here is NOT equal to my body weight as I often claim, but I do spend a lot of time drippy, or at the very least clammy.

For the most part, I think those hyperbolic statements are fairly harmless. While they may be gross exaggerations, they do not inflict pain or perpetuate oppression or covertly deceive others. But, when do exaggerations move from hyperbole, which is not meant to be taken seriously, to deception or bold-faced lying?

I recently read this article that discusses how the advertised "fruit" in many processed foods is not actually fruit at all. Does this cross the line? Or, what about when a nation's claimed literacy rate is based on a person's ability to sign their name and not an ability to read, write, and understand language? Is it deceptive for someone to speak as though they are an expert on a topic after reading a book or attending a lecture? I have watched some documentary-type videos in the past few weeks in which were made some bold claims with little evidence to support them. Was this just hyperbole (because surely no one would take that broad of a statement seriously), or was this deception (because important, relevant evidence was omitted and the producers knew that few people would actually pursue that evidence on their own)?

I do not have the answers to these questions, but I have realized that I want to be more careful about the claims I make, the images I present, and the "truth" I believe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I have been thinking about this post a lot, and I was a bit hesitant to make it. I lack confidence that I will actually be able to articulate my point clearly. But, I think this is important and needs to be said (not that others have not already made these observations). So, here it goes.

I am thankful for my nation of origin. I am incredibly thankful to have a United States passport. I do not take it for granted. I am well aware that it affords me a lot of opportunities and spares me a lot of grief and cutting through red tape. I am thankful that I grew up in a country that values freedom of expression and press and the right to assemble. I am thankful that America allows people to have different opinions, and not only are people allowed to have them but they are also able to express them. I am thankful that I can say I am displeased with a social institution and not fear that I will be imprisoned or tortured for expressing my displeasure. These are wonderful things.

I hail from the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But, I must say that being on the outside looking in during this last election cycle made me feel pretty gross. I will admit that it was pretty nice being able to escape mud-slinging political ads and relentless phone calls from the Gallup polls. In case you are curious, I did watch all 3 presidential debates in their entirety, and I did vote. I also watched the election returns roll in on a friend's iPhone while I was attending a meeting--a meeting where there were more nationalities than I have fingers present. I cared deeply about this election because I care deeply for both my nation and my world.

And, I think that is where the feeling of grossness comes in because in being an outside observer I realized how little my nation--not the government, the nation--cares about the world. Okay, I admit that this is a bold statement. You can stop reading now if you want. I understand.

For those of you still with me, I shall continue. I was surprised and amazed how very much my international community cared about the results of this election, how very much they were informed about the candidates, how very much they watched and/or read commentary about the debates, how very much they supported a candidate for whom they could not vote...and how very little their countries were even acknowledged throughout the election process...

Admittedly, I watched the foreign policy debate and was incredibly disheartened by the utter lack of foreign policy discussed. Here is an interesting article if you want a different perspective. And, I actually sat with some of my friends whose countries America considers allies but were not mentioned once in the foreign policy debate. I explained to them that the candidate debated on issues that are important to the American majority. It deeply saddens me that this means issues such as global trade, human rights violations, climate change, aid and development policies, and others were largely ignored. The reality is that the United States does play a key role in world. We have power and influence...and responsibility.

I question whether we are appropriately stewarding that responsibility when entire continents were omitted from a foreign policy debate, when party lines result in stalemates rather than opportunities for collaboration and shared understanding, when my facebook feed is littered with comments about the "anti-christ" and moving to Canada (where in case you did not know, they have socialized healthcare), when people are perfectly content to place blame rather than promote change. That's my rant. I shall stop now. Well, I shall stop after one last comment...

The truth is that the world is much, much bigger than you, America.

Monday, November 12, 2012


On October 15, the former king of Cambodia passed away. King Norodom Sihanouk was 89 years old and had been suffering from poor health for a number of years. He had been living in China for many years as well. King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne in 2004 at which point his son King Norodom Sihamoni took on the role. The former king's history is a bit controversial. But, I am not going to discuss that. If you are interested, I encourage you to do some of your own research.

What has been fascinating is to see the way the nation has mourned his death. On the day his body was transported back to Cambodia from China and taken to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Cambodians took to the streets to welcome his body. The streets were clogged for hours. People walked miles--people who typically balk at walking 500 feet. The nation declared a formal week of mourning during which all "happy" television programming was suspended, people were encouraged to wear white shirts with black ribbons pinned to their breasts, and thousands of monks in orange robes gathered in front of the Royal Palace to perform mourning chants each day at sunset. The nation will continue to be in mourning for at least 2 more months while the former king's body rests at the Royal Palace and people from all over the nation can come to pay their respects.

One one evening some friends and I headed down to the Royal Palace to see the events. Below are some of the images we captured...before the torrential downpour that soaked us to the bone and flooded the streets with knee-deep water and sludge.
A giant photo of the former king at the front of the Royal Palace

Rows and rows of motorbikes parked about half a mile from the Royal Palace

Cotton candy and popcorn for sale...right next to the incense sticks, candles, and lotus flowers

Incense and candles lit to honor the former king

People of all ages were paying their respects

The number of people in such a small area was astounding!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


 Several weeks ago, there was a holiday over a long weekend, and I opted to head north and explore the second-largest "city" in Cambodia--Battambang. I say "city" because that is a generous term. It is far from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Battambang is much more like a sleepy Cambodian town, marked by colonial French architecture and stilted, wooden houses surrounded by flower gardens. I loved it!
Most of these photos are courtesy of my friend Danielle, since my camera battery died on our first morning of adventuring...
Bus stop fried rice = not so tasy, served with a side of fervent prayer against disease (prayers were successful!)
Preparing to take a ride on the infamous Bamboo Train!

Making our way down the tracks!
Visiting Cambodia's only winery...no need to do this again...
Carefully balanced on the edge of the cliff for a stellar group shot! (Yes, to my right is a steep drop of several hundred feet, but I assure it was completely safe...)

Bike ride to some temple ruins on some of the WORST bikes ever, but beautiful scenery along the way!
Exploring the temple! (Climb all you want, friends. There are no roped off areas or "do not touch" signs here!)

And, we visited a dilapidated Pepsi factory with many of the old bottles still inside.
A street shot of beautiful Battambang!

 Cambodia has so many wonderful treasures, and I am so thankful to live in such a wondrous kingdom!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

growing pains

Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. After years of devastating war, it would seem that the country is finally on a better track toward the future. But, there are growing pains. What do economic growing pains look like in a developing country? Well, I am not, and would never claim to be, an economist, but from my perspective in Phnom Penh it looks like...

new coffee shops popping up on street corners,
and street corners littered with garbage such as to-go coffee cups

designer clothes shops with cropping up along main boulevards,
and garment workers are paid a monthly wages less than the cost of one dress in said shop

giant office and apartment buildings being built throughout the city,
and people who are forced from their homes and land in the name of development

wealthy businessmen driving Lexuses,
and families of 6 squeezing onto a motorbike

road construction to improve drainage,
and streets that flood worse than before the improvements

markets full of fresh produce and meat,
and children with bloated bellies begging at the exits

organizations offering job-training programs,
and streets with rows upon rows of tailor shops, beauty parlors, and moto mechanics

young adults itching to practice their limited English skills,
and a majority of people who are not literate enough in their own language to read a newspaper

iPhones are everywhere (including in the hands of the 2 young Cambodians currently sitting across from me at one of those new coffee shops),
and electricity is a luxury that sometimes gets switched off with no explanation

Growing pains can be rough, and I find myself wondering if there is a way to avoid them. I am not sure. I mean, the growth is exciting because of the new opportunities it brings. But, sometimes it is just painful and ugly. Sometimes it is hard to see how this growth could possibly be good. Sometimes it is hard to see how this growth could possibly be bad. I suppose it is all about perspective.

Monday, October 29, 2012

like breathing through a wet towel

After 23 Indiana summers, I thought I understood the meaning of "hot and humid." I thought I knew what it felt like to be sticky and sweaty and just plain uncomfortable. I grew up in an old farmhouse without central air conditioning, and so, I thought I knew what it meant to position the fan just right and to sleep in positions to create the most surface area for the warm, artificial breeze to cool my clammy body.

This, friends, was merely conditioning.

Indiana humidity has nothing on the soggy blanket which covers Cambodia.

There are many days when I feel as though I have acclimated to the heat fairly well, but then there are days when I just can't seem to stop the profuse sweating, when I just want to lie flat on the tile floor for a bit of relief.

This season is usually easier on the heat and humidity than others, but I was reminded about how the phenomenon of Indian Summer when I rose [already sweaty] at 5:30am for a run and felt like I was breathing through a wet towel for nearly four miles...

But, hey, sweating is supposed to be healthy, right?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I recent re-discovered my favorite t-shirt. It was buried in my closet, and I probably had not pulled it out in over a year. I think it got tossed to the bottom of the pile because I thought maybe it was nearing the point of no return. But, when I pulled it out a couple weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the pit stains were not nearly as prominent as I had thought. The holes were tinier and fewer than I remembered. It definitely used to be a darker shade, but it seems to have at least faded evenly. And, to be honest, I bought this t-shirt at a thrift store over 10 years ago. It has been a pretty good investment for a handful of change.

I am not sure why I love this t-shirt so much. It is red, which has never been one of my favorite colors (though it has grown on me). It says "Treble Clefs" on it, which I can only assume is some sort of geeky musical group of which I have never heard (and would never have been invited to join).

But, when I pulled out that t-shirt, I was so excited to put it on. It is comfortable. It fits well. It feels like home and memories and fun.

And, I was suddenly amazed how much comfort and joy I found in an old, faded t-shirt. It was familiar, and sometimes I feel like familiarity is something I spend a lot of time searching for. I live in a land that, even after nearly three years, is still so unfamiliar. I have adapted to many aspects of life in Cambodia. I have learned how to function, and function quite well most of the time. I have come to accept some of the things I was initially shocked/saddened/appalled/confused by, but they are still not familiar.

T-shirts are familiar. But, I must remember not to cling to tightly to that familiarity. I do not want familiarity to dictate the path I take in life. I do not want to avoid something unfamiliar or difficult simply because I do not yet know how to navigate it. God knows. God is familiar. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the same in Indiana or Cambodia or anywhere else I may find myself.

And, I don't think He minds if I take my used-to-be-a-much-brighter-shade-of-red t-shirt with me...at least until the holes grow to an unreasonable size or the pit stains become embarrassingly obvious...

Friday, October 12, 2012


Do you ever have those days? Days when you walk away discouraged? Days when you are tempted to punch someone square in the jaw? Days when you want to revert to being a toddler and throw a proper tantrum? Days when an entire pan of brownies won't make it better...and actually makes it worse because then you feel sick, too? Days when you are shocked to realize some of the ugliness that lurks within you? Days when you just feel defeated?

I do. I think everyone does. (And, I think if you refuse to acknowledge that you do, you may also have some denial issues.)

I have had days just like these. I had one the other day.

In case you were concerned, I did not punch anyone, lay down on the ground and scream at the top of my lungs, or eat an entire pan of brownies. But, every one of those things flashed through my mind.

Instead, I opted to pray (while I was stuck in traffic), to sing [loudly] as I drove down the road, to tell God how thankful I was for His goodness toward me, to breathe deeply (trying to ignore the exhaust fumes and sewage odors), to be thankful that I was not the woman standing on the side of the road puking her guts out who I drove past (and then to pray she would feel better soon), to genuinely thank the young man who pumped my gas [even though it is his job], to wield my mosquito bat on the pests invading my bedroom, to journal my thoughts and feelings, to have a cup of tea and read a book, and to allow myself to be reminded that regardless of my jdkfaljda;kfdj day, Jesus is still seated on the Throne of Heaven and His love and grace toward me remain the same.

"Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again--my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember You--even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the LORD pours His unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing His songs, praying to God who gives me life. 'O God my rock,' I cry. 'Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?' Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, ' Where is this God of yours?' Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again--my Savior and my God!" Psalm 42:5-11

Thursday, October 4, 2012

the powers that be...

I think I have issues with authority figures. Well, to be honest, I am sure that I have issues with authority figures. I am not opposed to authority figures or organized systems with clear leaders. I am not against supporting leaders or respecting them in their positions. In fact, I think this is very important.

But, I am not good at following blindly or going along with something simply because a leader told me to or sacrificing my own thoughts and values to adopt someone else's. Truth be told, everything in my flesh wants to rebel when I am asked to do such things. I realize this rebellion is not always appropriate, and as I [hopefully] mature, I get better at knowing when to "just go with it" and when to "fight for my right...to party!" (Sorry, I couldn't resist the Beastie Boys reference. I am back on track now.)

I am aware that my views on authority within the church, and for Christians in general, will not be regarded fondly by some of my readership. I have no doubt that they will cite verses such as Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit" and Romans 13:1-2, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished." Romans 13 continues on with several more verses regarding authority as well.

I am familiar with these verses and many others that discuss submitting to authority, in whatever form it comes. And, I know people who will argue that these authorities, regardless of how corrupt or manipulative or unjust they are, should be respected and followed. I know people who will argue that if they are not asking you directly to sin, then whatever they propose for you to do is perfectly acceptable. Stand on your head for an hour. Wear mismatched socks. Attend a prayer meeting three nights per week. Volunteer in the nursery (even if you are nauseated by the sight of boogers...of which there will be an abundance). Do not wear jeans with holes in them. Be sure not to miss more than 6 Sunday morning church services in a year...because if you do, you will be kicked out of the church-sponsored dormitory.


I am not a Biblical scholar. I am not an expert. I am not claiming to have all the wisdom of Solomon, let alone of the Almighty God. I very well could be entirely wrong on this whole thing. If indeed, it is a matter of a definitive "right" and definitive "wrong."


I am deeply grieved that the church sometimes boils the supreme authority of God down to a set of rules and ridiculous expectations. And, I can help but think that God is grieved as well. There is no life in laws and rules. Rules have a place. They protect us. They teach us and train us. They make us better people. But, when life becomes about following the "rules" or bowing to another's authority, I think we have missed the point. We missed life. God's gifts are good and plenty. He places people in our lives to sharpen us, to challenge us, to encourage us, to cry and to laugh with us, to dine with us, to teach us. I do not think that God desires for us to feel as though we are being oppressed by or a doormat for other people. I know that I have felt that way before, and it does not feel good. It is exhausting and frustrating and life-sucking. However, I have had some incredible leaders in my life in various capacities. And, those are the people I have willingly followed because I know that they are interested in me and in doing things well. They have listened to and considered my questions. They have advised me well. They have acknowledged why my idea or concern is simply not possible or best. This is encouraging and life-giving. They provided a safe, definite place without a rigid system of condemnation.

Now, if "the powers that be" could just find that balance that results in joy and life and love...

Friday, September 28, 2012

a sinner's Savior

Sometimes I worry. Sometimes I freak out. Sometimes my mind races trying to figure out how plans will come together, how tasks will get accomplished. Sometimes I question whether I am making the right decisions.


Sometimes I am content to trust God with what I cannot see. Sometimes I am confident that He has my back and goes before me. Sometimes I trust Him to provide for every one of my needs.


The difficulty is that I realize that there are no times when I should be worrying or freaking out or questioning. I know that all times I can and should trust God and be confident in Him and know that He will provide for me...He always has.

But, the sometimes still come.

Perhaps it is because I am not as vitally united to Him as I need to be. Perhaps I am not praying about everything and giving thanks often enough. Perhaps I am clinging too tightly to what is in my hand to receive what is being offered to me. Perhaps it is just that I am a sinner.

Sometimes I simply need to be reminded that I have a sinner's Savior.

"My child, don't you worry...I am a sinner's Savior, Miracle of age, unconditional Love that is yours everyday. I'm the Gateway to glory, My promises sure, My mercies everlasting. Oh, and I am yours." ~ Katie Heckel, "My Child, Don't You Worry"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

being poor

The other day I read a blog post about being poor. It listed all these realities of what it is like to be poor. Now, it would be important to note that this was written based upon being poor in America. It provided a very American perspective. Living overseas and having many international friends makes me realize that these realities may not span across borders.

Regardless, I read this list and was heartbroken. I am not poor. I am just not. I read the list and cried. I simply do not know what it feels like to sit with your sick child in your lap for hours in the emergency room because that is the only place that you can get treatment. I grew up middle class.

Being poor is something I grapple with regularly. I really do not think of myself as frivolous or materially wealthy. That is okay. Sure, there are things that would be nice to have, or I would like to do. But, I am not poor. I do not have an iPhone or an iPad. To be honest, I cannot even afford to repair my MacBook Pro's screen after it was cracked a few months ago. The display is still functional, so cracked it shall stay. I keep track of every 500 riel note (13 cents) I give to parking attendants. I always wash and reuse ziploc bags. I never turn on the air conditioner in my bedroom, even when it feels like 116F outside and I toss and turn all night, sweaty. I make my own yogurt. I eat more beans and less meat. I sometimes tell my friends that I have "other plans" when they invite me out to lunch or dinner, even if the "other plans" are eating leftovers in my living room because I do not have the extra cash to go out somewhere. But, I am not poor. I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and I am always able to eat 3 meals per day. I have Internet access in my home. I drive my own motorbike. I am in graduate school. I run...for fun, and I buy quality shoes to do it in. Sometimes I go out and buy a latte at a cafe. Sometimes at the end of the month I regret buying that latte.

I am not poor, but I see people who are everyday. I see people who are struggling to survive, to just get by, to dig between the couch cushions to find some change to pay the heating bill, to borrow from the loan shark to buy their son a school uniform. Re-used ziploc bags, sweaty nights, and regretted lattes just don't seem the same.

I am not sure what all of this means. I know that sometimes the poor just get poorer, the rich just get richer, and those in the middle just try to stay there. I know that sometimes justice does not seem to win, and to be honest, I am just not sure what to do with that...

"A poor person's farm may produce much food, but injustice sweeps it all away." Proverbs 13:23

Monday, September 17, 2012


Different people have different filters. Sometimes I think that there are people who have no filters at all, but that is not really true. We all filter ideas and thoughts before they manifest themselves. We consider what we say, to whom we say it, how we act. There are ideas that are released through the more porous public filter, the things we don't mind the whole world knowing. There are thoughts we release through a less porous filter to a wide, but limited, population. There are things we release only to the filter of friends and family. There is a filter that is harder to get through that releases information to only a select person or few people. We all filter things differently.

I know that I am pretty careful about how I filter information. And, I have realized that this affects others' perceptions of me. I will be honest and say that I am not person who typically wears my heart on my sleeve. There are deep things in my heart that most people do not know. However, I am an incredibly passionate person, so I am realizing that people think they understand my heart more than they actually do. And, I am not upset with them. I am not judging them. I understand why they believe certain things about me. But, I want to assure them that there are many things they are not privy to, there is information that did not make it through the filter to them. I am not hiding it. I am protecting it. I know there are people that will argue that is not okay, that I do not let people into my life. I disagree, and I think I have some great friends who would support me in that--because they know my heart.

There are always aspects of people that do not make it through the filter to what we see and know. I think I just needed to say that today.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I have been told that I am quite passionate. I have been told that I can actually be quite intimidating. I realize that I have a tendency to do things at full throttle. If I agree to do something, I am committed to it. I will see it through, and I will not do it halfway. There have been occasions where I have known that I did not even need to submit an assignment for a class and would still come away with an "A," but I could not allow myself to skip the assignment. Not only did I have to do the assignment, but I also had to do it to the best of my ability.

I like to do things with excellence. This used to be out of a desire to achieve perfection. But, I gave up on perfection quite awhile ago. I am not striving for it anymore. Now, I seek to utilize the gifts within me to bring honor and glory to my God. Believe me, I am well aware that I am not perfect. And, the truth is that there are plenty of things I am NOT passionate about. I am not passionate about learning to juggle or being a concert pianist or working with the elderly. Those are all admirable things in their own right, and I have respect for those who pursue them and are passionate about them.

The truth is that my passion stems from something beyond me. I feel that it is unfair to neglect the gifts and abilities that the God of the universe bestowed upon me. How dare I haphazardly put together a project when He gave me the ability to do it excellently? Who am I to decide that something is not worthy of my time or hard work when it has been set before me? I think my God expects better of me because He knows what is within me.

"As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Ephesians 6:6b-7

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

stop pretending

Sometimes life is challenging. Sometimes loving is difficult. Sometimes it is easier to just "fake it."
But, I do not want to do that. I do not want to put up a facade. I do not want to pretend to do the right thing.
I want to be sincere and genuine. I desperately want to be this. I want to see the hearts of people. I want to earnestly listen to them, to care about what they care about. I want to willingly and joyfully set aside my plans and intentions in order to give to another. I want to be the person God desires me to be and encourage others to be who He wants them to be also.
I do not want to put on a show for people. I do not want to do what's right so that I will be rewarded or patted on the back. I do not want to put on a smile that is akin to a set of wax lips. I do not want to give pat answers.
Above all, I want to be like Jesus. I want to show mercy and compassion. I want to listen. I want to get angry about injustice. I want to be patient. I want to forgive quickly. I want to believe the best of people, even when I have a list of reasons not to. And, I do not want any of it to be out of a sense of self-righteousness or obligation or guilt. I want it to just be who I am...because of Who is in me.

"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality." Romans 12:9-13

Monday, August 13, 2012

things that matter...

i try to maintain a perspective in all aspects of life about things that matter and things that do not. there are many, many things that matter. there are many, many things that simply do not matter. i find that sometimes the line between the two can get blurry, especially when it is right before our eyes. sometimes we become dramatic, worthy of a stage even, about things that do not matter.

last week i was tempted to whine about my electricity being out. (ok, maybe i gave in to the temptation.) for reasons unknown to me, my neighborhood lost power for a total of about 15 hours over the course of about 28 hours last monday and tuesday. this meant that i cooked dinner on my gas stove in the shadows of the setting sun, ate in still darkness, and sat in my living room with sweat literally pouring down my face. i am not exaggerating. sweat. pouring. shirt. soaking. the lack of power meant that i had to go in search of electricity and free wifi at a cafe in order to do my homework. it meant that food had to be thrown out. it meant that sleep was fleeting. it meant that clothes had to be washed by hand.

but, the truth is that it doesn't really matter. that was last week. it is all but forgotten. today there are fans. today there are lights. today there is refrigeration and wifi.

so, what does matter? or maybe, who matters?

i hope that i can always maintain a perspective that focuses on what matters, and i think what matters is people--living, breathing, hurting, hoping people. i do not want to be distracted by inconvenient things that will not matter tomorrow or next week, let alone in five years or fifty. rather, i want to consider people. i want people to matter to me. that is what mattered to Jesus. and above all else, i want the things that matter to me to be the same things that mattered to Him.

so, whether sweating or shivering, whether with wifi or without, whether by fluorescent or by flame, i choose to focus on the things that matter.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

God, be merciful...

"Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 'Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: "I thank You, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income." But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, "O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner." I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.'" Luke 18:9-14

I really feel like these verses can just stand on their own. You do not need my commentary, but here it is.
My daily prayer is becoming, "God, be merciful..."
I am far from what I should be, what I desire to be. I try to not to cheat, try not to sin, try to be faithful. But, the reality is that I am a sinner. I get angry. I make false judgments. I grow impatient. I act selfishly. I miss the mark.
And, I know it. I think that acknowledgment is what God is really seeking. He desperately wants us to own up to our failures, our sins, our ugliness. He desperately wants us to petition Him to be merciful because He desperately wants to be merciful.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Recently, I had one of those days where I was completely set to dive into a pile of tasks and be super productive only to face constant interruption. I sat down at my desk with my computer and books and pen and lists, and I was set to go...or not.
I ended up nailed to my chair for an hour and a half while a co-worker nearly ran out of air as she spoke about everything under the sun. Seriously, she spoke went from politics to studying at university to religion to famine in Africa. It was a bit overwhelming, really. And, especially so as it was exclusively in Khmer. After nearly 2 hours, I had a pounding headache and not a single thing checked off my to-do list for the day.
I was annoyed by the interruption and was determined to avoid them for the afternoon.

But today, reality set in. My co-worker was sharing with me how much she values being able to talk to me about these things, about how she needs to be able to de-stress with someone because some things are just too heavy to carry around. And, I felt about 2 inches tall as I remembered how annoyed I was on that day of constant interruption. The truth is that I understand the importance of having a listening ear, of being able to share with someone who really "gets" it. I also understand that sometimes the need to word vomit does not come at the most opportune times. And, I realize that being a listening ear can be considerably more valuable than crossing things off of a list.

Perhaps I need to shift my perspective on interruptions and view them a bit more as opportunities. An opportunity to be patient. An opportunity to care about someone else. An opportunity to have compassion. An opportunity to be a bit more like Jesus...

"Then Jesus said, 'Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.' He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn't even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things." Mark 6:31-34

Monday, July 23, 2012

the more important things

"Then the Lord said to him, 'You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy--full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn't God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things." Luke 11: 39-42

I do not want to become distracted by my outward appearance to others. I do not want to worry about splitting theological hairs. I do not want the fruit of my life to be greed wickedness. I do not want to be concerned with counting out my pennies or my 100 riel notes to ensure that my tithe is complete.

Justice. Love. Those are the more important things.

I want to be a lover of people. I want to be generous and give gifts for the sake of giving gifts not for the sake of my own benefit or ease conscious. I want to be kind because there are already plenty of people who are not. I want to consider others better than myself. I want to offer people justice and dignity, and I realize that in order to do that it may cost me something, which I have to accept for what it is. It is worth it. It is worth it because it is far more important than a few sprigs of parsley or some dirt under my fingernails...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

on growing up...

Growing up. That is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to get taller and stronger and have larger vocabularies and be able to express ourselves better. We are supposed to cease throwing temper tantrums when we do not get what we want. We are supposed to learn that the world does not revolve around us and our every whim. We are supposed to become responsible and productive members of society. You know, the kind that get up in the mornings and show up to work on time. (I think when I was in high school my dad may have had his doubts that I would actually ever be able to do this one as he yelled at me to get out of bed EVERY morning.) These are all the things we know about growing up, but the reality is that sometimes we get stuck.

Sometimes we forget that we are 26 or 35 or 57 or fill-in-the-blank. Quite frankly, sometimes we simply act like 2-year-olds. A few weeks ago I was visiting my family, and I had a little giggle watching my 2-year-old nephews and the potential eruption that was brewing. One of them likes to open cabinet doors. One of them likes to keep cabinet doors closed. So, this is a little bit what the scene looked like.

Caleb told Aden to close it. Aden returned a death stare. Frustration started to rise on both sides. Sound familiar?
Now, I like to think that I no longer make a high-pitched shriek when someone else blatantly goes against what I want them to do. However, I am not sure that the response I do have is any more desirable. Is anyone else tracking with me here?
What is wrong with us? Why do we so often still act like toddlers? And, I do not mean that we are fighting over whether the cabinet doors are open or closed. I mean the ways we fail to consider others and think only of ourselves. Did we ever really learn that the world does not center around us? Other people and materials do not exist simply to make my life more comfortable. Yes, I want to enjoy people, and I do not see anything wrong with enjoying stuff. But, people make mistakes and stuff breaks. That is just the way things go, and I want to be able to live with an attitude that is thankful and joyful and filled with mercy and grace. I want to love justice. I want to grow up.

"You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Solid good is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognized the difference between right and wrong." Hebrews 5:12-14

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

a better question?

So, you know those questions we ask ourselves about the goals and purpose of our lives? Ok, so maybe you don't ask yourselves these kind of questions, but humor me.

I have often wondered if I am doing the right thing, if I am living well, if I am really making a difference, if I am really enjoying the life I am living, if I am kind enough or compassionate enough or just enough. The truth is that I want to live a life that truly honors my glorious God, but sometimes I think that I might make that a little too complicated in my pursuit to be like Jesus, to do what Jesus would want me to do. And, a few days ago I was reading in Carl Medearis's book Speaking of Jesus when he posed the following question about a better question we should be asking ourselves:

"If Jesus were living my life right now and He were here doing what I'm doing, would He be pleased or want to do something else?"

I hope beyond hope that He would be pleased...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

division is icky

I simply cannot come up with a better word than "icky" to describe division, at least as it pertains to the followers of Jesus. I do not like it. It bothers me. And, it makes me a little bit ashamed of the way we, claimers of following Jesus, act and represent ourselves to the rest of the world. Sometimes I think we just miss it. Even John did.

"John said to Jesus, 'Master, we saw someone using Your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn't in our group.'" Luke 9:49

How often do we tell Jesus the same thing? Hey Jesus, I just wanted to let you know that those guys over there were teaching something crazy and ridiculous about inviting sinners into their homes, but don't worry, I set 'em straight and let those sinners know that they were going to straight to hell. Ok, so maybe that is a bit extreme, but I am not sure that is entirely off the mark. I know that I have had these thoughts, made similar judgments before. I am not proud of that, and I desperately want to avoid continuing to do it. I think Jesus wants the same thing.

"But Jesus said, 'Don't stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.'" Luke 9:50

So, if you're for Jesus, I want to be for you, too. We can disagree. We can live in different places with different jobs and different dreams and have different preferences in food, music, clothes, decor, and every other material thing in existence. But, if you're for Jesus, I want to be for you. And, I think that is what Jesus is for...because I am pretty sure Jesus thinks division is icky.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I love fruit. One of the great perks of living in the tropics is the huge assortment of fruits that are delicious, available, and affordable. I enjoy eating pineapples and papayas and mangoes and lychee and bananas and dragon fruit and pomelo and mandarins and guava and jackfruit and, well, you get the idea...

But, I am talking about a different kind of fruit.
"The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:22-23

More than I want to eat a tropical fruit salad, I want to produce a holy one. I want to exude love and and an inexpressible joy. I want to carry peace with me wherever I go. I want to wait patiently with a positive attitude. I want to be kind and consider others. I want to choose good over evil. I want to be faithful and true and sincere and be committed. I want to be gentle in my words and my actions. I want to possess a level of self-control that is much less about self than about the good of others.

"A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." Matthew 7:17-20

The Bible has a lot to say about fruit--good and bad. Fruit has a lot more to do with actions than it does with beliefs, I think. I realize that in most cases our beliefs shape our actions, but sometimes we can believe, or at least think we believe, something yet our actions contradict that very belief. It is right to advocate for justice, yet we still purchase items we know are produced in sweatshops by exploited workers. It is right to patiently love our annoying neighbors, but we still come up with excuses to cut the conversation short. It is right to rejoice in every single day we have because God has created it and no day like it will ever happen again, yet we count the hours until lunch...and then 5pm...and then bedtime. It is right to strip down naked to offer our clothes to the enemy who just stole our coat, yet we worry about getting cold or being embarrassed. It is right to keep our word, yet sometimes that means we are inconvenienced or over-committed. It is right to study the Scriptures, yet what good is this knowledge if it never produces any action?

I desperately want people to see good, godly fruit in my life, but I do nor particularly care if it has anything to do with me. I simply want people to know that there is a God in heaven who loves and cares for them, who rejoices with them, who is patient with them, who gives peace that passes all understanding, who is kind and good, who is faithful beyond what any of us could deserve, and who carries us gently when we are broken. And, I think it is a lot easier for people to know and to believe in and to trust that God in heaven if they are able to see even the slightest glimpse of that on this earth. I pray that I would be a glimpse of that, of that holy fruit salad--sweet and refreshing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

how do we measure?

How do we measure success? What constitutes success? If we don't succeed, do we automatically fail?

I do not have the answers, but I have been realizing more and more that God does not measure success in the same ways that we do. God sees a much greater picture than we do. God does not measure success by numbers and percentages. At least, I don't think He does. I think He is concerned with much greater things.
I just finished a book that discussed the absolute power that compassion has on people. Showing compassion and genuine care and sincere love are incredibly powerful in seeing hearts and lives changed. God cares little about how well we follow the rules if we fail to look past our own noses. And, yes, compassion can be transforming, but it does not depend on us. It is not our failure if our compassion does not change people. This is a really hard pill for me to swallow. I like to know that I am being helpful, that I am doing the right thing, that I am successful.

In Gregory Boyle's book Tattoos on the Heart he says, "Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until He was crucified--whichever came first."

Is that success? Just waiting it out? Crucifixion?

I am beginning to think that maybe it is. Maybe success is more about the courage to stand. Maybe Atticus Finch had it right. Maybe it really is about death. Jesus did tell us we would have to take up our cross daily to follow Him. And, I cannot argue that Jesus' death resulted in the greatest success ever...

Friday, June 8, 2012

little things

Have you ever had one of those moments where you just know that God loves you and hears you and answers your prayers?
I had one of those moments a couple days ago. I was running some errands on a drizzly afternoon, which is less than fun on motorbike. It involves donning a stylish plastic rain poncho and trying to avoid being pelted by large raindrops. One of my errands was to purchase a couple ears of corn that I needed for a recipe I was making.

The problem with buying corn in Cambodia is that it is typically only available on mobile carts. In America we have drive-through, but in Cambodia it is more like drive-by. The corn cart has a moto attached, which means it is a fun surprise to grab an ear of corn when out in the evening but a great inconvenience to try to hunt down a cart for a specific need. So, I was driving around completing my other errands, keeping my eyes peeled for a corn cart with no success.

But, as I sat at a stoplight, I prayed that the Lord would place a corn seller along the street on my drive toward home, a street where I do not normally see corn sellers. The light turned green and I turned toward home, scanning the street and all the side streets I passed for the familiar sight of ears of corn hanging in plastic bags from the cart.

And, there it was. Stopped. On my side of the street.

God heard. God provided. God reminded me how much He cares about even the small, seemingly insignificant things in my daily life. He's pretty great like that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

i just don't know...

I was thinking the other day about what Khmer phrases I use most often, which ones have most infiltrated my daily vocabulary.
Of course, there are the expected phrases, the ones everyone learns in their first week of study--"thank you," "how much is that?" "please bring me some water." All of these regularly escape my lips.

But, I think the phrase I use more than I ever thought I would or more than I ever have before in my life is "I just don't know what to do."

Sometimes I feel as though that is my standard answer when people ask me questions. And, for someone who really likes to provide answers, to enact change, to move forward, to make a difference, that is a really hard phrase to say. It has been a lesson in humility. I have realized that I do not have all the answers, and quite possibly I do not have any of the answers. What I do know is that I have a lot of questions, and the more questions I ask, the more questions I have. I believe there are answers somewhere. I believe that there is something that can be done, something that I can do even, but most of the time I just do not know what that is...at least not yet.

A few years ago I think I would have pretended that I had the answer and plowed forward. A few days ago I probably still pretended that I had the answer...and then the bubble burst over my head again, and I realized once more that "I just don't know what to do."

I am realizing that it is okay not to know. It is okay to have to ask questions, to consult others, to do a mountain of research to solve a molehill of a problem. It is okay. I realize that I would much prefer to say, "I just don't know what to do," than to say, "Follow me! I've got all the answers," only to realize after the fact that my surety was misplaced and actually resulted in more harm than good.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

narrow gate, difficult road

"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

I think Cambodia has taught me a lot about narrow gates and difficult roads. Maneuvering through tight spaces and navigating hazardous streets are mandatory for driving in Cambodia. I have developed a keen sense of spatial reasoning that I never before would have claimed. Daily I ask myself questions like this, "Can you fit through that tiny space between the trash truck and moto carrying the live chickens?" What is the reward for doing so? Well, partially the ability to breathe without gagging and partially because there is a certain satisfaction of weaving to the front of the line of traffic waiting for a green light. It is the joy of finding the opening, deeming that it is indeed possible to fit through, and seizing it before someone else robs you of the opportunity.

I think following Jesus is sometimes like that. There is a joy in finding the openings, realizing that beyond all rationality you can actually fit, and jumping in with both feet.

That is not to say that you may not get bumped in the process. Or, that you may not have to do some skillful bobbing and weaving. The road is difficult. Unpredictable things happen. Sometimes the sky opens up and pours on you without warning. People try to cut you off, and they often succeed. Sometimes you have to slam on the brakes. Other times you have to gun it. I think we are often surprised when we learn about the gate and actually realize that the road to get there is not as nicely paved as we would like. We are frustrated when the lane lines are missing...if the road is even wide enough for lanes. We are annoyed by the herd of cattle leisurely crossing the road in front of us. And, I think we forget that this life is about the journey, the journey we were already warned was difficult.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Expectations. High ones. Low ones. Somewhere in the middle ones.

I am realizing more and more that my expectations for myself are extremely high, probably unachievable. Most of the time I am not bothered by this. I prefer to work toward the impossible. I know I am a bit of an idealist sometimes, but the rest of the time I am a realist. I balance myself out. Most of the time I really like setting high goals. I like working hard, filling my days, being intentional and structured. I like dreaming at least six impossible things before breakfast (I guess, the Queen of Hearts did offer a bit of wisdom to poor Alice in the midst of Wonderland). But, sometimes these expectations become a bit much. This became quite obvious to me in the last couple weeks when I felt quite confident that there were not enough hours in the day, or days in the week, for me to be able to fulfill all of my commitments, to accomplish all of my plans. I had homework and work and meetings and obligations and spotty Internet and...other expectations I had placed on myself.

And, really, the problem with expectations is that we don't just have them for ourselves. We have them for everyone else, too. We have them for friends, teachers, co-workers, family, and even God. In this, I have realized that my expectations of others are often quite low. This is not because I have terrible people in my life. Quite the opposite. But still, I have low expectations. I think maybe it is because I used to have ridiculously high expectations of others and was disappointed so many times that in a lot of ways I simply gave up expecting. It is not fair, but it is true. I hope that one day it is not true anymore.

I hope especially that it is not true about God. I know that sometimes my expectations are low. I do not doubt for a moment whether or not God has the power, authority, and ability to cast a mountain into the ocean or remove a cancerous tumor instantly or heal my heat-induced mid-afternoon headache. I do not doubt that He can, but I sometimes doubt that He will. I do not expect it. My faith is not dependent upon that. Some may call that maturity, a deep-rooted belief in God's sovereignty even when it is not understood. I like this. Some may call it cowardly, yellow-bellied. I do not like this, but I fear that this may be more accurate. Maybe I expect more of my created being than I do of its Creator. Maybe the many distractions of this world crowd out the great expectations. Maybe I am too afraid of being disappointed to expect anything at all. Maybe, actually most assuredly, there is a loving God who will take my mess and teach me once again what it means to expect wonders that never cease. This is my prayer today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

thoughts on faith

I am unsure whether I am qualified to make a post about faith, but then, I am not sure that anyone is. Faith is a bit of a tricky thing, I guess. I am not sure what it is really supposed to look like. I have been trying to figure it out. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." But, sometimes I have had the faith that something I hoped for would work out. I hoped against hope that it would, but it didn't. And, instead of being crushed and disappointed, I was actually relieved and thankful. For many years I earnestly believed that when I graduated from college, an opportunity to go live in the bush of Africa would fall into my lap. It didn't. And, I am quite glad for that now. I suppose I could chalk that up to an immature faith, or a self-centered rather than God-centered hope. But, the truth is that I just don't know. It does not say that we have to have a mature faith in order to get what we hope for. What constitutes a mature faith in the first place? And, how do I explain the things that have come to pass as a result of my confident faith, even in its immature state?
The truth is that there are things in which it is easy for me to have faith. Gravity. I believe that a gravitational pull is keeping me from floating to the clouds. The moon. I believe that the moon and stars are still in their places even though I cannot see them when the sun is shining. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was not there. I did not see the empty tomb. I did not touch the scars in His hands, but I believe they are there.
2 Corinthians 5:7, "For we live by believing and not by seeing."
But, sometimes I want to know that one day I will see all these things I believe come to pass. Is that unreasonable? I am afraid that it might be. I am not going to cease believing because I don't see, but I cannot say that I blame others for doing so. I am not shocked when tragedies happen and people "lose" their faith in God. What happened to the assurance of those hopes? By all rights, it seems that they were buried with someone's baby or burned in a house fire or exploded in a landmine. It is at those points that I avoid making judgments and clap my hand over my mouth before I stick my foot in it. Who am I to swab over another's reality with my confident assurance? That probably sounds harsher than it is meant to. I believe in God's sovereignty. I do not doubt it for a moment, but I am also aware that not everyone has this same confidence. And, I am just saying that I don't hold it against you. I get where you are coming from because really, I don't know that I could give you the hows and whys of it.
Maybe that is because faith just is. No hows. No whys.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." Matthew 5:45

I am not a fan of the above verse. I know that it is true. I have seen it. I have experienced it. But, I don't particularly like it.
I am a lover of justice, and in my teeny tiny worldview, this cannot be just. How can the same sun shine on the abused and the abuser? How can the same rain fall on the adopted and the abandoned? How can this be? But, it is.
It just is, and it forces me back into the place I need to be. The place where I have to trust that far above and beyond what I see and feel and hear and experience, my God is good. His justice is right. He is justice, and it is my view that is skewed. There are things that I am confident break God's heart far more than they break mine. And, truthfully, there are days when I am overwhelmed with brokenness. There are days when my heart aches over single mothers who cannot afford to spend more than 80 percent of their income on childcare for one child, and so they tearfully consider leaving their precious babies on the doorstep of an orphanage. My heart aches for the mentally challenged woman who is repeatedly raped by men in her community because she is an "easy target." My heart aches for the lonely men who seek companionship in all the wrong places and the insecure women who accompany them. My heart aches for the families who just can't seem to catch a break or escape the devastating effects of cancer. My heart aches for the hurting teenagers no one wants to listen to. My heart aches for those who have to choose between necessary medications or having food in their cupboards. My heart aches for those who waste their lives on things that moths and rust will destroy.
But, the sun still shines and the rain still falls. Sometimes I just wish that it didn't...and maybe sometimes God feels that way, too...
"Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." Amos 5:24

Monday, April 30, 2012

why i love keeping it local...

 I just wanted to make a post about why I love what I do and why I love working with local people and seeking to empower them. 
Over the past month I have been doing some training with new staff, and it has been such a stretch for me. It is not that I am unfamiliar with the material I am teaching. I actually feel pretty confident about that...most of the time. But, there is something to be said for conducting training in a language that is not your mother tongue. I will be honest and say that I was quite nervous to do some of this training without the assistance of a translator, but it seemed silly to hire someone to translate something that I knew most all of the Khmer words for...or at least could explain a concept well enough for others to understand.
 So, I have spent much time with my English-Khmer dictionary, my markers, and my computer creating lessons about working within families and communities. And, it has been such a blessing for me to be able to empower Cambodians and showing them such honor to learn their language enough to support them in this way. I still do not claim any level of fluency, but I get by with a little help from my friends! 

And, last week, I had the joy of going to a provincial village where we conducted a training on child rights for potential foster families. It was so much fun to engage with these men and women and see their excitement about adding a child to their family in this way. These men and women are not extraordinary by any great standard, but they are choosing to humbly do what they can to make a difference in the lives of children. Awesome!

 And, riding in a Toyota Camry with 6 other people for a few hours and sweating my body weight under a hot tin roof were completely worth it. Why?

I will go ahead and say it. I love the countryside. I grew up on a farm, and I did not think that I loved it as a child. I have since changed my mind. I love the slower pace of life. I love green things. I love the smell of dirt (and marvel at how clean that smell seems). I love being able to run and climb trees. I love open fields and starry evenings. My childhood is filled with wonderful memories from a farm, and now, it is sometimes really difficult for me to live in the concrete jungle of Phnom Penh where security guards blow their whistles if you walk on the tiny patch of crab grass in the "park."
So, I love going to the countryside. And, I love seeing families in the countryside who work together and play together and eat together.

I love the clothesline filled with t-shirts drying in the sunshine while the chickens peck the ground.
 I love the ball that sits and waits for the sun to drop in the sky and the children to come play.
 And, I think to myself, "Why wouldn't we want to keep things local?" Who wouldn't want to grow up in this beauty?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am convinced that life is all about perspective. There are so many possible perspectives. There are so many daily choices that we can make to improve the quality of our lives. We choose to endure a rough day or week or month...or year, or we choose to enjoy the challenge and rejoice that our character is being sharpened. We choose to be annoyed by inconveniences, or we choose to laugh about them and take the opportunity to just slow our lives down for a bit, to enjoy the moment.
If there is one thing (and there are many) that Cambodia has taught me, it is to shift my perspective. On days (like today) when the heat is stifling and I am sweating just sitting in front of the fan, I can be thankful for that fan that at least keeps the warm air moving, for the ice in my freezer, for my power not cutting out in the hottest part of the day, for my motorbike that allows me to get places quickly, for the mango banana smoothies I have for breakfast, for air-conditioned cafes when the heat starts to make me delirious. And, the truth is that this too will pass. The rains will come soon, and the temperature will drop a bit and jeans will once again become a tolerable clothing choice.
I think this is the way life works. I choose my perspective. I can choose to enjoy everything I can about today, about this season, because the truth is that it will pass. Good seasons, bad seasons. Neither last forever. I much prefer to remain positive and enjoy the moment than to grumble and complain and wish things were different or that I could fast forward through the not-so-lovely times. Believe me, there are times when I am tempted, but I am confident that whatever this day holds can and will be a blessing, not a curse.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

karaoke? yes, please!

A few weeks ago was my friend Kelly's birthday, and she opted to have a karaoke birthday bash. As you do.
Karaoke is VERY popular in Asia, and the options are vast. We went to a local mall for pizza, and then headed upstairs to the karaoke studio where we had reserved an air-conditioned (what a treat!) room called "The President" where we engaged in an hour of ridiculous singing (being careful to choose songs with lyrics in English).
The birthday girl laughing at our rendition of Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy."My friend Vicky serenading us with some Taylor Swift.
And, of course, what is karaoke without some Abba?!? Go ahead, and "Take a Chance on Me."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I love Easter. I love the joy of knowing that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conquered death, that a grave could not hold Him, that a stone could not stop Him. His resurrection is what sets Him apart from all others throughout history, from all those who have claimed to be "the way." I love celebrating Him and again being in awe of His power and greatness...and His love for me.

Additionally, I have great childhood memories of Easter. I remember waking up early every year and bustling about the house to put on a new dress and being allowed to wear the special white Easter hat. I remember hurrying to the car and racing the sun in order to attend the Easter Sunrise service (before we had even had a chance to hunt for chocolate filled Easter eggs, though I think my brother secretly made note of where they were all hidden). I remember shuffling in late to the service and squeezing into a pew that was likely in the front (so everyone would see us arrive late). And, I remember joining in choruses of "He Arose" and "In the Garden." I remember the sunshine breaking through the stained glass windows and an inexpressible joy filling my heart. I remember big breakfasts and fellowship following the service, and I remember preparing for the "regular" service. For many years, the church in which I grew up has had a tradition of transforming an ugly wooden cross into a beautiful living cross by placing flowers on the cross (which has been covered in chicken wire). Every year it is breathtakingly beautiful. Every year it is new. Every year it is filled with color. Every year it reminds me of the transformed life I have in Christ.

For the last few years I have been in Cambodia for Easter, and unfortunately, for the last two years I was not able to do much special to celebrate. The first year I spent the day on a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, and the second year I was helping a friend with an emergency situation. But, this year I was intentional about my Easter celebration. I rose early to go for a run with a friend and watch the sun rise over the city. I went to church and celebrated with my brothers and sisters, and then I went out to lunch with some good friends. But, the best part of all is that I was able to "tune in" via Skype to the Easter service in Argos and watch the cross's transformation. What a gift and a great reminder!

Thanks for letting me join in the celebration of the transformation!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

in our hearts

"For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6

Have you ever wondered just want the face of Jesus Christ looks like? I don't mean what color Jesus' eyes were or what kind of beard he was sporting. I mean, the face of Jesus Christ. The one that reveals God's glory. The one that attracts people, even though it was not strikingly handsome (Isaiah 53:2). The one that shines lights in our hearts.

Several weeks ago I listened to a Khmer friend of mine share about his elderly grandmother. He shared about how she used to take him to church when he was a little boy and how he came to know Jesus because of her. He spoke about the example of faith she had been to him and how she never wavered in her belief even when other family members and neighbors thought she was foolish. And, he shared that now, as his grandmother is aging and suffering from dementia, she rarely recognizes him or any of his family members. She no longer knows the names of her neighbors. But, she still knows Jesus. She sees Jesus everywhere, in every person's face. The only name she knows is Jesus. She looks into my friend's eyes and thanks Jesus.

Maybe this is what Paul spoke of when the light of God would shine in our hearts and we would see the face of Jesus Christ? I hope that I am able to cling so tightly to Jesus that He is in every face I see, even when I can remember nothing else...

you can have all this world, but give me Jesus...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

being vs. doing

"As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.' But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'" ~ Luke 10:38-42

This story has been resonating with me lately. I think maybe it keeps coming to my mind because I just feel busy. It seems as though every time I sit down, I am overwhelmed with the amount of items left to be scratched off of my "to do" list. No matter how diligent I am in a day, they never seem to get done. I have been asking myself if I am just piddling away my time, if I am a master of procrastination, if I am easily distracted, or if I am just expecting entirely too much of myself. On any given day the answer could be any one of those. But, regardless of any of those things, I feel like the Lord keeps reminding me that He is more concerned with my being than my doing. God does not care so much about the tasks I accomplish each day or how many things get scratched off my list. He cares more about my being vitally united to Him as my source for all things. He keeps reminding me to come and sit at His feet, to learn from Him, to discover what really matters, to see people and not worry about making sure the chicken is roasted to perfection or the rolls are perfectly browned. He reminds me that some things are lasting...and usually not the things I find myself worrying about.

So, the goal is to focus more on the being than the doing...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

first, do no harm

The Hippocratic Oath is most often associated with doctors. Upon the commencement of a doctor's career, he or she agrees that he or she will practice medicine ethically. The first rule of which is "do no harm."

This phrase has been bouncing around my brain for the past several weeks. I find myself seeking to apply it or at least question its applicability to various situations I am facing. And, no, you did not miss the memo. I am not a doctor, nor do I have any plans to become one. I am talking about development, as in human development, rural development, professional development, global development.

First, do no harm.

I want to preface what I am about to write with an admission of my own ignorance. I do not have all the answers. I am actually quite doubtful that I have any of the answers. I am not an expert. I am not the first person to think these ideas. I do not think myself better than others, though in some areas I do feel I may be more enlightened or informed than some others. Truth be told, I am just a farmer's daughter from rural Indiana who naively hopped on a plane to Cambodia thinking she could make a difference in the world. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. But, that's not the point.

The point is that I have been spending a lot of time and effort looking at development. My heart's desire is to invest in local people to assist them in creating a greater "toolbox" of skills with which they can create a better environment for their fellow countrymen. And, I would just like to say that is no easy task. It is hard. It requires thoughtful strategy and planning. It requires maintaining a long-term perspective. It requires letting go of my own ideas (which are of course brilliant) in order to defer to a more workable, contextually-relevant model. It requires research. It requires asking questions. It requires listening to the answers to those questions. And, yes, it requires compassion and empathy and a heart for justice.

But, in my observations (I am a natural observer), I have witnessed a lot of people who possess the latter (compassion, empathy, a heart for justice) who have not taken into account any of the former ideals necessary for development. These people come in a variety of forms. Some of them are bulldozers, knocking down everything in their path to the "grassroots" to rebuild something "from the ground up," so that it looks the exact way they want it to. Forget cultural relevancy or long-term sustainability. Some of them are a bit flower child-esque, encouraging everyone to just sit in a circle and "love" away the problems. I absolutely agree that "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8), but I am not sure sitting in a circle, holding hands and singing is necessarily the epitome of "love." Some of them are simply bleeding hearts, so moved by atrocities and injustices that they can think of nothing else but helping the poor lost and abused children of the world because they need hugs and hope and happiness. (I will admit that this is the category I probably fell into, but I am moving on from that as my perspective has shifted.) I am sure there are many other types as well. And, the truth is that the vast majority of these people are well-meaning and good-intentioned. I do not honestly think that people would intentionally start a "development" project that they believed to be hurtful or harmful or unsustainable or completely selfish.

However, I think many people start before asking any questions and before considering the principle "first, do no harm."

You may be asking, "How can well-meaning, good-intentioned people with bleeding hearts do harm?"

Well, unfortunately, they can do in a million ways. They do it by giving things away for free that local people make and sell for their livelihood. It is pretty difficult to compete with free. They do it by forcing local staff to defer to foreigners for all important decisions. How do you develop decision-making skills when you never get to make one? They do it by exaggerating reality so that unknowing donors will finance their short-sighted projects. And, the truth is that I know I have done it. And, I am sorry for it. I have done harm. Lots of it. Unintentionally. Actually, with the best of intentions, but it turned out for harm, nonetheless.

And, so I encourage you--first, do no harm.
But, if it's too late for that--apologize, repent, educate yourself, and seek to do no further harm. That's what I am working toward...