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.