Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Living until Eventually

About two weeks before we moved here, I happened to mention to a friend of a friend that I was moving to Thailand.  After asking what's in Thailand besides the amazing food, this gentleman was suddenly very concerned about my decision.

He seemed legitimately worried about me.  He kept saying things like "Be sure to take care of yourself.  I don't want to see any headlines." "Don't drink the water." "Stay safe."  Now this is a guy I have met maybe one other time in my whole life.  I most likely will never see him again.  And yet, he was worried about my safety.

We've been surrounded by a host of supportive people.  Friends and family have come around us excited to see what God is going to do in (and hopefully through) our lives.  I don't usually have to think or defend my decision to move abroad.  The thought of my safety doesn't occur to me often so this particular evening got me reflecting about another "eventually."  You know, the one you don't want to think about.

Eventually, I'm going to die.

Morbid, right?  But it's true.  Nothing is going to change this fact.  What is there that I do about it?

Jesus said,
"And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span?" (Luke 12:25 NASB)

Now, don't get me wrong.  I worry about my safety and my family's safety all the time.  I try to keep my kids from engaging in reckless behavior, but I also know that there is ultimately nothing I can do to change my (or my family's) numbered days.

What I can change is what I'm going to do until this "eventually."  I can choose to live in worry and crippling fear and dwell on the things that "could" happen.  Or.... I can choose to live into the life that I have right now.

I know which one sounds more appealing to me.

I am not going to be any safer if I stayed in the States.  You may have heard the familiar maxim, "The safest place to be is in the will of God."  It's true.  In fact, it's well documented that the odds of dying in a car accident is much greater than dying from a terrorist attack.  Is that going to stop me from getting in my car next time I need to go somewhere?  Not at all!  I probably won't even think about that risk that I'm putting myself through on a daily basis.

Just as I can't allow myself to be paralyzed by fear each time I get into the driver's seat, I can't allow myself to be haunted by some unknown "terror" that may somehow be worse in a third-world country.

Corrie Ten Boom is credited with saying,
“There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety - let us pray that we may always know it!”
I pray that I can have the courage and confidence of this godly woman.  I may die tomorrow.  So what?  "So what" am I going to do with today?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

But It's Normal For Me....

My six-year old was whining.  Although previously warned that this would happen, he was upset that my husband and I were ending his game time on the computer a few minutes early.  We had planned on hanging out with some Burmese village kids that afternoon, and we wanted to get there when the kids got home from school.  This meant that my son wasn't going to get his full thirty minutes of computer time.  Our dialogue went something like this...

"Ok, it's time to be done now."
"But that's not fair.  I only got twenty minutes."
"Yes, but we said that we had to go soon, and you opted to have 20 minutes instead of nothing."
"But it's not fair!!!"
"You are right.  It's not fair.  You actually have access to computer that you get to use.  The kids we are going to see don't have anything like that.  It's not normal where we live to have a computer at all!"
"But it's normal for me!!!"

Granted, this might not have been our finest parenting hour.  We don't want to make our children feel guilty for the things that we have, but it made me realize how much we as adults are like our six-year old.  We constantly struggle with our "Have's" and other's "Have Not's".  Every time we make a purchase, we have to decide if we are going to make the mental conversion of what that would look like to most of the people living in our city.

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For instance, right now I'm craving cheese.  Cheese is very expensive where we live in Thailand.  Looking at a block of cheese at Makro (similar to Costco), the cost is about $25.  Considering that the Thai minimum wage is only $10, I remind myself that this cheese costs two and a half days wages for the average worker.

"But it's normal for me!"

I probably had cheese almost every day when I lived in the States.  It was a staple.  Now, I go weeks without it.  I miss quesadillas.  Even tortillas have been impossible to find until recently.

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But I learn to count my blessings.  Because I. Have. So. Much.  I have a roof over my head, and a real bed to sleep on.  Mosquitoes do not come into my house and feed on me while I sleep.  I have food in my fridge, and money in the bank.  I have a budget that allows for meat, fruit, and dairy products.  But that's not normal here.

I continue to wrestle with this.  What privileges do allow myself?  Do I run my A/C in the 90-100 degree weather or struggle in the heat like my neighbors?  Should I even think about going to a nice restaurant when there are others who don't have enough to eat and my meal could have fed their family for a week?

"But it's normal for me!"

A meal at the nicest restaurant here in Mae Sot would cost about the same as going to a fast food joint in America.  My house that often feels huge to me here cost me only 1/6 my mortgage did in Seattle.

All the feelings.  What do I do with this?  Oh, to be six years old again when life didn't feel so complicated.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Life With God

What brings a person value, significance, and hope is not what he does but with whom he does it. The call to live in continual communion with God means that every person's life, no matter how mundane, is elevated to sacred heights. 
- With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God  by Skye Jethani
 I'm currently reading With:Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani.  I've been challenged by how he describes the different postures in how people relate to God.  The one that resonates that most with me is LIFE FOR GOD.  In this relationship, you find significance in doing a lot of great things for God.  Missionaries and pastors often fall into this pattern.  We tend to want to find our importance in our service for Him.

However, I've known for a while now that this just isn't enough.  I noticed this significantly when I went back to America last August.  At the time of that trip, I was in a very low place.  I was questioning a lot of what I was doing in Thailand, and I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything.  I looked back fondly on the ministries and friends that I had left back in Seattle and wondered why I ever felt the attraction to move halfway across the world to just sit in my house.

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They fixate, and some obsess, about "making a difference in the world." They fear living lives of insignificance. They worry about not achieving the right things - or not enough of the right things. Behind all of this is the LIFE FOR GOD belief that their value is determined by what they achieve. I've learned that when a student asks me, "What should I do with my life?" what he or she really wants to know is, "How can I prove that I'm valuable?" 
- With chapter 5
It was during my trip that I heard a lot of encouraging things from friends, family and people from the churches I got to visit.  Many people wished they were able to do what I was doing in Thailand, and I felt like I wasn't doing anything!  I felt as though people looked at me as being super-spiritual, but my eyes were seeing a different story.  I was seeing how God was using these people already in their communities.  They may not be a "missionary", but how they were living their lives showed their love for God.  Maybe they didn't see it, but I could.  It didn't make their lives any less significant because they didn't live in a foreign country.

LIFE FOR GOD uses him and his mission to gain a sense of direction and purpose. 
But LIFE WITH GOD is different because its goal is not to use God, its goal is God. 
- With chapter 6
This brings so much freedom. My sense of worth is not caught up on what I'm able to do or accomplish.  I find my identity in being with my Savior.  Savoring my time with him.  Knowing that this is enough.

When what I was struggling this last fall with who I was and what I my purpose was, I found myself crying out to God.  I was looking to belong somewhere, and God told me that my identity is in Christ and that is enough.  Nothing else matters.  Only Him.

I'm still learning, but I'm thankful for authors who can help me gain a better perspective of how I can relate to God.  After all, my eternal life with Him has already begun.  May my relationship only grow more.