Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Lesson This Village is Teaching Me

It finally happened…again. Middle Eastern culture driving me to the point of irritation so extreme I find myself angry at their "inability to do life right." UGH. Yes, even typing those words is embarrassing. My sin is clearly evident. 

It's moments such as: when the power goes on and off (why can't they get it together), when scheduled meetings never occur, when men overpower you because they can, when you watch local women succumb to man's every demand, when violence is defended, and innocence is stolen, when lies are culturally acceptable, and critical thinking doesn't exist, when dangerous driving is tolerable, and neighbors are caught snooping…it's all these things that can drive a western mind to complete madness. Yet here I sit, compound walls surrounding me, the lurking eyes of the village people watching our every move...judging us in return. I find myself in constant need to check my attitude, evaluate my compassion, and pray for a power due to my unnatural state to love and accept those I don't understand. Once again, an opportunity to grow in my struggle with offering grace. 

Just like my time in Egypt, rural Iraqi culture shows me that it's my own expectations that become my biggest enemy. Running a project, a business, or anything the way we do in the states, and placing western work ethic and expectations on those around you, just leads to disappointment and frustration. Schedules, meetings, deadlines and efficiency do not matter the same way in this society that they do in the west. It's that simple. Don't expect much, and then when you get what you want, consider it a sweet surprise. 

While reflecting upon my constant frustration with things not going the way "they should", and realizing it is my own fault for expecting something that can't be, I was struck with a thought.  "God is the only safe place to put any expectation." But it wasn't three seconds after that thought popped into my mind that I realized how dangerous it is for me to think that way. 

It is not safe to believe that God will work in any particular way. We can't hold onto the expectation that obedience will keep us from pain nor can we expect to dodge bullets of struggle, to acquire a multitude of "blessings", or even to hold on to our loved ones. It's wrong to think we will always be privileged to see His power at work when we want to, or even to be used according to our heart's deepest desires. When we expect from God what our flesh believes is good, we are playing with fire. 

So what can we expect from God? We can expect His promises to be fulfilled. We can expect Him to be GOOD to us, even when He allows us to hurt. Goodness comes in all forms…following tragic situations, and dark pain. But His goodness does not change. We can expect that He will stand with us, offering the power of the Holy Spirit in those moments that the world disappoints, by not fulfilling the desires we hold on to so desperately. 

Expect His presence. Expect His promises to be fulfilled, no matter what that may look like. Expect that He is good…and you won't disappointed. 

Psalm 52:8b-9

trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.

I will give You thanks forever, because 
You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Prayer and Bible Reading Outline

Yesterday, I was listening to this sermon by Tim Keller on "personal prayer. He gave some really good insight and strategies of how to conduct a personal quiet time. This morning, I tried it out, and was amazed how much I was able to learn and apply based on a few simple steps.  The outline is below, I would encourage you to check it out sometime...I am pretty thankful I stumbled upon this:

"God will always give you what you would have asked for, if you knew everything He knows."


Prayer
By Tim Keller

Evening Prayer:
Put your soul down for rest at night. Remember her knows best…PASSIVE PRAYER. Remembering all the really important things, you’ve got!
Find the deepest urges of your heart, and turn them into prayer.

Morning Prayer: ACTIVE PRAYER
Boldness, specificity, discipline, submission to God’s will and wisdom
Petition, repentance for idols (helps you rest)

Bible Reading: take a passage, read it 3 or 4 times. Ask yourself the following questions-
1.     Make a list of everything the passage tells you about God or Christ
2.     List everything it tells you about yourself
3.     Look for examples to follow or avoid, commands to obey or do, and promises to claim
Meditation: Talking yourself about God; talking to yourself before God (example Psalm 103)  Choose one or two things that were probably the best thing you learned…then, instead of moving onto prayer, meditate on it

1.    If I truly believe this, how would I be different if this truth was explosively alive in my innermost being?
2.    Why is God showing me this today?

Adoration
Confession
Thanksgiving
Supplication

1.     What can I praise God for what I see in this?
2.     What wrong behavior, harmful emotions, false attitudes result in my when I forget?
3.     How is the grace I have in Jesus Christ the key to help me overcome the sin that I just confessed?
4.     What do I need to do or be come in light of this?

Meditation
Prayer
Contemplation

Pray through your meditations…

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Random Ramblings of a Non-Hugger


One thing people are often surprised to find out about me is that I am not a hugger. Just because I like you, doesn't necessarily mean I want to hug you. And me not hugging you doesn’t mean I don’t like you, won’t hug you, or hate being touched. Well, I may not like you, but that is not to be defined by the fact that I don’t prefer to hug you. 

There is something super intimate about pressing my body and awkwardly smashing my chest against someone else’s. I am pretty sure hugging is a sexual position, just the vertical option. At least that is often how it can feel. Yikes!

I have lived in cultures where kissing someone on the cheek is to be expected, and I don’t mind this a bit…in fact I think it is sweet, and often miss it when I return to my home country of “hugs”.  Cheek pecks only require one part of the body to touch someone else, and it is quick enough that there is no awkward linger with the question “Who will pull away first?” Now, this can change in moments where lips accidentally collide, especially when someone’s mouth is open. Yes, this can happen, and suddenly, you find yourself feeling as though you did something very wrong.

Also, touching is not a problem, in fact, I often find my hands on other people when we are talking, and can usually tell by the look on their face if this is or isn’t to be tolerated. I have had guys tell me it is best not to touch their leg when talking with them, which to me has seemed totally harmless, but apparently does cross a line. Good for me to know.

Now there are exceptions for me when it comes to hugging, for example: anytime I am leaving to depart abroad you had better bet I will hug my parents tightly, and of course dating relationships require comfy hugs, and I don’t think twice about it. Also, cuddling kiddos. Nothing beats a child wrapping his/her tiny arms around your neck. I look forward to the day I get to do this with my own children.

To all of you that have been helping me “practice” my hugging…through teaching me about my need to stop “patting” as a nervous habit,  requiring I stay in the embrace position while you laugh at my body awkwardly tensing, and reminding me how silly I am being….THANKS! I do hope to outgrow this…I do. J

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

20 Things My Parents Did Well


Nope, I am not a parent…not yet anyway. Although I have to say that elementary school teachers do not receive sufficient credit for their knowledge and experience with other people’s children. Outside of the parental box, the person who knows your child the best should be his/her teacher if the job is being done correctly. Seven hours a day with your child? Experts. Good teachers know about kids…they see all types. 

A substantial benefit of being around so many children is having contact with an abundance of families of all colors, shapes, sizes and mental states. Of course this means being pulled into family dramas, and witnessing an array of parenting styles and discipline techniques, which at times serves as an excellent dose of birth control. And other times, reminds you how much you really do want some of your own. But at the same time, you can't help but take mental notes of what you hope to imitate in the future or NOT copy with your own kiddos one day. 

I am noticing (and at times irritated) with how trendy it has become to arrogantly show and tell about different views of parenting.  

"What to say to your kids"
 "What not to say to your kids"
 "What to feed your kids"
"What not to feed your kids"
 "To spank"
 "Why not to spank"
 "Co-sleeping"
"Why not to co-sleep"
"Home school"
 "Why not to home school"
"Immunize"
"Why not to immunize"

...and the list goes on and on...

For those of us not yet in the game, it can be overwhelming to try and research contrasting views. And who is more passionate than a mother defending how she raises her young?
Maybe no one. 

All I can offer is what I was around as a kid….how my parents did it. And honestly, there isn’t a lot I would change. Of course mistakes were made, but all in all, I plan on reproducing most of these tactics. Let me share a bit of what my parents did well. They probably don’t realize how much I appreciate it…especially after reading and seeing a lot of garbage being taught today. I feel like I got blessed with these two. 





So what did my parents do well?

1. No boyfriends in high school. Daddy used to say that the only purpose of a boyfriend was to find a spouse, and in high school, you aren’t ready for that. You also aren’t emotionally stable enough for the terror of when young love ends in heartbreak, which usually is the result. Wise man. 

2. They took us to church. They didn't do the whole "you can worship God anywhere" (which you can), but they valued the reverence of Holy God. 

3. Limited screen time. It probably was a blessing to my parents that “screen time” fights weren't much an issue back when I was a kid. But even the little access we had was monitored. They were careful with how much time we spent in front of the tv and what was viewed. They had the minds of four girls to protect and they took that role seriously.

4. We shared our bedrooms.  The house we grew up in had six bedrooms, plenty for each girl to have her own room and still have a spare. But they didn’t let us. They wanted us to learn how to share our space with others, and work through conflicts. I still remember late night talks with my sister, lying in bed at night. And yes, that meant we had 3 spare bedrooms. ;)

5. My mom is a prayer warrior. Every morning, she could be found praying in her “quiet time chair”.  She remains constant in this. 

6. Camping! We camped in the backyard when daddy had to work, but mom wanted to take us camping, but not by herself. We took day trips to the lake and the zoo, but spent our nights camping outside next to the house. One rule…no going inside. We took it very seriously ;) 

7. We got spanked. But I can assure you they did it when they were calm, had removed themselves from the situation, and could gently explain why they were doing so. 

8. Runs with daddy. Special talk time and taught us to value health and exercise.

9. Global awareness.  Growing up, we often had exchange students and/or missionaries from all over the world who would stay with us for a period of time.  Exposure to people from other places who looked differently, smelled differently, talked differently and acted differently was one of the most beneficial educations I received. We also had five World Vision students we sponsored, and a giant map labeling where they lived. We were miles ahead of our friends when it came to world cultures. 

10. “I win” was daddy’s motto. He refused to be in a house where children ran the show, or parents bowed to every demand and whimper of their kids.  We weren’t allowed to throw tantrums…so we didn’t (most of the time). 

11. Thankfulness. We ate what was put our plate because we were taught to be kind and appreciative for what we were given.  If we didn’t want it, we didn’t eat. I think we always ate whatever was there. 

12. Go play. Sometimes they locked us in the backyard for a couple of hours so we would use our imaginations. 

13. Allowance. We had money when we earned it, based on completion of assigned chores. And they taught us to tithe our 10%. 

14. Generosity. At Christmas, we would adopt a local family whose father was in prison and provide Christmas presents for them. 





15. No big deal. They let us quit piano when we got bored, and didn’t force us to be anything we didn’t want to be.

16. Confidence. They came to our soccer games, choir concerts, dance recitals, and awards programs to show support. But sometimes couldn’t make it and it wasn't the end of the world. We didn’t make too big of a deal out of it. We knew we were loved regardless.  And in a big family, we learn we aren’t the center of the universe. We were confident our parents' love and support. 

17. Ice-cream. We pretty much had ice-cream for dessert most nights. Why not have dessert on a regular basis?

18. Germs were not an issue. Mom stressed cleanliness, but never seemed worried if we forgot to wash our hands or ate a cookie that had fallen on the floor. Yes, we are still alive and healthy. 

19. They supported our teachers. If we complained or had an issue with something at school, they never under minded the teacher's authority in our presence. This is huge.

20. Commitment. Our family has been through some tough times, and things have never been "easy". But through it all, they stayed married, no matter what.  

Oops! One more! When all the girls were almost out of the house...they adopted a crazy 18 month old red headed boy who needed a family. 


Thankful.








Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A short poem: To me, the gospel isn't simple









Who am I? That the Man behind the grave would know my name?
Who am I? That He sees my sin and loves me just the same?

For what am I worth? Nothing in light of the glory above
What do I owe? Everything to the Man who created love

Why am I here? To seek Him, and know the glory of His unearned grace
What should I do? Sacrifice...and tell the human race

Though He doesn’t need me, He wants me 
Though I sin before Thee, You pursue me

To understand grace is not my right, yet follow Him regardless and still fight...

Though nothing about the gospel is simple to me…I fall to my knees and cry out to Thee…

Thinking about Hell and all it entails…for the souls doomed to go there and their shrieking wails

I stop believing, and start questioning....but keep praying 
Silencing my thoughts and what they are saying...

Though I struggle with this part of the gospel story...
I choose to believe this Man of glory.