Saturday, August 13, 2016

How big is 1%?

Before I came to Thailand, I was told that the country was 95% Buddihst 4% Muslim and 1% Christian.  1%?! I thought....yowzers! Just how many people does that really mean? In America, we know the numbers and we see the churches on every corner. But what does 1% look like in a country dominated by another belief system? (some could argue America is similarly dominated by another belief system...but you get my point) ....Well as I've come to discover...these 1-percenters are actually a bit more prevelant than I had imagined. I've been to quite a few places throughout the country and each time that I have explored, I've stumbled across a Christian church or organization of some sort (I.e. School). It has happened more frequently than I had anticipated and in places that I did not expect to find such a place. Granted, the ratio of wat to church is still 30 to 1, I'm still surprised as to what that number really looks like in person. I guess I was anticipating to only run into a remnant of believers in only one pocket of the country, but I've come to find that they are pockets of believers in many places. So the next time you hear 1%- don't underestimate the actual value of this number.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Maybe this is what it's like

While here in Thailand, I've been fortunate to meet some cool people. As a regular to a few shops/restaurants I've made an effort to cultivate a few friendships with some of the people who own or work there. Some friendships have come quite easily while others took a bit longer to build the rapport; such as a friendship with a woman in a nearby cafe. In the beginning she always had this scowl on her face, each time I would come in I was determined to bring a friendly smile and pleasant disposition to try and soften her up. I don't know what it was about her, but I was drawn to her and wanted to at the very least be on a hand-waving friendship. As the weeks went on, she slowly warmed up to me and even agreed to hang out with me outside of work. So one day we did. Initially, I thought the plan was to go swimming, however, she and her boyfriend ended up taking me to this Buddhist temple on the lake. I guess our lines of communication got crossed; which is quite frequent out here. One minute you are certain you've communicated something, the next minute you've just ordered an extra dish! 

So anyways, as we proceeded to leave I knew that this could be the case and was down for wherever we landed; which was the Buddhist temple. As we approached the lake, we had to cross this dreadful mile long bridge which dipped down into the lake because there were too many people on it trying to cross (mind you the bridge was made of bamboo). Needless to say, my shoes and feet got completely trashed by the lake water and I was not a happy camper; but I pressed on for the sake of the journey.




As we arrived to the end of the bridge, a square platform with an all female monk group greeted us with the sounds of chants and prayers towards Buddha. I took a quick water break from the long trek and as I finished I stood up thinking we were just going to stand and watch. As my Thai friend and her boyfriend saw that I had finished with my quick break, they proceeded to this little shop in the back corner where I thought they were just going to buy water (as they had mentioned). They ended up buying a water, but also bought incense candles and flowers to dedicate with the other people in the ritual ceremony. They proceeded to hand me one, and I reluctantly took it as it was a knee-jerk reaction. They then proceeded to join this processional line where people were walking in a circle around the outside of the monks and the Buddha statue. They motioned for me to follow them, for which I became incredibly more uncomfortable. Unsure of how to politely reject this as I was caught off guard, I proceeded to follow them in line. 

As I was walking I kept thinking to myself. Dear God, please don't see this as blasphemy. I love you Lord God, Lord Jesus. I pray to you alone. I kept praying to Jesus the whole time I was walking in this line hoping that this would all end soon. As we finally finished the last lap, they proceeded to this side tent where the incense candles that we were holding were being lit. As they lit their candles, they asked for mine. As I handed it to them, I thought to myself okay this is where I have to draw the line. I have got to excuse myself from this no matter if they get offended or not. As the boyfriend finished lighting the candle and started to hand it back to me I politely declined and proceeded to walk towards the outskirts of the pomp and circumstance. 

I just kept thinking to myself "what in the world just happened?? man I was not down for that"...it's one thing to be invited to sit and observe something, it's another thing to feel pressured into participating against your desires/will. It was at that moment when I thought to myself -"man this might be how some people feel when we invite them to church or to participate in our Christian events." They may be hesitantly willing to come for the sake of fellowshipping with us, but they may be completely not ready to do all the things that we are so used to doing. We need to have a true understanding of this along with patience and grace for all people. Even the strangers or people we don't know that we see at church or the like who may be in this same position. We can't look at them as less than or disgracefully because you never know where they are in their spiritual discovery process/life. Even if you did "know" it still should not be your place to look down upon them. 

After this experience, I definitely feel a greater sense of grace towards people when it comes to spiritual discovery and practice. And I hope after reading this you will too :)   

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Previous post Continued

Soooo! Moments later I ask the staff..."oh are you Christian?" They reply: "No" I said to them "oh the music is Christian" .... they said "Oh it's YouTube" - meaning they just clicked on a playlist on YouTube that unbeknownst to them has been ministering Christian music for the past 20+ minutes! LOL!!! I can't !!! Lord You are too Great... Yes truly every nation shall bow and hear of Your glorious Name! 

Blown away....

Titus 2:11

Today's small but GREAT reminder

Sitting in a Japenese restaurant miles and miles away from 'home' hearing "How Great is our God" by Chris Tomlinson played on a restaurant speaker....wow! What a neat little surprise from the Lord.

You ARE truly great.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Build. Pray. Keep. Look

There is a theme of "steadfastness" that the Lord appears to be highlighting in my life right now.....

Hebrews 3: 6 & 14

"Let us be diligent"
"Let us hold fast our confession"
"This hope we have as an anchor...be sure and steadfast"

This theme of "holding fast" our faith is woven all throughout Hebrews and "He" (Jesus) is certainly "Brew"-ing this theme in my life today. I literally have gone through so much that it's only by the Grace and Mercy of God that I am even able to still call Jesus Lord.

Trying to maintain your faith in the midst of this worldy abyss is more than a notion. Especially when you have no clue what it is you are to do the next hour ...let alone the next day or year. 

When going back to the place you came from is not an option but moving forward is such a clueless hint. Steadfastness sweeps in like a night wind to briskly slap your face and remind you to

Build. Pray. Keep. Look.

Sorry Julia Roberts but this story was played out well before yours. I have to keep reminding myself that "tortoise wins the race" .... Be patient. Stay diligent. Be content with where you, who God is and what God is doing in your life. 

Maintain an aerial perspective. Count it all joy and be grateful - rejoicing in all things.

And oh yeah! Ease up!! "Mai bpen rai"(as the Thais say) ....Have compassion and mercy on yourself ...Breathe....then you will be able to be at rest and remain steadfast as you....

Build. Pray. Keep. Look
(Jude 20-21 NKJV)



Sunday, June 26, 2016

How the Lord Met me today in Thailand

Steadfastness.....

That was the key word that kept jumping out at me during a worship service I attended today at a small Baptist church in Lampang, Thailand. 

Through a wacky series of events too long to recount, I ended up getting invited to a church yesterday that quite frankly I was on the fence about going. But despite my trepidation, I called up the pastor to see about attending his church. He (and his wife) offered to pick me up without hesitation, despite my late call to him in the evening. 

The next day, they arrived and a young woman (who I will call Kun) introduced herself to me along with her mother. Unsure as to the level of Thai I needed to speak, I approached the conversation gently. After realizing that Kun spoke fluent English, I loosened up a bit and began opening up a bit more in conversation. I was also a bit timid to speak about much because I didn't know the degree to which she or her family knew the people at the organization that I had come to Thailand to work with. 

A very, very, very long story short- the organization that I had come to work with was nothing short of a disaster- on all ends of the spectrum. I was on the tail end of transitioning out of it and didn't want to delve out any negative press in the event they knew the organization/organizers (since someone inside the organization actually referred me to church).

Anywho, as we arrived to the church the grounds and building were beautifully kept. You could tell this community really took care of it. 

Sunday school began and the assistant pastor began teaching out of Acts 11....as Kun was my translator...I was able to get the gist of the message-which I thought was well prepared. I could tell the speaker had sat with the text, meditated on it, as well as researched key contextual historical matters. 

For this I was spiritually enriched.

We took a short break then started the Sunday service where we sang traditional hymns. Of course in Thai ;) but there were words in English underneath on the projector screen. The pastor introduced me as a guest, thus I stood up and gave a Sawasdee kaa wai (simple hands clasp w/ a slight bowing motion) to all of the members in the church. 

As the message began, Kun told me that the title of the sermon was "being in the will of God."

Immediately, I knew I was in for a doozy. 

Rewind just a bit...

For over a year, I knew I felt a leaning towards living abroad and my initial move was going to be towards South Korea. I had been accepted into a teaching program that was going to pay me well, but when I heard about the opportunity to do ministry in Thailand, as well as teaching, I ended up switching gears towards this opportunity (which btw paid a third of what I would make in S Korea).

After weeks of prayer, mental analysis and some consultation. I finally felt at peace with my decision to move to Thailand. 

Fast forward to the past four weeks of my life:

Everything that I did not anticipate being a challenge-WAS....yet all the things that I predicted would possibly be obstacles -were not. Literally everyday, I wondered - okay Lord which angel did I piss off?? Why are these things that don't have to happen, why are they happening? What changed? I thought for sure I heard the voice of the Lord propel me towards this direction...I thought for sure making the decision to come here was me "being in the will of God." Especially, because I had chosen "God over money." So I just didn't get it....I was completely baffled for days....weeks... until now.

I was reminded of something I said to someone a while back that I was now finding I needed to chew on. I remember I said, "just because things are difficult doesn't mean you made the wrong decision." A right decision does not automatically equate to ease, good times and positive happenings. Sometimes, matter of fact, oftentimes a right decision leads to just the opposite...test, trials, and unpredictable shenanigans. 

Which leads to the first verse that was highlighted in the message today

James 1
Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

AND the pastor reminded us of Psalm 34:15

“The Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their cries;” (which I found to be true)
 
AND that 
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to humanity; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) (which God is doing)

In short 
“Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all;" (Psalm 34:19 GNT)

As I heard this message I literally had to hold back bursting out in tears in the middle of the service, because I realized that God was speaking directly to me...and that I did not have to question whether or not I made the right decision to come to Thailand...and I am in the will of God even though things  took an un-expected turn. Nothing was unexpected for God- only me...

I can rest knowing this and lean into God...not turn away (bc of frustration or confusion). 

AND I can know the love of God is with me, especially when I re-trace how my steps were ordered to even get to this place where I heard this message. I mean the extravagant lengths God takes to show Gods beloved how much they are visible to God is so incredibly baffling and mind blowing to me....I couldn't help but worship with a revered and radiant heart.

Today I was encouraged to remain steadfast....

Today the Lord met me in a new way in Thailand.