Saturday, March 31, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Sleep came quickly and deeply, but only for a short while. Before long I was wide awake in a sleeping upper class cabin filled with folks who could pay so much more for a ticket. I was feeling a little cheated by just a water bottle when I looked out the window to behold the beauty of the night skies. It was a clear night. The stars were so close, dimmed only by an occasional lightening in the distance. It was as if God had set this first class time up just for me: a comfortable chair, a decent size window, water to drink and a view of the heavens. I gazed in utter awe of my Creator and time flew as I watched, wondered, and worshipped.
"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained..."
Spouse said, "My king also never takes a vacation ... "
To see just how much respect some world leaders are given, paste in your browser: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070329122727.dcptduzl&show_article=1
But if I turned from the sea and looked straight down I saw another world. In the shadow of the huge hotel, next to the resort's sewage treatment, life appeared to be far removed from the relative luxury of resort life. Roaming skinny dogs reminded me of our days in Ghana where street dogs lived on scraps. Cars, small motorbikes and "tuk-tuks" parked alongside small cafes made of tarps or other makeshift roofing on poles, providing shelter as people ate food or drank spirits. My natural curiosity often drew me to the balcony to observe life below.
Then there were several shacks brightened by flowering vines on their cement block walls. A Coke sign was part of the metal covering of one such abode. Laundry hung on lines half covered by creeping lush foliage. Basins sat on the ground after laundry duty, while cook pots simmered over open fires. People came and went, seemingly in slow motion. One house seemed to be drying a group of teddy bears or other stuffed animals over the door. I guessed that inside the walls of those homes life went on much like mine. Cooking, cleaning, sleeping, eating, laughing, and living life in community––maybe without the trappings that we entail in our western world––a simpler, more basic life, but most likely without the wondrous dimension of God in the mix.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The other looked more like a beauty shop. I suddenly remembered my "secular" goal when visiting Thailand: to get the massage that I could not afford at home. Women pushed price sheets into our hands begging us to try a foot massage. Why not make a memory we asked each other. We bargained on a price and asked if they would split the hour between the two of us. They were happy to oblige, though their eyes grew big as Spouse pulled off the required long support hose and they struggled to fit his long frame into their chair. Side by side we sat as two young girls did the work massaging our tired feet. We had a great time communicating with them (communication is a better word than "talking," as it was not all with words, though one did speak some English.) They were great fun and I think we got more like 45 minutes ... and for $4.50? Wow did that feel good!
As we got on the plane in our hometown and headed west, the sun was about to set. We chased it across the country but it faded soon after we landed in LA. We had our first taste of Asian hospitality while we waited in the Singapore Sky lounge for our next plane (all the travel spouse does has some benefits such as sky lounges). It was dark, rainy, and foggy as the van carried us back from the temporary lounge, set up somewhere in the middle of the tarmac, to the airport. As we headed to our gate, making our way through a crush of humanity, I wondered for a minute what country we were in. But no, we hadn't left the US yet.
We boarded the aircraft and crammed into our bulkhead seats. Could we endure 18 hours in such tight quarters...three of us like sardines: one Asian gentleman, one spouse, and one me crammed against the window. The flight went on and on and on, as did the night. We slept often. It was continually dark outside––for at least 24 hours of our journey west around the globe. Thankfully what seemed like an endless journey was sweetened by the wonderful hospitality of Singapore Airlines, and the gracious flight attendants caring for us, beautifully garbed in Singaporean traditional dresses; the men in light blue suit jackets.
Thirty-eight hours later (26 hours of actual flying time) we arrived in the land of smiles. And the land of abundant flowers, fruit, tasteful decoration, and wonderful hospitality. But a heartbreaking bleakness steps into it all as you see shrines and spirit houses everywhere. The poorest of homes has a gleaming spirit house in some prominent spot outdoors, adorned with flowers or other offerings.
Monday, March 12, 2007
But the upcoming trip to Thailand will be the farthest I've ever traveled, and the very longest amount of time on a plane. The fear factor on this trip is spouse's two blood clots this year and this excessive time in the air. The battle over fear is a real one indeed, and this fear needs to be placed on the alter many times a day. How often in recent days, as I go over my packing list, do I declare that I will not include fear in my luggage? I'm determined to leave it home. (How about replacing it with flexibility? That's what I tell young missionary women to pack.)
So with this on my mind, I open a "bon voyage" card today from a friend who often thinks to send one before a trip, assuring me of her prayers. Once I got through enjoying the beautiful tea party on the envelope, I opened it to find her wonderfully creative home made card. "Be fearless"––a message from God for sure! How well this friend knows me. I admire her sensitivity, and how she allows God to live through her into others' lives.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
My children think I'm a terrible driver, though I've never had a speeding ticket (well, one small one 20 years ago), nor a wreck (unless you count a fender bender in--of all places--a carwash, back in the days when there would be a chain of cars in a car wash). Anyway, I drove in less than a godly way, madly dashing to the shops. I found myself snarling at dawdling drivers in front of me. I mentally stopped cold. Where is the grace I need to give to others? And the effect of grace in me?
I ran into a shop just as it opened. The owner helped me find something and then proceeded to tell me how he had changed out all the lightbulbs to florescent (the lights were slowly coming on), and was now saving $100 a month in power bills. Did I need to hear that, I thought to myself. I was in a hurry, but politely listened, congratulating him and smiling. He needed to tell someone, and it had made him feel good, I'm sure.
I headed over to the counter and not-quite slammed down my purchases, rattled off my requested phone number, and pulled out a credit card. I hadn't even looked at the clerk. Could he feel my angst? "How has your day been so far?" he questioned in an annoying upbeat voice. Really...it was only 10:00 a.m. for goodness sake. I looked up and for the first time focused on a very young man working the cash register. "Oh, pretty good." I must have sighed. "Really?" He obviously didn't believe me. So I proceeded to tell him about the floor I was working on, and that I was not happy to be doing it. "Well, I hope you can do it in the joy of the Lord and in praise to Him." Uh... since when did clerks become preachers?
I was already pushing the door open as I heard his words sail across to me, "Have a wonderful rest of the day in the Lord." That certainly put me in my place. I'm sure he felt he was having a ministry with me (and he was.) I breathed in a big breath of air as I took my parcel to the car and began to assess my inner spirit. At the moment it wasn't a pretty picture, but easily rectified.
Later, after the next phase of the floor was sealed, I sat down and read some wisdom from Andree Seu, a favorite editorialist of mine in World Magazine. "At any ... moment that my religious activities become mere doctrine and not communion with Jesus, I have, for that moment at least, stepped out of truly biblical Christian living into some other mode of being––judge, spectator, player at religion. Francis Schaeffer said true spirituality 'is a moment-by-moment, increasing, experiential relationship to Christ.'"
As I processed the ugly parts of the day and worked on my "inner spirit," I was reminded that this life needs to be a moment-by-moment sacrifice of worship and grace, making my religion true and pure ...
*Title adapted from Ghanaian saying, "All days are not the same."