contrast

IMG_5519you know those weeks? the ones that pass by, feeling simultaneously like a lifetime and a millisecond. you try to recount all the things that happened in the last 7 days (or 14 or 21 when the next weeks sneak by just as quickly) and your brain strains to bring to light anything at all because it’s jumbled and rich and mundane and heavy and normal all at once?

who am I kidding – this is every week in thailand. and everywhere, i suppose. i just notice it more here.

a couple weeks ago, a new friend came to check out ministries in pattaya and i was able to bounce around the city with her a bit, popping in to see friends and running into faces that may not have otherwise made it into my week.

it was sweet. a reminder of the incredible community i’ve found here – so much joy to share in and wisdom to glean.

I listened to the staff at GRACE brainstorm ways to partner with their student’s schools so they could better assist with homework tutoring. a long, curly haired man gave me and tay a bracelet and flower necklace on the street, imploring us to come listen to him play on walking street sometime. the guys at boystown were sweet and welcoming – it was the first time i felt like i belonged there. like we were all truly just friends hanging out, dropping by to say hey and give a moment of relief and normal to their life of anything but. i ran into a fellow volunteer on the street while driving to teaching and struck up a friendly conversation with the cutest waitress I’ve seen a dozen times at on of my favorite cafes. the market vendors were so friendly, one gave me her LINE id so we could take the bus up north together next time I go… (I still attribute the extra show of friendliness to my new friend lucy. I swear having a cute British girl by your side makes you instantly more approachable ha #comebacktovisitsoon). one of our students at Shear Love brought us a big tupperware of the sweetest mangoes and another of our students from last year met us for an all you can eat seafood buffet (for a whopping $6. it just doesn’t get better than that people). we celebrated our sweet translators birthday and had our weekly staff meeting to connect on ongoing projects. I had at least 5 great conversations with roommates and friends throughout the week – full of intentionality and depth. two new volunteers arrived and dianna returned from the states. our home was full and community skyrocketed. my extroverted heart was in heaven so i baked cookies. day after day i watched jesus’ faithfulness to remind me of the beauty and goodness he’s brought to my life here.

and it was also exhausting.

my days were more full – but introducing a city so wrapped up in its own depravity that it all looks ‘normal’ can take it out of you emotionally. driving down bar lined roads I visit weekly, knowing that down each ally lies more of the same. steaming streets teeming with men and women trying to make a living with emptiness in their eyes. talking day after day about the hard and often incomprehensible realities we’re up against in offering opportunities and training and a truth bigger than today’s paycheck, superstition, luck or cultural expectation … the decisions of the people around us can be heartbreaking, and the path to wholeness, while often clear to us, can seem speckled with roadblocks to bring to fruition for others. there are no shortages of reminders for why we’re called to work in this city.

one afternoon, lucy and i looked out over pattaya from 2 completely different viewpoints. one a brothel lined street, the sun scorching us as we watched women sit bored on their phones while others engaged with customers and vendors pushed carts down a pothole laden road. laundry hung from the roofs across the way with curtains drawn on windows above bars.

the other was on a breezy hilltop surrounded by golden ‘gods’, their frozen bodies and chipped paint watching over apartments buildings and rooftop pools close to a shimmering sea, islands off in the distance and thai temple tops peaking out amidst trees and businesses. money clung to chinese new year trees and sandals scattered across the stone steps.

it was such a contrast – the beauty and the depravity. the kindness and the evil. this city is so peaceful and so chaotic all-the-time.

i suppose i’m no different to jesus. he sees my beauty and perversion. my faults are always before him, yet he pursues my heart intimately, desiring me to walk in fullness and abundance all the while calling me beloved. much like this home of mine, it doesn’t always make sense. but oh how i’m thankful for it.

The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

i’ve recently been thinking about how lucky and privileged i am to live here. after a year and some months now, some of the charm and shine has worn off and it’s easier to let myself get frustrated or lazy with the people and processes around me that aren’t kind, helpful, or make sense. even writing that makes my heart cringe, because i also love this place and these people so much. and God has called me to serve and love and humbly give even a piece of the hope i have to walk through this life with joy. that is such.an.honor and should compel me to give more of myself daily.

what God has up his sleeve will likely always be a mystery, but i’m reminded that in seeing the rough edges of not only this city, but of my heart, God’s goodness gets to shine that-much-brighter. even the darkness is light to God. no matter where the dark is found. no matter how much or how often. there is ALWAYS reason to hope, to seek the good and rejoice with a thankful heart.

The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. (Psalm 146:8)

contrast

sabbath

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I’ve never technically observed sabbath. I believe Jesus released us from the place of holding to Mosaic / Hebrew law, but reading the Old Testament over the years has given me so much insight into how God desires me to relate to Him through the instructions he gave to the Israelites.

I was casually perusing Leviticus (j/k I’m trying to read through the Bible this year) and came across the story of God giving Moses directives for a day of atonement. Once again Israel had messed up (Aaron’s sons, to be exact), and in this place God was offering grace for them to be made right with Him again.

One particular verse gave me pause:

“It will be a day of Sabbath – of complete rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.” Leviticus 16:31

Deny yourselves.

I’ve always understood sabbath to be a day of remembrance and rest. A re-prioritization of God above all else. A day set apart to focus my heart and mind on what God has done in me, why I still need Him to get through the rest of my week and why He’s worthy of my everything.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. There fore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

People always talk about how God rested on the 7th day in Genesis and how Sabbath is a way for us to follow in those footsteps. Pause the weekly chaotic cycle and REST. While this takes discipline to implement – it doesn’t exactly sound like a denial. Another translation says afflict yourselves. Not sure about you but not working sounds pretty great actually.

But then I thought about what I would choose if I wasn’t working… all the movies I’d catch up on, the lazying around, hiking or cooking I’d do. These aren’t bad things – but they’re still distractions in the wake of not working. Funny how quickly ‘rest’ turns into ‘what can I do/accomplish with this free time?’ God’s call to rest isn’t just to rest FROM but to rest IN. To rest IN HIM. 

“And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

Clearly God thought this practice was a necessary, even essential, part of living in wholeness. He created a day for his people to stop and just be with him. So what does THAT look like? Full circle back to what initially lead up to the call for sabbath: a day of atonement.

I read an interesting commentary on Matthew 12, a recount of Jesus’ rebuttal to the Pharisees’ accusal of He and his disciples unlawfully plucking grains of wheat on a sabbath:

For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day–In what sense now is the Son of man Lord of the sabbath day? Not surely to abolish it–that surely were a strange lordship, especially just after saying that it was made or instituted for MAN–but to own it, to interpret it, to preside over it, and to ennoble it, by merging it in the “Lord’s Day” ( Revelation 1:10 ), breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown before, and thus making it the nearest resemblance to the eternal sabbatism.

(Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/matthew/matthew-12.html)

I love that last line – breathing into it an air of liberty and love. Ultimately, confession and forgiveness are so key in bringing liberty and love in my life. And isn’t that atonement? Allowing Jesus and his grace into the crappy parts of my heart and the pieces that STILL DON’T MAKE SENSE, or don’t feel like they’re going anywhere, or don’t look how they should. It’s comfortable (for a while) to just let yourself be where you’re at and acknowledge you want to change. But man, it gets uncomfortable real quick when you stay there and aren’t changing. ::can I get an amen::

In a way I didn’t see it coming, but I’ve sort of fallen in love with the church I started going to less than a year before I left for Thailand. Their pursuit of being real – honest and vulnerable with yourself, your community and God – has brought some incredible healing and transformation in people around me that’s reignited my desire for intimacy with the Lord. And as I’ve heard them talk week in and week out about ‘being real,’ I’m believing it on a heart level. And realizing that I’ll never experience the life altering transformation of heart I so want without first being honest myself and bringing those broken parts to Jesus, sabbath after sabbath. 

“But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years.” (Galatians 4:9-10)

God help me if I just start implementing another practice in my week. A day of rest – sure, it’s great in principle. But Galatians reminds me that that won’t get me anywhere I haven’t been before.

If sabbath is going to truly be a day of rest, a day of denial, and a day of atonement – then I HAVE to let go of the comfort of living with my sin. Living with the parts that don’t look like Jesus or even resemble someone who knows Him. I have to give those up to him, deny myself the place of staying where I’m at, and rest in the freedom that comes from letting Him take those pieces – and watch Him start turning me into someone who’s truly been resting in Him.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

sabbath

“I am beginning to see that we need to feel both joy and fear in order to step out in faith and to experience the provision that God has for us…Sometimes the most beautiful aspect of our story is how big our faith grows when we can’t see what is ahead. That first leap of faith into our unknown, but into God’s calling, is incredible. Once we do that we find that we are able to experience all the joy and a little bit of fear in our complete lack of control, and yet our total confidence in God’s ability to do it increases.”

– Imperishable Beauty 

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If you don’t know now you know (pt II)

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  1. pajamas are perfectly acceptable motorbike wear. as in the matching button up top and bottom pajamas.
  2. you’re definitely going to want to purchase that face mask with the cute animal on it from family mart. trust.
  3. ::sung to the tune of tiny bubbles:: tiiiiiiiny geckosssss
  4. no frog is safe. RIP to all the frogs whose lives unintentionally ended too soon by leaping in front of my motorbike at the 11th hour in the dark.
  5. noodles for breakfast. noodles for lunch. noodles for dinner.
  6. 99% of all thai songs are about love & broken hearts (confirmed by a reliable teenage source).
  7. buying a full tank of gas = free water bottle.
  8. buying a water bottle (or any bottle. of anything) = free straw.
  9. ordering food that comes in a fruit is always a good idea.
  10. when it rains, be prepared to drive through literal rapids. (your motorbike will die and regardless of the sandals and dress you are wearing you will walk it through knee high water to safety and kind strangers will ask “you okay???” and you will hesitantly say “I don’t know!!!” it’s great. you should try it.)
If you don’t know now you know (pt II)

when it rains

When the rain isn’t letting up and you’re watching your motorbike tires get covered by a small river, inch by inch, so you decide to move English classes to tomorrow and wait out the storm to drive the few miles home once the lightening isn’t hitting so close. But the rain doesn’t stop so you keep working, until you hear little laughs and pop your head through the door to get stampeded with hugs and smiles and hands tugging you into the room. Quick conversations around school uniforms and braids. And then they leave and the rain still isn’t stopping, so you break again for a dance party with tiny feet and a voice that tries to mimic the Beach Boys jam that randomly sings out as you jump around. And then you sit back at your computer to be joined by those same small feet, and start pointing out all the people in the pictures at your desk. And the Compassion kid who lives in India and looks so much like a brother. “Do you know where India is?” And Google Maps takes us on a tour: India to Thailand to China to Cambodia … “No! Cambucha Cambuchaaaaa!” And you click through satellite pictures to marvel at the beauty knowing the real memories might not be as accessible or fond, and you watch those tiny fingers quickly master the keyboard until a kind voice calls you in for dinner. Homemade Thai and store bought Vietnamese and it all smells like garlic and you watch the crazy flooding videos and laugh and try to understand a few words of Thai until a savior of a van comes to offer you a ride home in the now pitch black evening.

I don’t mind the rain so much.

when it rains

connecting dots

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I’ve been doing a study with some sweet souls on the armor of God and it’s.been.killer. In the best way. I love how something I never would have chosen sort of chose me and it’s everything I need to hear.

Last week we focused on the shoes of peace. Among other days (read: all of them), the first day of questions particularly wrecked me. As I wrote down areas of my life where I detected disharmony, unrest, or an overarching lack of peace – it then prompted a recording of my reactions to these areas, and the hard hitting follow up to identify stunted potential or growth in myself due to the unrest or unhealthy reactions. It was a blast. ::sobs quietly in the corner::

It caught me off guard though – because I’ve never thought to attribute my lack of personal and spiritual growth to a lack of peace. But it connected some dots: distractions, frustrations, regret, expectations, confusion. These have all played a part in running (read: ruining) me over what feels like too many years. Feeling unsteady. Off balance. Uprooted. And with each appearance in my life, however big or small, they began manifesting character in me I didn’t recognize. Character I came to hate (read: still do), and eventually didn’t know how to remove. Enter more frustration and regret.

“A life without peace is simply unprotected, crippled, unable to move forward, hindered from maturing and developing in a healthy fashion.”

From relationships to work to friendships and emotional & spiritual health, I’ve watched a person I sometimes don’t recognize walk through motions. A bit empty, a lot apathetic, all around frustrated and confused. Oh, you hadn’t noticed? Gosh we put up a lot of masks. Well I know I do.

“…True peace is best detected and measured against the backdrop of commotion and confusion…”

How quickly satan pulls the blinds over the parts of us that are most alive. The parts that have the potential to bring freedom and life to people around us. And yet. Somewhere. I lost sight of my very assurance of hope that transcends life. The hope that lives IN ME. The reason I have anything good and light and life-like to give to anyone. I can muster the crap out of my own strength and give parts and pieces and glimmers – but none of it lasts. And all of it leaves me empty.

“Peace must take root deeply.”

I’ve seen how distractions have uprooted me over the years. It’s nothing new, really. It’s always a choice. Just like not letting chaos in is a choice. Just like walking uprightly is a choice. And bearing with others in patience is a choice. And thanksgiving is a choice. I had also never connected the dots between thanksgiving and peace. But it comes out of the woodworks of scripture – thanksgiving activates peace. And I love that the gospel always gives a reason to be thankful. Funny how in order for peace to take root deeply, so must the gospel.

“Our god can and will anchor your soul, tethering it to the security found in his gospel, the good news of his beloved son.”

So today, well – this moment – I’m choosing thankfulness. In looking past distractions and disappointments, I’m choosing peace.

p.s. shoutout p.shirer who rules at writing studies, and anne who recommended this before it was cool 🙂

connecting dots