Monday, April 27, 2009

Thought of the day

As Jesus once said (roughly), if you love only those who love you, or if you are kind to only those who are kind to you, you're not much different than anyone else. Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

I'd say the same goes for weather. Anyone can be happy on a sunny day...but can you feel joy and God's love on a rainy one?

And the same goes for good fortune. Anyone can say "God is great" when they've won the lottery...but can you do that when you hate your job?

God is great all the time, not just on sunny days (though I prefer those). Here's hoping we can give Him glory at all times, not just the best of them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

on love and presence

"This is the most profound spiritual truth I know: that even when we're most sure that love can't conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, in the guise of our friends, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds. It struck me that I have spent so much time trying to pump my way into feeling the solace I used to feel in my parents' arms. But pumping always fails you in the end. The truth is that your spirits don’t rise until you get way down. Maybe that's because this-the mud, the bottom-is where it all rises from. Maybe without it, whatever rises would fly off or evaporate before you could even be with it for a moment. But when someone enters that valley with you, that mud, it somehow saves you again." -Anne LaMott

my prayer for our community...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Beautiful Day Rambling...

I feel it's worth mentioning that it is raining flower petals outside my apartment. For the third day in a row, when I open the windows, tiny pink petals flutter in, littering my floor and dog and kitchen table. I find them irresistibly, impossibly beautiful.

I love days like today - Katherine and I were out walking and talking about how easy it is to see God in the springtime, how compelled we are to offer up kudos to Him for the flowers and the sunshine and the trees. We spend so much time in darkness, literally and figuratively, trying to find our way. On days like today, when it's so easy to appreciate the simplest joys, we feel free. I love that. I love that we have a Creator who recognizes how hard things can be, and offers us entire days of undeniable beauty, where He is obvious, His creation is fantastically peaceful, and His love rains in through the windows.


Friday, April 17, 2009

On being known

-I posted this on my other blog, but I thought I'd open it up for the hc blog :)

I LOVE knowing people’s names. I really do. I love it when people know my name, even if I still blush a little when I tell people my full name, or when people give a hearty chuckle when they hear my name. I feel like people know me when they know my name. It makes the world a little smaller, community a little more real. You could go all around town all throughout life without having anyone really know you, and the idea of that forms a pit in my stomach. We are wired to be relational to be with people, to be known. This is why isolation is the greatest punishment. We NEED people.

Complex pathways of the brain and regulation of certain functions of our limbic brain makes expulsion from the company of others the cruelest punishment humans can devise. Studies were done a long time ago on orphan children, finding that children NEED affection and emotional attention. Feed and clothe a human infant but deprive him of emotional contact and he will die. We are born with the innate need and desire to be known.

It’s not easy to be known; it requires vulnerability and risk. It’s not always something that comes naturally. We hide ourselves for fear of truly being known and on the other end of the spectrum we have within us a deep desire to be known. We need it but we fear it. What does one do with that? I find myself hiding myself away at times for fear that people won’t like the real me and trying to be vulnerable hoping that people will like the real me, so much of life is lived somewhere in the space between.

I value community and that place where everyone knows my name. I like feeling at home with people. Take for example, my place of work, at the coffee shop; someone can come in everyday and we quickly stack up fleeting moments of interaction and all the while have no idea who the other is, but one day, a moment is taken to ask the name of the other. Once names are exchanged, it’s a whole new interaction as if the name is your “in” this allows you to ask questions, see who the other is. At least this has been the case with me, maybe I am a little nosy or curious, but I can’t help it. For me, it has that feeling of “yeah, we go WAY back.” Like an old friend. And even though that’s not the case, I like that feeling of seeing an old friend when they walk in the door.

I like going for a run in the neighborhood and passing my favorite old couple on the street with a smile and a wink. Or running into Steve who is giving his son a pep-talk on how to ride a bike even if it’s scary, or passing Lee and his co-worker out for a run along the riverfront. It’s the hellos I’m after, the community, the recognition of knowing and recognizing the we are all tied to one another.

We are all fellow travelers in this life. We’re all in this together.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Growing Up In A Muslim Country

I wrote this article for Relevant Magazine sometime in the spring of 2002, so thought I'd share it with everyone since it tells a little bit about myself.

Friday evening the army truck pulled up to the mall in Karawaci. Nondescript, except for the load of men crammed in the back, it came in behind the other vehicles entering the parking lot. The men in the back quickly piled out and streamed into the mall, smashing windows and merchandise, looting stores and wrecking havoc. Caravans of trucks were right behind the first, each loaded down with angry men. The scale of the destruction wouldn't be known for several days, but a couple hundred looters died in the mall as they set fire to the stores. The synthetic textiles of the clothes on the racks burned hot and fast, filling the mall with deadly smoke before the looters themselves could escape.

That was just one of many riots that occurred in Indonesia in the Spring of 1998. The riots grew out of hand, and within 36 hours, over 1500 people died, many others were raped, robbed and injured. It would be easy to think that Indonesia suffers from religious and ethnic intolerance. But I think it simply suffers from ignorance.

I was born and raised in Kalimantan, formerly Borneo, one of the islands of the largest Muslim country in the world. Life in the country has not been easy since the riots. A severe depression swept through and left the people in hardship, including my family.

I lived in Borneo for 15 years. When I was in the 9th grade, I applied for a scholarship at an international high school and got it. I moved to Java, until I graduated. I was a nominal Catholic when I moved to Java and some of the friends I hung out with were either Muslims or strong Christians. Together with the Muslim friends, I would make fun of how the Christians praised and worshiped God. I was rebellious at school where I lacked the limitations that my family set for me at home. The fact I was away from my family made me feel free to do anything I wanted to do.

I knew at that time there were a lot of my Christians friends praying for me, but I ignored them and assumed they were just freaks. A couple of weeks before school was over, a friend invited me to go to a service at school chapel. I had never been to any of the chapel services before, so I thought it would be a good idea to just go and see to make fun of it. But something about what we did, and then, what was talked about affected me, moved me. Much to my surprise I found myself on the other side of a line I thought I’d never cross.

The real challenge came afterwards. My Muslim friends started to look at me differently; some of them even threatened me. It was a hard time. I was new to what I had gotten myself into. The only thing I was graciously conscious of was that Jesus was somehow always with me so things would be fine. I saw some incredible things happen at my school, others who were very closed also found themselves drawn into a relationship with Jesus, and people were healed of some serious stuff both mental and physical. Personally, I learned my faith had more to do with my will and my attitudes, two things I had great difficulty in changing. I found I could be changed only through constant surrender to Jesus.

I think the same goes for my country. There is supposed religious freedom, but obviously Islam is favored and Christianity is set with some substantial roadblocks: no sharing of your faith to anyone who is not already Christian, no real recourse if a church is burned down or you are persecuted. It is a great challenge to be a Christian in a Muslim country.

After graduating from high school, I wanted to go to where I could learn about how to live God’s way. I had heard about some of the universities in America, and wanted to go to school there. Because of the financial impossibility, my family didn’t agree at all. They also did not understand my interest in going to a Christian university. I trusted that if I could at all go to the States to a Christian school it would have to be a miracle, so I left it up to God and kept hoping. Eventually, thankfully, my parents changed their minds, and worked with me on how to get there.

I could not believe at first I was in the United States. No one in my family had ever been here before. And to be able to study here was something I didn’t even waste my time fantasizing about a year earlier. I thank God everyday for this opportunity. Life here is very different. Everything seems so easy and comfortable. You have the freedom to do almost anything you want: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of expression, and more.

The first year of college wasn’t easy at all. I have normally been an outgoing person, surrounded by friends, but here it was really hard for me. I have made many great friends since though, as I have not given up on trying to meet new people and try new things.

Last summer I went with a teen missions group to Panama. I had an amazing time. I learned to be proactive for the first time in talking to people about what I have experienced in getting to know God. And I have not stopped thinking about something that happened during our debriefing after the trip. The leader of the organization I went with spoke before all the groups that had gone around the world that summer, saying something like, “You have had a great experience with God, you are closer to him. Now, when you go back to your homes, continue to read your Bible and pray. Also, if there are people in your lives who are not Christians, or friends who are not as committed, don’t hang out with them anymore.” After the debriefing my team had its own meeting. The first person to stand up and talk said something like, “I am going to go home and stop hanging out with all my friends who aren’t Christian or not as committed.”

In Indonesia, I know a family who is half Muslim and half Christian. They don’t agree with each other, but they love each other very much and live together in community as most Indonesian families do. I also know a family who has one son who is gay, and although they don’t agree with his lifestyle, they still love him and he is welcome always. It has never occurred to me to shut someone out of my life because they are not as committed as I am, follow a different way, have serious problems or anything like that. Friends are friends, family is family regardless. It is pretty much a part of my culture. Sometimes I wonder which way is right as I hear this a lot. I think that if I do not hang out with these people, who will? And if they have to be better people to hang out with me, am I good enough and what kind of message am I sending?

This summer I will go home. I haven’t been home for almost two years now. I try to keep up with everything going on in my country. But I think everything will be really different when I go back. The way my perspective has been shaped and the things I have learned over these two years in America will change the way I think and look at my home.

Life is still hard in Indonesia, depression is still going on and only God knows when it will end. I want to be a light in the ignorance. I cannot talk in public, but I can share love through the way I live. I can change someone’s life with my own. My family has been expecting my return for a long time. I hope I am going home a better person.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Yeah, that was productive . . .

What does it mean to make good use of your time?

I pondered this briefly today at the gym. This morning I spent three-and-a-half hours in a medical clinic, saw a doctor for maybe ten minutes of that time, and walked away with no x-rays, no real action plan, not even a tentative diagnosis. They simply informed me that I would get a phone call, after a few days, from someone about seeing some radiology lab somewhere that could do something for me at some future date if I paid them some uncertain amount of money. Fortunately (providentially?), during the hundred and fifty minutes that I spent in the waiting room, I discovered a copy of Richard J. Foster's Prayer and was able to mow through a few chapters. It was a good morning, I think.

At the gym, I at least "did something" (on a Precor EFX 576i, to be exact), and it was a decent workout, notwithstanding the time I irrevocably devoted to watching "Commando," a Schwarzenegger film where the hero throws around heavy objects and scowls a lot. In my partial defense, I had been watching the Miami (OH) RedHawks take out Bemidji in the NCAA "Frozen Four" semis, but it wasn't close in the third period, and there's a strange magnetism about indestructable people that drew my eyes to the silent film on the big screen. Anyway, despite the impressive feat that suplexing an occupied phone booth is, I felt palpably less intelligent even after viewing probably less than half of the movie.

Then I went over to the weights area to sculpt my guns.

Just kidding. Seriously, though, I like to get things done, and today was a good reminder that productivity isn't always what it seems.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On listening

As anyone in the Facebook generation knows, losing your phone is tragic. No more numbers, no more ringtones, no more texting, no more contact with the outside world. It can be quite a nice thing to be without a phone -- it's like fasting, but with technology -- but that's not always the easiest thing to remind yourself in the moment.

I bring this up because my phone was gone, gone, gone the other day. I went through the classic thought process: where was the last time I saw it, did it ever leave my room, etc. I knew it was in my bedroom somewhere. I flung the covers off my bed. Nothing. I checked the insides of shoes. Nothing. I checked places it couldn't possibly be, just to feel like I'd done a thorough search. No dice.

Then I heard the phone vibrate. Is there a moment in my life where you listen as intently as when you're listening for your phone? I bent over, my chest parallel to the ground, contorting my head so as to move my ears as close to the ground as possible. Then it hit me --

If I really want to hear God's Word in everyday life, if I really want to hear Him give instructions on my life, I need to listen intently for Him...not for the vibration of an incoming text message.

Darn it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Long December

Consider this scenario: you're out in a public place--a gym, a restaurant, Wally World--just going along, doing your thing, when you have a sudden realization. "Hey, I know this tune!" And then you are happy. I think, in a way, God does this for us, too; in common places, sometimes when we least expect it (Wally World?!), His presence, His imprint, His melody manifests for us to witness.

It's a beautiful thing. It also usually requires two conditions on our side of the equation. First, we must be open and receptive. You won't hear the background music well, if at all, when you walk around bumping your Ace of Base mix on the iPod. Likewise, it can be hard to take in God when we're busy gorging ourselves with as many other things as possible. I believe that there is a real danger for Christians in America to become the thorn-choked plants of Matthew 13, and we do just that when we drown out His voice with cacophonic pursuits.

Our second need is knowing what to listen for. Because you won't recollect a song if you never learned how it goes in the first place, nor will you recognize the divine love symphony if it's unfamiliar to the ears of your soul. Knowing the Lord is paramount.

My prayer is that you will be so sensitized by the Spirit and learn His identity so deeply that even His faintest notes will captivate you in profound and unquenchable ways. And then you will be more than happy.