Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Education...


Apparently, “Where are you at in school?” is thee get-to-know-you question…as if this question sums up somebody in the five minutes we spend chatting. Countless, countless times while in Thailand have I endured this humiliating question. Humiliating because I don’t give the “right answers” and few people seem to be interested in knowing who I am beyond that point.
This morning, someone kept prodding for answers about my educational goals, but when I finally said, “I’m not sure” she continued to “encourage” obtaining a higher-level education by sharing the story that we’ve all heard a hundred times about that mom who has young children and is now taking online classes because she didn’t in the past…but wishes she would have. Personally, the only reason I’d wish to do anything instead of raising the children whom God appointed to me at that specific moment in my past is if they turn out to be little devil children.
Yes, God can do anything, including, allowing you to birth those exact same children at a later period of time in your life, but…think about it…if you had been studying for a final exam instead of conceiving your child, that specific egg would have passed from your body within the next 12-16 days. Your husband’s sperm would never have met its soul mate. And don’t tell me you’re a multitasker.
Anyway, this person went on to share that someone else had started college and “finally began thinking about life.” Wait, does that mean people who haven’t enrolled in college aren’t thinking about their future? Choosing a different way of life than the traditional, socially acceptable and expected route is not necessarily wrong and it doesn’t make someone less valuable. It also doesn’t mean that we are bad students. I graduated high school with a 4.45 GPA and all of my college courses were completed with an A. Granted, they are “community classes,” but I still went to class like a university student, paid attention like a university student, did the homework, studied for tests, and succeeded. 
Choosing a different way of life does, however, suggest that I may or may not have commitment issues…thinking about dedicating four years of my life to one specific subject is like thinking about the movie scenes where they’re locked inside of a sinking vessel while water rushes through cracks as they pound the soundproof walls for help and that fire extinguisher just will not ever break that window and their faces are now pressed flat against the ceiling, trying to avoid gulping in freezing ocean water…in the dark with that single flashlight…which just fell to the floor. Yep.
As Katie Davis said after leaving her formal education, “Following God is an education of it’s own…there is a lesson in everything, big or small.”
So, if God is not clearly calling us to any occupation other than loving Him and loving others throughout our daily routine, should we force one? “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”-Micah 6:8 (I do understand that this is not a direct answer to my specific question about seeking an occupation).
I’m a borderline minimalist, frugal with my money, and have never needed more than God has given me. He is my provider. I pay my own bills and don’t have any debt. You’re correct; I don’t have a house mortgage or apartment rent. Thankfully, I do have a pretty awesome relationship with my parents who appreciate my company around the house. You say, “Well, moving out is part of growing up!” Yes. You’re correct again. But another part of growing up is knowing that a situation will overwhelm you with financial hardship and stress. Ergo, don’t do it if it’s unnecessary. In my opinion, it’s actually irresponsible to knowingly and willingly put yourself between a rock and a hard place.            
There are plenty of other opportunities to grow up. For example, spending one and a half months alone in Prague as an 18-year-old who has never been that far away from her family for that long. Or enduring the type of human interaction that a shift-supervisor has to deal with at a hectic Starbucks in the ghetto. Or watching all of my siblings get married within a year and a half of each other while people comment on my state of singleness. Or living for ten weeks in Thailand as an introvert where I’ve had multiple strangers as roommates during various conferences and am now prepping dinners and enforcing bedtime for a 13-year-old who insists on contaminating my laptop with High School Musical and the Nae-Nae.
Though it may seem, this post is not meant to be a slap in the face to people with an in-depth knowledge of one specific subject. I know and love many people with university degrees. This post is simply my essay answer to the question, “Where are you in school?”
God is my higher-level educator. I choose to listen and learn from whatever situation he’s leading me through in life, and try my best to love those who decide that a God education isn’t enough. Where am I at? Well, it’s an extensive program and I will never graduate until the day I die. Cheers!  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meanwhile, Back in Becca's Brain...


Why am I so incredibly socially inept? Really, I’m the epitome of awkward. It would not be surprising if a doctor diagnosed me with some form of Aspergers. Really, I looked up the signs and symptoms of Aspergers on WebMD and watched the T.V. series Parenthood, so I’m informed and pretty sure that I have a mild case of it. Holding a fluid conversation with people should not be this difficult… all I know how to do is ask questions and let the other person tell his or her life story. No, I’ve never done drugs, but my brain just isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Is it true? Do brain skills seriously start declining as soon as 24 like Time says? On my flight to Thailand, I watched Still Alice. Alice had a rare case of Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, I know that this disease is different from the natural brain determination that everyone will experience with aging, but it had me pondering the ways in which loosing my mind could effect life and impact the people around me…on top of my normal craziness.

Cheers to the olden days when I could exchange witty banter at the drop of a hat. Maybe I haven’t completed enough Sudoku or Tetris puzzles to keep me sharp. Mom was right to put me on Hooked On Phonics, though my pride and stubbornness kept me from doing any of the lessons. Same same with the piano…one of my biggest regrets is failing to play the piano well, and letting that constant fear of failure keep me from trying harder. But really, it’s ok because my soul mate plays the piano. Speaking of soul mates, why do they all have to be in a relationship already? Either that, or they’re “too young” according to societal standards. Anyway.

I told many of you that I’d attempt to write a blog at least one a week while I’m in Thailand. Well, we all know I’ve failed miserably at that. While my host family is away this week, I’m hoping to get some things written down. For now, please pray for the family with whom I’m staying. The wife’s father was recently diagnosed with cancer and has only days left before he meets his Creator. Please pray peace and comfort over their entire family during this time.         

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Doi Kham


Yesterday, we went to the temple at Doi Cham and God wrapped my brain around the empty, routine-ness of people’s idol worship. Now, I'm lying here at 1:45am and can't fall asleep, knowing that breakfast is at 7 tomorrow. At times like this, I wonder if God won't shut off my body and brain so that I'll sit up and write down what's happening in my head.

On the way home from Doi Cham, part of the IWC crew in our songthaw (public truck transportation) brought up a deep question; "Do people who have never even heard the name of Jesus still go to hell when they die?"

One thing about me is that, often, I start things and don't finish them. There are actually topics after topics of blogs that I've started in this Word document, but have not completed. One of them is this:


I recently had a conversation with a friend who was upset that people who choose not to believe in God, but do good works throughout their entire life go to hell, while a murderer who prays right before dying, goes to heaven. Well, first of all, if the people who are doing good works don't believe in God and heaven, why should they expect to go there? Second, unless a murderer had a genuine heart change along with that last minute prayer, he won't be going to heaven either. Words won't get you into heaven.
He also asked, “What about people who have never heard about Jesus? Do they go to hell?” All creation sings God’s praise, so anyone living will either see the beauty of God’s creation, whether it be through the intricacies of His insects or the grandeur of His sunsets…or they’ll hear a symphony of crickets or the powerful roar of thunder. They’ll smell God’s flowers, feel God’s mud and water, and taste God’s animal that they just roasted. I wonder if some of the most lost and unreached people groups live in thee most gorgeous locations on earth so they will never have an excuse for not pondering how and who created it all.
Throughout all his questions, my friend focused on heaven as the ultimate goal and being a "good" Christian as the only way there. After giving him a variety of other straightforward, biblical answers and notes from David Platt’s Coulter Cultural secret church, this guy refused to accept Christ because he disagreed with God. He made his decision and left the conversation with, “I’m going to hell then.”
Well, it’s sad but true that people have to make their own choice, and many people willing choose “no.” This was the first time I remember seriously, genuinely, painfully aching for someone who rejected God. You’ve been given the opportunity to receive truth, yet shove it away while others, who will never have this much knowledge laid out before them, will die without the option of receiving Christ.
In less direct ways, we also dismiss God. Every time we say yes to sin, we’re saying no to God and refusing to walk in his goodness. This should make us ache just as much. In the past, God has brought some serious consequences to those who tell Him no. Now, you may not get attacked by locust or swallowed up into the earth or consumed by fire, but God’s silence towards sin does not equal his approval of it.
Bitterness, pride, lust, false-humility, etcetera will always create a gap in our relationships with God. As believers, we are responsible to learn and share, even if the message isn’t pleasant. I’m not saying this as a “look at the speck in your eye” attack, but because it’s on my heart; we are held accountable for what we did not share when we are prompted to share it. The goal of living upright lives is not to avoid punishment, but to love (Psalm 119:47), love (Psalm 119:48), and love (a ton of other verses that I’m not going to search for right now) the commands (which help us avoid suffering) because we love our God who gave them to us….     





At the temple, people rang bells, rubbed suspended gongs, asked monks for blessings, bowed before statues, shook sticks in a jar, burnt incents, and offered flowers. Many routines for many gods for many purposes. I have no epic conclusion to write here, but if I don’t post this now…it may never go up. Hopefully, you made it to the end. Hopefully, our routines are not empty like these, but rich with obedience and praise to the one God over everything. Please pray for the people of Thailand! Good night.  





Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Village


Besides a few instances of sleep paralysis, a language barrier is one of the most disabling things I’ve experienced. There are zero similarities between Thai and English. The only Thai words I know are hello and thank you, which I accidently switch sometimes. So when a little one from the village showed me her coloring worksheet, all I could do was start speaking broken Spanish. Either way, she just stared at me...then, attempted to rub off my henna tattoo.

During my stay in Thailand, one of my responsibilities is to create a photo prayer book of different parts of these refugees’ lives. Here’s a brief description of village life:  

As soon as we passed through the gates, we were surrounded by toddlers playing on piles of rebar and broken concrete blocks. No lawn, no driveway, no Pinterest wreath hanging on the front door. Dirt, trash, and curious faces filled the refugee village. There are about 120 people who have made the ruins of this construction site their home. Within the skeleton of a large building are several hallways, lined with doors, which extend from either side of a large walkway.




I felt as if I had stepped into a movie scene. Each door led to one family’s home…or small room, rather. The most interesting things to me were the shoe racks outside different doors. Shoe racks made of pieces of rebar stick up about two feet from the ground and into the toes of well-worn shoes…in my preschool teacher mind, if there are a bunch of toddlers running around, those shoe racks are a big hazard. Then again, everything about their life is hazardous. That’s what the children are born into.



In the open area near the front gates, we set up a large tarp for the children’s teaching area. As the sun set, some men and women rolled in from work on scooters, nearly running over the kids. Two floodlights and the moon helped us see the story’s pictures. We removed our shoes before stepping onto the tarp. Some barefoot toddlers usually wobble back off the tarp around broken glass bottles and wires.  



This week, the termites swarmed around the floodlights and successfully distracted the kids. Little boys enthusiastically caught the massive bugs and ripped off their wings. Kids threw bugs at their friends and tried putting some down others’ shirts, laughing the entire time. One kid let the termite crawl around on his hand as if it were a pet. One little boy stood there while termites sat on his shirt. Like I said, that’s what the children are born into. It’s all they know. And these nasty ol’ bugs brought the kids so much excitement. How much more excited will they be when they grasp what more they could freely have through Christ.    







My very first night in the camp, a school-aged boy asked a question about salvation. From the interpreter, “Why don’t some adults accept Jesus?” What a huge question! I didn’t hear the response and I’m not sure what exactly I would have told him. There are so many reasons. Yes, our Father has to draw people to himself (John 6:4), but people also make the choice to accept or deny salvation. Like these children, some people are more than content with what they are born into and don’t see a need for anything more than termites. 


Saturday, July 11, 2015

The "I Don't Know" Monk


On Sunday evening, we ran into Siddarth, a monk, while strolling around the Wat Chedi Luang temple. He asked if we’d sit and help him improve his English. Monks and stray dogs loitered near the temple as we sat and discussed meditation and thinking evil against others.
“Even though it’s different, there are a lot of similarities (between Buddhism and Christianity),” my friend said.

This is the second time my friend and Siddarth have had a conversation.  The first time, she was in an official “Monk Chat” session, and they chatted about tattoos.  
Without any previous mention of God, he said, “But Buddha never taught about God. He never taught about the creator.”  
She asked, “Do you think that there is a creator God?”
“Buddha never said is there a God of something. He never said anything about God.”
“He might not have said it, but do you think there was a creator God?”
Apparently, several others have mentioned God in different monk chat sessions, because Siddarth told us that he’s heard all about Christianity. Still, is there a creator God?   
He hesitated…“I don’t’ know.”

This answer is so much better than no. No is set, decided, finished with the conversation.
I don’t know is waiting on a circumstance, word of advice, gut feeling or change of heart to make it’s final decision. I don’t know is open to every possibility, flexible. Yes, prolonged indecisiveness can be a bad thing, but answering quickly is worse if the answer’s wrong.

“Buddha said, ‘don’t believe me, find out for yourself.’ When you find out something, you know how to believe. So each person have to find out himself.”

I don’t know much about Buddhism, but it sounds like Buddha wanted his followers to be indecisive, without solid answers to life’s questions. Thank goodness Buddha left his followers with an I don’t know attitude so that yes Jesus followers could have plenty of opportunities to share words of love and truth and let people like Siddarth choose a final yes or no. Thank goodness God spoke so many straightforward answers to life’s questions into the Bible so that we don’t have to be a confused people.     

Please pray for God to move in Siddarth’s heart so that Siddarth can make a decision. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

14 Hour Layover


For those of you who haven’t experienced the fast-paced, eccentric side of my personality during a conversation, I apologize for how absurd some of my past blogs may have sounded. If you read them quickly with a hint of panic, they’ll sound better. Maybe.

It’s 9:50am. I’ve spent the first half of this 14-hour layover in a trance due to lack of sleep. After walking the airport’s length multiple times and acquiring minor blisters because of my indecisiveness about where to eat and where to sit, I’ve settled down at my gate with a delicious Caribou iced coffee and an under-heated gourmet hotdog (which I knew was a horrible decision in the first place and is seriously making me consider a vegetarian lifestyle). 

Waves of travelers come and go around me. It’s nice when they go. This building has a ridiculously high ceiling and there are no artificial lights, only sunshine that comes through the wall of windows, which meet the ceiling and wraps around the entire building. The faint echo of few voices mixed with the air conditioner’s hum is just right.   

You know those moments in life when you look up at just the right moment? Well, let me tell you. Across the room is (what I assume to be) a six or seven year old Korean boy with his grandpa and grandma (who is in a wheelchair). Just as I look up, he walked over to a (the only other white) woman and gave her a handful of oranges that his grandpa just got finished pealing.  She accepted them with a surprised chuckle and they nodded kindly to one another. He pranced back to his grandparents. Thanks for the smile, young man.

Every other person is wearing a mask due to the virus that’s going around Korea. It got me thinking…people don’t like getting sick. I don’t know anyone who walks up to a sick person and says, “Please, cough in my face. I really want to get ill today.” No. (Unless they’re trying to call off from work, actually.) Achieving and maintaining optimum physical health is a big deal to humans. At least in CA, L.A. Fitness buildings seem to be popping up like Starbucks and the click-clack of that wire ball in protein shakers…

So, what if we were just as scared to catch other things besides physical illnesses? How high is our level of concern about guarding our eyes and mind against the evil lusts, slander, coarse joking, and violence of this world compared to how concerned we are about staying far from germs? How often do we view and recommend a movie that was crude or violent. How often do we tell an off-colored joke. How often to we spread spiritual illness.      

What if we caught kindness and spread that around? Throw out some smiles to strangers. But not creepy smiles…don’t follow them around grinning and saying, “Hey, wanna catch my smile? Ok, buddy, on the count of three…” I mean, unless you think they’re cool with that. Actually, that’d be pretty awesome.

If you are a disciple, we are commanded to love and show kindness. Actually, if you’re a disciple, loving other should be easy because the Life that fills us should naturally pour out. Now, people are wired differently and certain personalities may have a harder time connecting to others. But! That is still no excuse because the Holy Spirit will give you courage to connect.

Well, that’s just a tad bit of what’s on my mind at this moment. Thanks for listening. Cheers!  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Leaving the Familiar


There are 8 days left until Thailand, and I’ve been doing a little prep work…

The heat. Hot heat crushes my patience and scorches my sanity. In preparation, I have begun driving with my air off (well, it doesn’t work anyway) and the windows rolled up completely.  On a 93-degree day in a car with poorly tinted windows and no ventilation, I’d say I’m about ready. Common side effects include dizziness, shortness of breath, panic attacks, and claustrophobia.  That’s when you roll the windows down. 

American Thai food is usually tasty enough. However, American Thai food from Mentone is not. Getting into the mindset of Thai deliciousness was impossible while eating the blandest Pad Kee Mow ever. Ever. Let down.   

Getting a VISA required me to drive to L.A. twice in two days. I searched for an “I Hate L.A.” page on Facebook in hopes of rallying against the city, but it was beyond bitter. I had a hard time remembering that Jesus died for L.A., too.  

Being the type of person that God made me, I need to mentally prepare myself for everything in life. Big time. Sometimes, I need to mentally prepare to be mentally prepared. Thinking about two and a half months away from everything familiar has, occasionally, caused me minor panic attacks/premature separation anxiety/meltdowns. I’m a planner, so not yet having a full grasp on what my Thailand schedule, duties, and routine will be is starting to scare me. It made me say to myself, “I’ll need to rely on God so much more…”

Now, step back and think about that statement, which is pretty commonly tossed around amongst believers. Truth is, we shouldn’t be relying on God more or less during hard or easy seasons of life…we should be relying on Him the same amount at every moment and in every situation in life-100%.  Because what happens when we start relying on God less? We find something or someone else on which to depend. Usually, it’s ourselves. Hence, self-righteousness, which leads to an endless list of everything that’s wrong in this world: greed, envy, pride, idolatry, anger, bitterness, deceit, lack of compassion, etcetera. Of course, anything besides God will fail us in the end.

Selfish ways blind us from seeing our desperate need for God. They make us feel strong and mighty, but keep us spiritually weak. Selfishness quickly kicks (what should be) our desire for God's presence in our daily routines to the curb. Then, pride comes along and crushes it. Straight up road kill.

Anyway… maybe it’s not necessarily a greater dependence on Him as much as it is being more alert and aware of His presence in my journey as we create a new routine, a new familiar. Until then, while nothing else is familiar, God is. And that keeps me from staying scared.