Present to Help

I love to teach children’s classes at church. I would not say I am all that talented for it, but it is a pleasure of mine. I did not regularly go to church until I was 10, but  I had a Beginner’s Bible when I was just learning to read. I remember the stories coming alive. I remember dreaming, hoping and praying that God would call me special like He did Hannah, Samuel and Mary, but especially like Elijah and Jonah with whom I identify with most. Sharing those stories is so much fun for me.

A few stories stuck out to me most, Elijah with the prophets of Baal, Hannah and her encounter with Eli, Jonah and his fish-belly repentance, and a man of palsy who had faithful friends bring him to Jesus through a roof. The last one always baffled me, how those friends were so decisive that they interrupted the teachings of Jesus and opened up the tiles on a roof to lower a lame man down in front of large group of followers, literally putting themselves in the center of attention.

But as I prepared this week’s Sunday School lesson, something entirely new about that last story came to life to me. In Luke 5:17 the story is just beginning, “And it came to pass on a certain day, as  {Jesus} was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”

The stage is set for this miracle to occur, and the scene is full of wealthy, well educated, able-bodied people. And the Power of the Lord was present to heal them. These men must have been intimidating in their proper religious robes and meticulous manners. And God Himself came, able to heal them.

What an incredible missed opportunity when they did not seek Him. When the humbled, uninvited lame man and his faithful friends arrived, they stopped Jesus with their act of faith. These men found more than the physical healing they were searching for, but also the forgiveness of their sins over their act of faith.

I found myself in awe over this story from my childhood all over again. God is so merciful, gracious, and kind. He was right there, able and willing to heal those in attendance, but so few sought what God had to offer. I wonder how often Jesus had something for me, but I was too busy, prideful or afraid to seek the possibilities.

 

Love Thy Neighbor

I live in a neighborhood where the houses are fairly close. But I noticed that having neighbors is not what I expected it to be. When my husband and I first got married, I thought I would bake some goodies and meet and greet. The overwhelming feeling from most people is, “did you lace these?” and “why are you at my door?”

But there is that occasional neighbor who lets you in….and LOVES to chat. In my current situation it is an elderly woman in her 80’s who lost her husband just a month before we met.

I try to visit every time we are in town for a few days and bring something yummy over and/or my children to light up her day. To be honest, I don’t always have the time, and sometimes she wants more time than I allot. But I stay until she is finished with the visit, and enjoy a pleasant time chatting about her and my life since the last visit.

I had not seen her in almost three months because she was ill, and been hospitalized and put in a rehab center three times, and I have been in and out of town. So just the other day we received a Christmas gift from her, and it touched my heart!

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Being the right kind of neighbor takes time, and it sometimes requires a favor or two (like picking up extra veggies at the farmers market:) but it is SUCH a blessing to be loved in return!

Cultural Experiences

Imagine yourself in a cultural experience that is completely foreign to you.  Maybe something you have heard of before, but never truly experienced or never understood.  I took an anthropology class in college, and I have to admit, the study of culture intrigues me, but experiencing differing cultures is much more exciting.

I grew up in a neighborhood that would be considered multicultural so I was familiar with people who looked “different” from many Americans, and even being a red-head I was used to being the one who was “different.” But it was still my culture. The children I went to school with all lived like I did, so honestly, it was not a different cultural experience.

My first shocking multicultural feeling was in the Los Angeles airport.  After I was near our terminal, I looked around and saw almost no one but Asians! I had a few Asian friends in school, but I was not used to being in a place so foreign.

Granted, I was flying to Hong Kong and should have expected it. Nevertheless, I was not used to being  in a place where EVERYONE else spoke the same language as each other, and I was completely unfamiliar.  Had it been Spanish or Creole, I would have felt at home and understood the general topic of conversation, but not Cantonese or Mandarin!

That brief moment passed and I arrived (after a long flight) to Hong Kong.  The sights, sounds, smells and faces were all very different from home.  I tried, at first, to be polite and smile at people much like people do in the South. Did not work! Apparently the feel is a little more like NYC, so I decided it would be more polite to mind my own business :)

Our trip to Hong Kong was to college age students to teach them English and be their American friends.  But after my initial impression of Hong Kong, I was terrified. I mean, if all the people do is avoid eye contact and ignore smiles, what was it going to be like to teach?! But I was super wrong to be nervous!

Teaching in Hong Kong was SUCH a BLESSING! I was able to teach some practical things, humiliate myself with games :), and share my testimony before dozens of students.  They smiled, interacted and were quite huggable once you got to know them.

That night, we had dinner at a restaurant with our Chinese students, and I got my next dose of Culture Shock…CHOPSTICKS!  We NEVER ate Chinese food growing up.  I’m not sure why, but we didn’t.  I must not have thought my trip out, because I had never even tried to use chopsticks in my life!  My graceful new friends, showed me how to use chopsticks, but that was not the end of the experience.

When they first sat down to the meal, the native Hong Kong residents started washing the bowls in a large container of water in the middle of the table. They proceeded to pass the bowls back out, and when dinner was served, everyone grabbed food out of the serving dishes with their own chopsticks.  After we finished all the food served to us, the waiter brought us more! The problem? I already ate my fill thinking it was all we were getting! How was I supposed to know? And my generous friends kept insisting I try everything! What a night!

Everything about that dinner was different than usual.  I don’t usually wash my bowl right before using it (although, this is merely a custom now, I was told they wash the dishes before serving them now:), there was absolutely nothing on the table I recognized, I was clumsy with the chopsticks (someone really should have recorded me trying to eat rice), and, where I’m from, we have special service utensils.  That is not even all the differences, but my point is, it was an amazing experience! You can sit in class and learn about different cultures, but you could never understand just HOW different they are without joining them.

To be honest, I have experienced culture shock in the States to some extent.  The humor in New Jersey is unfamilar to me, and that fact that many people in Pennsylvania do not even offer you sugar with coffee baffles me. But different cultures are not inherently wrong, different cultures are to be respected and enjoyed.

1Corinthians 14:10 – There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them [is] without signification.

11 – Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh [shall be] a barbarian unto me.

As a missionary, this concept is very important to me.  I will be living in a place where the people with think and behave differently from  me.  I am not moving to Namibia to teach people how to be Americans.  When I move, my first goal will to be ADAPTATION.  I will be learning to speak Afrikaans, and moving into one of their homes, shopping in their markets and eating their food. Pointing they way they do (probably with their lips?), waving like they do, conversing like they do and this list goes on and on. (seriously, if you have never traveled to another continent, you would be ASTOUNDED at just how many things can be different)

The point of my post? I am sure you are faced with different cultures all the time, see what you can learn.  Learning a little about a friend’s culture can bring you closer to them, it will help you understand them better (you  know, now that I think of it, men have their own culture and this thinking can benefit a marriage :).  Learning more about different cultures will also help you adapt to people, shape you into a more well-rounded individual, and maybe, just maybe, make you a more patient person.

What was your most most interesting or difficult cultural experience?anth

SVG map of Hong Kong's administrative districts.

SVG map of Hong Kong’s administrative districts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Life with a Purpose

Ever start something and have no real purpose in it? Maybe you walked into your kitchen this afternoon and had no needs to meet; you probably walked right back out without accomplishing anything.  There are many small things I could mention that we do everyday that really have no purpose, things we do without a desired result. I do not wish to dwell on the insignificant matters of our day-to-day life, but the life changing events like marriage and parenting.

Not everyone, but most every adult is in a place in their life where they are either preparing for marriage or are already married.  But why?

There are the Biblical reasons, emotional reasons and family reasons for marriage that apply to everyone. Whatever the reason that leads people to get married, my question is: What is your day-to-day purpose of your marriage?

In my missions and church planting classes I learned that before beginning any new ministry it is important to first write a purpose statement. After realizing your purpose and intentions, then, every action and decision should aim to fulfill that purpose. What is your purpose statement for your marriage, or for raising your children, or for waking up in the morning?

When my husband and I were dating we had a discussion before we began considering marriage. We both had goals of going to the mission field and had to ask if God could use us better single or married. There are advantages to both kinds of missionaries, but even this kind of purpose statement is not what I am referring to. Every morning you wake up, what would you like your marriage, or parenting, to accomplish that day?

I have my own ideas of what I want to fulfill in my marriage commitment, and I am not even going to begin to tell you what is a good idea to strive for. The truth that has been running through my mind is that we can handle things as they come, or we can filter our actions and reactions through a purpose. The sad reality is that if we just take things as they come then life will just happen to us. My desire, as an individual is to live my life ON PURPOSE.

Do you have any specific parenting or marriage goals? What are ways you bring your family closer to meeting them?

Every word, and action should bring me closer to my marriage or parenting goals. It is a lofty ambition and I often fail, but I have come to realize that a good marriage, and raising God honoring children does not happen on accident!