Monthly Archives: April 2012

oh oswald

Oh Oswald.

I love how Oswald Chambers always has just the words I need to hear.

It’s really not him, it’s God and the Holy Spirit using the daily bits of wisdom to speak to my heart.

April 29th’s entry is about gracious uncertainty, and boy, did I need to hear (or in this case, read) it.

“Our natural inclination is to be so precise – trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next – that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing,” Chambers writes.

Though I don’t consider myself a scheduled, detailed person and my Myers’ Briggs personality has me as a “P,” I like to dream and plan for the future. Forget about today and this week, let’s think about what could happen in six months or a year. Or two years. To-do lists? I usually get bored writing them and start actually working.

I do like to sit and think about the future and dream about what if I were in a certain circumstance. I love daydreaming.

“Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.”

I know I’ve exasperated my parents with “what if’s” and my excessive need to think and plan for the future. Sometimes I focus so much on this I get lost in the present.”What if I don’t get into Baylor, what if I don’t get the writing job I want overseas, what if …”

My questions now are, what do I do after this three-year assignment? What if I come back right away, what if I stay in the US, and if I stay, will I be able to come back? What if I chose the wrong seminary?

The questions are endless and typically end up with me overwhelmed and exasperated.

“We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are uncertain in our certainty.”

I’m the type of person who likes surprises, but when it comes to planning the rest of my life, I like to have clues. For example, if I could just know that going back for seminary is what I need to do, I could be patient with everything else being revealed later.

But, as Chambers says, the nature of our spiritual life is uncertainty.

“To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring,” Chambers writes.

Yikes. I think I’ve been taking certainty into my own hands. I want to know what tomorrow will bring, now.

“This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”

I love this line. Breathless expectation. I don’t want sighs and sadness in my life. I want to take hold of the breathless expectation Chambers writes about. It’s like a kid that’s so ecstatic for Christmas morning they sometimes forget to breathe.

Life is a divine adventure and I fear I’m so worried about the future I am missing the adventure with all my sighing. God, I want to live in breathless expectation. I don’t want to schedule out my future and schedule you out of it.

“We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and to the task He has placed closest to us,  He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

I’m even more in love with those two sentences. I cling so tightly to life and the future that I’m not joyfully doing or completing the tasks closest to me. Right now, the tasks I feel God has placed in my life are my job as a writer and social marketer and the ministry in the red light district.

The tighter I cling, the less God is in these tasks and the fruit of them isn’t juicy. Who likes dried, juice-less fruit? Hopefully you didn’t say, “Me!”

I obsess over my writing. I cling to the words in Microsoft Word. Writing is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12. I want so badly to succeed. I want to do justice to the stories of the men and women who follow God in the midst of persecution most of us can only imagine.

I want to see souls freed from bondage in the red light district. I want them to know Jesus like I do. I want to be a better friend to them.

I take these burdens upon myself and it’s a burden I cannot bear alone.

The beauty is, I don’t need to.

I’ve placed them before God before, but I somehow seem to keep picking up my offering off of the altar.

“When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God – it is only believing  our belief about Him.”

Chambers continues, “If our certainty us only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled.”

As Chambers so beautifully put it, once we abandon ourselves to Him, “He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

I love surprises. My parents started a tradition where on Christmas Eve, after we were asleep, they’d leave a small present under the mini trees in our bedrooms. I loved waking up to find what it was. I loved running out to the tree to see the presents they’d placed out under the bigger tree.

I want my life to be filled with godly surprises. I’ve been clinging to certainty too long.

“We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next.”

I don’t know where I’ll be after I head back to the U.S. this October. I don’t know the next step in my life.

“But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy,” Chambers writes.

I do know that I am going to focus on my relationship with God and I’m looking forward to the spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

“Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in – but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.”

Yes sir, I think I shall.

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Caught in translation

I’m dog sitting for a friend for two weeks and I’m staying in her apartment. This morning, I took Maybelle out for a walk and a young guy came up and sheepishly introduced himself.

“I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met,” he says, extending his hand for a handshake.

Handshakes aren’t too common in Thailand – most of the time greetings are a “wai,” you put your hands flat together  like you’re praying and say “Sawat-dii-kah” if you’re a girl and “Sawat-dii-khrap” if you’re a guy.

“We’ve cleared this land if you want to park here,” the guy said, smiling.

“Your English is very good!” I tell him.

The guy’s parents came out and I shook hands with them too. They don’t speak English.

“She’s beautiful, son,” the father says to him in Thai.

He blushes but doesn’t think that I can speak Thai so he continues talking to me in English, explaining he’s a second-year education major and wants to be a teacher like his parents.

They ask about how long I’ve been here.

I tell them in Thai that I don’t live here at this house, but am  just taking care of a friend’s dog.

The guy blushes crimson. “Oh, you speak Thai.” He flashes a quick look at his dad and laughs nervously.

Caught in translation.

It’s fun being able to pick up on conversations in Thai, Chinese and English (duh).

Eavesdropping becomes a sport. Epfang is the word in Thai.

It’s funny listening in when people are talking about you and they don’t think you can understand – like today’s conversation. It’s fun getting glimpses into other people’s lives when they’re being honest and direct. It’s a great way to learn about culture.

I definitely don’t understand everything that’s said – only bits and pieces. Well, of course I understand English. There are so many times I miss what a Thai or Chinese friend is saying because my language isn’t up to par. I shudder to think of what was lost in translation – like the time I was nodding and smiling when a friend was telling me about going through a rough patch.  I missed some words ….

I tend to be lazy about studying. Is it too late for New Years’ Resolutions?

It’s not always fun be able to understand conversations in another language. Many times I hear comments on my weight, “Look at her, she’s so fat.”

It’s also not fun eavesdropping in on some English conversations here. There are a lot of nasty men who make their way here from all sorts of countries looking for prostitutes. I’ve wanted to slap some of the men who’ve made lewd remarks to the women and the massage parlor where I teach English.

But, language is a beautiful thing. It communicates truth, hope and joy. It paints pictures a picture of our dreams and expresses experiences.

Caught or lost in translation – that’s where I live.

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