Sunday, June 24, 2012

Handling Grief

You give and take away, You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name

From the song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman
I believe my prayers to be more aware of God is being answered. Tonight, I was at a worship meeting when we found out that a member of the school community that I teach at died unexpectedly from an explosion earlier in the evening. We were all in shock and the immediate reaction was to find out where his body was so prayers could be said and the Lord could then glorify Himself by raising him from the dead. At another time, I would have been completely in sync with some of those in our group who wanted to do that. Tonight however, I surprised myself by my hesitation. What I wanted to do was pray for his obviously grieving wife and three sons (our sons’ schoolmates!).

I did have a chance to pray briefly but stopped when more commotion and activity happened. We were understandably saddened, distressed, and some emotional, and we were all handling the gruesome news in various ways. Being an introvert, I left to seek solace in my haven: home. I got here and played the keyboard while singing the lines above, over and over, until I really meant it.

I don’t understand why a life would end so suddenly, so young, with fireworks. I saw him just a few days ago and just as always, he had kind words to say. He welcomed me back then he was off. When I think of him, he’s always that even keel, level headed person, a family man, and an obvious blessing to our community. Why so soon, Papa God? Why in that manner?

I had no answers but I felt the Lord’s peace. Somehow, Ecclesiastes 3:2 came to mind about a time to be born and a time to die. Death is what we all have in common and what we must do to move from this life to the one we’ll live forever. For believers in Jesus, if we don’t die, then how do we go to heaven? It just has to happen at some point, somehow. Yesterday, I was actually joking with a friend who was helping me unpack and move things in the house. I asked her to give me a hand in moving a big and heavy rocking chair from the second floor porch area to our living room. I told her that I didn’t want to do it alone in case I slip and fall and kill myself while carrying the bulky furniture down the stairway. Who would then know if it happened? It was a joke and a morbid thought but I am very serious now when I say if I do perish, please do not pray for me to live again in this life (unless of course God asked you to!). I am grateful and love my life but how could it compare to the glorious one I’ll have in heaven? I know I would rather be there.

Just as I know that our departed friend (and anyone else who’d gone to heaven) is ecstatic about his new abode. It is highly unlikely(!) that this life will ever win. And this is why I didn’t want to pray for him to be raised back to life. I will miss him and do grieve. I am deeply saddened for his wife and sons and our community. BUT, he is where he wants to be, and most important, where God allowed him to be at this time. It is His grace.

From her place of pain and sadness, Rachel called her son “Benoni” meaning “son of sorrow”. Jacob spoke and said otherwise; calling him Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand” (Genesis 35:18). Kim Clement stated in his teaching that Jacob changed what could have been a curse to a blessing. I urge us all, we are called to do the same.
When death itself appears, faith points to the light of resurrection beyond the grave, thus making our dying Benoni to be our living Benjamin.
Charles Spurgeon
In spite our collective grief, the Lord is good and we can trust His goodness. He means well for our friend’s family left behind. He loves them more than all our love combined. Amen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dove's Eyes

Give me dove’s eyes
Give me undistracted devotion for only You

From the song “Dove’s Eyes” by Misty Edwards
After one week here, I’m happy to report that I finished the reflection paper I had to do for my online course and am greatly relieved. I have more reading to do to get fully caught up but I hope to get those done this week. I’ve had to put that work on hold while preparing to get here so I’m really happy that I’m almost up to date on the work. I was also able to renew my work visa and just today, received an email from Tyndale Seminary informing me that I was accepted to their Master of Divinity in Counselling Program. Yay! =)

Twice this week, I also found my wallet. I first forgot it at the counter in Makro (like a Costco) and didn’t even realize it. I got home and received a call to let me know I left it there. When I went back for it, they took a picture of me with the store manager as she handed it back to me. She made sure all my cash and cards were there (they were!) and then she gently reminded me to be more careful next time. =) The next time happened when I dropped my wallet in the driveway of our house where it was in plain sight from outside our unlocked gate (and our dog was with me!). I came back from our walk and it was still there. It’s so good to be in Thailand. What an amazing week! =D

I just came back from over two hours of playing the sports I love: ping pong and volleyball. I never really had time for them before but now I do. As I played and enjoyed the mountains as a backdrop, I couldn’t help but feel so blessed to be here. The Lord is too kind and good to me.

I discovered the song above and it really is my prayer about what I want to happen. A friend actually walked with me today and when I told her my prayer request to have a constant awareness of Papa God, she said, “but you’re just talking about Him!” “That’s just it!” I protested, and then proceeded to quote the other lines to the song.
I don’t want to talk about You
like You’re not in the room
I want to look right at You
I want to sing right to You
I know I’d spent some worship times playing the piano and singing more for me than to God. I am intent to change. "Oh Lord, please help me." What does undistracted devotion look like? How do I function and do work and carry on conversations with people while maintaining an awareness of Him? I have a LOT to learn!

The other day I was eating salad and I asked the Lord what I should be doing. I then poured some salad dressing on my lettuce and was surprised when I glanced at the bottle! The people who lived here for us bought the dressing so I wasn't familiar with it. Instead of the usual Kraft brand, the name on it was “Praise”. So, I did(!) and do every now and then. It really is amazing how the Lord will talk to us if we are on the look out for how He’ll do it.

Here's a prayer I read on an email just before I wrote this.
Awaken my heart, Lord. Open my eyes to all that You are and everything we can be together. Lead me to Your presence and show me how to truly keep You first in my life. Show me what will have lasting significance. I want all of You, and I want to experience Your glory!
A prayer by Francis Frangipane

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14b
I am home, or at least I am now living in our house in Chiang Mai. I struggle to call it home just because I’m the only one here. When the rest of my family joins me on August 4th, it’ll then be home. I realize “home” has many definitions so let me refer to the one I mean which is the 3rd on the list of definitions from the site:

1. A place where one lives; a residence.
2. The physical structure within which one lives, such as a house or apartment.
3. A dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it; a household.

Our home (defined as #1 and #2) is super comfortable. I have nothing to complain about. The folks who lived here for us while we were away blessed us by taking care of our place well. They even left me with fruit juices and salad dressings in the fridge – YES! (Thanks, Todds! My stomach is tickled with delight.) =) I liked our home before and still do. I particularly love our bedroom with windows on all 3 sides. In the morning, I love hearing the birds chirping away to welcome the day. It is a blessing to be here.

When I left a year ago, I had 17 friends that I gathered together to honour and say goodbye to. Of those same 17 people, only 4 or 5 are in town at this time. Because school is out until August, most of them left for their home countries or are on vacation. A few left for good and now that I’m back here where we used to be, it’s been grieving my heart. It isn’t hard to see that being without family and most of my friends, I am left with our dog (god spelled backwards) Fudge, and Papa God. =D

I’ve only been here 5 days so I’m still adjusting to being back. I have to catch up on my online course homework that I couldn’t do while packing and traveling to get here so I need to be diligent to study. As I deal with my grief and get caught up with my school work, I hope to learn where the Lord is taking me next.

I’d always enjoyed my quiet moments with Papa God. In the past, there were times when I woke up at 5:30 to have it. Prior to getting very busy before coming here, I set aside a day in the week to sleep and just be with Him. Once a month for the past 3 years, I’d left my family for 24 hours and holed up somewhere quiet and secluded. I’d always looked forward to it. I realized that with my needing to come back here to Thailand sooner to renew my visa, I would inadvertently have this extended time with Papa God. YES! It feels so odd with my loved ones missing and I miss them but I know when this time is over, I would have learned a LOT and truly cherish it. I know I want, and need, to learn to stay connected with the Lord outside of my dedicated times in the past. Max Lucado described it well when he said:
Acknowledge God’s presence everywhere you go,
As you stand in line to register your car, think,
Thank you, Lord, for being here.
In the grocery store as you shop,
Your presence, my King, I welcome.
As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker.
I've functioned with dualism. I’ve spent most of my days where although some were committed to God in prayer, most of the time was spent oblivious of Him. I no longer want this. I’d like to be 100% aware and plugged into God at all times. It is a tall order but I realize it is as much my desire as His! This is why I need to be alone for a season, to learn, to be obsessed, and to dance with the Lord, as I alluded to in the previous post.

I don’t know what it’ll look like and I need lots of prayers because I may very well function out of old habits. BUT, I do know it’ll be glorious and I’ll feel like I’ve come “home” as defined below. Amen.

4. To the center or heart of something; deeply: ex. Your comments really hit home.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Living Sanctuary

Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary.
Pure and Holy, tried and true,

From the song “Sanctuary” by R. Scruggs & J. Thompson
A few weeks ago, I posted “Dancing Again” (April 15, 2012) and indicated that I thought the Lord was literally teaching me to dance. Now weeks later, I hadn’t really had opportunities to physically dance. The literal dancing could still happen as I then thought, but, also in that time, I came across three books that talked about learning how to dance in a figurative way. It baffled me that as I read and got to the end of a chapter, it ended with something about dancing. John Ortberg’s book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them” for example, has questions at the end of each chapter with the heading “Learning to Dance”.

I haven’t finished reading all three books except “Soul Talk” by Larry Crabb. It taught me a LOT! He wrote:
I’ve been on the religious journey, trying to do what it takes to make my life work and to feel alive. I want to trade in all that self-obsession for God obsession.
Into abandonment: I’ll follow the Spirit wherever He tells me to go because I am willing to risk trusting God even when He does nothing visible to warrant my trust.
Toward confidence: God’s been dancing all along. Now I’m walking onto the dance floor. I can hear the music. I’m actually dancing, and I feel alive.
Resulting in release: Now I want to bless those who have hurt me. My pain isn’t the point. Yes, I still hurt, but I’m becoming God obsessed! I’m a little more like Jesus! And it’s who I really am. I’m discovering my true self. This is joy!
and what he wrote resonates within me. I realize I’m not where he is but I do want to learn to become confident, and I know the Lord is teaching me how. In due season, I will learn to dance and feel truly alive!

I know part of the process is learning to be used in a sacrificial way. It hasn’t surprised me that the song above started to play in my head last week. What surprised me (and maybe it shouldn’t?) was that it was sung at church yesterday. It’s an old song so it isn’t usual to hear it sung. As I sat there at the end of the service (usually in that church, we’re asked to be silent for a few minutes before leaving), I mused on the aptness of the song sung during worship. As I chuckled to myself about the wonder of God, the instrumental for the same song played again. =)
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary, for you.