The Chiang Mai Expat Dictionary (Specifically Conservative Anabaptist Oriented)

Sometimes we experience things that we simply have no name for. Craig Thompson, who blogs at Clearing Customs, wrote about “In-flightisms.” This inspired me to come up with my own lexicon of words that describe specific people, places or things in Chiang Mai. Here are seven new words I have coined.

  1. Farangogation: the interrogation that occurs on the first meeting of a Thai person and a Farang. “Can you speak Thai?” is usually the first question asked. If the answer is yes, and usually only then, the interrogation proceeds. How many questions are asked is usually dependent on the Farang’s Thai speaking ability. The more they are able to answer clearly, the more questions are asked. If the first questions bring undesirable results, the last questions are usually left unasked.
    1. Where are you from?
    2. How long have you lived in Thailand?
    3. Where do you live in Chiang Mai?
    4. Can you speak Northern Thai?
    5. What kind of job do you have?
    6. Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?
    7. How much do you pay for rent?
    8. Do you teach English?
    9. Can you eat Laab? (substitute Laab for Somtam or another very spicy food)
    10. Are you half-Thai?

Questions in a farangogation are usually directed by a group of Thai people at one farang. Questions are asked in rapid-fire succession, leaving the foreigner little breath to answer. A farangogation is usually held in order for Thai people to be able to analyze the farang’s “expatnicity” or in some cases “foreignicity.”  Farangogations can occur anywhere without previous notice, for example, at police checkpoints, at fruit stands, at gas stations.

2. Foreignicity: The type of foreigner in Thailand. Usually foreignicity can be divided into two categories: expats and tourists. The most common identifying factors are noticed while driving the roads of Chiang Mai. Characteristics of tourists will be as follows: sleeveless shirts and short shorts, shiny, smooth helmets with the names of rental shops, riders holding smartphones or selfie sticks, and lots of white skin and long legs.

3. Expatnicity: This is similar to foreignicity, but differs in that expatnicity concerns foreigners who live in Thailand for an extended period of time. Examples of different types of expatnicity may be but are not exclusive to: Old white men with young Thai girlfriends, rich retired divers, homeschooling missionaries driving Avanzas, young, single English teachers, university students seeking an experience, restaurant operators and more.

4. Whistutter: A quiet, almost inaudible type of voice employed by busy English teachers when asked in public what their job is. The whistutter is used in case someone with children wanting to study English privately is in earshot. The whistutter rarely works.

5. Mennusters: Not to be confused with clusters of men, this is what you call the group of Mennonites that gather at the Chiang Mai International Airport to say goodbye to staff leaving permanently. These Mennusters form long before boarding time and disintegrate in trickles. They can be identified by the long dresses and head veilings the ladies wear, as well as  cameras, forlorn looks, groups posing for pictures, and farewell cards.

6. Terrapinack: A unique kind of backpack used by teachers who commute to their job by motorbike. This backpack is classified only as a terrapinack when it used to transport everything that is essential to the teacher’s life. Certain items stay in the terrapinack permanently, for example eye drops, billfold, phone, pens, socks, tissues, Thai vocabulary lists, planners, and sunglasses. The terrapinack is so called because it is similar to that of a turtle’s shell—it goes everywhere the teacher does. When terrapinacks are lost, teachers may automatically go into a frenzy of anxiety, exude excessive sweat or completely faint away.

7. Tingutch: A form of language that has evolved among speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch who currently reside in Chiang Mai. The language contains structures and similarities of Pennsylvania Dutch, English and Thai. One sentence can contain words or structures from 2 or 3 of these languages. An example of a sentence may be: “Ich bin puuting pasa English and you still can’t versteh me!” (I am speaking English and you still can’t understand me!) According to Ethnologue, linguists predict that in approximately 20 years, the language will be established in Chiang Mai as a language of its own.

Who People Think I Am

“She’s a teacher here, for sure.”

The low murmur followed me out of the room as I left from a meeting with my educational adviser. I turned halfway and flashed the speaker a smile and left, leaving her to wonder if I really had understood her statement in Thai to the lady beside her.

I get it a lot. Wearing a dress and a veil often gives Thai people the idea that I am some sort of important person. I’ve been asked if I am a nun, a sister, a nurse. I have been called an ajarn (a word often used for a professor) when I went in to registration at my university.

I grew up wearing dresses around women who always wore dresses, so our wearing dresses did not really reflect much of our personality. It is different in Thai culture. Thai people view ladies who always wear dresses as เรียบร้อย “riab roi” (proper) and along with that word comes a host of other presuppositions: you are gentle, you are organized, you are ladylike, you are the epitome of womanhood. I am none of those and sadly shall never be. I am not very “riab roi” either. I ride horses in dresses, I play soccer in dresses, I run races in dresses, I climb up waterfalls in dresses, I milk cows in dresses, and I go hunting in dresses.

But in thinking about all of this, I came to the humorous conclusion that few people understand me well and no one understands me perfectly.

And that is totally ok. I know Someone who does understand me.  I have imperfect perceptions about people around us as well.

So in thinking it over, here are some different identities people around me give me, or I think they do.

WHO THE GENERAL THAI PUBLIC THINKS I AM

 

WHO MY CLASSMATES THINK I AM

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WHO FELLOW NON-ANABAPTIST AMERICANS THINK I AM

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WHO CHRISTIANS FROM MY HOME AREA THINK I AM

 

WHO NEWLY ARRIVED EXPATS TO THAILAND THINK I AM

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Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

WHO PEOPLE IN NEED OF TRANSLATION OR EDITING THINK I AM

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WHO MY HOUSEMATES  THINK I AM

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Photo by 立志 牟 on Unsplash

WHO MY HOUSEMATES THINK I AM IN EARLY MORNING

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WHO MY FAMILY THINKS I AM

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WHO SOME OF MY STUDENTS THINK I AM

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WHO OTHERS OF MY STUDENTS THINK I AM

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WHO MY TEACHERS THINK I AM

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Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

WHO I THINK I AM

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Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

WHO I REALLY AM

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These Days

These days are bright with heat, the humid, sultry weight of unreleased rain weighing down on us each morning. In the afternoon, clouds pile up high above the mountain, with the occasional growl of thunder punctuating the brooding heat. These days the skies are mostly clear of the insidious smog that covered our lives and souls in March, and in the evening, after the dusk rolls in, the skies release their rain. Each night we go to bed with the drumbeat of hope beating on our roofs—and in our hearts.

And why should we hope? Why should we dare to give life to this wild thing beating in our hearts, that gives way to the ridiculous, the kind of dreaming that leads to walking on water? Do not we know that walking on the water is unacceptable for bipeds of our kind?

But while hope seems to contradict every circumstance we face, it is conditioned in us. The very threads of our being are made up of hope. When we breathe, each breath that we inhale and each breath that we exhale are breaths of hope. Why else would we do something that borders insanity, this continuing to live and breathe in a broken world, except our bodies hoped? Why else do we continue to flip the light switch even after we realize the light is no longer working? Why else would we scan the skies with furrowed brows, unless our lives were not conditioned to hope?

When that hope is gone, life fades.

Hope is not optimism. Hope is not positive thinking. It is something stronger and frailer, more powerful and more delicate than we could ever imagine. It is rooted, planted into our hearts at birth, but without nurture it is like the succulent that my friend gave me–withered and dead, because I forgot to water it.

I faced days, dark days years ago, when I lived one day at a time, one hour at a time, on feet that dragged heavy. In the evening I would lay my head down and cry until I was exhausted–without knowing why. Now, I can look back and see some reasons for the darkness, but at the time I was only confused and tired, looking at the next day and dreading the thought of facing it. Hope was something I could only dimly make out, and I clung to the remaining threads I had. Friends walked with me. I scoured my Bible. I journaled. I talked with my dad. I held on tight to words that brought light.

And the light returned slowly. There were some physical changes, some emotional changes, some spiritual changes. We are people that are knit together tightly and our physical can affect our spiritual and our spiritual can affect our emotional and all the other ways around. Somehow that hope that flickered began burning brighter and brighter.

Hope hurts. It’s such a ridiculous thing. There have been so many times that I’ve seen my hope knocked to the ground, bruised and bleeding. I usually look at it and say, see I told you!

But I’ve met some people who keep on hoping against reality, who live with unfulfilled dreams, who hope for more despite the pain; those people are some of the most beautiful people I know. They live life with a deep, quiet rest, a trust that speaks of something more inside even while pain is mirrored in their eyes. They have hearts that have been ripped wide open, and perhaps never sewn fully shut. But they are strong and quiet and wise.

And I want to be like that.

These days the sun is bright and the heat is oppressive, but hope comes to us at night when the rain chatters on the roof and the wind gathers up fistfuls of the scent of green. We sleep the sleep of those who remember the days of darkness and rest in the new life that each droplet brings, knowing that the Maker of the seasons is also the Maker of hope.

Shoes

This past semester I took one of my favorite classes ever, Intercultural Communication. Some of the themes we studied in the first part of the semester were communication, identity, and culture; later we delved into issues such as child soldiers, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and genocide. As a part of the class, we each came up with a creative project or reflection on what we had learned, since a lot of the material was heavy and dark. Since I love poetry, I took the chance to come up with my own spoken word poetry piece and performed it. I pulled from the theme of identity that we had studied in the first half and combined it with some of the issues of the second half, using the metaphor of shoes to describe how we can empathize with the oppressed. Below is the poem that I wrote and performed as spoken word. (photo credit above: pixabay.com)

 

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their feet.

But you can never really know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.

 

My father’s boots were tall and strong

Like him

Made to stride through the mud to spread straw for cows on cold winter mornings

Or through tall prairie grasses to hunt for the stray calf lost in the wheatgrass

On sunny spring mornings when the swallow swooped over dewy meadows

 

My mother’s shoes were tiny and timid

Like her

Black and trimmed with tucked-in edges that she wore for Sunday church

Her shoes fit in with all the other women’s shoes

When lined in a row when sitting on the backless benches

Except hers couldn’t touch the floor

 

My ancestor’s shoes were rough and rugged

Like them

They trod the hill paths of Germany

Slipping through the forests silently, stealthily

Stealing through the starlight to meet in caves

By underground rivers in the dead of night to be rebaptized–

Radicals and reformers.

Their shoes took them to the courts of Zurich, preaching and persuading

And some to their deaths

To burning at stake, drowning in the Lammat River

 

My ancestor’s shoes carried them onto boats

Fleeing on boats coming across wide, wild waters

Where they became a band of bewildered immigrants

In a nation and a tongue not their own

The words they spoke became heavy on their Swiss German tongues

And their fear of facing the fires again

Closed their mouths;

The firebrands and reformers became the silent in the land

Die Stille im Land.

 

Their shoes changed from strong mountain shoes

And religious rebel shoes

To quiet and capable shoes

Plowing the land and planting corn,

Until the East became too crowded

Then they pulled on their traveling shoes,

Their plain pioneer shoes

Boarded wagons and trains and boats

And staring into the setting sun, braved the dust, and

Gritting their teeth against the drought,

They lost their children to the prairies’ grip

Grimly facing the taunts of neighbors who called them “those Germans”

When to be German was to be a Nazi

While their accents never fit in

Just like their shoes.

 

What kind of shoes do you wear?

What kind of shoes did your father wear?

What kind of shoes did your grandmother wear?

I want to know.

 

Some people wear ballerinas and brogues, bast shoes and brogans

Others trod in trainers, Tsarouhis, tiger head shoes, and toe shoes

Pampooties, peeptoe shoes, peranakans, peshaawaris, platform shoes, pointininis

And still others wear silver shoes, slingbacks, slip on shoes, slippers,

Sneakers, snow shoes, spool heels, stiletto heels, sailing shoes.

Moccasins and winklepickers, Mojaris and wellingtons, Mules and wedges

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Some people wear moccasins that have seen the dust of trails

And the tears of those trails where millions died while weeping and walking

A convenient quiet massacre

 

Some little girls wear red leather tarkasin on their wedding day

Feet curling with fear  while they say yes to a man three times their age

Who steals their past and their present and their future

 

Some people do not wear any shoes as they run

Panting and gasping through the jungle at night

While flames tongue the sky and gunshots pierce the silence

 

Some children wear crude heavy army boots

Whose marching beats out

Power

And plunder

And pain

And march them to destroy the ones who love them most

And themselves

 

Some children do not wear any shoes at all,

Since the explosion of the land mine that stole their father’s lives

Took their own feet as well

 

Some people took off their shoes before they stepped into the shower

The shower that stole the breaths of their shaved and shorn and shattered bodies

And all that was left was—

Shoes

 

Some babies wore tiny soft shoes, wrapped onto tiny soft feet

When under an Eastern moon their skulls were bashed against the tree

The Killing Tree, they called it

By soldiers with hearts of rubber wearing shoes of rubber tires.

Destroy them by their roots, they said.

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What kind of shoes do you wear?

What kind of shoes did your father wear?

What kind of shoes did your grandmother wear?

I want to know.

 

Can I wear your shoes?

 

I cannot wear your shoes

They were not made for me.

 

But I can wear my mother and my father’s shoes

I can wear my ancestors’ shoes

And when I wear their shoes, I can know a little bit

A little bit

Of what it means to be invisible on the margin, the edge

To be born inconveniently.

To dread the knock on the door in the middle of the night

To lie haggard and hungry on a boat adrift

To live in a land where tongues cannot curl around strange sounds

And the name carried is synonymous with enemy.

To have fathers turn upon daughters and sons turn upon mothers

To bury children under a scorching sky

In a strange land

 

Perhaps I can know,

A little bit

When I wear their shoes

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Lines

Even after five years, sometimes I feel like I am lost in a tangle of language, culture, traditions, national borders.

Why was I born on this side of white and you were born on that side of brown?

The river of words that runs in my heart is not the same as the river of words that runs in your heart, though there are times the rivers mingle, when languages come together.

Why are you called Vietnamese and I am called American? Why are you called Thai and I am called “Farang?” Why are you called Karen and I am called Caucasian?

Why was I born where the world was bright and hope sprang unbidden in my heart and you felt only the crushing of loneliness and the thwarting of choices from the day you were born?

Why was I born with the weight of a culture on my shoulders I feel obliged to carry, a weight that is different from the weight you carry? And perhaps you feel no obligation to carry?

Why are you the other, and I am the one? Or I am the other and you are the one?

Why are our worlds dictated by the little books in our pockets that we call passports, that identify us?

Or do they?

Where are the lines where spirit surpasses language, where kindness goes beyond cultural borders, where hope speaks across lines enforced by countries?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 (ESV)

What exactly does this mean? Five years ago I had more answers than I do now.

Random Snapshots

There are a number of things in my mind that I keep on thinking would be fun to write about. However, they don’t really fit into one logical theme, so here are some random snapshots of life in the past month or so.

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  1. We killed a snake. It was in front of the house one afternoon after my sister and I got home. We were positive it was a poisonous snake since it was lifting its head above the ground and spitting. Melissa stood inside the kitchen window and entertained it while the rest of us tried to figure out what to do or hid in the house or climbed onto the small shelter outside the house. Sara (my sister) and I armed ourselves with hoes and sticks, but didn’t dare go close since we were afraid that it was a cobra and would go after us if we attempted to go after it. I called our landlord and he sent over two of his workers. The one man took a look at the snake, grabbed Sara’s pole from her hand and with one fell swoop, knocked the snake on the head. It was an immediate and sure death. He then, with great mirth, draped it around his neck and told us that it was a harmless water snake and he was going to go home and eat it. A few minutes later as we stood still shaking and chattering from the episode, I was distracted by something falling out of a tree beside me. It took a few seconds for it to soak in that it was another snake! I was still holding the hoe and took a swipe at it, managing to chop off the latter third of it before it escaped into the canal. This one ended up being mildly poisonous. It is unnerving for us to discover and kill a snake we believe is poisonous; it is horrifying for us to find two snakes in the space of 15 minutes; and it is entirely and unbelievably traumatic for one of those two snakes to fall from the sky.DSC05794.JPG
  2. I made donuts twice, once for the IGo students and once for Melissa’s farewell. Thumping dough and making good things to eat are both things that bring me into my happy place.
  3. I went out to eat with a gentleman. The ladies in my immediate household jumped to wild conclusions when I told them my plans, and then were crestfallen when I told them that the said gentleman was about three times my senior. I was helping an elderly Korean missionary edit a book of his and then went to dinner with him to discuss the progress of the book. However,  I was struggling with a variety of things on the evening I met him, and God really cared for me in a special way that night. As I walked into the restaurant, which is a restaurant that caters to the foreign population in Chiang Mai, I caught the notes of a familiar song being sung. I was blown away. It was a song of which the lyrics had been “my song” for the past few months, when the breaking inside seemed too much to handle. Normally a Christian song would not have been playing in a place like this. Here are the lyrics:

When the shadow won’t leave
When the battle won’t stop
And every breathe that you breathe
Takes all that you’ve got
When you wonder if you’re always
Gonna feel this way
Hear the Lord of heaven say…

Ch. I will hold you when you’re breaking
Like a father and a friend
And I will carry you through darkness
Till we see the sun again
So rest your head and cry your tears
Know that I am with you here
When you can’t lift that weight
Believe me when I say…
I will

I know you’re feeling overwhelmed
Before the day even begins
But I can see beyond the now
This is not how your story ends
And when you’re at your weakest
Oh I’ve never been more strong
So let me be the one you’re leaning on…

  1. I was leaving for a supper appointment, and needed to take my laptop with me, but I couldn’t find it. I was getting that familiar feeling of some mysterious evil force being infinitely against me. (This feeling occurs usually when I am trying to find something or untangling something messy). Finally, I found it– in the freezer where I left it.
  2. It rained. It really did. Heavenly Corridor_190408_0023.jpg
  3. I went to the heavenly corridor three times in a week. The heavenly corridor is a mountain ridge that looks out over a valley to the left and a valley to the right on Doi Pui mountain. It’s quiet, lonely, beautiful and cool after the heat of Chiang Mai city. I had the privilege of taking my mentoring group there one Tuesday, and the next Saturday at the last minute spurned my homework and drove up again. I sat, cried, journaled, prayed and listened to the silence. And as I did that, some of my anger and grief that had been bottled up somehow came out. The problem with going up the mountain is not wanting to come down. I left, promising myself to be back the next day. I went back the next day with friends.
  4. I said goodbye. To a lot of people. I said goodbye to my mentoring group, I said goodbye to students I had been acquainted with for the past 4-8 months, I said goodbye to my housemate and dear friend, Melissa. I will say goodbye to longtime friends tomorrow, and another family in a month and another friend in July. I said the hardest goodbye to my sister. On the evening Sara left, I left our annual IGo retreat that was going on, and we bought our favorite Thai meal at the Big C market and went to Serene Lake. We watched the sunset and talked and were quiet and played harmonica and made hearts of our hands against the fading sky. And wished it wasn’t our last night together.DSC05649DSC05657.JPG
  5. I had my last class of my second year of school! Now, only an exam and brushing up some final papers!
  6. I climbed into the freezer. It was so hot outside (and inside) and I wanted to see if I could. I could.
  7. In three hours, I get to go meet a longtime friend at the airport. She’ll spend a few weeks with me and we’ll go to Vietnam to see another friend. We’ll drive some mountains and lose ourselves several times and have long, late night talks with each other. And I will rest.

All the Words

All the words, they are a part of the story

They are the voices, the power, the offspring

Of this breaking, this piling,

This river of aching—

All the words

 

All the words, they are power in torrents

While I hunt like a bruin in a cascade tidal

They spiral in the air, but glistening slip

Through fingers there—

All the words

 

All the words, they speak life to me

That this child of rivers can face the shaken days

That I am known and filled in all the empty spaces

In all the aching places—

All the words

My Love Affair with Airports*

You and I, it’s

Complicated.

 

There’s nothing like the way I feel when I hear your voice

The way it makes my stomach quiver,

The way I love how you wrap your arms around me,

And the way I feel lost in you.

We’ve loved each other for a long time;

But…. it’s complicated.

 

I remember the first day I met you

Me, a farm girl from Kansas on her first flight, giddy, naïve, excited

When I jumped past the “authorized personnel only” sign to rescue my bag

From where it was headed into the unknown

And they shouted at me.

That’s when we first met, you and I.

Me, the farm girl with starry eyes who fell hard for you,

You–so much older than me, the one who had seen every kind of person in the world

Who had traveled to the four corners of the earth

I fell for you then, and I’ve loved you since

 

I fell in love with the way you whispered poetry in my ear

Of places you wanted to take me

Things you wanted to show me

Languages you wanted me to hear

People you wanted me to meet

And I’ve been in love ever since.

But…. it’s complicated.

 

I love the way you’re always alive and moving.

The way your heart beats late at night

When I put my ear on your chest

And listen to the sound of your dreams throbbing

The way Boeing 747’s do going down the runway.

I love the way you inspire me to dream,

To wander, to explore

To go where no one else has gone before.

I love the way I see every color in you;

And how every language under the sun

Rolls alive and rich on your tongue;

And when I hear you say the words

โปรดทราบ เครื่องของสายการบิน Air Asia เที่ยวบินที่ FD 3113

พร้อมแล้วที่จะออกเดินทางไปเชียงใหม่

ขอเรียนเชินผู่ด้วยสารทุกท่านขึ้นเครื่องได้ ณ ทางออกหมายเลกสอง

ขอบคุณค่ะ **

I thrill. No one speaks to my heart like you do.

And yet… it’s so complicated.

 

I love you, but every time I see you,

You rip me away from others I love,

Tearing like the tabs tearing from boarding passes at the gate.

You make me feel at home,

Yet you take me away from home and then tease me with memories of home in the eyes of the little blonde boy sitting in front of me at Gate 29

You bring me to places that stamp themselves onto my heart

Then you block them off from me

Like visas denied at the last minute.

You send me friends that become a part of me

Then break them away while my heart crumbles

Like the hard cookies on the flight to Shanghai.

You broaden my horizons and leave me in awe

And then collapse them  like my luggage does after I’ve unpacked everything from it

You teach me things I never knew

Then change it all up, so I’m confused and can’t find my way

As if I were lost in Suvarnabhumi all over again.

And everywhere I go with you, you always, always make me pay

In tears

That are wrenched from a heart that wonders

Why I let someone do this to me

Can you see why I love you

And why I hate you?

It’s just…. complicated

 

But you’ve seen me at my lowest, my worst,

When I’ve been awake for 24 hours,

And smell like a pair of socks that were packed dirty

And left through two missed flights

While their owner slept on the hard floor.

You’ve taken me with all my baggage and dug around in it

Found all my dirty secrets, and let me into your heart anyway.

You’ve wrapped your arms around me while I sat crying

On the row of seats waiting for AA 2828 to leave Wichita

You’ve seen me alone and lonely in the masses

Yet, I feel at home when I am with you.

 

You enraptured me in Doha, where you were so quiet I too became silent

In Shanghai you taught me the beauty of doing nothing

You forced me to drink all the water in my bottle in Seoul in 25 seconds

I spent the night with you in Chicago while the snow fell and cold seeped into my bones

In Guangzhou we fought over the price of chocolate-covered blueberries

And in Bangkok I watched you, dazzled at the hundreds of different faces of you

I’ve drunk coffee with you in Tokyo, in Dallas, in Wichita

And held hands with you in Ho Chin Minh City.

In Chiang Mai you brought hundreds of people into my life—and then took them away again.

I lost my heart to you in Kunming and in Phnom Penh and in Calcutta

And when I bussed back from Laos

Every bone in my body ached from missing you.

 

And yeah, you’ve messed up.

You’ve kept me waiting and waiting without an answer

You’ve gone back on promises, let other things come first

You turned a cold shoulder to me that night in Chicago

When I was freezing and no matter how many blankets I wrapped around myself, my heart was so cold.

I lost my trust in you when you made me pay an arm and a leg

For those dumplings in China when I was starving

And I will never forget the regret that filled my heart

In O’Hara when you took that $4 chocolate chip cookie from me

While I was distracted by you….

It still haunts me

You’re just…. complicated

 

And yet, I keep on coming back to you

Over and over again.

Even when you take people from me, people I love

I love you even when I have to pay thousands of dollars just to see you

And you keep breaking my heart over and over.

I love getting lost in your embrace,

Tasting all you have to offer

Watching the grace of your movements and the vibrancy of your color

 

I love us.

Even though…

We’re complicated.

 

*This is Slam Poetry (recycled homework again) something I did for my Advanced Oral Communications class. To listen to the performance, check out this link: my love affair with airports

**This is Thai writing meaning  this: Attention please. Air Asia Flight FD 3113 to Chiang Mai is now boarding at Gate # 2. Thank you.

 

Memorial: A Story of Answered Prayer

I feel like I live life on the tip of an iceberg.

Meaning, I live my life with the constant feeling that there is more to life than what I am experiencing.

Not too long ago, I journaled this, sitting beside the river one Sunday afternoon.

“Why does it feel at times like I am so alive and vibrantly living, then the next moment I can see, hear or feel nothing, like I am standing in front of a darkened glass, knocking and shouting and pleading for a glimpse into something I know is there, something deeper and fuller and richer than even the most fulfilled life in this world?”

I feel like my experience with prayer has been like this. Prayer, to me, is an iceberg that I sit on, where I am only scraping the top of all the power that exists beneath me.

And here is where I will be very honest. I have not experienced this power simply because I don’t utilize it like I should.

It’s there! But prayer is hard work. And a lazy or disorganized mind that says yes to too many things and doesn’t focus on what is truly important will not experience this power.

But there was a day that God showed his power through prayer in a very clear way.

A year ago, I came home from a mid-term exam at school. I got home, changed into comfortable clothes, and decided to pack up all my books and papers and head up the mountain to a lonely little coffee shop on Doi Pui to study and work on term projects. I got ready, notified my housemates where I was going headed out to the main road on my motorbike.

As I drove past the last house before the main road, I noticed several people standing outside, and something made my heart jump as I drove past. One of the men stared at me in the face with brilliant blue eyes, wide and staring, his red hair on end.

I felt shivers going down my spine without knowing why. Something was wrong and I had turned out onto the main road before I could gather my wits together. By the time I got to the next intersection, I concluded two things. He was not Thai, and something was wrong. On a whim, I turned my bike back and started back. I decided I would drive past once to calculate the situation again, and then if it looked like there was something I could do, like translate, I would stop. There were two reasons I did this. One because I truly wanted to help, and two because I was curious. Yet, deep in my heart, I was also terrified.

I drove past again and they were still there, so I turned my bike around, parked and climbed off. Immediately, the Thai people noticed and waved me over.

The man was high. He had no shoes. His hair was wild and his lips were dry and peeling. Spittle flew out of his mouth when he talked.  His eyes were a bright staring blue and were nearly popping out of their sockets, although had he been in normal circumstances, I would have said he was young and good-looking. I kept on praying under my breath as I talked with him. He started off begging me to take him to the main road, about 100 meters away. At first thought I said I would and then decided against it telling him instead that he would have to let one of the Thai guys take him. The Thai guys said they had already contacted the police because the lady of the house had seen him run past the house and then come back, jumping on one of the bikes in the garage as if he was going to take off with it.

He moved in close to me. “I’m going to die. I’m going to die if you don’t go with me. They’ve got a gun! They’ve got a gun and they’re going to shoot me!”

“Who?” I asked.

“They,” he pointed down the road. “You have to take me to the road. Or I am going to die!”

I clutched my bike keys in my hand, scared he would grab them away.

“I’m sorry,” I insisted. “I can’t take you. If you want to go you have to go yourself. You can walk. It’s not far.”

He came up closer to me, his crazed eyes boring into mine. “No, no! You have to go with me!”

I would talk with him for a while and then talk with the Thai neighbors. As I talked with them, the man would walk around restlessly, as if he was leaving, and then come running back in fear.

“They’re going to shoot me! You just watch! If you don’t go with me, I’m going to die!” He began walking away, watching me and pointing his forefinger and thumb into a gun and pointing it at his own head. “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!”

I watched as he went, oddly wondering to myself if he really was going to die. He went for a bit and then came running back, begging me again to drive him to the road, angry that I refused.

During all this time, I felt a surprising lack of fear.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Where are you from?”

He was from New Zealand. I can’t remember what his name was anymore.

It took ages for a cop to show up. By that time, the man was calmer than before. At first, he insisted I go with him to the station, but eventually he became calm enough for the policeman to lead him down the road to his car. By that time, I was exhausted and in no state to drive up the mountain.

I never heard what happened to him. I still wonder.

That evening was when the fear started for me. When I was in my late teens I had wrestled with deep-seated fear at nighttime, especially when sleeping by myself. There were times when I would be unable to sleep much of a night because of fear—fear of darkness, fear of evil, fear of fear. I had struggled with this through my teens and in my lower twenties had gradually found victory through prayer, singing, reading the Word and renouncing fear in the name of Jesus. I also had discovered through this that I was extremely sensitive to anything spiritually dark. I learned what kind of books I could read and what I couldn’t read.

But this evening I could again feel it coming on. Every time I closed my eyes, I would see his eyes, crazy, wide and blue, with blood vessels sketched on the whites, right in front of mine. Even his smell seemed to follow me. I knew that I was never going to be able to sleep that night unless something changed. The fear was tangible, like a shell that wrapped itself around me.

Before I went to bed, I shared with my housemates what I was feeling. Brit right away offered to pray for me.

And that’s when I felt it. As she prayed, the fear that wrapped itself around me literally fell away. It felt like something was stripping it off, and instead a peace reigned in my heart.

I went to bed and slept like a rock. No visions of red-haired, blue-eyed men ventured into my dreams.

So, I leave you with that—the power of a simple prayer. I know my imagination, and I know my sensitivity to darkness and evil. Because of that I also know that my fear does not magically fall away because of nothing.

My challenge to myself and to you today is to utilize prayer and its power.

I wanted to write this as a reminder to myself, as a way of driving a stake into the ground and saying, “I remember this. Let this be a memorial to answered prayer so that every time I come into a situation that demands prayer, I can look back at this and say, yes. It works.”

So here is that stake, that memorial.

On this blog.

Right here.

 

Image by Gidon Pico from Pixabay

 

Hope

come

 

                                                                                      down

 

wash

                                                                                                                             away

 

             thirsty                                  dirty

 

                                           dry                                                                  gray

 

              leave                                               green

                                                                                                                                                hope

gleaming

                                           while                                                              each                                                 drop

 

              sprinkles                                                        drips

                                                                                                                                 washes           splashes

 

                                                                        lift

 

                                parched                                                        hearts

heavenward                                   dreaming

               hoping

                                                                                                                                                              dancing

                                                                         hope         spills              on

       cracked lips

drink   in             liquid joy

                                                                                             scent of                                            hope

comes                singing          on                              the                       night breeze

           while           hearts             soak       in          streams        of

                                                                                anointing       life is     hope      and      rain gently       sighs in   every inch                    of my            cracked heart and           every breath    is    joy and           every step of          this       dance       in        the              rain      is a grateful thirsty heart’s praise and tears  mingle in  this rain and I can believe againinhopeandYouaremyhopemyhopeisinYouandYouaretheMakeroftherainandhope

 

photo credit: pixabay.com