Tag Archives: hope

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.

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

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

Trust

“Just pray that I could learn to trust God more.”

I’ve heard these words several times from friends in sharing and prayer times.  And in those times, I wondered, what is it that they are trusting God for? I mean, why would it be so hard to trust God?

It sounds vague and like something you ask prayer for because you don’t know what else to say. Can’t you get more original than that?

But recently, I got it. Oh yes, I got it. I know exactly what they mean.

I’ve learned that I haven’t really been trusting God at all. Instead I have been living life with clenched fists, holding on to dreams, holding on to all that I want, refusing to give it up to God. I thought that because I wanted things so desperately, I couldn’t let go. I tried manipulation, I tried mind numbing tactics. I crawled into holes and desperately cried out to God, screaming and shouting in my mind.

And what He answered, at first I didn’t want to hear.

He said, “Trust.”

Trust? Really God? You can’t get more original than that?

When the noise in my mind died away, though, and I could think clearly again, I begin to see it.

If I trust, it means that I really believe that God is good and that He has good in store for me. But it may not look like my ideas of what is good.

It means I don’t look back and believe that the best years of my life are over, but instead, he has things in store beyond what I could ever think or imagine— for my good and His glory.

It means that when inside is raw and throbbing from the sting of salty tears on a too-sensitive heart that wants so much, I can trust that God is bigger than my heart and knows all things, which means He is perfectly capable of taking care of this heart, no matter how wayward, imperfect, and naive it may be.

It means when I crawl into my hole, I can trust that He sees every single tear that drops and He cares. And He is not too big to crawl into the hole with me.

It means that when He asks me to give something up, it is because what He has in mind is ultimately better and more beautiful, even if I can’t see it. I can believe it because I know who He is.

It means that when I think of all the people that I am going to miss in the next four months as one by one they leave this side of the world, He is going to be standing next to me at the airport or wherever my last glimpse of them may be, with His arms around my shoulders.

It means that when I feel like I just can’t handle this anymore, that I want to go home and live a “normal” life, He will be with me. Perhaps He won’t speak. But He will be there.

It means I can trust that whenever I am in situations where my tongue and my brain simply don’t feel like they can defend what my heart believes, He will give me words and wisdom.

It means that He is enough. It means that when others don’t see me or understand me, He does.

It means that He will satisfy the longing soul and will fill the hungry soul with goodness. Like He promised tonight.

Always. Yesterday, today and forever.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Songwriters: Laura Story
Blessings lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

I Dream of Spring

I dream of spring with shafts of light

Shot through clouds with hope-giving sight;

I walk the freeze of January’s night,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with pale, pink flowers

Lilacs awakened in their scented bowers;

I listen to the shrieking of winter’s powers,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with greening fields

Red suns dying over promised yields;

I trudge through passions that January wields,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with blades of grass,

Meadow-sweet winds that through it pass;

I embrace the pain of winter’s blast,

But I dream of spring….

-January 2013

 

I must give an explanation for this poem, since right now I am in no place where I wish the winter were over. Here, our winter consists of cool nights and sunny days, and even though the houses do get chilly because of tile floors and no heat when it hits the 50s, I hate to see every bit of winter leave as February rolls around. 

I came across this poem tonight in some of the ones I had filed away and it brought back so many memories, that I felt like I had to print it, and I realized that many of my readers might be able to resonate. 

The background behind this poem is what makes it such a special one for me. In the spring of 2012, just after a difficult, weary winter in which I was teaching school, I needed to go to school to print off some things one Saturday evening in May, just before the term ended. The sun was setting in the west over a greening wheat field. Spring was glorious that year and the rains we had gotten greened and grew the wheat fields more than normal. I remember standing there, worshiping, watching the sunset over the wheat, and feeling the stress and tension of the past year slipping from my shoulders. My throat still gets a lump when I think of the way that God healed me and grew me that summer, even though it was a painful one in some ways. 

The next winter of 2013 found me again teaching school. It was another challenging year and my mind and heart often went back to that moment I so clearly remember of standing out behind the school, looking over Paul Nisly’s wheat field, watching the sunset and the green and the glory all together. I longed to go back to that point, not just because of the spring, but because of the feeling of having passed one of the most challenging years of my life. January and February 2013 weren’t easy months either, and spring came late that year. I wrote this poem in January of 2013 and even though it is a simple one, for me it always brings back those colors and feelings vividly. 

That is why I am posting about longing for spring from a tropical country. 🙂

Donuts

The gray December day is muted around me

Silence, healing silence, blankets my world

Of tile floor and brown dog and bare feet

And yes, even the rats scratching in the gutter.

 

I roll the dough swiftly, punching it;

The tightness inside me oozing out slowly

Like bubbles of air escaping pummeled dough;

Hands shape and cut and shape and cut again.

 

I have been running too long, and panting;

The noise has pulled the guilt and sharpness

Taut, too taut, inside of me

But donuts are forgiving creatures.

 

The gray December day is muted around me

Silence, healing silence, blankets my world

Of tile floor and brown dog and bare feet

And yes, even the rats scratching in the gutter.

Voice

Today, I walked down the trail, looking up at the pines, unable to express what was happening inside of me. “Give me a poem, God,” I pleaded.

 

Pines, amber and green, slanting upward

Light spilling into gleaming bars

Silence steals from heart to mind, silence whispering;

Hush—for even the forest has a voice.

 

And across the blue and golden ranges

Forests lie unrobed in light’s un-aging glory

Rolling, far-flung, and rolling, further and rolling

Hush—for even the mountains have a voice.

 

Twilight lies low on the mountain’s edges

Pinks and blues, outlined on the ridges

Gray and blue; and gray fog rolls, sealing the night

Hush— for even the dusk has a voice.

 

The forest and the mountains cry out day after day

The dusk and the night shout of glory

The mind grows silent, the silent heart alive;

Hush—hush! Even your Maker has a voice.

 

Photo credit: pixabay.com

One Year Down

Finally.

One year and 39 credit hours down.

Three more years and 87 more credit hours to go.

I had 4 exams this week. Some really stressful and some not so stressful and some that I made more stressful than I should have. Today after my last exam I crashed in the living room, slept for 2 hours and dreamt strange dreams of the randomest people coming to see me and friends at Payap getting lost, and then getting found again. I then woke up long enough to zombie my way to my dentist appointment, barely able to even enjoy the fact that the sky was the bluest I had seen in months, and that the rain of the past few days had cleared off all the smog and the mountain was entirely visible. After my appointment and some lunch, I zombied back home where I spent the afternoon sprawled on the couch, trying to revive myself. And not succeeding.

Down deep beneath the fog somewhere is a feeling of satisfaction and victory. I can’t really feel it now, but it’s there. And sometimes I just want to cry.

I kept on thinking thinking today that I felt rather top heavy. That if I moved around too fast or if someone would poke me with a pin, random information would leak out, like what the Chinese character for “mian bao” is, or what the definition is of “brand equity.” (In case you’re wondering, Chinese and Marketing are not a part of my major, but a GE course and a free elective I took this spring. My major is English Communications.)

I still have a final paper to submit next week, and a few other projects that need to be wrapped up. But tomorrow I am heading to the mountains to dip my feet in a quick-rushing stream while I sip on some hot tea or coffee. And think about absolutely nothing.

And then in about a week, I’m off for home for the summer. Home, where in a little over a month the fields will be yellow with waves of wheat and combines will be droning in the distance late at night and Chinese and Marketing exams are far, far away.

Which makes me think of this poem:

Harvest Song

And I must go down to the fields again

Through the shimmer of summer heat,

And walk through the waves of deepening gold

The oceans of ripening wheat;

Then I’ll stand on the edge where the grass still grows

Green by the amber shore,

And feast my eyes with a fierce wild joy

For the harvest is once more.

agriculture-1845835_640

And I must go to where the sky is pinned

To the earth like an up-turned bowl

Where the hot wind sighs its searing breath

Against my face, and I’ll feed my soul

By the wide expanse of dying wheat

That moves and ripples and flies

And sings the song of my native blood

Harvest beneath the Kansas skies.*

 

Soon I’ll be there. I can’t wait.

But for now I am grateful. Grateful for a family to go home to, and grateful for friends here who have blessed me and stood beside me, and grateful for the way God has blessed me tangibly in the last few weeks, whether in ways big or small.

Only three more years to go! 🙂

*First published in Echoes of Eternity  in 2013.

Picture from pixabay.com.