Thursday, February 19, 2009

Me and My Thoughts Bouncing off the Walls

There has been no hitting the ground running for these feet! Even if I had wanted to it wasn't going to happen. I've been grounded! But I have so much to say and so much to do!! Sure I figured a couple of days to reacclimate, but. . .Now this intestinal thing?! What are you thinking LORD?!

"Oh, you'd like to know what I AM thinking? Happy to oblige."

"Where's your heart? Is it fixed on Me? Is it filled with Me?
What is that trying to take up residence in the corner over there?
Ah, it's 'good works' - your 'mission' - your 'calling'!"

"It's time for a reminder."

"It's all about our relationship. From this will flow the Living Water. It will pour out of you and envelope all in its path! Don't settle for a trickle! Don't settle for what you can do in your own strength. Be amazed by My Power."

"Wait on Me. It will come. Wait. Rest. I will come. I will fill you. You will overflow."

"It is not about how strong you are, but how Powerful I AM in your life. I have overcome."

This is the message I have been getting day after day. From many sources His voice has been loud and clear.

Yesterday I was to read Leviticus chapters 7 & 8 and it did not excite me. I asked the LORD to speak to me through it, as I knew He could. It is the Living Word, His Living Word.

First He showed me that He provides for His servants. Then He spoke to me about what is involved to be a priest.
They had to be washed, blood was involved and then they were clothed.
The priesthood depended upon relationship, to Aaron in the O. T. times.
I was reminded that 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that because of our relationship with Christ we are a royal priesthood.
We have been washed (white as snow!) through the shed blood of Jesus and now we are robed (in God's view) in white!
Priests are set apart (consecrated). For what purpose? For His pleasure!
He takes pleasure in our relationship with Him.
There you have it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reflections upon Returning

Following the flights, which went surprisingly fast, I landed back on US soil. Stepping back into the world, as I have known it, has been strange. Know that expression, "a duck out of water"? Well that is how I feel. I know that jet lag can take some of the blame, but it is more than that.
For the past five weeks the focus has been on ministry. Even if much of what I did was observation, it was on ministry. There were no other demands upon my time. It was lovely.
Before this trip I had planned on quiet time once I arrived back home. I am very glad I was prompted to do so. Normally I just fill in all the blanks on the calendar. That would not have been good!
This time to rest is just what is needed. Rest for the body, as it readjusts, of course, but more so to rest in Him.
As I have sat with Him, He has impressed me with a few thoughts. There is such a strong sense of just how He, in His Grace, carried me through the whole adventure. It was evident throughout the time, but now I am overwhelmed with this fact! The thought that keeps coming to mind is how He doesn't do anything without purpose. His planning and orchestration of my trip had and has purpose. Without much deep thought I can say I know it is so that I can pray more effectively. Sharing what He has shown me with others is another part of it, but there is more. To be sure He will be revealing it to me, as the time is right.
This morning I was reading in Psalm 41. The first verse begins, "How blessed is he who considers the helpless". I felt directed to study this further.
Jesus speaks of being blessed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. To me blessedness is a happiness that comes from the sense of being fortunate; fortunate to know the LORD and to belong to Him!
In the concordance I found that 'considers' means to be circumspect. It is implied that the careful consideration is followed by action.
The word 'poor' refers to those who are without strength to help themselves, the weak and needy. The word 'dangling' is included. It gives me the picture of a broken limb that just hangs or dangles uselessly.
So the blessed are focused on those in need. Needs come in may sizes and shapes, but everyone has them. The need of Him is utmost, but we cannot overlook other essential needs. Just like my friends on the other side of the world, our words must go hand-in-hand with action.
There is much more in this Psalm, but this is what spoke loudly to my heart. Following this I turned to Mark 13 where we are urged not to be idle, but to be about the work that is ours to do.
I felt the LORD saying - Focus!
In this world it is so easy to get distracted and pulled in many directions. Focusing is not always easy, yet if our focus is on the Living God, He will keep us on the right path.
When God wants to get a message through to me He repeats it to be sure I get it! So it was no surprise to listen to a sermon from the beginning of this year and hear the same message - Focus!
Focused I will be! On Him to be sure and also on whatever 'needs' He reveals to me.
Oh, I think I am on a new adventure!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Farewell Thailand

Well, the time has finally come to head home. I feel like I have been here a long time, yet at the same time it feels as if I just got here. So much has happened and been seen, more than I could ever have put in this blog. I am sure that I will be sharing for a long time, possibly via this medium in part. Some thing tells me that I have only begun to discover all God has to reveal to me from this experience. May none of it fall to the ground!
Today I got the opportunity to play the tourist for a couple of hours thanks to one of my new friends, Jim. He took me on his motorcycle to the the top of a mountain in Pattaya followed by a stop at an elegant hotel where the views were absolutely beautiful. I think I got some portcard worthy pictures!
Another stop was at an art gallery where experienced true Thai art. One of the young artists was sketching another man in charcoal. He offered to sketch me for one hundred baht, which is the equivalent of about three and a half dollars. I took him up on the offer and about twenty minutes later he had drawn a picture that took about thirty years off my face. I really liked that guy!
Our trip ended at the beach where I met up with some of the homeless people that we had gone to the hospital with on Wednesday. It was not easy. We talked, I tried to encourage one fellow in particular and prayed with the young woman who has seizures. He is looking for work, which would lead to a change for good. She is still drinking along with taking her meds. They should not be mixed! My heart ached as I said goodbye.
Yesterday another of the men from the beach decided to 'leave the beach', which means he was ready for a change in his life. The sad thing is there was no place for him to go. I thought of this as I said my goodbyes and wondered if this would be the situation when one of them came to that decision too.
It will be good to arrive home to family and friends, but there will be a part of me left behind in this far away land - a good size piece of my heart. Actually, I think I am taking this place and the people home with me in that very heart!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shining a Little Light on the Subject

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to take a walk along the beach and get a bit of fresh air. The breeze was coming off the water so it was very pleasant. Otherwise, it would have been exhaust fumes to the max.
The alone time gave me a chance to reflect and much that came across my path directed my thoughts. Song-tows (ow, as in how) passed me at regular intervals. These pick-up trucks with bench seats in their bed and a roof over head are the most common means of transportation for the majority. If I lived here, I would adopt the habit of wearing a surgical mask for the sake of my health!
The rearview mirror in these and every other vehicle serve as shrines to appease the spirits. What seemed so strange at first has become commonplace for me now. Some of these things swaying with the motion of the vehicle are more sinister looking than others. At times I have needed to pray immediately!
Another common sight are the older foreign men with young Thai women. One of these men commented to Sandy recently: "Where else could you go and find someone who would even cut your toe nails?" We'll cut his toe nails for him alright!!
Yesterday one of these couples came onto the song-tow with us. My eyes and the man's met and locked for a moment. Shame came across his features and for the entire ride he kept his eyes on the floor. I prayed that he couldn't shake that feeling and had to do something about it. (Like repent!)
These were my thoughts, at first, as I walked, until I observed three adults with a number of children romping on the beach. My curiosity was aroused when I noticed that the adults were wearing identification tags around their necks. One of the young men came my way with a child in tow. We chatted for a minute and I found out that they were with a Bangkok based Christian organization and were in town for a retreat. This brief exchange took my thoughts down a different track.
Over these past five weeks I have encountered much darkness. Yet, there have been many beacons of the True Light along the way. Just the other day I visited an HIV home and an orphanage. Both run by Christians.
The HIV home can house up to ten people. Some arrive with TB also. Their goal is to make those who come to them comfortable and, hopefully, build up their strength both physically and spiritually. Many come there to die in comfort. The home is run on donations and right now is low on food. They will need to move in two and a half years, as the landlord has other plans for the building.
Though there are many challenges there is Love and Light.
The orphanage takes in children temporarily, as in truth many of the children are not true orphans, but have parents who are in crisis or prison. If the family does not come to a place where reconciliation is possible, then foster homes are sought. The problem is that foster care is not a common occurrence in this part of Thailand. Probably because this is the party capital.
The upside is that this ministry has strong support both financially and in the number of volunteers. Children touch many hearts. They are loved and nurtured in the LORD. The Light shines brightly here.
I could go on and on with one ministry after another that I have seen or heard about. One woman spends much of her time in the slums ministering to children and their families. Another visits prisons. More Light!
A couple of scriptures come to mind. One speaks of doing whatever your hand finds to do and doing it heartily as unto the LORD. The other speaks of how we are salt and light and need to live accordingly. I have found many examples of both on this side of the world. How I praise His Wonderful Name!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Compassion in Action

Whenever anyone is planning a trip there is always a measure of expectation and anticipation. The LORD has reminded me from the start that I needed to keep both to a minimum and be open to whatever came my way. Every day has held its surprises and by His grace I have been enabled to roll with it for the most part. Even in the times of real challenge He has brought me through. Praise His Holy Name!
Every person and their ministry is unique. All show His heart for those in need of a Savior, those who are lost and hurting. His heart of compassion was never more evident than today.
'The Glory Hut' (the name of Sandy's ministry) had hired a van to pick us up at 7:15 this morning. At 7:30 we were at the beach gathering up those who needed to be brought to the hospital to be tested for HIV. Not everyone that had been invited to come showed up. There were three men and one woman in our van as we headed to the hospital. These people are homeless and live on the beach.
Sandy has a foundation, which means her ministry is registered with the government. It affords her more freedom to minister, but also means a lot of paperwork! There must be a form filled out for each person, which includes basic information, along with their basic story. Their work experience and skills are also noted. Down the line Sandy might be helping them find a job. Pictures (eight copies!) must be taken of each person and of the hospital.
The individuals needed to be walked through each step of the hospital visit. There were hospital forms to complete, of course! The next stop was the nurses' station, which was also the place to wait to see a doctor. A visit to the lab followed to have blood drawn. After this we all headed back to the previous stop to wait and wait we did! During this time we got bits and pieces of their stories. The tsunami was mentioned a few times, as it affected many. They are far from family, if there is one at all. All are dependent upon meeting a 'friend' on the beach for income.
As I spent time with these needy ones I experienced such a love for them. Jesus showed me how He sees them, as lost sheep, helpless lambs. There is not a person anywhere, no matter their condition, that is not valuable to our Savior. Every one counts!
Of all those who are in need in this world I think this particular group can be most overlooked and often despised. One person's comment recently was that they have brought their trouble upon themselves. Who hasn't to some measure?
Yesterday I spent some time at a ministry run by YWAM. Tamar is an outreach to the prostitutes in the area. Often girls leave their villages after hearing that they can come to this place and meet a rich man who will marry them and rescue them out of their poverty. What they encounter is more poverty, poverty of the soul.
Tamar goes into the bars and 'buys' a prostitute for the night. The cost? Between seven and ten dollars! The women are given a meal and lovingly presented with an alternative to the life they live. They hear that there is One Who loves them and seeks to redeem them. Some take the offer and come to live at the center. There they learn more about their Savior and also are taught a trade. This ministry has plenty of support.
Meanwhile, the outreaches to those affected and infected with HIV often are overlooked. Even today in the hospital it was evident on many faces that our group was being viewed through the eyes of prejudice.
It was a long day - eight hours sitting in the hospital. What was accomplished apart from finding out that one of the men is now HIV positive and that the woman needed medication to deal with scar tissue on her brain? I believe that we had the opportunity to demonstrate the love, grace and patience of our LORD. It was obvious that Sandy and her helper, Meow, are committed to these people and desire to help meet their needs. All four expressed gratitude and obviously felt comfortable in our company. How often does that happen for any of them?
On the beach they are used, abused or ignored. The police routinely confiscate their meager belongings and demand a fee to redeem them.
How will they find a way, The Way, out if no one takes the time? For me it was a privilege to be able share in some small way the ministry of our LORD for 'the least of these'. Hey we all have a limp, it is just more obvious in some of us!

God of All

Each Sunday has given me a new experience of worship. This past Sunday Sandy and I attended a church that meets in a hotel. There were a number of countries represented, but the service was in Thai. Though there was a translator the love for the Savior needed no translation. During the service there was an opportunity for testimony. How sweet to see the children taking part with all sincerity.

Throughout this trip the experience of being in the midst of people lifting their voices in prayer, praise and song, though in a language I did not understand, has been a very moving one. Each time I think of how the book of Revelation has people of every nation, tribe and tongue worshipping our great God. It is a little bit of heaven on earth.

As you can see, I couldn't resist taking a picture of one of the lines from "Amazing Grace" that was projected in both Thai and English. Today Sandy's Thai worker kept singing that song. I could join in both in the service and today with no problem!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tying Up Some Loose Strands

Back to reality. Jomtien Beach.
I want to clarify something and also respond to a question that has come my way.
In an earlier blog I wrote that I felt anger and disgust toward the older men that have come here to indulge themselves. They are just as needy and lost as any others. That is not the issue. The problem for me is that they come from other countries beyond Asia. In this part of the world, and in particular in Thailand, you find people who are followers and accustomed to serving, to pleasing others. The thinking is so foreign to the western way of thought. Those who come from the West come to take advantage of these people, who know no other way of thinking. They come to exploit them. That is what makes me angry.
On another note, the question was asked regarding whether there are those who oppose Buddhism the way some oppose Christianity in the West. No. To be Thai is to be Buddhist. It entirely permeates the culture. There is no separation.
The spirit houses and altars (shrines) are everywhere. Every house, store and building of any kind has one. You see them along the roadside. Everything is divided up into territories. Each territory has a shrine of some sort. At each one, wherever you find them, you see offerings of food, flowers, etc. to appease the spirits. If you appease them, then maybe they will leave you alone.
I have taken pictures of some of them. Others I cannot. Some are exuding such evil that I wouldn't want to carry the images back in pictures. It is more than enough that I have seen them.
It is Chinese New Year right now and it seems that all of Southeast Asia celebrates it. Red is everywhere. In stores you find all kinds of stuff to buy for the celebration. We were in the Asian version of COSTCO, which is called MACRO, and found a large selection of products for this celebration. You can buy phony paper money or gold coins to burn. The idea is that you burn these things for your ancestors. It seems that they need money, clothing and food where they are. If you don't do this they will be angry with you and come after you.
Can you see how fear is the basis of so much of what the people do? How they need to meet the One Whose love casts out all fear!
Remember only the truth is opposed. The enemy has no interest in stirring up division among his disciples or those who entrapped by deception. He is busy opposing those who know the Truth. In this part of the world one strongly senses that opposition. My son, Matt, reminded me earlier today not to forget that it goes both ways; imagine what is being felt by those around us, as we carry the One Who is above all. Fragrance bearers! Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world!

A Little R & R

You may remember that I did not get to visit my friends, Don & Lynne P., in China thanks to China Eastern, which was a disappointment. However, the goods news was that they were coming to Thailand for a conference! It was a forum for those who minister in China that was held in Hua Hin, Thailand at a lovely resort. So Wednesday morning found me headed there for an overnight with them.
Don and I met in 1995 during a missions conference. He actually spoke to the teens in our basement. Since then the LORD has had me keeping tract of his and Lynne's ministries so that I could pray for them. Over the years Lynne and I began to communicate and for a while now have been connecting over Skype. I count her as a treasured friend now and really looked forward to seeing her in person!
Our time together was so good and, on my part at least, definitely deepened our connection. It was a restful and refreshing time where I could relax in good company and in a beautiful setting. This is not to say that the other company I have been keeping has not been good, but I felt like I could just be for a little while.
During this brief time I was afforded more insight into how to pray for these dear ones, who are called to represent Him on this side of the world. The LORD has given me an interesting picture of prayer. It is one of a cocoon being woven with each strand put in place by prayer. Each one that we pray for and what He is doing in and through them is then in this protected place, safe to develop into what He has ordained. What a privilege to have a part in His plan!
Hua Hin is the area where the revered king has his main residence and so you know it is beautiful, quiet and clean. Every where I looked I saw beauty. Mountains dotted the scenery. Nothing surpasses God's creativity!
The resort was the nicest place I ever stayed. My room was all wood and windows with a view to the mountains. Each room had its own balcony with a jacuzzi, double swinging seat and a small table with chairs. I was in the lap of luxury. The design and decoration was simple and so lovely in a understated way. I do not enjoy glitz and find it unsettling. In its simplicity this setting gently invited me to rest a while.
A side benefit of this visit was that I sat in on the forum for a bit and got a glimpse of what is happening in parts of China. Exciting!