Thursday, May 27, 2010
Anyway, even though I’m done with finals, the journey doesn't end there. On Monday morning I will depart for Kao Yai (3 hours north of Bangkok) with 90 some freshman for their 4-day SALT trip (serving and learning together). Despite being officially named a “chaperone,” I think it will be pretty laid back since most of the activities that we will be doing are led by either an organization or our students. The only thing that I have to prepare is my testimony on the topic of overcoming obstacles. I say that my testimony is the “only thing” I have to prepare, but it is definitely weighing on my heart. Please pray for me as I continue to seek what God wants me to share with them, and pray that God would continue to soften and prepare their hearts for all the things that they are going to experience and take in during their trip.
It’s hard to believe that our first year at ICS is nearing an end. As I reflect upon the year, I have to admit that it’s been quite the challenging year. As much as I have loved my students and returning to the high school arena, I am thankful that it is nearly over. This year, more than any other, has sapped all of my energy. I don’t know if it was the hot weather or all the crazy things that have gone on here: H1N1, flooding, political unrest, a car bomb exploding just a block away from where we live. Or maybe it was the cultural adjustment to both Thailand and ICS, the transition into being an AP teacher, getting older and feeling like I have less energy, losing my passion for teaching. I don’t know, but I am hoping that next year won’t feel quite as tumultuous as this year did, or else I don’t think I will last too much longer as a teacher! From the sounds of it though, I’m definitely not the only one that feels this way; veteran ICS teachers have expressed the same turbulent feelings, which in a way, is kind of comforting.
Despite how crazy of a year it has been, despite how many times during the year I briefly contemplated never teaching again, despite briefly wondering if we were where we are supposed to be, despite how much I hate having to have my “A-game” on at 7:22 in the morning, at 11:10 today when the last final of the week was over and I heard high school kids running up and down the hallways yelling, “Freedom,” I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those kids really even know what real freedom is? And I’m not just talking about freedom from school or slavery. I’m talking about freedom from enslavement to sin, freedom from condemnation, death, hell and Satan. It was in that moment that God graciously reminded me of His purpose in calling us here (despite how crazy it has been), why I’m a teacher, why I’m in Thailand, why I’m going on this SALT trip, why I was asked to share my testimony, and what my purpose here on earth is.
So yeah. Things have been crazy and the devil certainly is excellent at planting seeds of doubt and worry in my head. But God is good and as He so graciously reminded me today, He has us here not because of anything we’ve done, not because He needs us to be His hands and feet, but simply because He desires to use us as His vessels for our good and for His glory. All I have to do is be willing and obedient. So here I am Lord… because I want others to experience the freedom and joy that I have in you.
Are you free? If not, I would love to talk to you about Jesus.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Okay, but seriously... how funny would it have been if I had answered her back with the Minnesotan "Ya sure, you betcha!" ...of course dripping in the exaggerated accent featured in movies such as "Fargo" or "New in Town," or else it's just not legit. Or maybe even more confusing yet, in Spanish (if she could differentiate between languages that is). Bahahaha... it makes me laugh just thinking about it!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul."
Then, this morning I woke up with "The Solid Rock" in my head, which echoes the same message. The first three verses encouraged my heart this morning:
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay."
Praise God that in the midst of trials and sorrow, when we feel overwhelmed and when everything around us seems to have fallen apart, and in the midst of happiness and joy, when every moment seems so precious and sweet, we can proclaim that it is well with our soul if our hope and trust is in Him. I pray that your hope is built on nothing less.
“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:25-26
Friday, May 21, 2010
Is it to bring Thaksin back?
Is it to lessen the gap between the rich and the poor?
Is it for democracy?
Is it for "unjustly" (or justly???) kicking Thaksin out of office and getting a new PM in office?
Is it for the money?
Is it for change?
Is it a combination of some or all of these reasons?
Is it for unknown reasons or reasons I haven't listed?
I don't know.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
On the other hand, many of the red-shirts DO know what they're fighting for: closing the gap between the rich and the poor. I once heard that Thai college graduates make a max of 9,000 baht ($300) a month; we make approximately 7X that per month [feeling a bit gross about this], which pales in comparison to what we would/could make in the states [not that teachers make that much]. But the red shirts are not college graduates; they are the poor/working class and make up the majority of the population in Thailand. These are the people that are the taxi drivers, the guards, the mall workers, the food vendors, etc. These are people who make minimum wage, work long days and can never have a "sick day" simply because they cannot afford to do so. So while it's a big deal that they're burning down buildings, setting tires on fire, protesting, taking over buildings, invading hospitals and so on... they simply want to be heard and for change to take place. If you made only $10 a day (which would only happen if you were a college grad and had a "good" job), wouldn't you want to be heard too?
The protests have unfortunately come a bit closer to us now; our normal mall, grocery store & bank have been shut down, the main street off of which we live is being "shut down," and a curfew has been put into place from 8pm-6am. While this was alarming at first, how thankful I am that it hasn't crept our way until now. We are safe in our apartment/the ICS campus for now and are stocked up on the essentials, are loaded with movies and books, so I think we're good to go for while. Boredom might strike (it did a tiny bit when we didn't have school on Monday or Tuesday), but I'm okay with that since it makes us all the more grateful for our jobs and students. Additionally, I know that both of us could use the extra rest to continue to recover health-wise.
We trust that the Lord is at work... even when we don't see it. I'm sure that Thailand has never had so much publicity before... and I am sure that there have never been so many people world-wide that have been praying for Thailand, praying for the leaders, and praying for ICS. Thank you for your continued prayers, dear brothers and sisters in Christ; may you continue to pray without ceasing.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
1. Political unrest/protests begin
3. Sinus infection
4. Political unrest escalates
5. Mike develops nasty cough, which turns out to be a product of an allergic reaction to acidic fruit (who knew?!) No more pineapple for you!
6. Political unrest escalates even more
7. School is canceled for (at least) two days and we're forced to do on-line schooling for assignments etc. (Lots of work for Mike [insert sarcasm here]).
8. ?? Who knows what's going to happen next with how things are going right now.
The two days break from school is kind of a joyous occasion for me. Granted, we have to go into school and upload assignments & activities to the web, but that is not as time or energy consuming as teaching. I love teaching and I love my kids dearly, but I am grateful for the extra rest and time to recuperate. Mike, on the other hand, is bummed out. Though, I can't imagine that he is that bummed out since he has been playing basketball with his friends for the past 3 hours!! (And I can only imagine that more basketball is scheduled for tomorrow's day off as well).
I am ready to spiral into the end of the year and finish her off so that we can get on with summer vacation and our trip back to MN. We are really looking forward to being stateside and getting a little bit of relief from a) the heat and humidity (it's been feeling like 113-117 degrees + sticky/sweaty), and b) the political situation.
A few prayer requests:
1. Pray for our last few weeks of school. Mike will be teaching up until June 4, but Karly will be giving finals and then heading on a 4-day service project trip with her freshman (SALT trip).
2. Pray for the freshman; for soft and open hearts to the gospel and a willingness to serve others, specifically during their SALT trip
3. Pray for Karly as she prepares her testimony to share with the freshman with the theme of "Overcoming Obstacles"
4. Pray for Thailand; for its leaders, it's people, it's King. Specific prayers for reconciliation, peace and wisdom in what to do.
5. Pray for the ICS administration-- they have to make difficult decisions during this time pertaining to the school, the kids, the teachers, education, safety, etc.
6. Pray that the airport wouldn't be shut down/taken over so that we can safely get back to the states in June
7. Pray for contentedness during these times and opportunities to be a testimony of God.
8. Pray for our health
Thanks for your prayers; we covet them. We are grateful you are part of this journey with us.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
It's hard for me to place my finger on what is truth, what is justice, what is right, what is wrong, what is worth fighting for, what is crossing the line and going too far, what is [fill in the blank] in this situation. It's hard for me to understand both sides and support one or the other. Both are at fault; both sides have caused destruction, have reeked havoc, and done their fair share of stirring the pot. I keep saying that I don't know what the solution is, but it is Christ. It is compromise and reconciliation. It is humility and forgiveness. It is admitting faults, mistakes, and sin. It is acknowledging and respecting the other side's opinions. I know it's not that easy; I'm an idealist at heart. Additionally, neither side wants to "give in," even in the slightest, perhaps because it is viewed as being weak or because each side is so sure that they are in the right...so they keep fighting. Why are we so afraid of admitting that we are weak, we are human, we are immoral, we are sinful, we are stubborn, we are wrong, we are needy, we are frail... and that we need Jesus to come to our rescue?!
We live in a fallen world, and as we observe all that is going on in Thailand, in one sense or another, we feel all the more called to be here. We feel so much more of an urgency to share with our students the love of Christ and the gospel, because this country needs it! (Less than 1% of the population of Thailand is Christian)! We feel blessed to be here, despite what the political situation may be, and know that God is sovereign and in control of our lives and what happens in Thailand. We hope that you will pray for peace and reconciliation in Thailand.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39
Our conversation went like this:
Dr: This is wery, wery bad. It is much worse.
Me: Are you sure those are my x-rays?
Dr: [laughs] Yes, I am wery sure.
Me: Are you sure that those are the ones from today and not 2 weeks ago?
Dr: [laughs again] Yes, I am wery sure.
Me: Ok, I believe you... but it's just that I don't feel like I have sinus infection.
Dr. Oh, but Meeses (Mrs.) Kar-leeeeen (Karlene), it's wery sewere.
I feel frustrated. Frustrated that it hasn't cleared up, that I'm now on my third antibiotic, and that I'm going into week 4 of this infection. However, I have been blessed. I have been blessed not to have pain or pressure in my sinuses, to have the sensation that I am getting better (despite the fact that I'm not), and to have a doctor that is doing everything that she can to help me.
I feel like God's just making sure that I really took to heart that earlier lesson in contentment... would I continue to be content and rest in Him if this infection lasted another 2 months? Would I be content and rest in Him if it never went away? Would I be content and rest in Him if I got severe sinus infections on a regular basis? Is health my idol?
How is God stripping you of your idols? How is God teaching you contentment and to simply rest in Him? How is God sanctifying you?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I overhear a student say, "That is so unfair!"
Me: Well, you know... life isn't fair. And praise God that it isn't because if it were fair, we would all go to hell. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). So since we're all sinners, we deserve nothing but hell and God's wrath. Thankfully though, life isn't fair and Jesus took all the sin of the past, present and future, and it was nailed to the cross when He was crucified. He defeated sin and death, and if we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we get to spend eternity in heaven instead of hell. So you're right... things are so unfair because we deserve nothing, especially eternity in heaven."
Pastor's son in my class: ¡Jamón!
Me: Ham? Jamón means ham.
Pastor's son: Oh, I wanted to say "Amen!"
Me: Oh... you were thinking too hard because it's a cognate; it's "amén."
Pastor's son: Oh, okay. Amén to that!
Me: Yes, ham to that.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Lately I have felt just how much I have invested and how emotionally involved I have been with my students from both the past and the present. One of my former students is getting married this summer. I cried when I found out because it just felt like yesterday that she was a sophomore in high school, and now she's all grown up and on the brink of starting her own little family. Each time I find out that a former student of mine has gotten engaged (just found out of another engagement today), I cry, and my heart becomes flooded with memories and emotions, thinking about how far they have come and how grateful I am that God crossed our paths.
Before my AP students took their exam and we finished off our time together, I cried because I knew that it was the last time that we would have organized class. I cried because I poured my heart and a year of my life into teaching them and preparing them for this final test, and then I had to let them go. I cried because I felt like a mother bird that was nervous about letting them "fly" on their own, yet so ridiculously proud of their accomplishments and how far they had come on our journey together.
I know, I know... call me a cry baby, call me sentimental, call my tender-hearted, call me emotional, call me overly-attached... call me what you like. Whatever you call me is okay by me because I'm happy to have a heart bursting with emotion, to know that I've invested my all, and to experience things the way that God has MADE ME to experience them. But seriously, thank God that He didn't create us all the exact same, or else we'd be drowning in our own tears. :)
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
During the first two weeks, God asked me, "Would you be content and simply rest in me if you were never able to hear out of your ear again?" And for two weeks I fought with Him saying, "No. My ear must pop... I NEED to hear! I can't do my job, I can't reach my students, I can't do this ministry that you have called me to unless I can hear." (As if I know what is better for me than God, as if God doesn't already know what is good for me and what I really need...)
God continued to burn away the dross and continued, throughout the 3rd week of not being able to hear, to ask me if I would be content. I was stubborn while He continued to be patient with me, waiting for me to learn my lesson. After listening to a sermon from SGF last Sunday on 1 Peter 1: 6-9, a text dealing with joy and grief, rejoicing and trials... my heart was softened. Trials hurt sometimes, but I ought to rejoice in knowing that it will not always remain this way. I need to pray that my grief and my trails lead to an insatiable desire to one day be home, knowing that my journey here served a purpose. It is easy to become distracted... distracted by severe sinus infections, distracted by loss of hearing, distracted by simply waiting for the day my ear will pop, distracted by false joys and senses of security. But trials refine us by stripping away false joys (such as being able to hear perfectly), and help us to focus on the source of our true joy.
Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 12 about a thorn in his flesh... a trial, something that was seen as an obstruction to him. It says in verses 8-10, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
After the sermon and reading about Paul, I knew that I could be content even if I wasn't able to hear again, so I finally said "yes" to God's question about contentment. That evening, my ear "popped." I was content... but I knew I still would have been even if it hadn't "popped". :)
May you find hope, joy and contentment in God alone.