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Archive for October, 2009

I’ve been thinking about “love” tonight… even more specifically about that little phrase that seems to pop up in like a spring daisy after a rain: someone to love. It’s a phrase that I’ve seen play out in movie after movie, in music, commercials, books, and conversations with friends over coffee and on the phone. It’s as if culturally we are obsessed with finding and/or having someone to love.

And it sounds innocent… perhaps even selfless. But is it?

heartcatsAre we really looking for someone to love, or someone to love us? Is it wrong to want to be loved? No, of course not. I whole heartedly believe that God created humanity out of love, to love. Love is ingrained in us… but I think while we sometimes when we pat ourselves on the back for selflessly loving someone else, it’s really ourselves that we are loving.

Think about it… are we loving those who don’t love us back?

If we love only people who return our attention and affections, are we simply loving ourselves through that person? “Someone to love” is phrased in such a way that we are the giver, the generous bestower of love… that makes us feel good about ourselves. It’s almost noble to find someone on whom to love and care for. But “someone to love me” is different because then we are the receiver, the benefactor of someone else’s love… it doesn’t sound as noble…

Please hear me, this is not a critique on falling in love, dating, or marriage. This is not a rant. It is an appeal. A challenge — as much to myself as anyone who might stumble across the thoughts that have been percolating in my brain… there are SO MANY people to love in this world… if we’re really seeking to bless others (rather than ourselves) let’s dive in…

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

homelessWhat about the homeless man who stands at the corner of the freeway exit every day? It’s 48 degrees outside right now, and — to add insult to injury — it’s raining.

What about the survivors of the Samoan tsunami and earthquake? Only a month has passed… have we already forgotten? Following a 8.0 earthquake, multiple tsunami waves crashed ashore American Samoa — killing more than 100 people. Sadly, the devastation in Samoa is not unique… people around the world are picking up pieces of tattered, broken lives and doing the best they can. Surely they could use our love.

The list goes on, and on… the neighbor who moved in across the street and doesn’t know anyone yet… the couple who just had a baby and could use a night off-duty… the coworker who shows up a little late, looking haggard… your friend who needs a listening ear… the teacher who could use a note of encouragement or kind word… the gas-station attendant who wouldn’t mind a smiling face to pass their way.

‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend allthe Law and the Prophets.'” -Matthew 22:36-40

Big or small. International or domestic. Be it money, time, smiles, cookies, or prayers… Perhaps we can all put a little brain juice into thinking about how to better love the people who are around us — especially those from whom we have “nothing” to gain.

I know it’s easy to wait to find someone to love before we really start living. But I hope we won’t. I know it’s easy to withhold love from people who don’t deserve it. But I hope we won’t. I hope, instead, that as we’re waiting (be it job, marriage, kids, health, etc) that we’ll choose to love the people around us. BOTH those that will love us back and those that won’t. This song (“While I’m Waiting”, from Fireproof) is beautiful. Enjoy!

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…ashes to BEAUTY…

I have yet to meet a girl who doesn’t like to feel beautiful. Perhaps we all express that desire in different ways… flirting for attention, dressing a certain way, critcizing others to feel better about ourselves, or even rebelling against stereotypical conceptions of beauty. Our society sells beauty: makeup, clothes, jewelry, plastic surgery, spa treatments, hair products, etc. Hollywood glamourizes it. Simply put… beauty is desired.

Too bad we’re not very beautiful much of the time.

stars1

..breathtaking radiance of stars..

Sure I may feel beautiful in my darling ‘lil outfit, cute shoes, perfect makeup, and splash of fragrance. Perhaps the fellows will take notice. But the kind of beauty that can be put on and washed off is not the kind I’m talking about. I’m not talking about sex appeal; I’m talking about radiance.  

Have you ever met someone like that? Someone who practically glowed from the inside out? Someone who was more than just “cheery” or “optimistic”… they have lived through some hardship and have come out more alive because of it? It’s like their whole body smiles even when their lips don’t. THAT is the kind of beauty I’ve been thinking about.

..That’s the kind of beauty God can bring about.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound… to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit…” – Isaiah 61:1,3a  (emphasis mine)

Over the past weekend I was delighted to hear the stories of two ladies whose ashes God has transformed into beauty. I hope you’re encouraged by their lives as I was… may we all allow our own ashes to be transformed, too.

crown

tiara given to Queen Mary in 1893

LADY ONE: She is young and beautiful… and divorced. What pain and heartache must come from the severing of the most intimate human relationship! …ASHES. Some years have passed and rather than being consumed by bitterness and resentment, she has grown a soft spot in her heart for helping couples maintain healthy marriages. She is beginning to open her gorgeously decorated home for couples in need of a getaway. The weekends she spends at friends’ houses she would consider a small sacrifice for the couple enjoying her home in her absence. What a beautiful idea!

LADY TWO: She is nearly a senior citizen. When she was a little girl tragic circumstances left her an orphan — an orphan in charge of raising her siblings. How awful to lose both parents, to be robbed of a childhood! ..ASHES. That experience softened her heart for kids in tough circumstances. Her and her husband have opened their home to little kids and teenagers alike through the foster care system. They’ve adopted almost every child who has come through their doors. The siblings range from 35 to the newest adoptee — only 5 years old. Their home is overflowing with love and grace and patience. What a beautiful home!!

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

God makes us new. He is a master at transforming ASHES into BEAUTY. The song “At the Foot of the Cross” speaks to this. Have a listen to the chorus…

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

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…the WORRIES of life…

*sigh* ..my car died at a Portland intersection this morning, and immediately panic flooded over me. Despite my futile attempts to cajole my little car, it simply would not yield to my wishes. Thoughts poured into my mind: what could be wrong, will I be able to get out of the intersection, should I call AAA, how long would it take them… 

Ironically I was following one of my roommates to the mechanic shop to have some work done on her car. She mercifully was patient as I waited and tried, waited and tried to start the car as the left-turn lane behind me filled with morning rush hour traffic. Adrenaline pumped through my body as I remembered the agonizing months spent looking for a car last year… a replacement for the car which, unbenownst to me, was leaking gasoline… but that is a separate story.

Sitting at the intersection I felt like crying. In panic and desperation I prayed. On the phone with AAA, I tried again and it started — praise God! A sharp left landed me in a gas station where my hungry tank consumed more than 11 gallons… I think it was out of gas (I’m hoping that’s what happened), perhaps the gauge is kerplunkt.

Perhaps this is a simple story… but what a reminder to me of how easily I can slip into worrying and fretting about life. When it comes to worry, there are a plethora of options — cars is only one of many. Perhaps health, money, direction in life, relationships, or the sheer lack of time in an over-committed schedule tops the list.

Last year I was chatting with my sister about something that was causing stress in my life and she said something quite wise: worry is like poison. It’s so true! When I’m worried about something it seeps into all the areas of my life, it’s hard to compartmentalize that one thing… indeed it casts a shadow over everything else. It saps my energy because the wheels of my brain spin endlessly searching for the answer, for backup plans, and such. And it draws me away from God.

Worry is linked to trust… when I worry I’m not trusting God — his timing, his goodness, his plan. I’m taking things into my own hands. And worry is linked to joy… when I worry it essentially extracts the capacity for joy (not necessarily the same as “happiness”) out of my life. It’s hard to have fun when you’re really worried about something. Well, enough of my own thoughts and reflections on worry. Here’s what God has to say about worrying:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (from Matthew 6:25-30, emphasis mine)

my friend Mandy took this photo
Lillies, next to plumeria, are my favorite flower. Mostly because they are exotic, beautiful, and fragrant… but also because they remind me of how much God loves me. May we — you and I — ever trust our cars, health, money, school, time, and relationships in the loving hands of the God of the universe. For He is truly capable of all things and worthy.

“… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

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…away from the CHAOS…

plumeria

PLUMERIA blossoms in the courtyard... beautiful.

 …the texture of an orchid… the scent of something heavenly… the beautiful creation of God… simply LOVELY.

The girls made me a bracelet of plumeria flowers, it was perhaps the sweetest and most beautiful bracelet I’ve ever worn. My new favorite flower. : ) 

 

 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, o people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” -Psalm 62:8

 

banana trees

..big and small BANANA trees...

CITY SNAPSHOT: Mumbai has a greater population density than New York City. People are piled on top of more people: business people, movie stars, tourists, migrant workers… from billionaire mansions to the maze of slums, India’s commercial capital (and largest city) is a place where extreme wealth lives side by side to desperate poverty, yet they are worlds apart. We were not in the chaotic city…  

 

rice paddy

RICE paddies... not in the city anymore

The countryside was filled with rice paddies– and people working in them. Wading through the flooded fields, hunched over to plant the grains… guiding cows through empty plots of dirt, preparing… ocassionally looking up to see the a land rover, with a bright white face in the window, drive along the bumpy road. : ) 

Kela Bible

Bible of one of the "aunties"... written in her home language!!

India has OODLES of languages. An estimated 2,000 ethnic groups live within the country’s borders… perhaps part of the reason for more than a dozen official languages (two of which are Hindi and English). The girls were from all over India, or from Nepal. They knew their home language, but not necessarily Hindi… let alone English. Needless to say, communicating was a hefty challenge at times, but they were SO gracious with us as we taught English and attempted to learn Hindi. Hand motions, smiles, and hugs were simply INVALUABLE!! : )

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” -Revelation 7:9  

 

beads
…pieces for jewelry…

…ah, the ladies in beads!! …each girl, in addition to school classes,  learns a vocational trade: tailoring, jewelry making, or leather working… the trade helps support their livelihood and their products are beautiful! The girls had such patience… carefully choosing each bead and stone, creating a design, and then stringing them by hand… we used to visit the girls during vocational time and jewelry making was especially fun. We’d practice new phrases, ask questions, sing songs, laugh, or just sit and listen to the ladies talk amongst themselves as they made bracelets, earrings, and necklaces for the outside world. 

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…pieces of BROKEN…

..HOME for someone...

..HOME for someone... perhaps the child on the "roof"...

 

 …tarps, garbage bags, tin scraps, wooden sticks… sometimes slabs of concrete with a door… if my heart had the capacity to leave its body it would’ve done so… i couldn’t bring myself to take many photos here… it was like capturing such images was robbing these people of their dignity and privacy — and they had so little already. Walking by i turned, and saw inside such a HOME: two people sat against opposite walls, facing one another… their knees were nearly touching for lack of space. Kids ran around in tattered, dirty clothes and garbage lay on the streets collecting dust…

 

 

 

 

...so many slums in mumbai...

...so many slums in mumbai...

*sigh* …People live day after day in each one of those homes… I’m not trying to depress you, but I hope that these snapshots of life stretch you as they have me.  An excerpt from an  Indian newspaper (The Hindu, “The Ironies of Kamathipura”, 2001) paints a vivid picture of India’s largest red-light area, Kamathipura:  

 

 

 Today, Kamathipura is bursting at the seams with women and garbage. Every inch of space has been occupied… The tiny lanes which slice the area into ribbons are packed with people and their belongings. While food is being prepared on a stove, a child defecates next to it. Somebody is having a bath a few feet away and yet somebody else is fornicating close by. In the midst of all this are hawkers, card sessions, goats on a tether, pimps on the prowl, customers looking for a bargain, tourists and countless sex workers. The air is thick with pollutants and decibel levels can rupture an uninitiated ear drum with ease.” 

 

...near the red-light area in Mumbai...

...Mumbai, near a red-light area...

…I remember following quickly in the footsteps of the man who was taking us to a shelter for kids from the nearby red-light area… the nauseating smells assaulted my nose as i feebly attempted to hold my breath — to block out the overpowering smell of warm garbage and wet dog. It took all my strength not to vomit on the pavement. A few times we walked by someone cooking curry over an open fire or burning incense — my nose was ever so thankful! I had become accustomed to nice smells… to fresh rain and hints of plumeria… to spice-laden curries and sweet tea in the canteen… to coconut oil (conditioner) after showers… and, of course, sweat and bug spray (inevitable in the humidity and monsoon season, LOL).    

 

 

I didn’t personally walk through the red-light districts in Mumbai. Perhaps that was a merciful gesture on behalf of our Indian friends. They are places full of brokenness and evil. Broken homes, dreams, lives, bodies, and spirits.

 

.Copy of DSC03866

… windows covered by bars… bars strung with hanging clothes… buildings that have surrendered to the mildew that clings to their walls… with little space in the red-light district, many kids were forced to sleep under the bed while their mom serviced clients… what a horrific reality! We visited a shelter for kids from the red-light areas… it was a safe haven, a place for them to study, sleep, socialize, and eat — a place to LIVE… At the shelter, the kids were adorable… I made paper airplanes with elementary-aged boys — gotta love the universal nature of singing and being silly! : ) 

 

…And yet, DESPITE the chaos, injustice, brokenness, and pain that surrounds life in and on the cusp of the red-light areas of Mumbai… none of that disqualifies people from the love and healing power that comes from God…

 

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 8:38-39

DSC03864

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…soul WINDOWS…

Eyes are an intriguing part of the body.  Beauty, truth, respect, and emotions are all associated with those little wet spheres of wonder.

Us women spend time, money, and energy on enhancing the natural attractiveness of our eyes: mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, eye lash curlers, colored contacts, trendy glasses, etc. Movie stars flirt with the nips and tucks of plastic surgeons, seeking to remove the bags and sags that accompany the aging process. From cucumber treatments to laser eye surgery… BEAUTY is definitely associated with our eyes.

But our eyes are more than glamorous. They are mechanisms of conveying  invitation, rejection, intrigue, and empathy… radiating emotion while gleaning information from their surrounding environment…  

In non-verbal communication, our eyes are invaluable. They are beacons of emotion, often radiating our thoughts and moods to the people around us: flirtatious glances, contemptous eye rolls, streaming tears of sadness, glaring hatred, wide-eyed suprise, or vacant expressions of boredom … our eyes communicate what we’re feeling like. (Well, unless you’re a poker player.)  EMOTIONS are clearly associated with our eyes.

Perhaps because our eyes are such deep-seats of emotion, they are also associated with notions of truth and respect. We expect to be able to see truth reflected in such an emotional part of the body.

 

Think about it… Couples in love stare deeply into each other’s EYES. When dishonesty is suspected you may expect to hear, “look in my eyes and tell me the truth.” Psychologists who study eye movement patterns can predict whether a speaker is lying. Likewise the old adage “see it to believe it” reflects the powerful sense of reality that accompanies things witnessed by our own eyes.   ..TRUTH is also associated with our eyes.

Let’s not overlook respect. If someone is talking to us and we’re reading a book, magazine, or newspaper why is that offensive? Because we’re not LOOKING at that person; our eyes are engaged elsewhere. When we meet someone new and shake hands, we look in their eyes. When teachers say “attention class” they’re looking for the eyes and ears of their students.  …RESPECT is associated with our eyes.
 
So what?

Our eyes are our windows through which we see, and often perceive, the world around us. We see color, depth, emotions, relationships. What we see shades what we think.

So… what are we seeing? And… what are we not seeing? What kind of eyes do we have…  and what kind of eyes do we want to have? Below is the chorus to a song about EYES — the kind this brown-eyed girl wants to have.  : )

 

 … GIVE ME YOUR EYES… (Brandon Heath)

Give me your eyes for just one second

Give me your eyes so I can see

Everything that I keep missing

Give me your love for humanity

Give me your arms for the broken hearted

Ones that are far beyond my reach

Give me your heart for the ones forgotten

Give me your eyes so I can see

Yeah, yeah…

 

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