The Glass Darkly

Friday, November 23, 2007

With Thankful Hearts

Some thanksgiving from my family:

I'm thankful for a warm house in which to live.

I'm thankful for a nice family where we feel protected.

I'm thankful for my little sister.

I'm thankful that we have enough food to eat.

I'm thankful for my cat.

I'm thankful for mommy and daddy.

I'm thankful for my brother and mom and dad
and my teacher too.

Thank you, Jesus, for all your blessings.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Kingdom Here and Now

I have been doing some more reading and writing and reflecting on our connection to the global church and God's plan for reconciliation in the world. I wonder, how can we ever minimize our role?!? God's plan is in process and we are part of it now!

I was talking to my neighbor about her views on missions, our role as Christians on this Earth and Christ's return and I am always amazed to clearly see how our view of the end times and return of Christ really does affect how we view what we are to be about in the here and now. If we think the Kingdom is something that will only appear in the future, at the end, then it is easy to see why people could care less about caring for Creation now. Then the purpose of sharing the Gospel is mostly just so more people can stand at the gate when Jesus comes again.

But if we see the Kingdom as something we are a part of NOW, something God is bringing about NOW, then our role becomes not merely a name in the Lamb's Book of Life, but living as the Hands and Feet of Christ through whom God said He will reconcile all things back to Himself. That is Kingdom work! That is the mission of the Church! That makes everything we do in the everyday VERY significant no matter how INsignificant we may feel it is.

This is the main point of something I shared at a church recently. I've been wanting to post it as part of my journal, reflections on Our Connection to the Global Church
and how I have seen God bring about that connection in my life.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oh the comfort . . .

. . . of spending time with friends who you understand and who understand you!. . . of reconnecting with culture and language you once called home!. . . of interaction without the need for pretense and guards!

BUT what a difference language and culture can make in how you interact and how you view yourself. It can make you very UNCOMFORTABLE at times! In a very strange way, one I can hardly explain, I caught myself this past weekend forgetting myself and my true color. It was so strange that I wanted to document it in case it happens again.

I spent the weekend with very good friends (2 families) we had worked with in Cambodia. One of the families is from around here and the other is originally from New Zealand. There were 13 of us in all, four being white with ethnic roots from Europe and the rest ethnically Khmer or Chinese. We all spoke English and Khmer interchangeably and all the children but our youngest were ethnic Khmer. And maybe that had bearing on my experience.

I hardly ever think about the fact that we are a multi-racial family. One of the other families was all Khmer and the other was bi-racial. My husband was away on Saturday, so the rest of us went out touring to an Amish tourist sight so our friends from out of town could learn about the Amish. At one point in setting up a tour I became suddenly aware of skin color. The man behind the counter was a bit confused as we explained who was going to go on the tour and who wasn't. Something in his reaction triggered my realization of how strange our group must have looked and how oblivious I had been to those dynamics.

Suddenly I was very aware that me and my baby I was holding were very white and stood out from the group. The husband of the one couple was white too, but his accent gave away the fact that he did not belong to me. That moment's hesitation by the man behind the counter startled me and I went from feeling a part of the group, oblivious of color, language and culture to being very aware of my difference, the different colors of our group, and the all-white color of the observers standing around us. While our friends from New Zealand and the wife of the Cambodian couple went through the tour, I stood outside with her Cambodian husband and all the children. I continued to notice looks from the people who passed by. It was a very strange experience and not very comfortable.

I do remember getting looks when I lived in Cambodia and we would travel as a family. But I always chalked it up to Cambodians were not used to seeing people with white skin. This time I was in a place where I would not expect my color, or that of my family and friends to make people look. I didn't really like it.

But what is even stranger to me and important for me to remember is that I realized that I do not always think of myself as white. The flip side to my experience Saturday is that sometimes I still catch myself viewing America through my Cambodian lens. It's as if I see myself as Cambodian like my children are Cambodian and my friends are Cambodian and I forget that others from here do not see me like that. I look at a place and think "how white it is!" when I myself am white! What am I saying? And people around here look at me and see I am white. They presume I am American and who knows what else they presume about my language and culture . . . what they don't see is that I actually feel like I have more than one or two identities. Hmm - that could sound like I'm schizophrenic, I guess.

I recall my room mate from college whose parents were Canadian but she was born and raised in Costa Rica. She used to comment how hard it was for her when people in America assumed she was Anglo yet she felt Costa Rican. Spanish was her first language. She had white skin, but she did not feel white. While my experience is not nearly as drastic as hers, I thought of her words as I reflected on how I can explain what I felt briefly on Saturday.

Thankfully my friends never made me feel "white" or different or separate this weekend. And that's another comfort of good friendships -- differences are diminished for you become an accepted part of each other -- no matter what your language or culture.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This week we have seen many changes going on outside. Some changes are fun; some are beautiful; some are sad; and some are good. Some people get excited about changes – they look forward to the possibility of something new or different than it has been. Some people feel afraid when new things come or when changes are expected. The "unknown" of change can sometimes feel scary.

I was thinking how life is made of changes. No matter how we try to keep things the same, inevitably they are going to change. There are some things in our lifetime that change and are never the same for us again. We can never return to our childhood, no matter how much we might try. Loved ones pass on and we know that we will never get to see him again in this part of our lives. Those things change forever.

On the other hand, there are some things that change, but, like the seasons, they cycle back again and give us another chance to enjoy or experience them. For example, every year children get a new chance at school. Every year a tree drops its leaves, but we know that, come spring, that same tree will start to bud and new leaves will grow . . . and summer will come again. We can say “next year” or “next summer, I will do this or that.” It is exciting to anticipate those changes.

But in order to have that kind of excitement, we need to be able to look ahead. We need to think about a future which we do not yet see. Even in my sadness about my grandfather who died six years ago now – I have a hope that I will see him again in my new life in heaven.

As Christians we are able to live as people of hope. We don’t have to live burdened by the despair of what we see today. I love summer. So if I look outside now, I could feel really get depressed thinking about the months of cold ahead. But I don’t live feeling sad – I have a hope and trust in what I have seen God do every single year. I know God will change and make all things new in His perfect timing. Six months from now I will be all excited about the warmer weather, my garden and going camping again. I have a hope, based on trust and experience that summer will return.

Right now the seasonal changes are evident everywhere. The leaves on trees are changing colors and many have started to fall to the ground due to the colder weather. For an arborist, trees are storytellers of change. The rings seen in a tree trunk or branch tell the life story of the tree. An arborist can see what years the tree got enough to drink, if the tree was sick any years or what years the tree produced lots of extra food.

A huge oak tree used to stand by the Donegal Presbyterian Church in the Donegal Springs area of Lancaster County. It had become known as the Witness Tree as it had witness incredible changes and events over nearly three centuries. When the Witness Tree had to be taken down in 1991, arborists could see that the tree had stood for at least 260 years. That tree saw lots of good things and lots of bad things happen. It showed signs of growth and hardship. It bore lots of bumps and bruises from things that happened. But what was beautiful was that despite the changes, the tree continued to stand strong and adjust to the seasons. Because of that, it survived for decades and even centuries.

When I think of all the changes the Witness Tree saw, I think of the Church. We go to "church" every Sunday, but that is not the only place where Church happens. The Church of Jesus is all over the world! And the Church has been around a lot longer than just the 260 years of the Witness Tree’s life. The Church has been around more like 2000 years. It has weathered lots of hard times and has enjoyed years of happy times too. We don’t see rings on a branch to show the years of the Church, but we can look back over the decades and centuries and see generations of people who lived and ministered and led in the Church. We hear their stories in the Bible and in history books. They tell us a lot about what happened and why things changed over the years.

Just like the seasons changed, the Church met new challenges -- it adjusted and adapted. Since its beginning the Church entered many new cultures and language groups. It has been confronting "modernity" since its beginning, and "modernity" continued to be redefined. There are so many changes the Church has had to adjust to. And for some people, those changes can be kind of depressing or scary.

But as I started out saying, change is not always bad and the great thing about being part of the Church is that the Church belongs to Jesus Christ who together with His Father and the Spirit is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even though changes are happening around us, we can trust and have hope knowing that Jesus is walking through those changes with us. And like the Witness Tree, we can stand strong and be part of the generations who show how the Church can have hope even when we don’t know what the future will hold.