The Glass Darkly

Monday, March 31, 2008

Odds n Ends

Farm Flick

My daughter and her friend were playing "Little House on the Prairie" this afternoon. Her friend was Ma and she was Laura. They set up a little chicken coup on the book shelf using rolled up socks as colorful eggs. I supplied a basket and they pretended to take the eggs into town. They proudly displayed their imaginary home and as I left the room I heard my daughter say, "now we can't forget to gather the eggs or the hens will sit on them and they'll grow into babies!" Her friend (a grade ahead in school) proceeded to explain rather knowingly, "no, we don't need to worry about that! You need to spray fertilizer on them to make them grow. And we won't do that." When my daughter questioned that innocent explanation, her friend went on quite incredulously, "of course you need fertilizer! If you want anything to grow, you need to spray fertilizer on it!"

New Vocabulary

"joyfully maladjusted" (is it not an oxymoron???) In other words, be comfortable with the fact that you are not comfortable with life as it is.

This term was given by a friend who has lived internationally and believes that anyone who has, should never fully readjust to culture and life in the U.S. She would also broaden the context to say that any Christian should be joyfully maladjusted to living in this world.

Anything New?????

So did anyone hear Obama?????? Anything good?????

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Politics Promoting Unity

Politics of Hope - An 8 minute excerpt from Obama's speech
in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Poor in Spirit

My friend, Brian Maher and his family have lived in Cambodia since the early 1990's. Brian helped to start the Youth Commission (now EFC-KEY) under the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia. The EFC-KEY is involved in strategic leadership development of Christian youth, preparing them for holistic ministry in the Cambodian Christian church. This is a testimony from one of the students learning what it means to love the "poor in spirit."

Reflections from Andong --
by Hourn Kim Suong

March 8
th, 2008

Two years ago I heard on VOA (Voice of America) about the forced eviction [by the Cambodian government] of the squatters in ‘Sambok Chap’ on the riverside area of Phnom Penh, and about then their dejection and loneliness after their resettlement in Andong, 20 kilometers from their former homes. This made me upset and but I was far away in Banteay Meanchey province. I made an effort to listen to radio reports about ‘Sambok Chap but after a while I lost interest. Later when I became a [student in the Leadership Development Program by the Youth Commission], we went to Andong Resettlement Village for an exposure trip to interview the villagers about their lives and hardships in their new resettlement location. God gave me a second chance to consider what He had placed on my heart for these people two years ago.

Upon seeing their living conditions, I felt sad and empathetic. Their houses were all made of thatch and placed so close together they looked like bananas in a bunch. It reminded me of how when it rains mushrooms appear very quickly, just overnight. Buildings in the city grow up quickly as well, but are made of solid building materials. Sambok Chap squatter’s houses are more like soft and fragile mushrooms because they are little temporary shacks like the ones that a farmer lives in to guard the rice fields during harvest time. The smells of the muddy open sewers running down the paths between the rows of houses from this village are hard to stand for more than a short while.

I asked myself, “Is this a place where people should live? How long can they put up with living in these conditions? How do they live in these conditions? What hope do they have at all? What about their health in the future? Who cares about these people?”

When we entered the village, and then the house of the family we interviewed, there was a five month old baby girl who was sleeping in a hammock. After that, a 30 year old man came in and he greeted us in the traditional Cambodian way. He asked us to sit down a bamboo bed and make ourselves comfortable. He told us his name was Bontheun and he owned the house. He told us his wife was very sick and he did not have the finances to help treat his wife’s ailment, but his brother in law helped take his wife to a far away province for treatment. He was left alone with his 5 month old baby daughter. It has been three months since she left, and since then has heard nothing from her. He waits every day for his wife and is diligent to take care of the baby, buts hopes his wife will return soon. Other people have offered to take his baby girl to raise for him as they have seen his predicament. His biggest problem is not being able to leave to go work and earn an income because he is busy watching his baby daughter. Ever since they were evicted from the riverfront, they have been miserable without have water for bathing and sanitation. Bonthuen has been able to catch some fish nearby to sell in order provide him and his daughter with some food. No one from the government has expressed even the slightest interest in them.

Then we went to visit another family’s house. We met another 30 year old man named Sophoin. Even though he greeted us with a big smile, we knew he was suffering on the inside. He told us he could not do manual labor because he recently broke some of his ribs, and he was a construction worker. When he lived in ‘Sambok Chap’ village on the Phnom Penh riverfront area, he was the one who provided for his family of nine. Now this burden has fallen onto his wife and his oldest daughter of 17, to be the bread winners. “My wife sells clams in Phnom Penh, and my daughter works in a garment factory.” Back in Sambok Chap, at least he could make a living, and in Andong during the rainy season the whole place floods and is always muddy. During the flooding his wife was having a baby and he told us that their roof leaked and they were miserably wet until some Christians came along and built them a new thatch house which has helped their health situation. “If the Christians didn’t help us, we don’t where our health and sanitation problems would have led us.”

We talked with Sophoin until a 50 year old woman came in and began to talk with him. She was a widow neighbor by the name Kun Seng who sat down next to Sophoin, and she told us she her living situation was destitute when she was first evicted and plopped down in the rice paddies now called Andong. It is very difficult to sell her cakes in this area as opposed to in the city where she used to work before being evicted. She takes a motorcycle taxi back and forth to the city but the traveling expense eats up all her profits. She also said that she has received a lot of help from Christians; a new thatch hut, food, mosquito nets, and blankets, etc. If Christians did not help, she would be so much worse off. “The government threw us away like a bag of garbage into this dump and it is affecting our health and livelihood. If there were bathrooms, a good well, and opportunities to learn skills, it would really make our lives much easier.

The difficulties I have faced throughout my life in mind seemed like big ones, but compared to the people living in Andong, my problems are miniscule. When I experience problems, I am discouraged, but I can only imagine how these discouraged and depressed these people are. This experience of interviewing these two families causes me to think about them a lot because I have always had enough to eat, and a decent enough place to stay, etc. I also think about those in power, are they able to help these people and how? And why aren’t they helping? Are these people who are in power my neighbors?

When I entered this village of the ‘poor in spirit’ I was sort of embarrassed and hesitant because I did not have even a little gift to give them. I felt bad when I saw their condition and how they needed help. I did not look down on them, and I also felt that they were not seeking power but to just improve their living conditions. They were out of hope, and not having much food to eat. I saw the children outside the resettlement area appealing for food from the pre-existing villagers but they did not help them, but instead looked down on them. The pre-existing villagers abutting the Andong resettlement village built high brick walls, put up concertina wire, and erected big signs that said, “Do Not Enter, Danger.” The existing village rejects them and does not want to help them at all because they bear the stigma of being poor. These people just need someone to help meet their basic needs of food and health, teach them some life skills, and help them income generation projects.

I did not think of them negatively, for what would I do if I were in their place? One question I asked myself; “Is God working here or not?” Psalms 146: 7-9 says; “God will meet out justice for those who are oppressed. God will give food to those who hunger. God will release those who are captive. God will open the eyes of the blind. God will lift up the humble, and raise them up tall. God loves the righteous. God protects and lifts up the aliens, orphans, and widows, and God will destroy the way of the wicked.”

What I have seen with my own eyes concerning the villagers according to this verse is that they are able to receive true hope that comes from God. I have learned about God’s compassion and mercy toward the poor and oppressed of Andong. Even though a number of them do not yet know who Jesus is, God is using the good deeds of his servants working in the village who help them when they have no hope. When society rejects them, the Christians serving here care. That shows that God accepts them and this gives them hope. They can see the character of our God which is displayed clearly among them through the good works of his servants here. I have heard them say, “Christians are the ones who have helped us, they have built houses for us, given us food, they have come to visit us; all this showed me that God is working among them through the various means of his servants there. Even though they lack a lot of things, they have received a special encouragement from God. One person told me with a smile that things have changed for the better since he first arrived. He now has a new thatch house, encouragement, and people to come visit him from the group of servants of God in the village.

When I left the village, I knew that Jesus’ presence was there, and that he was fulfilling his mission there. Jesus is with those ‘poor in spirit’ people. I want to take a part in helping the villagers of Andong. Will I pray for them? Can find some help for them from others for both their physical and spiritual needs, especially for helping them find ways for the children to study and go to school? Can I find help for the children that they can be lifted from the emotional burden of what their parent’s dysfunctional living situation has put upon them?

. . . The element of compassion . . . gives my service to God more potential and more effectiveness. Feeling empathy for them makes me want to be more involved in their lives. This is one way for them to see the love of God through action and mission. Though I have no physical resources to give, I can help through the capacity that God has given me by telling others abut the needs of this poor group of villagers in Andong.

I know that God truly has a plan for the former people of ‘Sambok Chap’ who are now living in Andong. This plan starts with me, then my brothers and sisters in the faith, as we partner together to fulfill the mission has been started in Andong. We especially need to make a concentrated effort to gather together and pray regularly for Andong Village through an enduring heart of love.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I'm not too much into Dilbert, but the recent daily posts have been a take off of Jesus and his ministry.

More of my Musings on being Missional

So today I was back in my mini-van with my youngest child listening to Vineyard praise. She is only 15 months old, but loves music and practically dances in her car seat, unable to contain her joy at hearing it. So in my laughter at her I started to pay attention to the words that were being sung. They made me think a lot about how music/songs can really shape our way of thinking and, yes, even our theology, from little on up.

There were a lot of songs about how Jesus loves us and we walk with Jesus. But then there was a song that said, "I just want to tell the whole world about you, Jesus! I want everyone to know about you!" My heart nearly burst with the meaning of those words. Another song talked about how Jesus SENDS us to GO and tell others about Him and be Light. I wonder how many songs I sang like that growing up. I remember "I will make you fishers of men" and "Go tell it on the mountain." But I can't help but wonder what happens to the fervor in the message of those songs. Do I really embrace their meaning as far as God's call on my life and that of my children and my family and my church congregation? Am I willing to really "GO?"

And as often happens in my life, I felt God's resounding message to me lately. Right now it is about what it means to truly be a disciple and to live a missional life. I still struggle with the radical part of all of that. I feel like I fail at that big time even though the idea intrigues me. Christ's call to discipleship is not just about my "reading my Bible and praying everyday" (another song I learned as a child), but it is a call to abandon all comforts and securities and Earthly things we are taught to trust in and placing our trust entirely on Him because He is the One who has called us! What am I really GIVING UP for the Gospel? I have everything I need and then some. And further, lots of trusted places for advice tell me I need to store up more here on Earth so that I am being a responsible adult, parent, citizen and even Christian. How does that line up with radical discipleship?

My brother's words and questions ring in my ears. Before his untimely death in 1997, David was involved in a very active missional church. His passion was in sharing about Jesus and he was talking about becoming a pastor. He had had an off and on relationship with a young Christian woman for several years, but to her frustration he was not ready to make a commitment to marriage. A few months before David died he told me why. He said that he felt called to live as Paul in the Bible (meaning he wanted to remain single). He was interested in his friend, but he was afraid that marriage would limit his ability to be whole-hearted in his time spent with God and serving God and reaching out to those around him.

It seems the longer I'm back here in the United States the more I understand and feel my brother's passion and urgency to live every moment with the awareness that people are in such need of Christ and the hope that He offers. People even here in Lancaster are living and dying, often with Christians all around them, yet never introduced to who Christ really is and what it means to live as His disciple. Even though I've tried hard to re-assimilate to American culture, now with a family of my own, I am becoming increasingly discontent with how I am living and what I am NOT doing in response to Christ's call. This reality calls me to reconsider in what ways I am "being sent" as a disciple of Christ.

I recall another missionary friend who once told us that it is so much harder to live as a missionary in your own culture or here in America than it is when you are in a different place where Christ has hardly ever been heard of. It is so true! It is too tempting to get sucked into "life as usual" even when life with Jesus should never be "as usual." I have not become attached to "things," so I could easily sell everything. But I am very susceptible to pride, worried what people will think of me or my family if we would just drop everything and Go! Obviously the practicalities of that are very complex, but more of an issue to me is having to deal with what people would say about our "leaving family" part and "dependence" part.

It takes a Christian community to support one another in our calling to do such counter-cultural missional living. It takes voices cheering one another on and reminding us that this is really what matters and what Christ wants for our lives. It takes affirmation that is stronger than the cultural nay-sayers who want to scare you into conformity with the world. It takes a community of Believers, discerning the Spirit's voice, to really get the ball rolling and move with a missional vision and hold one another accountable.

But obviously it is impossible to embark on a missional journey when one has not yet received the vision! I wish God would just shout it out to us! I'm the type that can dive head and foot into whatever I feel God wants us to be about and my biggest frustration has been not feeling sure about where God wants me to be investing that energy. It is a huge frustration on many fronts, even in raising my children. For I teach my children the ways of Christ and commitment and active love and care through the way we serve and reach out to others. But I feel like I live by the "random acts of kindness" rule -- RANDOM being the operative word. It's frustrating because don't feel like Christ sent his disciples out to act in random ways. Christ was intentional and clear with a purpose.

So I know we felt clear we were to return to Lancaster and to our home congregation, but apart from that, we don't know. It would be so great if our church congregation would decide on a unified "mission" that we could all focus on together. We are part of such a gifted and committed church family. There is so much potential there too! But maybe God has other plans. I have no idea. But that's the part I'm craving - the vision and the plan. We don't want to be about God's business on our own. I do not believe God calls us to live and work as "Lone Rangers." What I want to know is, "what is God calling His Church to? What is He calling His PEOPLE to? And how do we fit into that?"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Power Hungry?

Am I infatuated with power? I couldn't help but wonder as I sped down a back country road today to release some nervous energy after a very interesting seminar session. I suppose a bit of my father emerges when I enjoy the tremendous power in a car engine, albeit a little 4-cylinder Mazda. But it sure beats traveling in our mini-van with my kids, when I would be much more safety-minded! (Of course a standard-shift Subaru or my brother's Dakota Sport would be even more fun.) But, alas, I am supposed to have grown up by now and lost my infatuation with that kind of power.

Or maybe it's the potential for power or power held in check that intrigues me more. Afterall I was always the one at the county fair who would enjoy the challenge of showmanship classes with cattle or goats when the judge would give us the toughest animals in the ring to persuade to behave. I also enjoyed moving the biggest and meanest-tempered steers around. It might sound weird and probably wasn't the best trick, but my friends and I would "hide" each other's animals at times to scare the owners that they had lost their precious show animals. Rarely would my friends suspect me because I was so small. But I loved the challenge of those big animals. There was something about their power that I respected, especially when I knew they were choosing to control it around me.

And I suppose whoever is reading this is probably wondering what in the world does this have to do with anything! I was psycho-analyzing myself again in light of a conversation I had about Hillary Clinton. The person I was talking to can't stand Hillary because she is "power-hungry." She went on to say that Hillary will say things just to get elected. (of course how many politicians do that!?!) Her words, however, are backdropped by her comments a few years ago that she couldn't stand Hillary because she was a "power-hungry woman." Now that probably best completes this woman's true thoughts. A lot of her "hate" ironically has to do with Hillary's being a woman.

I think the problem with Hillary that most people don't like is that she is VERY logical, a true THINKER/JUDGING personality on the Myers-Briggs and not many people know what to do with women like that. Add to it, I'm sure Hillary has had to consider how she might need to compensate for any mis-perceptions people may have that a woman may be too soft or not be able to handle the grueling tasks a President may have to respond to. You can't deny that Hillary is extremely prepared, organized and runs a very tight ship. I think some women perceive her to be calloused and cold and too calculating. And to all of this I say, "if any man was thus described, he would be emulated or at least not ruled out for these reasons." Most people would agree that leaders need to make hard decisions in hard ways at times!

I have a number of people in my own family who get on kicks about "power-hungry women." I remember comments about my beloved Aunt who passed away a few years ago. Though now everyone has only good to say about her, there was plenty of back-stabbing going around when I was little since she decided to go to college and work her way up the ladder in the medical profession. She was basically the bread-winner of the family since my uncle was more or less an itinerant pastor. While I think my grandfather was proud of her, he had a funny way of showing it by complaining about how she worked all the time. And there were grumbles from others who implied that my Aunt was arrogant and power hungry and felt she was better than everyone else because she was more educated.

I can't help but wonder how many people who get offended by women like Hillary Clinton do so more because they really think she is power-hungry or because she is a woman aspiring to a very powerful position. And I can't help but wonder, if my dearly-loved grandfather would still be living, would he say the same about me as he did my aunt? Would he see me as power-hungry and arrogant because I appreciate education and leadership and, yes, driving fast cars and working with wild animals and . . .

Do high aspirations or the joy of challenges make one "power-hungry?" Or do we like to reserve "power-hungry" as a label to categorically dismiss those we don't like or at times perpetuate sexism?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who has RIGHTS to the Rivers of Justice?

I get so tired of Americans who are not able to see beyond their own noses -- and some even openly admit it!

I got emotional and even angry in a conversation with someone yesterday. I initially braced myself at her opening question, "so who are you going to vote for?" At first I was glad she went on without giving me a chance to respond. But then she used a label intended to demonize people - even Christians - who are "liberal." I could feel my blood-pressure rising as I pinched my lips closed tightly. She went on that she just can't imagine any Christian who would vote for someone who agrees with abortion. I could contain myself no longer.

I stood up and adamantly retorted that I did not think that any of those candidates "agreed" abortion was a GOOD choice. They simply are promoting an individual's right to choice just like individuals have rights to bear arms. Good or bad, our country is proud of its rights. The ethical side to our rights (like killing unborn babies and killing people with our guns) is certainly something we should be concerned about. But quite honestly, there is a missing link somewhere in our society when we need to start making moral and ethical choices purely matters of law and politics.

I hear people naively state, "we are a Christian nation." Then where are the societal systems and structures like family and the church who should be teaching and reaching out to those who are struggling with such moral and ethical choices. Instead of demonizing the people involved, can we rather ask, "what is wrong with the system within which these kinds of choices keep being made?" Ethics and morals should be taught and reinforced within the Church and family, but neither structures are very strong anymore in a society that looks to the media and market for moral guidance. And now, instead of placing the responsibility on the family and Church, we place it on the politicians. Afterall you need to blame someone other than yourself for why people do bad things.

But the truth is that you can't make every single ethical choice a legal/political matter, for then it is no longer a choice and no longer a matter of ethics. Rather it becomes law, something reinforced purely punitively. I said it before, I get sick and tired of Christians listing the "sins" we need to vote against, namely, abortion and homosexuality. Again, it proves the narrow-mindedness of many American Christians and their leaders. It also exposes manipulative leadership, using politics to separate the sheep from the goats. When will Christians stop worrying purely about justice issues that affect themselves and rise up against systemic issues that need a voice for justice?

In my conversation with this woman, I got very emotional at the point when she started going on how abortion guides her vote because one time when she worked in the hospital she saw a baby after it had been aborted. I agreed how much of a sin and tragedy abortion is, but has she EVER thought of all the BORN children of hundreds and thousands of other moms in the world who SAW their own children blasted and burned by our bombs . . . who weep and mourn and feel the pain daily for entire families and villages that have been wiped out because of the LEGALIZED killing we perpetrated in other lands. Who in America is weeping for those children? Who sees pictures of those mothers in their minds when we think about who to vote for? It brought me near to tears.

What if 9/11 was not our only experience of tragedy? What if we had war affecting towns all over the East coast? How would our political perspective change if lots of moms here in America were mourning the destruction of their homes and the loss of their children from war?

The sad truth is that, even if we here in America would have that experience, our ability to identify with those in other countries would last for just a moment. In the next moment we would recover our indignation and anger and pride and reliance on the mightiest military in the world. Our status and power in the world gives us a power perspective -- we CAN fight back . . . we PREVAIL!!! No one will remember to mourn for the victims of the same plight in the rest of the world. They have no power; they have no hope for justice . . . without a stronger voice to advocate for them. We do! We have the voice and we have the power.

I lived for years in a country where US bomb craters as big as a couple houses still speckle the countryside from 30 years ago. Even today, hundreds of people are either killed or maimed each month in SE Asia from land mines planted because of our American agenda there decades ago. Who thinks about those families when the bread-winners of the family can no longer work because they have no legs or an arm? Who thinks about those children who will go hungry, all because of what our country turned a blind eye to 25-30 years ago?

We are so proud of our status in the world, yet we don't want to take responsibility for its impact. We'd rather sit around complaining about our economy and healthcare situation. We'd rather argue about how much a family can make and still get a tax break. We'd rather wimper that we can't take a long vacation this year because of gas prices . . . so "families just might have to go to the shore close by instead," so the news reports say. Well imagine that! At least people are still thinking about vacations! They can't be that bad off!

When will Christians start looking beyond the politics that protect their own comforts and securities to the politics that rob those in the rest of the world of theirs. The Kingdom of God is NOT American!!!! The Kingdom of God is global. Do we think globally when we choose who to vote for? And I mean beyond US interests and how war will affect gas and oil prices. What about killing? What about destruction of the environment? What about the destruction of infrastructures that maim the economies and the ability of people to actually live in the places where we invade? Who in America ever thinks about making war illegal? War is an unethical action we perpetrate in other lands, more than not, against innocent civilians and certainly destroying God's innocent Creation. If we want to think about making something illegal, start with something we can't control here. Start with something that by its very nature is political. Choose politics that address that!

I'm tired of people -- especially Christians -- demonizing politicians or other Christians or anyone because of what party they choose to vote for. Stop using the word "evil" to describe people who are earnest in their pursuits of justice and good leadership of this country which is going down the wrong path. Start reminding each other that PRO-LIFE is broader than a baby in a womb here in America. God cares about LIFE all over the world and so should we. Justice is a river that should flood all places the Kingdom is present . . . how dare we allow America to hoard that precious resource too!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Words to Make you Think

Have a bunch of posts in the draft folder and don't seem to be getting back to them. So I'll post a ready-made one (a video) here that a friend sent me. I'll probably use a few of the quotes from the clip in my leadership portfolio I'm working on.

I'm not usually into this kind of thing (it's a bit like those endless forwarded emails you get from family and friends that have been sent to thousands of people - intended to inspire), but I did appreciate some of the quotes, especially those by MLK, Ghandi, Teddy Roosevelt and Henry Ford.

Great Quotes by Famous Leaders