fifty shades

Black, White.. or Fifty Shades of Grey

Dear Friend,

We live in a time where the lines are getting blurred a little bit more each day, making it hard to choose a side and stay on it.

It’s impossible to stand up for something without resistance, because the gravity of society is real.  You need supernatural strength to swim against the stream, and it’s so much easier to float, to simply go with the most popular opinion or to say nothing…to shut your eyes and pretend that you’re not seeing anything… to close your fists and convince yourself that you do not have to do anything.

Because if you stand up for something you believe in or if you stand up against something you know is wrong, you’re “judged” as being “judgmental”.

If you pursue something with all your heart, even those leaning in the same direction are often quick to call you a “radical” or “freak”.

If you choose a side – any side for that matter – it will be easy to find hundreds of articles on the internet to back you up as “research”, and those of the opposing view will likewise have an equal stash of “research” to support their side of the matter.

If you add up the time you spend doing this “research”, you will realize how much time is wasted sitting on the side-line rather than engaging in the real battle.

And because we’re spending so much time in grey areas, we’re trying to justify grey as a color in it’s own right although deep down we know it’s simply a mixture of black and white.

If something that was white becomes grey – no matter what shade – it’s easy to make it black. On the other hand, making it white again is not so easy.

I could as well have said, “hot”, “cold” or any degree of “lukewarm”.  It’s the same concept.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:  I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” – Revelation 3:15-20 KJV

There is no time to experiment with “different shades of grey”, trying to see how far we can deviate from the perfect “white” of the Light of the World and still claim to be living in it.  If we take the time to even think about whether we should read a book or watch a movie that we know is so far from God’s will for our lives, we’re playing with fire.  Our eyes and ears are the windows to our souls.

Our only Hope is standing at the door knocking, and we cannot let Him in halfway. It’s all or nothing….hot or cold….black or white.

We’re called to live holy lives and to be light…to be white.  And yes, we need His light to shine into our own dark places first before we can become guides for the blind.  Otherwise, our sinful nature which is easily tempted with black ideas and willing to experiment with the dark side will rule and reign, making us feel more comfortable living in the grey areas where our sins are not revealed.

Today I would like to challenge you to make a choice and take a stand to throw the door wide open and let Him all in!  He alone is able to wash us and make us whiter than snow and change us into His glorious image.

Wanderlust

Wanderlust

“A strong desire to travel.”

It all starts with a simple idea involving a map, perhaps a fantasy of “seeing the world”, a Google search, and a passport application.

Perhaps a dream of living overseas or working on a cruise ship is spun from reading travel blogs and magazines or photos of exotic or far-away places…

Because the mere “desire” to travel will never satisfy, the dream (usually) begins to transform into reality through saving, planning, and packing.

It becomes real with the first stamp in your passport and the thrill of crossing a border or flying over the Atlantic Ocean.

You can finally taste, smell, and hear the “reality” as you “arrive” at your destination and walk along the streets amidst the locals who are speaking an unfamiliar language and eating foods that are very foreign to your taste buds.  You become immersed in the culture and are surrounded by new sights and sounds and may even feel the climate and temperature difference on your skin.

Fourteen stamps later and the possibilities become greater, not less. The feeling only becomes stronger the more you feed it, like any other addiction.  Some addictions are simply more socially acceptable than others, perhaps even admired.

Is it true that “not all those who wander are lost”?  Or, have we gone astray by thinking that it’s okay to wander and even lust, as long as the lust is after wandering?

Isn’t it ironic that we could actually end up “going to the nations” not to preach the gospel or make disciples for Christ but to satisfy our lust to wander?  After all, it’s really not that difficult to save enough money for tickets to “go”.  Somehow, we all hope to “find ourselves” by getting lost rather than seeking others who are lost.

If I have learned anything from my own travels and life in Asia for the past two years, it is that one is more likely to “lose oneself” in another country, especially if one’s life is not built on a solid foundation.  Even the heart of the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, was “turned away after other gods” due to compromise with the ways of other peoples and nations. [1 Kings 11:4]

It is often not the desire to do evil, but curiosity, that gets us into trouble; and I’m guessing that the majority of people struck by “wanderlust” are curious and inquisitive, as one speaking from personal experience.

However, about a year ago, I had a change of heart.  I began to desire more for “the world to see” than “to see the world”.  Nevertheless, I would still find it difficult to resist a fully-paid plane ticket to another new destination.

I believe some desires can be God-given as long as they are driven by purpose and not by pleasure;  after all, the Kingdom of God is NEVER just about us.

I’m not telling you that I think it would be better to stay at home if you feel the “wanderlust” tugging at your heart, because being too comfortable where you are might be just as destructive as traveling to collect stamps in your passport.

I suggest praying about it and going with a purpose, on a mission, an outreach, or even as a volunteer. Go, as long as you can, and if you feel called to do so.  Then, consider staying, serving, learning the language and loving the locals, keeping in mind that the world needs open hands much more than it needs open minds.

You might even be surprised to find more joy in purpose than you could ever find through pleasure-seeking.

And remember, at the end of the day, “we are strangers before [God], and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”  [1 Chronicles 29:15 KJV]

Or as C.S Lewis put it:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

dirty diapers of life

The Dirty Diapers of Life

In six weeks, a new-born baby probably dirties at least 300 diapers.

Because we’ve decided to use cloth diapers, every diaper changed also needs to be washed.  In other words, I’m spending quite a lot of time handling dirty diapers (just in case you might be wondering where the inspiration for this post came from).

Washing dirty diapers is not the most glamorous duty; however, I know that it is economical as well as better for the environment without contributing the extra 2,788 disposable nappies per baby per year to the total trash accumulated on the planet.  Still, somehow, it doesn’t exactly feel like I’m “saving the planet” while I’m sitting in the backyard scrubbing dirty diapers.

It’s humbling, to say the least, and, somehow, I can’t imagine anyone posting on Facebook: “Just washed seven dirty diapers again today…feeling awesome!”  However, I would like to share a few ideas why I think we’re missing out on life by not sharing our “dirty diaper” stories.

LIFE is not a series of memorable moments where we are all cleaned-up and dressed-up, neat and pretty, smiling at the camera.  It is also full of ordinary “dirty diaper moments” that we would rather avoid, hide, throw away, or forget.  We also choose to edit out the really stinky parts of life where sin has defiled us.

LOVE is not all moon light, roses and the fresh smell of baby powder.  It is all about the willingness to get up at three o’clock in the morning to change a dirty diaper – even if you are dead tired.  Love is unconditional and ready to meet the need.

HOPE does not ignore the dirty and smelly parts of life, praying that it will somehow stay covered up or disappear.  To hope is to know that something will change even if we have to confront it with soap and a bucket of water, trusting that the stains will come out and the garment will be made clean again.

CLEANSING requires us to cry out to God for help, knowing that our lives are messy so we need changing.  We can’t clean ourselves any more than a newborn baby can change his own diaper.  We need a power greater than bleach to take the stains of sin away and make us whiter than snow.  It takes the blood of Jesus.

Psalm 51:5-7 KJV “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…”

By not being honest about our messy lives, not admitting that we are sinners saved by grace, we pretend that we only have “neat and pretty camera days” which is a false reality.  We also make others feel ashamed and reluctant to share their “dirty diaper” stories.

We try to hide instead of sharing…cover up instead of confessing…and deceive ourselves rather than receiving forgiveness while missing out on the refreshing that comes from being washed and made clean.  How wonderful it is to be washed by the blood of Jesus, to be loved by our Heavenly Father, to be changed, and to be renewed on a daily basis.

We cannot share the gospel with others without first admitting that we need to be washed, and washed, and washed…again and again.

Holding

Holding The Future in Your Hands

It doesn’t matter what the future holds

It matters what we’re holding.

Right here, right now in the palms of our hands

Where the true story is unfolding.

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And as I’m looking down on

This babe with his sweet little face,

Trying to make sense of

Our Father’s endless grace

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I realize that in order to “hold”

We sometimes have to “let go”

Of things we used to love

And what we think we know.

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Because it’s impossible

for us to hold it all

Without letting it slip,

Without letting it fall.

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And what we choose to hold on to today

Will have an effect on tomorrow.

Be it faith, love, joy

Or pride, hate, and sorrow.

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Will we choose to carry the weight

Of hard words spoken in the past,

To keep on wasting our money and time

On “things” that will never last?

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Or will we choose to hold on to hope

To forgive and forget.

To invest our time and energy

On eternal “things” instead?

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Because we’re always choosing

To hold on to one thing or another

And our grips will always give us away,

Regardless of what we may say.

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It doesn’t matter what the future holds,

It matters what we’re holding.

What do you have in your hands right now?

How is your story unfolding?

Giving birth in Thailand

Giving Birth in Thailand

A few months ago, I wrote a letter of hope “To My Unborn Child,” not knowing what to expect when  “expecting” in a foreign country.  In the midst of uncertainty, I came to the conclusion that faith does not need a back-up plan.

Today, I would like to share a testimony of how it all worked out – giving glory to God for taking care of every detail.  He is faithful.

I woke up at 3 o’clock on the morning of my 29th birthday on Dec. 24 with a strong contraction, thinking “this would be an interesting day to have a baby.”  Trying not to wake my husband, I paced up and down the corridor breathing through the contractions which became stronger and longer.

I’d decided to endure labour at home as long as possible to avoid any unnecessary interventions by the medical team at the hospital.  I wanted to have a natural birth, believing that it is all part of God’s design for a woman:  pain, a reminder of our sinful nature, is part of the process and the promise.

“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception:  In pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

At 6 o’clock, my husband was up, and I told him that today was the day.  We had previously decided to go “local” by giving birth at the government hospital about 1 km from our house in the small rural community where we live.  I could have called one of my Thai friends to take me to the hospital (with a car), so I sent my husband off to work on his motorcycle and instructed him to “stand-by” at school just in case.

Around 8 o’clock I knew it was time to go to the hospital.  I phoned my husband and figured we might as well go to the hospital together.  So, I jumped on the back of his bike, hospital bag over my shoulder, and we sped off for the hospital.  It wasn’t so funny at the time, but it turned into quite a precious memory.

When we arrived at the hospital, I bumped into one of the foreign volunteers I met at the orphanage where I also volunteer.  She was with one of her Thai friends who could speak very good English.  They were God-sent at the right time and place to help with the admissions procedures since most hospital staff speak little or no English.

Miraculously, the head nurse and midwife could speak English.  It helped that I had my birth plan translated into Thai in advance, although I suspect that they thought I was a little bit crazy for wanting a natural birth without any pain intervention.

As a side note, Thais will avoid pain at all costs and most of them go for a c-section to also be able to choose the birth date since they are very superstitious when it comes to numbers and dates. Obviously, Thais did not view the 24th of December as an auspicious date to give birth because I was the only one in the ward….Of course this also worked in my favour because there were more staff available and little pressure for the baby to comply with anyone’s time schedule.

They gave me the freedom to move around as much as I wanted, and my husband was allowed to be present in the delivery room (rare for Thai fathers) as I gave birth a few hours later at 12:10 pm to a beautiful baby boy.

Joshua

At that point, I was beyond relieved and grateful that everything went so well, which was totally unexpected based on my misconceptions about Thai hospitals, especially when I was taken to a VIP room to rest after my delivery.  (See picture below.)

hospital room

The total cost of labour, delivery, and two nights in the private VIP room turned out to be a mere fraction of what one would expect to pay in the West or at any private hospital in South Africa for that matter.

Even if I had had a back-up plan, it could not have been better than the plan God had for me.  

I believe this is also true for you.

God never promised an easy life, or an easy delivery in childbirth, but the end blessing of letting God take control is well worth it.

Having faith will not spare us pain or suffering.  The heart-ache or the tears that we endure in this world we live in for now simply give us a reason to push through and hang on to His promises, knowing that in the end it will be worth it.

After four weeks of breastfeeding, nappy-changing, and semi-sleepless nights, I am still in awe of the way God has designed us to be able to handle it all.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:11-13

I behold this sweet little face of this babe I hold in my arms and pray that he will also have faith for life’s journey ahead of him, because faith will be all he will need.  It’s all we all really need.