Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One Woman's Treasure...

[what's brewing: I thought this would be "hot"]

This past weekend we were invited to a birthday celebration for one of the women in our church. She has been a good friend to us this year and I felt honored to be invited to share in her birthday with her kids and grandkids. While Jason was out for the morning, I was in charge of purchasing a gift for the party. Jason isn’t too fond of me going to the markets alone, so I conceded and went to the only department store in town.

I wandered around for ages, wondering what would be an appropriate gift, what would be interesting, what would be useful… I considered a wide variety of items when I finally settled on what I thought would be a great gift: a glass bowl with a set of floating candles to go in it. I was shocked to find floating candles here, as good candles in general are hard to come by. Yes, this would be a great gift, particularly for a woman who loved to entertain as much as our friend does.

By the time Jason arrived to pick me up for the party, I had wrapped the gift and added a bottle of soda to offer as well. Upon arriving at the party we were seated in the living room to wait as the rest of the family finished the food preparations. I am always a bit baffled by the decorating styles here, which I know is a cultural thing; yet as we sat there, I marveled at the true appreciation here for things like porcelain figurines, bright colors, exaggerated features and gaudy designs.

We enjoyed a long afternoon of food and laughter with our friends before it was time to open the gifts. Our friend started by opening the gift from her 4 year old granddaughter – a colored picture and a small bag of chips. Then a gift her neighbor had brought over – a ceramic mug covered with birthday wishes, painted in many different colors. The next gift: another mug, this one with a picture of a purple cat on it. These gifts were very well received and certainly fit with the décor of the house, but I was excited to see the response to the centerpiece I’d chosen that morning. I knew she would love it.

As our gift was unwrapped, there was a lot of silence as she tried to piece together what it was. A glass bowl and a package of candles? I started to explain she could put water in the bowl and then put the candles in, but failed to come up with the word for “float.” Jason jumped in to help me, yet even with his accurate explanation, everyone at the table was still puzzled. I got up with excitement and asked if I could show her what we meant; so I filled the bowl with water as Jason unwrapped the candles. We dropped them in and voila, floating candles!

But even with this demonstration, we only saw looks of confusion around the table – or perhaps they were looks of doubt as to my taste in gifts or decorations. Our friend thanked us, but with the same kind of “thanks” that I mustered when I was given a pink t-shirt with a big teddy bear on it when I turned seventeen. Her daughters smiled, moved the bowl to the shelf behind the table and handed her the next gift – a ceramic dog figurine, which was received with excitement and genuine thanks.

I was baffled – what’s not to love about floating candles? How could there be so much genuine excitement over a ceramic dog figurine and such confusion over the purpose of a centerpiece with floating candles? I would have loved to have those floating candles in my own home, which then led me to wonder what they think of the décor in our home.

Do they think I have bad taste?!

As Jason and I drove home from the party, he confessed that though he thought my gift would have been great for a friend back in the US, he had been doubtful that the ladies here would understand the concept or appeal of a floating candle centerpiece. He had hoped for the best and after a total crash landing, he helped me to see the humor in the experience. By the time we were home, we were both rolling with laughter over the baffled looks as I jumped from the table and proudly demonstrated how the floating candles were meant to be used, only to be followed with true delight over the ceramic puppy figurine.

Apparently just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so one woman’s treasure is another woman’s trash!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What would YOU say?

[what's brewing: how do I answer that question?]

Over the past year, I’ve been asked a number of questions by visitors, friends & family, and the occasional friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who is looking to make contact with someone in cross-cultural ministry. Some make me laugh, some reveal the shift in my perspective that has happened over the years, and some leave me stumped and struggling to formulate a clear answer.

One of my favorites was a question that came the day after I served the last of my precious cappuccino coffee mix stash to help warm a group of visitors who were freezing after being caught in the rain.

Question: “You’re all out of that coffee mix? Where I can go to get some more? ”

Answer: Um, back to the US at your local grocery store! And mail me some while you’re at it!!

As I’ve been thinking about some of these questions lately, I’ve been wondering: what would YOU say?

So now I present to you a selection of 3 questions to respond to this week. What would YOU say if someone asked you:

1. So what is it exactly that you do?
2. Why does everyone honk so much here? (I realize this may not apply to all of you! If not, please substitute a question from your own experience here and tell us your response.)
3. What is the number one thing you want to see God do here?

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tent Dwelling

[what's brewing: got anything fresh?]

I am tired of the tent I am dwelling in. I want to be clothed, to be swallowed up by life. In the face of what has felt like a bombardment of tragedies in the lives of several dear friends and family members in recent weeks, I have found myself today simply exhausted and wishing deeply to be delivered into an alternate reality. I am exhausted by the loss of life that I’ve seen devastate a dear friend this week; my heart is wrought with anxiety as I continue to ponder the painful account of hope that was valiantly and obediently offered, only to be dashed against the rocks of a sinful reality. I am sad to hear of the desperate fight to find a reason to live that has gripped the sibling of a close friend.

In the midst of these difficult circumstances, I have found myself wishing that things could simply be different. When long and meaningful conversations draw to a close and petitions for wisdom and understanding have been fervently uttered, I remain deeply unsatisfied. I find myself wishing in a childlike way that I could just tuck my head deep under the covers and awake to an altered reality where these heartbreaking circumstances have been restored. I just want it all to go away.

I encountered great solidarity today when I reread Paul’s words and realized that he too experienced this lingering dissatisfaction with the circumstances around him, despite God’s authority over them. He expressed it in a far more meaningful way than my childish wish to escape under the covers, but I recognize those feelings in his words. He writes,

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life… Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. II Corinthians 5:1-4, 6-8

This passage is a great reminder that the troubles we encounter in this world are not congruent with what God intended for us. The heartaches and painful disappointments that seem to pervade our world are the result of sin, which we were not created to live with. Therefore we groan and long to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling – the dwelling that is custom tailored to fit us and the way we have been designed.

Whatever you are facing today, take heart with me in knowing that we can join together with Paul in saying that we would prefer to be away from this broken reality and at home with the Lord. And while we wait, we make it our goal to please him.

Lord, let this be true of me; allow me to glorify you as I long for the release from this mortal world and to be clothed in your heavenly dwelling.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

To the Victor...

[what's brewing: something 'on the house']

To all of our Field Day participants, I hope you heard the applause and cheers from the sidelines as I and many others soaked up the beauty of your work. The series of photographs stirred a deep sense of joy within me and I’ve returned many times this week to look at them again and again. And Kristy, your words were so well timed with the 4th of July sentiments that were brewing in our hearts and minds last week as we are scattered around the world. Thank you also to Lisa for writing in the 100 Word Dash:

One 4th of July we sailed out to Catalina Island on my uncle’s boat with our whole family. I remember getting sea sick but loving the wind in my face. I was about seven or eight. We dove off the boat into the harbor to swim and ate sweet cold watermelon (even though I had dropped it and made it crack). We walked into the town and bought our own sparklers to light later. That night we watched the sky fill with beautiful colors reflected off the ocean from the fireworks overhead. It was a great time with my family.

The year my sister graduated from high school, we went as a family, with my grandparents, to Prince Edward Island. This was the first time we'd ever vacationed with my grandparents. We rented a house and stayed all together. My father let each of us choose an activity we wanted to do. So, my sister chose Anne of Green Gables' house, my brother and my dad went deep sea fishing, and my dad and I went horseback riding on the beach. It was the best vacation we ever had as a family!

Well done, and thank you for participating!

The randomly selected winner from our Field Day is Barb, who submitted the photo: Cambodian Waterhole. Congratulations! Please email Cindy Blomquist, Editor and Creative Director at WOTH, to claim your prize.


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