Sunday, February 22, 2015

A quiet Sunday's thoughts.

Sometimes it feels strange to be in a another place for long.
The cultural differences can get to you. 
Patience can be hard with things that don’t work like they do at home. 
Everything takes longer. And doesn’t function like you’re used to. 
Things can seem to close in and make you feel cut off. 
Longing for what is familiar. For what you know and are used to. 
Your eyes can forget to see the beauty around you. 
Forget to appreciate what’s right there. 

But then. Then you sit over coffee with a dear friend and laugh about those very things. You make jokes about what is difficult. And you realize “Oh, they get it!” 
You chuckle as you discuss home and the things you know so well. 
From now on when you’re alone and stuck with a cultural frustration, you laugh out loud remembering that your friend too knows how this is. Knows how you feel. And it’s not so bad. 

You pick up the Word one morning and realize it too hasn’t changed. You read familiar passages. You glean from them just as you have in other states and other countries all over the globe. They are familiar. They are unchanging. They apply to this culture. And your culture. And every culture. That’s pretty amazing to consider when other things rarely translate well. 

You sit in a class of at least 5 cultures. Looking around, you seem to notice the differences. But as everyone begins to discuss issues and share what they’ve written, you hear common threads running throughout the room. Emotions. Painful times and times of overflowing joy. They are common to man. 

And as you sit in church Sunday, you look around at the colourful faces. You don’t know any of them. You hear different languages being spoken, none English. There are various styles of clothing from all over this continent, none like yours. But you’ve noticed they all sit in the same section each week. They all worship similarly. They all seem to relate to what the pastor says. They all amen and agree with the points he makes. 

As you leave church, you see the one familiar face you know from home in the crowd. Suddenly it doesn’t feel as if you are in a foreign place. It doesn’t feel as if you are so different, plopped in the middle of something unfamiliar. It just feels, well, normal. It feels like the oldest most familiar thing in the world. This doesn’t look that different in any country or culture. Sure, here you may see colourful dresses and head wraps. In Texas there was major bling and very big hair. At home there are sandals and flat-irons. But the people you are with anywhere….they all struggle with the same issues and same emotions. They read the same scriptures. They even sing most of the same songs. They know and love the same God who has delivered them from many of the same trials and loved them through many of the same heartaches. Halfway across the world and you have a flash of feeling….well….home. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

African Evenings.

I sat at the edge of the lake. 
Expecting a quiet sunset. 
Wanting some time to gather my thoughts. 
As I let my mind sink into the world of deep thinking and imagination, 
I forgot where I was. 
Before long, I was interrupted by sound. What was that? 
Birds. All kinds of birds. 
Different colors. Different families. 
It began suddenly. With one unique note being repeated over and over. Setting the time. It was as if the director had raised his baton and that first anticipated note had emerged from the orchestra and suddenly broken the hushed silence... 

Another note. Echoing the first. In perfect unison. Back and forth. Back and forth. As If the bird was saying “I was BORN to perform this one. Listen up.” 
Suddenly, out of all corners, there came the largest variety of notes. Some loud and shrill. Some low and soft. Each coming from a bird that seemed to inherently know exactly what it was meant to add to the mix. The African Dove landed in the Willow tree above me and joined in, not wanting to miss the opportunity to perform. His familiar coo and pattern keeping perfect time with the rest. 
They just sang. On and on and on. As if the song was the only and very reason for their existence. 

I wondered for a moment what it must be like to live like that- not worried. No stress. No concern over where your next meal will come or where you will tuck your head in to sleep tonight. Just wild, raw freedom. Singing songs about the sunset. About the beauty you live among. And I looked up. I watched the sun begin to set behind the lake-as if the lake dropped off the edge of the earth and the sun with it. As the sky began to darken and shadows began to form, everything suddenly took on a new character and feel. Things seemed more mysterious. And larger. The willow trees in the shadows suddenly sprang to life-appearing to have very human-like qualities. I watched the reflections in the water as the sky turned from it’s vivid orange hues to a deep purple. And I sat back, breathed deeply of the fresh evening air, and thanked God once again for peace. For stillness. For symphonies of birds composing a wild concerto. And for the beauty that reminds me  “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Morning thoughts.

Being halfway across the world, I am out of the loop. For me there's no smartphone. No Instagram. no apps. No Netflix or Hulu. There's no superbowl here. There's no baseball season. There's alone-ness. Quietness. The only noise is the thoughts in your head that you can't drown out with a hundred distractions. I listen as the birds outside my window sing me a wake-up tune. The sunrise over the water is so silent I can hear the fish jumping. And I sit there with a cup of tea, tearfully letting my broken heart lay out before the Lord and the day. And I realize that until we can submit ourselves to a period of no phone, no T.V. and no constant postings of selfies, we have no clue what it's like to allow the King of this Universe to be the only affirmation and voice we seek. We don't even recognize Him anymore because He refuses to shout louder than the noise we let in every day. To have a spirit of stillness and quietness of soul for weeks on end is the most difficult and most beautiful thing one can experience. But I want it. I want to know His voice better than the oldest and most familiar friend. I want to have the gumption to say "Life has made me tired. I'm broken. I'm worn out in my spirit. I'm fragile. I will not decide what I'm doing next until I hear HIM tell me with crystal clarity. I will not hurry. I will sit at His feet and listen. For weeks. I will wait on Him. I will stop striving for a title and just be."