Monday, January 31, 2011
I have started giving to the poor.
It started on Friday. On the way to work, I noticed a man sitting outside the Chong Nonsi Skytrain Station.
He had a sign around his neck, written in Thai. He sat in a wheelchair, with stuffed toys for sale in front of him. A cynical voice in my heart started listing off the injustices: how the disabled are exploited by begging-rings, how money you give never stays in the hands of the truly needy, how the public system should provide care, etc. And so, with all that in my heart, I walked past him.
When I got to work, I found out that my condo had sprung a leak and was causing damage to the condo beneath us. I had to go back home to let a guy in to fix one of our showers. It took three hours. I read a book and waited for the shower to be ripped apart and resealed.
As I walked home, past the man outside the Chong Nonsi Skytrain station, I noticed that someone had moved him to the other side of the street. He still looked listless, focused on some distant place, unable to make eye contact. I walked past him again.
After the shower had been fixed, I walked back to the office. I passed the man for a third time. By then, it was sweltering hot. I was very thirsty. I went into the french bakery by the station and ordered a guava juice. The man behind the counter grinned at me, as I paid too much money for a little drink. And that's when I heard the Holy Spirit say, "money I do not have... but what I have, I give to you". It's a quote from Peter. He said it when he healed a beggar.
I left the bakery with my guava juice and a straw. I walked over to the man. As soon as I got down onto his level, kneeling in front of his wheelchair, I realized that he has cerebral palsy. A man named Richard lived with my family when I was ten years old: he had cerebral palsy and always had to drink from a straw. My eyes filled up with tears as I put the cup in this stranger's crippled, clenched hands and unwrapped the straw for him. I remembered how much life and laughter Richard had brought to my family, all those years ago - and the depth of his pain, as he struggled to reconcile the love of the Father with his daily suffering. The man grinned at me... wildly. He drank the whole thing, saying thank you between sips.
That was the beginning of something. Since then, I have been responding to the needs of the poor. It is a simple response. I am not expecting to alleviate all the poverty of Asia. But I am choosing to give, when and where the Spirit leads me.
On Saturday night, I left a few baht on the stomach of a sick man lying on the street, outside a hospital: enough to pay the fee to see a doctor. Tonight, I walked an hour to find a woman and her two year old daughter sitting on a street corner, begging for food. I gave a bottle of water and 100 baht to a man who was sitting beside a pile of garbage. He looked like a Thai version of my younger brother.
I am going through this funny thing: I have no words for the gospel of peace. My offering is silent. I nod. I get tears in my eyes. I put my hands together in a namaste bow. I smile. I cry. But I have no words for what is stirring inside of me, no words for what a saviour means.
I give because I have been given to, on a very deep level. I give because I know that the resources of heaven are at my disposal. I give because to those who have, much is required. I give because it is in my heart to find beauty in the ashes. I give because I see truth in the dust. But I have no words for it. I have no way of saying, "it is because of this that I give". I am also aware of my desire and need to learn how to respond. I want to give out of obedience, not compulsion. I want to expect miracles, not just the quick fix of money.
My parents taught me to give, to sow in the spirit, from a very young age. And I think about them whenever I touch the shoulders of the untouched, or leave two coins in the basket of the abandoned. So, I want this to be my offering, my legacy, my true wealth, my inheritance.
You have to understand the context of this for me: I am in excessive debt right now. I have bills back home that need to be paid. And yet, I am living in a luxurious condo, working at a prestigious law firm, dining with world travelers and able to pay for whatever I want in this country.
It is in this context that the desire to give is silently leaking out of me. It is a heart attitude that can not be explained: a deep desire to raise from the dust what is seen by heaven as precious and worthy.
I read this scripture when I came home tonight, after seeing that man - my brother's Thai twin - sitting in the garbage. It resonates in me.
"The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails...” ~ 1 Samuel 2: 7-11.
And so: I am giving to the poor. I want to see these men, women and children set with princes and inheriting a throne of honor. But I also just want to be faithful in the little things... to quench the thirst of my spirit, the misunderstood longing inside of me to see the life of the kingdom of heaven. And I hope that - somewhere beyond my lack of words - heaven is seeing, hearing and responding with me in this.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
One of the beautiful things about living in an Asian city is that it never stops.
It's about 8 pm and someone is jackhammering the stairs to the overpass walkway; people are stepping over the jackhammer, walking up and down, as the stairs shutter and shake at the impact.
There's a construction site across the street from my condo. The construction workers wear blue uniforms. There's always at least a hundred of them working at any time, day or night, scattered all over the place like royal blue ants. They work through the night - sleep for a few hours - and then get up for another shift.
On my way to work, I usually see about twenty blue-dressed people sleeping in the back of pick up trucks or on the sidewalk. On the way home, the same blue-dressed workers are sipping soup from the back of trucks or setting up florescent lighting to start working through the night.
The entrance to the construction site has a big white banner that says: "We Build Your Dreams".
The banner is very high in the sky and everyone underneath it is dressed like a smurf. It's kind of hard not to notice... something about it makes me smile every day.
But it also makes me wonder. I have begun dreaming again; from somewhere deep in the heart of this noisy city, under constant construction, my dreams are unfolding.
Today, a prophetic friend sent me her notes from a sermon she preached a little while ago. It is all about dreams. The last few lines of it struck me.
"... your dreams are going to dispossess nations. Your dreams are going to inhabit desolate cities. Don’t hold back..."
And so, I must dream dreams while the builders build. Tomorrow morning, on my way to work, I will see people who have worked through the night, curled up in little blue balls, sleeping on the sidewalk.
I will give unspoken thanks for those tired workers who build dreams.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A French woman, who lives in Venice, asked me to help her pick out a packet of instant espresso from the shelf at the 7-11 on my soi (side street).
"Tout cela est-bon café?".
I will never think of the phrase "nineteen baht" the same. My role was to interpret between her French-English and the Thai-English spoken by the boy who works the till. We were all trying to speak a language not our own.
I am pretty sure the instant espresso she picked out wasn't worth the sip gao baht she paid for it. I was feeling a little guilty that I'd probably helped her pick the worst one. I should've told her about the little cafe down the street, instead.
But then she stood on the street corner outside 7-11, telling me how very terrible it is to grow old in France. And I didn't feel sorry for her, anymore. We stood there in our clashing foreigner flip-flops: she with bad instant espresso in her hand and I with hand-wash laundry detergent in mine... contemplating the demise of the aging population of Europe.
She'll spend the next few weeks in Koh Phi Phi. It is a much better place for her to be, she says. She loves Thailand. But I asked: how can you really love a place where you have not actually lived? You don't know what it means to love a nation until you've been sick in it. That is my theory, anyway.
But the truth is... I do know what it is like to love a foreign city that has not made me sick. We came to a common understanding when she pointed out that I love Paris, but have never actually lived there. I had to agree. I told her where to go down the road for a good Thai meal ... and wished her a bon nuit et bon voyage a demain.
She is right: Thailand is a good place to be. But, I would love to grow old in France... or Italy. And, when I am growing old in Europe, I hope there's a local who will help me buy a decent espresso.
Monday, January 24, 2011
I have been listening to this song quite a bit, lately.
I love Beth Orton. There is something about her that is just very good: even in this edgy, patchwork version of this beautiful song, she resonates. I love true songwriters.
There is a deep healing that is happening in my soul. It is difficult to find words for it. But it makes sense that He would bring me here. I can't hide from His beauty in Thailand: the beaches, the people, the food, the language, the culture - are all extremely beautiful.
The paradox of gentle and strong was very real to me this weekend: a woman in her 80's gave me a traditional thai massage. Her tiny hands felt like iron - and yet, something about her movements were extremely gentle. I've decided that I want to be that kind of gentle-strong-fierce-and-forgiving.
As the healing comes, I am becoming more aware of the spiritual realm. I have started to have visions and dreams. It is amazing how God always takes us deeper - into painful things and into His arms.
"So I've been calling angels down to earth. An' I don't need a reason. Calling angels down to earth, because I believe we need them." - Beth Orton
Monday, January 17, 2011
I am sitting here with a big plate of watermelon slices. Mmm...
It's the first full plate of food that I have eaten in about four days. I have been very sick. Oh Asia, how you I love you even though you always make me sick.
My tum is still not the best. So, watermelon and yoghurt is all I can eat. But, I can't really complain. The watermelon in Thailand is sweeter than at home.
I remember when my little brother was a kid, he used to say: water - mee - lon. He was developing his own dialect back then, heavily influenced by the German-speaking girl (also known as "ish-girl"), who lived around the corner.
I spent a lot of time thinking about influence, today. After several consecutive hours of meetings where high-powered business contracts are negotiated, you can't help but think about what influences people, companies, nations.
Some people say it is all about money. But, I could add more things to that list: culture, religion, education, sophistication, peer pressure, family, etc.
It's not exactly a formula.
Sometimes, the least likely people have the greatest influence. For example, a certain nun who lived in Calcutta comes to mind.
My decisions and actions have been positively and negatively influenced by people around me. And yet, I have had the most outside-the-box life, which could not have been contrived by sheer self-will or the expectations of others.
I lived in a foreign country for several years and absorbed the culture like it was my own. And yet, most people don't even know what life was like for me then.
My brother's little-kid expression has mysteriously influenced my taste in watermelon: it's all about mee.
So, what causes someone or something to have great influence?
That's the big question.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I am working on a project that involves a river that flows through seven nations: Tibet, China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma and Thailand.
It is hard work. I spent all day pouring over contracts and government documents that I barely understand. But it's also very interesting.
I mean, there is something deeply profound about it. I can't put words to it, but I feel it in my spirit: there is a river that flows from heaven, clear as crystal... and the leaves of the trees are for the healing of nations.
In other news: I gave directions to some tourists, tonight. So I guess that makes me a local, now.
Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. - Revelations 22: 17
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Yesterday, I made a new friend.
Her name is Gabrielle. She's from Montreal.
She'll be traveling the islands on her own for two weeks. And then she's doing some work with "Wheels for the World", which is a christian organization that provides wheelchairs to people with disabilities. More information about what she is doing can be found here:
We met in my Thai cooking class. I am learning a ton of new ingredients. I never knew before that there are pea-shaped eggplants. Also, hairy eggplants. Who knew? The cooking classes are near my condo. And I am learning a lot. So, be prepared for a Thai feast when I get home. With new ingredients, come so many new flavours... yum.
After the class, we went wandering around the market at Mot Choi. Gabby was tasting Turkish ice cream (yes, the ice cream in Thailand is Turkish) when she said (in her french canadian accent):
"I think you have a lot of courage."
I said: "I don't feel very courageous... but thank you."
She talked about how lonely it can be to travel through Asia on your own. I knew exactly what she was talking about. The loneliness in foreign places is hard.
She also said: "You know... He has plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future...".
My eyes filled up with tears for a second: "Yes, those plans are perfect..." That scripture (Jer. 29: 11) emerges a lot in my life, in some of the most random places. And so, it was very reassuring to hear those words spoken in french canadian, as we pushed through rambling crowds at a Thai market.
Somehow, it reminded me that everything is going to be alright. Everything is falling into place, even when I do not see it. The broken pieces of my life will make a mosaic, some day.
Gabrielle is the name of an angel. I am very glad that I met her.
Sometimes, life is perfect.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I am listening to Wolf Parade and watching the sun rise over Bangkok.
The sky is a purple-magenta colour. Clouds are forming.
I'll be exploring the streets and buying clothes from markets later today.
But right now, I am praying for mercy to saturate this city.
And hoping my roommate wakes up soon so we can go eat.
Our condo is ten blocks east from the Chao Phraya River, facing north.
The Klong Tooey slums are waiting to be seen, somewhere to the east.
It fascinates me that Bangkok means "City of Angels": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangkok.
I have been thinking about angels a lot, lately. I believe they are with me.
"Just like my lover said. See, it always had to go this way..." - Wolf Parade.
"I have run. I have crawled. I have scaled these city walls. Only to be with you..." - U2.I arrived on time with my suitcases, holding everything that I packed.Miracles happen.
Almost as a paradox to my successful solo traveling, I thought about my ex-husband for
most of my flight. This surprised me more than the fact that I didn't lose anything.
It's been a long time.
He lives in the exact opposite direction from Asia. We never went there together.
So, why would he be in my heart?
I think it has to do with the way we took off from Vancouver.
The flight was delayed because the "release" mechanism to push the plane off was broken.
So we had to wait at the gate for them to repair it before we could be released to go.
The natural speaks of the spiritual, sometimes. I have been in such a long waiting and
My heart has been broken, wounded and full of rejection.
But once it was put right, we were flying.
I felt that release in my spirit.
There is something about this trip that speaks of my healing.
"You carried the cross. You took the shame. You took the blame. You know, I believe it."
It feels extremely good to be back in Asia.
I'd forgotten how deeply I love the beauty and chaos of the other side of the Pacific.
I spent my first day in Bangkok trying to find my way to a good friend, an old roommate
who is here for the next two days.
I was lost for almost three hours, looking for her. It is really something else to be lost in a new city.Asia is a continent of nations with no traffic rules, no street signs, and no numbers on thebuildings.My Dad and I were once lost in Baggio City, Philippines, during a typhoon. We nearly died.Our driver would drive in one direction. stop. drive on a little bit. stop. and then turn to us and say:"We are very close, let's go back to the beginning".It was extremely funny and extremely frustrating.So, I found myself doing what Philippino drivers do in a typhoon: getting close and thengoing back to the beginning.I'd get so far and then turn around and go back, just to make sure I wasn't totally off track.Somehow, miraculously... it worked. I am no longer lost. I found her hotel.She was never really all that far away.