Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Burden of Proof


The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  (Isaiah 7:14)

Isn’t it interesting that God chose to make a virgin with child His promised sign of the coming Savior?  Why not something more verifiable?  Why not something more irrefutable?
Gabriel’s first words to Mary after his introduction were, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” but maybe she should have been.  She was visited by an angel, pregnant with the Savior of the world, and looking at the dubious prospect of having to convince her betrothed, her parents, her friends and neighbors that she didn’t do what they all would surely think that she had done.  If that’s not cause for some nervousness, I don’t know what is.

God’s blessings are often burdens, as well.  He asks us to carry truth that cannot be proved with science, facts or figures.  The world calls us foolish and naïve for believing in things that seem so unbelievable, but the power is in the paradox.  If, against all rationality, we live fully confident of the Truth so that our actions match our beliefs, our lives become a compelling testimony.

The proof of the virgin birth is that Mary and Joseph endured the whispers, the disapproving looks, the unkind rumors, the stigma of the promiscuous woman.  The proof of the resurrection is that ten eye-witnesses sacrificed their lives to proclaim it.  The proof of God’s extravagant unconditional love is that we are willing to give it even when it is met with indifference, ridicule, hatred and persecution.

Would our demonstrations of unconditional love over the past week be enough to convince anyone?

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Michael, who is like God


During my first year as a Christian, I found my name in a book that gave the meaning of common names.  “Michael” means “who is like God.”  For several years, I thought it meant, “Michael, (comma) who is like God.”  In other words, “Michael, the person who is like God more than anyone else because he was obviously named for his uncanny resemblance to the Almighty.”

Then one day, in a blinding flash of the obvious, I realized I had my punctuation all wrong.  I should have understood my name to mean “WHO is like God? (question mark)”  (The answer being, of course, no one.)

I often laugh at myself for my mistake, but it’s actually a good representation of the changes God has been working in my heart.  During my first years as a Christian, it was still all about me.  I wanted recognition and praise for the changes toward godliness that I was making in my life.  By selectively comparing myself to those around me (at least those against whom I compared well), I thought I was setting new records for spiritual growth.

More recently, however, I’ve become more and more conscious of how little I can actually accomplish in my struggle for sanctification when I try to do it in my own power.  And while I have made significant changes over the years (with His help), I know better today that no one even approaches God in the magnitude of His greatness, His goodness, His mercy, His justice, His patience… or any other category.

So, I’m content for my name to have nothing to do with me at all – to be more a testimony to the incomparable God.  But maybe it can also mean, “Michael, who is a little more like God every day by His grace.”

“He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:30)

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The Bride


She’s far from perfect.  Often, she’s an embarrassment.  She doesn’t always do what she’s supposed to do; She regularly does what she shouldn’t.  She more closely resembles the scary love interest from Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” (see selected lyrics below) than the perfect, unblemished Bride of Christ.

The only logical reason I can think of for Jesus entrusting the Church with His entire plan for reaching the world is 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

When His plan is fulfilled, it will be beyond obvious that we didn’t do it in our own power.  To God be ALL the glory.

The Church is not what she should be, but she is what she is.  She is the Bride.  She represents God’s hands, feet, voice and heart to the world.  She is an imperfect messenger and ambassador for a Holy God, but there is no “Plan B.”  We, as the Church, have complete job security in our role.  God isn’t taking resumes from eager job candidates, wanting to usurp our spot.  He has put all His eggs in our basket, so to speak.

So, instead of getting frustrated with what the Church is doing or not doing in the world, maybe we should try harder to lift her up.  Maybe we should treat her as perfect and unblemished before she actually is.  People (and most likely groups of people) tend to live up to (or down to) our expectations of them.  What if we gave her a high expectation to live up to – the expectation of what God says about her in Scripture:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Our challenge is that we tend to evaluate the Church based on what she DOES rather than on WHO she is.  But which one do you think is more important to God?  …the WHO or the DO?  Maybe if we treated Her more like WHO she is, she would start to act accordingly.

“You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will, but I know I can be a lady to you because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.”  (Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw)

She’s Always a Woman (Billy Joel)

She can kill with a smile
She can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child,
But she’s always a woman to me

She can lead you to love
She can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth
But she’ll never believe
And she’ll take what you give her, as long as it’s free
Yeah, she steals like a thief
But she’s always a woman to me

And she’ll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she’ll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you’re bleedin’
But she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me

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Filed under agape love, christianity, Church, Religion, unconditional love

What a Coup!


I’m staying at The Linden Suites hotel in Manila, Philippines, this week. I’ve stayed here several times before, and it always strikes me as funny that they have the following plaque on the wall by the registration desk.

In case you have trouble reading it, it says,

THE COMMAND POST

at

THE LINDEN SUITES

January 16-20, 2001

The Linden Suites was privileged to have served as the “command post” of the brave men and women who led our people in a quest for truth and justice during the fateful days of January 16-20, 2001.

In the weeks before this historic event and during the days when Filipinos from all walks of life massed at the EDSA Shrine, THE LINDEN SUITES was the place where a broad, popular coalition was encamped to oppose a discredited administration. It was here that strategies were formed, momentous decisions were made, and millions were mobilized.

As media support was withdrawn from the discredited leadership and transfered to the constitutional incumbent, THE LINDEN SUITES hosted the transition leadership for the new government. During those historic days, this was the fulcrum on which power shifted. It was then that a new future became conceivable for the expectant people.

In the afternoon of January 20, immediately after she was elevated into the highest office of the country, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO returned to THE LINDEN SUITES to begin the immense task of rebuilding governance in this country.

THE LINDEN SUITES is proud to have served those who made history.

It commemorates the dates that a coup d’etat was held against the government of then President Joseph Estrada by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then vice-president. (It’s not always referred to as a coup, but that may be because it was well-organized and popular at the time.)

Coups are a fairly common occurrence in The Philippines, and they almost always involve the rebels holing up in some luxury hotel or luxury shopping center. (You’ve got to have the comforts of life during the stressful experience of overthrowing a government, you know.)

The plaque makes me grin whenever I see it, both for its shameless self-promotion and for its dubious value. There was a point in time when it probably brought notoriety to the hotel, but you have to wonder if people still think positive thoughts when they see it. As of July, President Arroyo’s approval rating sank to a new, all-time low (22%), making her “the country’s most unpopular president since democracy was restored in 1986” according to The Associated Press.

But still, she has withstood at least four coup and three impeachment attempts.  Popularity ain’t everything. Maybe the plaque can stay up a little longer.

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Coffee Artists


Thailand is full of coffee artists.  Wherever you go for a cup of Joe, they try to outdo their coffee competitors with creative patterns and swirls of blended foam.  I hate to even stir in a spoonful of sugar for fear of ruining the coffee canvas.  But since it won’t stay hot forever, I choose to capture each creation digitally.

But my absolute favorite of all time is:

How on earth?

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Filed under Culture Shock, funny, humor, Just for fun, Thailand

Bowls for the Giant


Recently seen in Chiang Mai.  We’re not really sure what these are, but our family refers to them as “bowls for the giant.”  We assume that the giant was out of bowls for his Frosted Flakes and needed to restock.  This friendly person offered to take the bowls up the mountain to the place where the giant lives (no one other than this driver knows exactly where for sure.)

And while it looks like no one could see through the bowls to drive, it’s not quite as bad as it seems.

It wasn’t necessary for the driver to see out his back window, because no one is silly enough to follow a man making a delivery to the giant – much less at breakfast time when he hasn’t had his Frosted Flakes.

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Welcome Home


Traveled to the U.S. this week, and when I went through customs in Los Angeles, the officer told me, “Welcome home.”  As soon as he said it, my spirit exhaled.  It was a peculiar feeling – the feeling of release, the feeling of putting down something heavy.  It made me feel light and optimistic and….comfortable.

We’ve been in Thailand for eight months, and the best way I can describe it is that it’s like living outside your comfort zone 24/7.  The people are wonderful and Chiang Mai is probably one of the best and easiest places we could have picked to live, but it’s not home (yet).

Home is the U.S. – Colorado Springs, in particular.  Since I arrived, my friend’s daughter has been singing the song from Sound of Music that extols “a few of (her) favorite things!”  I’ve got lots of those here.  Not raindrops on roses or warm woolen mittens, but cool weather, mountains, friends, my home church,  predictable driving patterns.  It’s a neat place.

It’s hard living “in a country not their own.”  My family is terribly jealous that I’m here while they are not.  I think they would even sit through my ten days of boring meetings in my place just to have a few weeks in Colorado.  So, I feel very thankful (and more than a little guilty) for this opportunity to unshoulder the burden of learning to adapt to a new culture.  But maybe a year from now, when we are all returning to Chiang Mai from our furlough in the U.S., we will all think of Thailand as “home,” and we won’t be so eager to leave it the next time.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, comfort zone, Culture Shock, overcoming obstacles, Thailand