Keeping Your Eyes Open

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Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Ever since that snake incident many years ago, when I was out for a walk outside of my village in Mae Hong Son, I’ve tried to be very aware of my surroundings.  As a deep thinker, I easily get absorbed in my thoughts and I’m not as aware of what’s around me as I should be.  My husband jokes that I am not a keen observer, which I vehemently deny, of course!  But, all joking aside, I have made a point of watching where I’m walking (I can’t tell you how many trails of biting ants have I accidentally walked through!), what may have come up through the drain in the shower in the bathroom (that story’s for another day) and keeping my eyes open for whatever else may be around.

It’s easy to fall into a navel-gazing perspective when you experience hardship, no matter your context.  Whether it’s visa challenges, discoveries of ant nests in your washing machine, interpersonal problems at work or with your neighbours, or sickness in your family – even terminal sickness – there’s value in keeping your eyes open for a shift in perspective.  Is Satan out to discourage you?  Maybe.  Is it your own sin that contributed to the trial?  Possibly.  Is the Lord at work in all circumstances?  Most definitely.

Keeping your eyes open means being aware of what is going on around you physically, but also spiritually.  It means to take notice of circumstances the Lord allows you to experience, and to rely on Him to help you persevere.  It means to trust that there’s a bigger narrative at play than what is simply in front of you.

In 2 Kings 6:8-19, Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded in Dothan by horses, chariots and a great army from Syria.  This took place as a result of the King of Syria having learned that Elisha, the prophet in Israel, was informing the King of Israel of classified intel – “the words that you speak in your bedroom” (verse 12, ESV).

What is significant in this passage is that there are several narratives going on simultaneously.  We read of what is typically seen to man’s eye (the servant’s perspective) but we also get a glimpse of something else.  Someone else’s narrative.  God’s narrative.

Elisha could peer into that narrative and knew God’s army was there to fight for them and protect them (verses 16 and 17).  It wasn’t until Elisha prayed and asked God to show the servant what was really there that the servant could see this spiritual army.  But, it had been there all along.

What narrative am I listening to regularly?  Do I ask God to show me, tell me, reveal to me His narrative?  Do I really and truly believe that there is another narrative?

Keeping my eyes open means to not just be aware of my surroundings – what I may step on or into – but to believe wholeheartedly that the Lord is not only present but that He is defending me in ways that I will never be able to fully comprehend.  It means faith in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of confusion, and joy in the midst of suffering.

What do you need to believe about the Lord’s presence in your life?  Which narrative do you need to put aside so you can take up God’s?

Five Minute Friday (FMF): Surprise

It shouldn’t have been a surprise for me this morning when we all accidentally slept in and grumbleness followed.  My firstborn takes after me – when I’m hungry, I’m grumpy.  It’s the sad tale of the sleep-deprived Mom who would like very much to sleep in but is too hungry to do so.  Not really so sad.

But when my 2 and three quarter year old whined her way through breakfast, I thought to myself, “I really do need to get up earlier each day, even if I am tired.”  Getting food in our bellies sooner and food in our (my) soul in quiet before the house wakes up.

Our family are night owls by nature, but I want to be a morning person.  I feel like it’s a necessity these days.  Wake up with the sun (6:30am) and sit with my coffee and Bible and Saviour.  I need it.  My soul needs it.  It won’t be a surprise to me how much more awake and alive I’ll feel after persevering to make this change in my life.

This sleep-deprived Mom needs it.

[Note: About Five Minute Friday]

a shaking – One Thousand Gifts

It grieved me to hear what she was saying.  After the split of an influential church in Thailand, she was more than disillusioned.  She and her daughter both.

Her adult daughter was the first of the two that I met.  Sometime late last year on a trip to another city.  She’s a friend of a friend.  When the daughter found out that I was a Christian missionary, she immediately told me that she used to be a Christian too.  Her church split.  It was messy.  Incredibly messy.  And she left the church and returned to Buddhism.

She said it so matter-of-factly.  But I wondered where her heart was really at.

The mother moved away to a larger city down in Central Thailand and was warmly welcomed to her new neighbourhood by a loving group of Mormons.  They came to her house and helped her with various things that needed fixing.  They showered her with love and support.  They gave her another book – in addition to the Bible.  The Bible alone wasn’t enough.  They taught her, equipped her, shaped her thinking, hopes, desires, future dreams.

I heard all this in the middle of a street market on Sunday evening.  Crowds streamed like a river around the small cluster that we formed in the middle of the walking street.  Mother and daughter were enjoying a few days together in a city in which neither of them lived anymore.  Introductions were made, jokes were shared, smiles and laughter floated up into the night sky.  And then the daughter told us that her mother was also a Christian.  And so the story unfurled.

Heartbroken I listened.  Desperately wanting to say something, anything to encourage her to return to the one and only Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Grace and nothing else but grace.  Jesus Christ alone.

“Mother,” I said, calling her the polite title in Thai.  “The Bible that you had when you went to church here in Chiang Mai, do you still have it?”

“Yes,” she replied, smiling.  “And the Mormons gave me another book as well.”

“I think the one that you used when you lived here is better.  You only need that one.”  My words fell flat.

“Oh the Mormons use both.”  And still she smiled at me.  Polite.  Polite as ever.

It was time to start heading home and we all began walking in the same direction.  I told the mother that I would pray for her.  She, in her friendly way, put her arm around my waist and I put mine around her shoulders and we walked and talked some more.

I reminded her of the words in the Bible that say not to add or take way from the words that are written there.

“If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

“Yes!” she answered enthusiastically.

“And,” I said, “thank God for the truth that Jesus spoke.  His words are true.”

“Yes, thank God for that Jesus’ words are true.”

I knew her thoughts hadn’t changed by what I’d said but I hoped and still hope and pray that at least she would think about what we had talked about.

By this time, we had to part ways and as we hugged I told her again that I’d pray for her.  Her daughter hugged me as well.

Dear Dear and I talked about what had just happened and commented in how it had seemed that the daughter, our friend, had purposely revealed to us her Mother’s new found faith in Mormonism, as if she too was concerned for her mom but didn’t know how to address it.  We talked about how it was the beginning of a relationship with her mom and a continuation of one with her daughter and how we can build on what we shared tonight.  We talked about how quickly the mother taken to me.  Even in the silence that then followed we talked; our silence communicating the depth of the sadness over what we had heard.

Days later the silence is with me in my truck.  At work.  In my home as I cook dinner.

And I pray.  For the mother to return to the only true Gospel.  For more opportunities to build on these relationships.  For the daughter, our friend, to return to following the Lord Jesus Christ with all of her heart, soul and mind.

For others who were so deeply affected by a church split that shook the lives of Thai across many areas of at least Northern Thailand.

For me to grow in loving others better – believers and non-believers alike.  For the body of Christ to step out of our comfort zones, out of our routines, to risk getting messy by being involved in loving ways in other people’s lives.

And my list continues…
10. Bundling up in cosiness sent from Canada with love.
11. Unexpectedly cool weather in hot season.
12. Rain washing all things new.
13. Cats who cuddle up on laps.
14. New-found coffee shops with close close friends.
15. Finding new corners that produce great productivity.
16. Hot Earl Grey Tea on cold days.
17. Cold, iced Earl Grey Tea on hot days.
18. Dry weather for getting laundry done after days and days and days of non-stop rain.
19. Last minute get-togethers with fun friends.

And now for some of those ugly things that turn beautiful…
20. Things that shake us and spur us on to know Him deeper and share Him more broadly and boldly.
21. New awakenings.
22. Opportunities just waiting for redemption.
23. Stories that aren’t yet finished.
24. Transformation in process.
25. The smoothing out of the rough bits in one’s life.
26. Diamonds on the verge of being formed through high-pressure, high-temperature conditions.
27. Waiting and relying on Him to move because that’s the only way forward.

“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”  Ephesians 3: 20, 21

28. His love.
29. His power.
30. His thoughts and imagination.
31. The Word of God.
32. The Gospel of grace.
33. Grace.
34. Forgiveness.
35. Hope.

Kindle version of ESV Bible

Did you know that even if you don’t own a Kindle you can still get an application for your computer (or some other electronic devices) that allows you to read Kindle versions of books?

I was at a conference in mid-February in which we learned to teach the Bible through stories and saw one guy with his Kindle reading the Bible out loud to himself (as we were supposed to do for part of the preparation of this particular method of teaching the.  As I was blessed with some birthday money last year and used it to buy myself a Kindle, I always find it intriguing to see other Kindle users here in Thailand.  He, too, was a foreigner but had some good tips for me about downloading free books from Amazon (some of which I already knew about and had downloaded/added to my Kindle). 

One question I had for him was, “Which Kindlized translation of the Bible did he use?”  The one version I had bought (NRSV) is VERY difficult to navigate (go to table of contents, then find the book you want, then once you get to the book you have to keep clicking ‘next page’ until you get to where you want to be – not exactly convenient).  He was using the Kindlized ESV translation which was somewhat easier to navigate (this is something that Bible publishers should really work on for the Kindle).  He also told me that it was free on Amazon right now. 

Sure enough I went, saw, clicked and it went effortlessly to my Kindle – all for free. 

So, going back to what I mentioned earlier, even if you don’t have a Kindle, go to Amazon’s website, download the application for whatever device you want to use it on, make sure you have an account at Amazon and search for the ESV Kindle Bible (make sure the Kindle price still says $0.00 before you click to ‘purchase’ it!) and other free materials. 

Or, go find your Bible and enjoy turning real pages and navigating freely.