Thursday, 25 December 2008

First Hot Christmas...

Two things I experienced today that have never been part of my Christmas day before:

- The smell of freshly cut grass mingled with sunshine and warmth - a smell you only usually get in a UK spring or summer!

- The problem of my paper crown hat continually blowing off during Christmas dinner as a result of the fan!

Other than that it was pretty similar to being at home, thanks to a lovely British missionary couple who live nearby and welcomed me into their home for the day. Very grateful.

But in general over the last month, being in a new culture for the Christmas period has been wonderfully refreshing. None of that frenzy that is created in western cultures, centred around santa and elves and vague ideas about good will and the potential for human goodness, really exist here.

In Thailand for Buddhists (over 90% of population) Christmas is nothing; and for Christians it is nothing less than an opportunity to explain the real Christmas story to the community.

It is a time to spread the message not of our capacity to bring good will to fellow man, but of God's generosity to us in sending His Son. It is a message not of human goodness but of human depravity and God's goodness in making a way for us to be good as we were meant to be.

Am thankful for the opportunity to experience this afresh in a new place without the familiar added extras.

1.) Lunch with the Trelogans, Carolini and Leeanne!
2.) My first hot Christmas, out in Thap Than, Thai countryside!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

I love this picture...#2

The place: Christmas camp 2008, Christmas Carols workshop.
The action: Students writing a song celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

This is what Christmas is all about.

It's all relative...

This isn't, as you could be forgiven for thinking, a discussion about post-modernism. I do have some opinions on that topic, but right now they are not on my thought-agenda.

No, this is about the weather!!

So, picture the scene: I wake up in the middle of the night in my Thai bed (in Thailand) shivering. I pull the blanket up around me, I put on a hoodie (my old Bristol Uni one...received this weekend in the post from my mum!). Morning comes, I creep down the cold stairs, glad of my warm hoodie, make myself a hot drink, take it back up to my room where I clutch the hot mug as I delve into the day's portion of God's Word. I briefly consider whether or not a cold shower is essential this morning...decide it's not worth the trauma, so dress quickly (jeans and a long sleeved jumper) and go down to grab some breakfast before heading out.

This is where I realised that my temperature was 'all relative'!!

I took two pieces of bread out of the freezer and watched in amazement as both were thoroughly defrosted after less than a minute of exposure to room temperature...! So there I was shivering away in my warm hoodie, and my frozen bread was doing the exact opposite!

The cold season is in full swing here, with the temperature regularly going down to 20 degrees C, and sometimes as low as 17! It feels genuinely cold, but its blatently not!

So there's my thought of the day....admittedly it's not Einstein....

More profound Christmas related thoughts to follow!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

I love this picture... #1

I love this picture. It is full of good memories. Let me recount some of them.

The scene: Alison Williams’ living room.

It reminds me of the time when me and Katie helped Al paint this room. It was fun, meaningful and productive all at once!

It captures Lizzie in the moment of finding something hilarious (a common occurrence!) and reminds me of hours spent in hysterics with these guys.

The pile of Mark's gospels on the table remind me to pray for the students in the UK and the FREE project.

It reminds me of the story of Al’s shirt (the white one she is wearing in this picture) which cracked me up when she first told it and still cracks me up sometimes now:

Al walks into a shop, wearing the white shirt.
Indian Man: That’s a nice dress
Al (thinks): he must be talking to someone else, I’m not wearing a dress.
Al goes to the counter to buy whatever she is buying.
Indian Man: I like your dress
Al (thinks): It’s not a dress, it’s a shirt! Get lost you creepy person!*
Al (says): Thank you.
Al makes a swift exit.

Now whenever I see that shirt I think ‘I like your dress’!!

Unfortunately I never actually see the shirt what with being in Thailand and everything. But that just makes this picture even more special!

*(N.B. Al – sorry if I put words in your mouth/head there, I obviously don’t know what you were thinking re:the Indian Man’s comment, I just used my artistic licence!)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Being real

I like songs that are real. What I actually mean by this is that I like melancholy songs. Now for a melancholy person, listening to melancholy songs can be a bit dangerous. That's why when I found myself making a playlist of songs for my ipod yesterday called 'melancholy' I stopped myself.

I stopped myself because I have to be very careful in this area. The last thing I want to do is yield to becloudedness. But then I thought about the songs that I was selecting for this playlist. Were they really melancholy? Yes, I suppose they were, but the overriding theme in each song was hope in the amazing God who is our creator and sustainer. These kind of songs sneak hope into places where hope has been beclouded, in a way that is unassuming and consistent with reality. They turn our eyes gently upwards to gaze on our Maker, without pretending there are no tears. They tell us the truth about our great God without creating an imaginary world of fluffy, fuzzy perfection. And so I am grateful for such songs.

For that reason I decided not to abandon the playlist. Instead I changed the name to 'songs of beholding'.

Sometimes we need the honesty of these songs.

Sometimes however, we don’t.

Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and stop feeding the parts of ourselves that enjoy the darkness. This might mean listening to upbeat songs like 'Life' by Desiree, which includes lines full of meaning, such as: 'I don't want to see a ghost, it's the sight that I fear most, I'd rather have a piece of toast, watch the evening news.' (Rhyme it sister!!) Or it might involve watching Flight of the Conchords until you feel you might die with laughter (feel free to replace with whatever comic genious you enjoy more).

Sometimes this works.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

So one needs great discernment in knowing what one needs in any given state of melancholy. My resolve is to be careful, and to keep enjoying and appreciating the moments of light-heartedness given to me in this world. To listen to the feel-good songs as well as the thought-provoking ones. To be real, but fun; serious, but spontaneous; sorrowful but overflowing with joy! To love deeply, give freely, breathe in great lungfuls of God's wonderful grace regularly. To lean my full weight upon the one who made me. To keep being honest about what I am feeling and asking Him to protect me from the sin of indulging in despair.