Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Hymn

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becomes poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.

- Frank Houghton (1894-1972)

Monday, 30 November 2009

OCD??

Notice anything about the picture below?


This is what I found myself doing the other day - co-ordinating the coat-hangers with the colour of the shirts!!
Oh dear!!!!
Still...you have to admit it's pretty...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Trinity and Ultimate Harmony [And what's 'diapason'??]

'From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began:  
From harmony to harmony 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 
The diapason closing full in Man.'


- John Dryden (1687), put to music in Handel's Ode to St. Celia's Day.

So, I have been listening to Handel. For this I completely 100% blame Mike Reeves.  If you are not familiar with this fellow, check out some of his stuff on the Theology Network website.

I have been listening to his series of talks on the Trinity this week - the best food my mind and soul have had for a long long while. It was like the theological equivalent of having a good beef roast dinner, (with yorkshire puddings, crispy roast potatoes and all the kinds of veg you can imagine!), followed by some kind of chocolate gateaux. Bearing in mind I am in the land of rice meals 3 times a day, imagine how EXTRA special [theologically!] this means!! Please immediately download these talks from the Theology Network site, you won't be disappointed.

Anyway, there were many, many applications and observations that he brought out from the fact that we have a Triune God, not least the fact that we are made to be in community (and thus helping me to see difficult interactions I have had to have with people this week as an opportunity to celebrate the Trinity!). There's lots I am still processing and thinking through, but the subject of this post is something Mike said almost as an aside at the end of the 3rd talk, about the Trinity giving us the pattern for harmony.
'If there's only one ultimate reality there's no conception of ultimate harmony and so harmony isn't an intrinsically good thing, and therefore you don't have it!' he says. Trinitarian Christianity on the other hand, he points out, has always had a 'love affair' with music.

It was to highlight and celebrate this that Mike played a clip of Handel's 'Ode to St. Cecilia's Day' in his talk!
[I had to look up the word 'diapason' though as that one was not in my vocabulary! Here is what I found:]

di⋅a⋅pa⋅son /ˌdaɪəˈpeɪzən, -sən/ Show Spelled Pronun[dahy-uh-pey-zuhn]:
 noun, Music. a full, rich outpouring of melodious sound

Isn't that wonderful!? The words drip Trinitarian theology, such as was recovered in the reformation; the theology which would be the fuel for the fires of such joyful, harmonious musical expression as Handel brought to them. Harmony of three persons, spilling over into words and music.

In contrast to this, the music scratched out on the dry, dusty parchments of the pre-reformation era, were as monotone as the remote, philosophical monadic divine-entity that their thinking venerated. When you replace the true, Trinitarian God of the Bible with this empty, vague concept of God being some sort of a 'divine essence', it is not surprising that music loses its harmony. To give us an idea of the kind of music he was referring to, Mike challenged us to put on a Gregorian chant....and dance to it!!

Lets read John Dryden's words again, and taste their Trinitarian flavour!

'From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began:  
From harmony to harmony 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.'



'We worship a God who is a harmony of three persons' - Mike Reeves

And so it is that I bought my first ever piece of classical music - in celebration of Trinitarian harmony!


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #6 [Toilets]

Anyone who’s known me for a while might know of my slightly odd fascination with toilets. You may or may not know that I have a folder of photos on my computer (and indeed facebook) entitled ‘toilets’, mainly collected during my time doing Relay in Cardiff. Each one has a story!

Well, it turns out that Thailand also has toilets, with some added fun extra bits! So I thought I would tell you about them!

First there is the implement called the ‘bum-spray’. Traditionally Thai people use this to wash themselves after using the toilet and then use toilet paper to dry themselves. The toilet paper then goes in the bin, not the toilet, to avoid blockage. This routine is an all round much more hygienic option! (Note: the toilet paper can also be missed out all together – a wetter, but quicker option!)
Here is a picture of my very own ‘bum-spray’ in my bathroom:

Now, I decided a long time ago to full on go for the bum-spray option, leaving the days of toilet paper behind. I was happy with this arrangement until the day I broke my first bum-spray. In the year I have lived in this house I have broken 2 bum-sprays and the one in the picture is on its way out after I dropped it on the floor recently. It now drips continually. After so many breakage incidents I have learned to keep a spare one, that’s what this is, soon to be ‘bum-spray the 4th’! (Note how they call it a 'hand-spray' - this is more polite, but less accurate than my name for it!)

Actually, my kind housemate, knowing my tendency to break bum-sprays, bought me this one as a gift before going away, incase it exploded when she was away.

In my defence, they are easy to break. The way they work is this: there is always water being pumped into them through the pipe. When you press the handle the water is released as a jet. So if the plastic wears out or breaks then water basically explodes out of it everywhere and the whole thing needs to be replaced! Quite dramatic!

The second cool toilet related thing I want to share is this special happy toilet powder:

Unfortunately, despite my best attempts to avoid blockages by not using toilet paper, my toilet blocked the other day. No other toilet in the building blocked (we have 7!). So I figured the problem was my toilet and tried the special powder.

Despite its cool (and very cute) pictures of before and after toilets, it didn’t work. I will spare you from the details of how this meant I ended up having to put my hand into the toilet. Which turned out to be the start of a pattern – since I had to reach in there again yesterday to rescue my phone.

Anyway, the toilet problem was solved by getting some men to come and empty our sceptic tank, which was apparently full. This was not nearly as exciting or gross as I was expecting, so I will spare you the photos!

Incidentally, it is possible to have a theology of toilet use. Mike Reeves talks about how flushing things away can be a cause to celebrate God’s victory over false gods! ‘Shout a little Halleluiah on the loo!’ He exhorts.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Life to a sound-track

Sometimes I live my life to a soundtrack. Perhaps just for a few brief moments or minutes, but it feels like longer. In those moments I see things through the lens of a camera, and yet they somehow seem more real, more alive than ever. Reel after reel of moving pictures. I get on the bus. I take a seat. I glance around. Take everything in. My eyes are camera lenses. My ears are headphones. Words and melodies filling my head so that I feel like everything is swimming in the music. And then I am part of the film reel, swept along in the meaning and mystery as it unravels to a soundtrack. The music drives the reel, spilling its rich, honest light over the scene, showing up every detail. It’s not true of course that everything has more meaning in those moments; it’s just that I feel it more keenly. I see things. I look for things, my eyes peeled for every flicker.

The way the evening light rests on a face opposite me, highlighting regrets and lost thoughts, a clenched jaw; the way the old man drops a handful of coins on the floor and stoops jerkily to pick them up, the flicker of gratitude in his eyes mixed with sadness as a small girl swoops to help him – sadness, perhaps, because his movements are slower than what they once were, a sadness that she, in her youth, doesn’t pick up on as they meet eyes; The way the young couple next to me seem to be putting on a new layer of chain-mail with each exchange, eyes glazed and steely towards one another, talking but not really talking; My hand, poised to pull the cord and sound the buzzer when the time is right, watching as the familiar scenery tumbles away behind us in a blur of faded colours and golden light; The way that my own body moves through the evening air as if through water as I step down from the bus, which is still coming to a stop, hand gripping the rails, but with the confidence of familiarity; The glint of sun on metal as money slides into the dark, calloused hand of the driver.

All these things, every little flicker of light, of expression, every breath, ache and movement, every detail comes alive, moving to the music in my ears. Pointing me to the bigger reality, the heartbeat of the details. The rhythm we are out of sync with so often. The need for Jesus in every detail. The Jesus through whom every detail was made. The Jesus through whom every detail finds its meaning.

The sharpness of the details in those moments cuts through the dull ache of the emptiness, the rejection of Him all around, and screams fuzzy memory into sharp focus; the Jesus we forget in the details.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Christ, Culture and Contentment

Nearly 6 months ago now I wrote a blog entry called Culture and Conviction. You can read it here. As my thoughts have developed slightly since that time I decided to write a culture and conviction part 2 entry, only with a different name. This is it. Actually, I haven’t learned anything new since then, only the same thing more profoundly.

The battle is hotter than ever. Perhaps you would expect me to say that an extra 6 months would have made things easier, perhaps I can speak a bit more Thai, communicate more easily and understand what’s going on around me a lot more. I actually think the opposite is true. The more I learn about this culture, the less I understand, the more uncomfortable I feel, and the more I want out. I am sure this is normal, it must get worse before it gets better, but I am convinced that the idea of ‘just be patient, it will pass’ is a cop out solution to this problem, as is the, ‘just learn to like Thai culture’ approach. So if I don’t fight these battles properly and honestly now, I will have exactly the same problems when I go back to the UK, and for the rest of my life. I must fight to value Christ more than culture. I must fight to be content in Him now, or I will never be content, in any culture.

I suppose if my theology was a bit different I could just say ‘clearly Thailand is not for me, I will go home now and do something that fits my personality more’. But it doesn’t work like that. I will go home eventually of course, and maybe I will end up doing something that fits with me better for a while, and maybe I will come back to Thailand one day, or maybe I won’t. I don’t know. All I know is that right now I am here, in Thailand. And so I am called to fight the battle to be content in Jesus in Thailand this day.

Since I wrote previously, some things have changed. I rarely miss cold weather and duvets for one thing, and the battle is less about wanting to go home. On a purely functional level I feel sufficiently enough like Thailand is home now that I am not missing things from the UK all that much. What I miss is relationships. Being able to talk to people. Being able to know how to move a conversation from the superficial to the deep. Being able to know how to read people and situations. Being able to say what I want to say and what I need to say in order to not seem disinterested, odd, impolite. Being able to make friends easily. Being able to study the Bible in depth with people. Being able… just being able. In a way it feels a bit like what it must feel to have a disability. I feel weak and lame, I feel blind and deaf and dumb. A verbal cripple. But there is great joy in that. I think of all those in the gospels who were outcasts in this way – they knew they needed one thing. Jesus. And they went to Him unashamed.

The other thing that has changed is that the stakes are higher. Much more is expected of me. Deeper levels of interaction with people and culture are required, and the deeper the interaction, the deeper the wounds I have received as parts of my sinful self have come up against certain parts of Thai culture. And as I’ve grappled with these things before God I have realised that bitterness in this is lethal. Bitterness, [also known as ‘I’ve-Had-a-Rough-Deal-and-Everything-That-Happens-To-Me-is-Rubbish-Syndrome’], must be killed or it will kill us. As I take these things to Jesus, I am finding that His comfort is more than sufficient to take away the sting of bitterness, while not necessarily removing the hurt.

And so I choose to be content in Christ, and I will not be disappointed. Content with His comfort. Content that He understands me. Content that my identity is in Him. Content that He uses even the painful things that happen so that I’m better off than if they had never happened (Romans 8:28 - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”).

Finally, be blessed by watching this interview with my newest friend, Philippa Wilson, who is a Brit working with students in France. Especially watch out for the words quoted under the video – almost exactly what I have also been thinking and learning recently, but put much better than I could express it!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I have a problem...

Notebooks.

I just can't get enough of them.

Let me give you some statistics. These are the notebooks I have that I can say with all honesty are in current use (simultaneously for several different purposes):



That is 16.

Then there's all my 'retired notebooks', ones which are either genuinely full or have served their purpose. That's another 7. On the opposite end of the scale are notebooks waiting to be used (i.e. waiting to become my new journal or something!) I currently have 4.

Total: 27 notebooks. (not counting notebooks I have in my possession that are waiting to become a gift for somebody else!)

I am just obsessed...it was bad when I lived in the UK, but now that I live in Thailand, surrounded by a plethora of hilarious and cheap notebooks, it is much worse! Here are 2 I bought today which i think may be some of my favourite yet in terms of hilarity! Others may feature at a later date.





Sometimes I want to write something down, but then get so stressed at having to decide which notebook it should go in, that I decide not to write it down at all. That is why I usually try make sure one of my notebooks is a 'general notebook', for the purposes of writing down miscellaneous items. Other times I have dilemmas trying to decide what kind of use a given notebook should be put to!

Oh the cost of notebook love!!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Walking in the rain

Something amazing happened today...it drizzled...ALL DAY!!!

When I woke up and looked out the window at the grey, drizzly sky, opened the door of my balcony and breathed cool air, it felt like a welsh morning!

The reason this is amazing is that it I have never experienced it before here. Usually, if it rains it rains HARD! Like so hard that if you step outside for a moment to close your windows you get soaked through to the skin.

So drizzle was nice...it was familiar!

In celebration of this weather being so much like home (a chilly 26 degrees C!) I decided to go for a walk in the rain! I was very excited about this and even put on my rain coat (I got a bit hot...but it was worth it!)

I looked like a complete loony for 3 main reasons.

In general...
1) Thai people not walk anywhere.
2) Thai people do not go out if it is raining.
3) Thai people do not wear coats.

But I was thankful for my little rain walk and rejoiced!

7/11 dinners

Some days I don't feel like eating rice for dinner. Some days I don't feel like eating with other people and making conversation in Thai. And those days are called '7/11 dinner days'. This is a typical 7/11 dinner, (all items purchased from 7/11 except for some fruit from the fruit stall outside the Youth House to make it seem slightly healthier!):



Lays Crisps (this is a slightly larger bag than I would typically buy) - 20 baht
Chocolate Milk - 9.75 baht
Biscuits - 12 baht
Water melon - 10 baht
Sausage and Cheese toastie - 22 baht
TOTAL: 73.75 baht

This is about twice what it would cost for a rice meal across the road followed by fruit from the fruit stall, so I try not to do it too often. Interestingly though, it also around 3 times less than what it would cost to buy a sandwich in the UK.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #6 [Cinema]



The first time I went to the cinema in Thailand, I was just trying to get comfy, trying to sit in the position that would bring me the most warmth (the Thai cinema is also known as 'the fridge'), and preparing myself for 2+ hours of a Thai dubbed X-men film, when suddenly the screen went yellow and everyone stood up! I dutifully stood up also, and soon realised that what was playing on the screen was the King's anthem, with pictures and video clip tributes to the king! The video features people in different eras, social classes, settings and situations, all looking to the picture of the King for strength. As soon as the anthem finishes everybody sits down. This happens before the showing of every film in a cinema in Thailand. The song is very beautiful and I now look forward to hearing it when I go to the cinema!! But I now know not to get comfortable until AFTER the King's anthem has played!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Balcony

It's too hot to linger there for most of the day. But in the hours that frame the day, as the sun starts her slow but sure climb onto the main-stage, and then again when the performance is over, and, all sung-out, she slips quickly and quietly back-stage, that's when I step outside and watch, listen, read and whisper small, broken words of response.

Tonight: Ecclesiastes. Ears drink in audio, while eyes follow text, breathing ink.


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Weak and glad!!!!

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."
1 Corinthians 2:1-5


Being bad at the language you have to use all the time has one advantage - it's not so easy to get proud! When I try to explain things clumsily in Thai, full of mistakes, full of fear and lacking any kind of eloquence it's like there is a big flashing sign on my head saying 'WEAK'.

This can be uncomfortable.

But, today it hit me - if I am weak there is much joy and freedom to be had!!

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:7-10


Wow!!! Do I delight in weakness? Only if I have the right perspective - that it is Jesus who is the focus, not me! If I really want people to see that it is God who has the power then I need to be willing to be weak, and not only willing, but JOYFUL, joyful that God will get the glory. So while I do hope that my Thai skills will improve and I will be able to explain things properly one day, I rejoice that my weakness in this area at the moment enables me to remember that it is Jesus who is strong, not me!

So I hope the big flashing sign on my head doesn't just say WEAK, but:

'WEAK AND GLAD'

May God be glorified in all my weakness.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Storm (pictures and words)

Last night we had a storm. It started around 7pm. The Youth House was full of people as usual. The wind and rain were so strong that power cables blew down in front of the Youth House (with a big bang and impressive explosive power!).
Plunged into darkness. Scrambling around looking for candles. P’Daaw was away, but, organised as ever, was able to tell us quickly where we could find the candles. We all felt very small huddled around candles in the Youth House with the storm raging outside and no electricity inside or out. Panicked people were all around. But if you were there you would have found it hard to forget that God was bigger than the storm, bigger than our fears. All night songs rang out from the Youth House, of God’s love, of His power, of thankfulness to Him, of His wonderful mercy that falls on us like rain. I am grateful to Best, who didn’t put that guitar down for hours, who kept playing, kept singing, even though all was chaos around.

And I am thankful that we worship a God who is bigger than storms and power-cuts and panicked students. I am grateful too for the opportunity I had to sit and read God’s word with a student for most of the evening, songs of praise to God ringing in our ears, reading by candlelight, in 3 different languages, she in Chinese, me in English and both of us in Thai, using Thai to discuss what we understood. God’s Word: a rock in a world of flux.

Last night was an unexpected but truly amazing evening.

I felt like I caught a glimpse last night of what it means for us to be a light to those around us. May the Youth House truly be a light in this dark neighbourhood.






On a more humourous note, one of the highlights of the evening for me was when the storm had passed over but the electricity was still out, and Best decided to go and make a cup of tea.
Best: (merrily filling the kettle)
AJ: Best, how are you going to use that?
Best: huh?
AJ: how do you think you are going to make tea using that!?
Best: (looks blank)
AJ: We have no electricity!!
Best: D'oh!!

Here is how he ended up making the tea (note the ladle!! I love the ladle!!):

Monday, 17 August 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #5 [Sweet or Savoury?]



These tiny biscuits that you get with a cup of tea or coffee in most coffee shops in Thailand are a perfect example of the great 'sweet or savoury paradox'. This is a sensation one often gets in Thailand after eating any given food. At first you ask yourself every time - is this sweet? Or is it savoury??

And eventually you stop asking yourself that question because it happens every day. It took me ages to work it out with these coffee-biscuits...but now I have just accepted it. They are both sweet and savoury at the same time.

It sort of reminds me a little bit of the whole 'God's sovereignty and our free will' paradox...but slightly different...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Only in Thailand...

...is somebody more shocked that 'Banana' is a girl's name, than that it is a name at all!!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

What am I beholding?



I was pleased to get this shot of young novice monks gazing out the window of the observatory tower, their eyes falling upon the local temple, in all its glittery array. I just wished I had my proper camera with me instead of just my phone, to get a better picture, I was only thinking about what would make a good photo...a snapshot of Thai life.

But looking at it again now it drives my thoughts deeper than artistic questions of lighting and composition. I am forced to challenge myself about what I am gazing on. This is something I seem to have to go back to over and over again.

When I start to gaze on the glittery man-made things in this life, or the black clouds that gather, or my fragile, broken self, instead of lifting my eyes up to the all glorious, majestic, wonderful, mighty God, I am no different to those novice-monks in the picture - looking to things that have no power to save. And I know when I have slipped into that pattern because the joy goes. I eat and am not satisfied, I drink and am still thirsty. I choose to drink from broken cisterns instead of the living water from God that wells up to eternal life. My eyes become glazed and I sit in darkness, drowsy and empty. I talk often about the battle to 'behold the light'. Jesus is THE Light. If I am not looking at Him where am I looking?

May I have ever increasing desire, discipline, conviction and capacity to behold the Almighty LORD of the heavens and the earth. Over all rulers and powers and authorities. May I keep doing so until that day when with the multitude, I will fall before His throne and cry:

"Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" - Revelation 7:12

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #4 [Milk and Oil - unrelated to each other!]

Something which I am thankful for is that these days you can buy 'real' milk for your tea in Thailand. Something which makes me smile every time I buy it in 7/11 is that they give you a straw with your milk! Clearly adding milk to tea hasn't made it into Thai culture.


On a different note, this is the oil aisle in Big C:


Slightly more oil than you would find in an average Tesco in the UK!!

So many different types!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #3 [Song Thaews - part 2]!!

So, I already wrote about my favourite form of transport - the Song Thaew here.

I think song thaew drivers like to try and personalise their vehicles - hence I have recently seen some interesting 'buzzer pulling things' (things that you pull to sound a buzzer and indicate you want to get off!)


Monkey!


Knitted smiley people!


Knitted smiley people with monks!

Something else interesting about Song Thaews is that if you're a student or a school kid the price is cheaper...but only if you look neat enough! If you look too scuffy you have to pay 10 baht like the grown ups!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Brown...the new black?

So, a friend said to me the other day:

'I have noticed you like to wear a lot of dark colours'

Today I realised what she meant!

I just finished ironing and folding clothes and was starting think about packing to go away on a conference tomorrow when I noticed a distinct theme in my clothing...it is mostly brown! I will have to think carefully about the clothes I take away...if I get the balance slightly wrong I may end up wearing brown trousers and a brown t-shirt on the same day!



And to think that when I was a child brown was my most hated colour and the colour I was certain I would NEVER wear! So fickle...

Still...think I should probably get some new clothes!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Tell me a story...

Tomorrow I have a language check. This is a bit like a test, but less formal. They are just to check how well we have learned modules of language study. Tomorrow’s check is on stories about Jesus in simple Thai. I have enjoyed this module, partly because I got to practice my reading and writing, but mostly because I got to think about Jesus. I have to pick a few stories to tell in the check, out of the 29 that I have read. I have chosen 3, which I hope will be enough.

Here are the stories I have chosen to tell in Thai tomorrow and why:

Jesus Calms a Storm:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"
Matthew 8:23-27


This is my all time favourite account found in the gospels. It is such a powerful reminder of Jesus’ power over everything – even the wind and waves obey Him! Just now I was listening to a song on the new kids’ album (To be like Jesus) by Sovereign Grace Music called ‘Peace’. And these lines stood out:

“If you can calm the sea, then you can comfort me,
If winds obey your voice, why should I fear their noise?”

If God is in control over even the weather, how much more can I trust Him with my life?


Jesus Changes Water into Wine:


On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
John 2:1-11


I chose this one because the thing I had never seen in this story until recently. Courtesy of one of John Piper’s Taste and See articles that appeared in my inbox, this account of Jesus’ first miracle has changed in my mind from being a ‘bit odd’ to being ‘amazing’! (As always when I think something in the Bible is a ‘bit odd’, the fault lay with me and not the Bible!) My thoughts before went as follows: ‘I get that Jesus was showing His glory, but why wine? Why did he turn the water to wine!? What was the use?’

Verse 6 holds the clue: ‘Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.’

So imagine the scene. The big pots are full of the water that Jews use to get ‘ceremonially clean’, to be fit to worship, to be clean in God’s eyes. And what does Jesus do? He only goes and breaks all the rules and does something totally shocking…instead of using the water to ‘get clean’ he orders the servants to serve it up as a drink for the host of the wedding!! But then catch is this…even before the servants get their pitchers in the jars, Jesus has changed that water into wine. Wine…the stuff that He later uses as a symbol of His blood shed for us, ushering in the new covenant.

This ‘strange’ miracle is making an important point. There’s only one way to get clean…really clean…clean on the inside. There’s only one way to approach God with a clean and pure heart. The blood of Jesus. The provision of God. The miracle of all miracles. Blood that makes us white as snow.

‘What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.’


The other story I have chosen to tell is the Lost Sheep. But I have no profound thoughts to share...I chose it because it was short…!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #3 [Song Thaews]




This is my favourite form of transport in Thailand. It is called a 'song thaew' and is very simple and easy to use! You simply hop on the back, press a buzzer when you want to get off, and then jump off and pay the driver! Different colours go to different places.

Song Thaew drivers are very observant. The vehicles that go up and down the main road that the university is on will slow down as they pass the entrances to smaller roads that come off it, looking for potential passengers. So you may still be 10 metres away from the main road, but if you give them the nod, or even just look like you might want to get on, they will wait for you!

3 cheers for song thaews!!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #2 [Packaging]




This is what happens when you open a packet of crisps in Thailand.

Why?

Because packaging in Thailand is designed to be extremely difficult to open. It occurred to me today that this could be to ensure the non-entrance of ants? The problem is it very nearly keeps me out too!!

Other packaging I have found difficult to open include: bread, plastic bottles, ironing board, cuppa soup...

[Disclaimer: This is not a criticism against Thai culture, though on bad days I have been known to let it bug me! But if I am completely honest, I tend to have problems getting into packing the world over...does anybody else have this problem?]

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #1 [Bread]



Despite bread not being a particularly Thai thing, there are many different types of bread in Thailand.

I have sampled most of the breads available in 7/11 and the one pictured above is the only one I have found that:

a) is not sweet
b) does not contain meat that looks like hair
c) is not sweet AND containing meat that looks like hair

Monday, 11 May 2009

They've arrived!!!!!

The John's gospels in Thai and English for our FREE project here in Central Thailand have arrived!!!! So excited!

So you can get an idea, here's what they look like!!!






And here is an excerpt:

“และท่านทั้งหลายจะรู้จักความจริง และความจริงนั้นจะทำให้ท่านทั้งหลายเป็นไทย”
- ยอห์น 8:32

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”
- John 8:32

For those of you who are the praying type – please pray that the 2000 copies of these FREE gospels currently sitting downstairs in the Youth House would not stay there! Pray that they would get into the hands of Thai students and that their Christian friends would be willing to sit down and read it with them and talk to them about the main guy – Jesus! Most of all pray that GOD would be at work in Thai people's lives showing them the TRUTH that will set them free.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Culture and Conviction

'Culture disorientation' has caused me to ask some searching questions over the last few months. The struggle of living in a culture that is so different to what I'm used to, and at times longing for home. I have grappled with how to deal with these feelings. How should I feel? Why do I feel like I feel? Where should I send my thoughts when I am feeling like this?

It's been a much needed wake-up call because it has made me question some of the foundations my life is built on. When I long to be in the UK simply because it is easier to live in a culture I am familiar with, I know that I am starting to treasure comfort over Christ. This is the first warning sign.

And when I think about the future and ask myself - where would I like to live? What would I like to do? I betray the fact that I value culture over conviction.

What I mean by this is that I judge my contentment and my ability to work with certain people by how well I can understand their culture and feel at ease in it. If I don't feel at ease I see this as something that needs to be overcome. I feel that I need to in some way love the culture I am in, in order to minister to the people. Now of course seeing positives in any culture I find myself in is a good thing, and no doubt helpful!

But what I have been realising, as I've struggled with this culture and as my heart has been torn between wanting to be at home and knowing that if I was at home I would want to be here (!!!), is that I am not about culture. We are not called to love a culture, but to love God, to love the gospel, and to love people. I don't want any of my life choices to be built on vague ideas like 'i like those kinds of people...I'll work with them'; 'I like that place...I'll work there'; 'I fit in well in that culture...I'll go there'. I want my choices to stem from deep convictions about who God is, who we are in light of who God is, and the unchanging truths of the Bible, of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may end up falling in love with the culture/country we work in along the way, but that is not to be what drives us.

When my eyes turn to earthly comforts, and I feel like I would be happier if only I was with people that understood me, or in a country where I could wear jumpers and coats and have a big thick duvet at night and have a hot bath, where I could understand what was going on in church and where I wouldn't offend people all the time accidentally on account of not knowing the cultural cues...

...that's when I know that my convictions are built on culture and comfort instead of on Christ.

So where should I send my thoughts when I am longing for home? Lingering on thoughts of earthly comforts certainly do not satisfy! Instead I should send my thoughts to God, the God of all comforts, to my Saviour, to the cross and resurrection of Jesus, where my eternal salvation was bought and secured. To my home in heaven which is where my only lasting possessions are, which anyway is my only REAL home.

My prayer is that God would use all these experiences to build deep conviction in me. Praise Him for already starting this process, I know He will finish it.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.


- Edward Mote 1834

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." - Philippians 3:18-21

Thursday, 30 April 2009

My first Thai song! (sort of)

I wrote the following song, for immediate translation (by my friend Nam), as the official 'Camp Song', on the theme of the camp, for our time up in the mountains last week. Though I wrote it in English, it has only ever been sung in Thai. It was so wonderful to hear the kids singing it in their beautiful voices, and a definite highlight for me was hearing kids outside practicing the song one night while I was cleaning my teeth. I pray that the truths in it might sink deep and God would use them to lead children to know Him.

You Are Special
คุณเป็นคนพิเศษ (นะ)

Chorus:
You are special because God made you and God loves you
คุณรู้ไหมว่าคุณเป็นคนพิเศษ เพราะว่าพระเจ้าสร้างคุณ และเพราะพระองค์รักคุณ
It doesn't matter what people say, or what people think
ไม่ต้องสนใจว่าใครจะพูดอย่างไร หรือว่าจะคิดอย่างไร
You are special to God
เพราะว่าคุณเป็นคนพิเศษของพระองค์

Verse 1:
You might ask me how I can be so sure
คุณอาจจะถาม แล้วฉันจะแน่ใจได้อย่างไร
I'll show you God's son Jesus, who died for us
ฉันบอกให้รู้เพราะพระเยซูทรงตายเพื่อเรา

(Chorus)

Verse 2:
Even thought we don't deserve His love
ถึงแม้ว่าเราไม่สมควรจะรับรักของพระองค์
We can be God's friends through Jesus' death on a cross
แต่เรายังสามารถที่จะเป็นเพื่อนกับพระเยซู

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Mae Jan, April 21-25: Kids Camps with Karen Tribe Children [In Words!]

After 10 hours of travelling, and 1,219 bends in the mountain road (so I’m told...before you ask, I didn't count them!), fellow missionary Julia Birkett and I, a Thai student worker, and a mixture of 4 Thai students and recent graduates, arrived in the Karen village of Mae Jan, which is right on the border with Burma.

For the next 3 days we ran a camp for 90 kids, all of whom are supported by the organisation Compassion, with the theme ‘You are Special’. With a mixture of games, crafts, drama, songs, testimonies, (and at one point a full scale waterfight!) we sought to communicate the message that the only opinion of us that matters is God’s.

It was amazing to be in the mountains in N. West Thailand. I loved sleeping on the floor under a mosquito net in a wooden hut and sitting on the porch in the evenings reading by candlelight. I loved hearing 90 kids singing about Jesus in Thai as well as their own tribal language, with the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. I loved eating rice for breakfast. I loved seeing the most majestic and beautiful scenery I have ever seen on the way home. I loved seeing students have their first taste of cross-cultural mission (even if it was in their own country!) And most of all I loved getting a glimpse of how God is working in people’s lives – ushering some into the first steps of following Jesus, and others into deeper, darker waters; yet with the promise to be the guide and light for all who keep walking with Him.

It was a brief, but incredibly encouraging experience. Praise God!

Mae Jan, April 21-25: Kids Camps with Karen Tribe Children [In Pictures!]





Friday, 3 April 2009

Peace!?

" 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.

" 'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, "Where is the whitewash you covered it with?"

" 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the LORD. So I will spend my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, "The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign LORD." '

Ezekiel 13:8-16

Written so long ago, but oh how relevant for today. How familiar are those comforting but ultimately false words: 'peace, peace', when there is no peace. Because when we reduce the gospel to a simple 'God loves you', that is in effect what we are saying. We're saying 'sin isn't a problem, you don't really need to change anything to be made right with God, his love covers everything and you're ok as you are. You just need to believe you have peace with God already and then you will have it'.

This belittles both God and people. It belittles God because it does not do justice to the true Holy love of God that demands justice but makes our rescue possible by punishing sin in Jesus on the cross. And it belittles people because it is false hope. It isn’t even good news; it just lures people into a trap. It is exactly like building that flimsy wall described in Ezekiel above, and whitewashing it over, hoping no-one will see the holes. But it will not stand. It may fool people for a while but on the day of the Lord it will NOT STAND.

Not to go into too many details, or go off on a rant (which isn't really my thing) I believe this false 'peace, peace' theology is ultimately the message of the book The Shack, and I am very concerned about this, especially because of the way it has been embraced by many people.
"...they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace." Declaring peace when there is no peace is not good news. It is a death trap.

So if we're not to preach false peace, what are we to preach? What is the good news?

“We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

The good news is that although we are separated from God because of our sin, we can be reconciled to Him, because Jesus became sin instead of us, bearing the wrath we deserve and crediting God’s righteousness to us instead. It is with urgency that we must make this appeal to be reconciled to God, not simply announcing that everyone is already reconciled. If we announce such a message I believe we are just like those false prophets in Ezekiel 13.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Words

No words today...

Hiding, scattered all over the place.

Oh the words are there...they just don't want to co-operate right now.

If they did get their act together they'd probably want to share about the current experience of passing in and out of murky dusk and hazy sunrise, and the thoughts and feelings familiar with each state.

But I know what they're like, my words.

They've got an unhealthy pre-occupation with Alison Joy Young.

Even if they did get their act together and say something, they'd probably want to talk about me and not at all about the source of the light gleaned in either the dusk or the sunrise. They'd take every shimmer, both the shadowy ones and the shiny ones, and turn them to myself.

And what an utter waste of words that would be, when the Source is so wonderful and so glorious. The Source doesn't just give the light, He IS the light. The One whose light is beclouded in the muddy greyness of dusk is the same One whose rays dance and sparkle in the warm haze of sunrise. There is beauty to behold in both places. Whether bright and obvious, or filtered through to straining, smarting eyes.

It's a beauty that needs to be beheld with eyes, mind, heart, soul and strength.

beheld, loved and praised.

...and the only master of our words.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." John 1:1-9


May I never seek to be my own light, or the light by which others live. Let me point always and only to the Source of all light, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I love this picture...#4


This picture reminds me of my favourite bit of one of my favourite of books - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S.Lewis. I took this picture during a boat-ride on the 'largest fresh-water swamp in Thailand' (the word swamp makes it seem more exciting than it is - it's really just like a big lake!) which happens to be in Nakhon Sawan where I live.

I took this photo, imagining I was actually in the book! I want to take you, in your imagination, to the end of the book. The passengers of the Dawn Treader have sailed almost to the end of the world, they are heading towards 'Aslan's Country' and as they get closer, everything gets brighter, the water tastes sweet and fresh, they feel more alive and full of joy and they even start getting younger!

The water is smooth and everything is still and calm.

The last part of the sea, before the Dawn Treader must turn around and go back and some of the crew must go on into Aslan's Country, is covered in lilies. They name it 'the silver sea'. The carpet of lilies in my picture is not quite the same, there's no white flowers....but just use your imagination and soak in this picture made of words from the book:

"...And when after some consultation the Dawn Treader turned back into the current and began to glide eastwards through the Lily Lake or the Silver Sea (they tried both these names but it was the Silver Sea that stuck and is now on Caspian's map) the strangest part of their travels began. Very soon the open sea which they were leaving was only a thin rim of blue on the western horizon. Whiteness shot with faintest colour of gold spread round them on every side except just astern, where their passage had thrust the lilies apart, and left an open lane of water, that shone like dark green glass."

It made me happy imagining being in that part of the book as I lay in the sun watching as we made our way through the still 'lily lake'. It made me happy because it made me think of getting nearer to heaven, just like in the book Reepicheep and the children were all the time getting closer to where Aslan lived.

And we are getting closer. Every day.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Worst of sinners

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Tim 1:15-17

Friday, 20 February 2009

I love this picture...#3


A notebook I bought today.

Why did I buy it? Because it made me laugh my head off!! I love Thailand for many reasons, and this is one of them! Why someone would make a notebook with the word 'blandness' on the front I have no idea, but the fact that they did made my day today!

It's not quite as good as that classic 'mosquito restaurant' menu, but I thought it was worth a photo anyway! In case you've forgotten about that, you can see those pictures here.

I have nothing profound whatsoever to say about this notebook picture - just that I love it!

Why assume...?

It's not often I have an opinion about something. I don't tend to feel strongly about things, that's just my personality. That's probably why I don't enjoy debates at all. It's also why I don't like to use this blog as a place to air my opinions...
That doesn't mean I don't think truth is important. On the contrary, I think truth should be defended and upheld at all costs and that's partly what this blog entry is about.

But I want this to be read bearing in mind that I am a sinner saved only by the precious grace of Jesus Christ, nothing more, nothing less. My words will always be mingled with mixed motives and intentions, informed by experiences unique to me, and tinted by my own personal slant on life. Maybe I have a chip on my shoulder about this, maybe I just feel strongly about it because it is true...I don't know. I just want to throw this thought out there and wanted to make that disclaimer before doing so.

There are many songs that I personally enjoy, that help me to sing praise to God when I am on my own, but that I would never choose to sing when in the context of a group or church...and in fact would even say that to do so would be very dangerous if they were all we sang.

Take for example, this song, The Stand:

I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned,
In awe of the One who gave it all,
I'll stand, my soul Lord to you surrendered,
All I am is yours.

Now I like this song. In fact I am listening to it right now! I like it musically, and I like the words too. Because I am certain that Jesus is who is meant by 'the One who gave it all' and that the giving of everything spoken of is referring to when Jesus died on the cross to take the penalty for sinners. There is nothing inherently wrong with this song! But the reason why I think it would be unwise to sing this song/or a song like this in a group context is this: I cannot assume that just because I am thinking about the gospel when I sing this song, that everyone else is too. In fact we could be singing about almost anything or anyone!
[I must be fair to the writers of this song, because the above lyrics are actually only the chorus, which comes after a couple of verses explaining why God is so praiseworthy, but almost no-one knows this because the verses are never sung!!! This chorus has been turned into a whole song of its own.]

The reason why this I think it is very dangerous to sing, in corporate worship, songs which are not explicit about the gospel as revealed in the Bible is because an 'assumed' gospel will soon become no gospel at all. If we in our groups do not sing about the specifics of the gospel as well as how we feel about it, then the newcomer to the group, or even the believer who hasn't had much opportunity to read the Bible in depth yet, will not know what they are singing about. If this generation assumes that everyone knows the gospel and so does not proclaim it to each other, then the next generation will not know the gospel at all!

Now I know there is more than one way to remind each other of the gospel, this task is not completely reliant on the songs that we sing, that's why I asked you to read this bearing in mind that I can never be totally agenda-free when I write. But our songs are surely a good place to start aren't they? They are also one of the best ways that we learn and remember information. And anyway, why would we want to sing about anything else?

If we are to take the command of Titus 3:8 seriously then I think that we need to think really carefully about the kind of songs we sing:

"3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone." (Titus 3:3-8)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Learning

Learning something new is hard. For the last 5 months since I arrived in Thailand I have been learning to speak Thai; sometimes formally in language school, sometimes informally in conversations with students, and 2 weeks ago I started to learn to read and write. For the most part I have been really enjoying all of this, but this week I have started to feel how difficult this whole process is!

It is hard on the mind because is has to learn a completely new way of thinking. It has to connect sounds with a whole new set of symbols, and then work out the meaning of those symbols when they come together to form words.

It is hard on the body because so much time has to be spent sitting still concentrating on learning this new code, and then turning symbols into sounds, spoken clumsily from a mouth which is still getting used to how different all these sounds are! It is physically draining.

It is hard on the emotions because I feel like I am a child again. I have to accept the fact that I put hours of work into reading, understanding and discussing with my teacher, what is effectively a simple, children's story - only a few lines! And I still don't understand all of it! I spend what seems like an AGE reading out-loud to my teacher, one word at a time. Sometimes it is so slow that we spend a whole lesson working on only one paragraph! It is demoralising.

Right now it is hard to believe that I will ever get faster or better at this! And my pride wants me to be good at it for all the wrong reasons. Reflecting on all this I have come to the following conclusions (not all connected to each other!):
  • Aside from all that I believe about God and His helping and aiding, on a purely rational level I know that I WILL get better at this language, because that's what just happens. I learned to read and write English, I learned to play the guitar, I see my improvement on the piano all the time. When we practice things they get easier. Simple fact of life! We just need to be patient. I've been doing this for 2 weeks...of course I won't be able to read properly yet!

  • My attitude in the midst of this process is all important. My very first day of learning to write, I learned a huge lesson. Making a mistake, I threw down my pencil in exasperation. My teacher exclaimed 'jai-yen!' (calm down, be patient) and with this single word I felt instant conviction of my childish attitude. It is not only important for my own growth in likeness to Jesus that I watch my attitude as I learn Thai, but also for my witness to others about my Lord Jesus.

  • It is good that I feel weak. I think perhaps I have become too comfortable. I remember when as a VERY new Christian I first started to understand 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:
    "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
    I was SO excited to realise that it was ok that I felt weak - in fact, it is when I am seen to be weak that God is seen to be great! Imagine if I was some superhuman amazing person, then no-one would wonder why I don't fall apart when life gets tough, they'd just think it was part of my amazing powers! But then imagine (no, don't imagine, this one's the real one..!!) if I was a frail, broken, weak person who struggles and groans - then when I keep going in tough times people will wonder why such a rubbish person is able to do so. The only conclusion can be that it is God, it is His power, His energy, His love, Him at work - cos it is obviously not me!! Why do I always work so hard to throw doubt on this truth? Why do I want to be strong? Why do I want to cover up God's power at work by appearing 'together' myself?
Wow, I feel a whole other blog entry coming on here....better stop before I get carried away!

My prayer is that my whole attitude to learning Thai, including my motivations, studying and attempts to use the language, would bring God glory - if that means I have to be weak, so be it!

Sola Fide, Sola Gracia, Sola Deo Gloria.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Alison's thought agenda...

I am having a 'not very Thai moment'.

Firstly, I have come out for lunch on my own - eating 'Khon Diaw' is not a very Thai thing. It's not really my choice either, but since I missed my lift to church (...and church always includes lunch) I thought I'd better go and find something to eat on my own.

Secondly, I am in an air-conditioned cafe, with comfy chairs, trendy lamps and even rugs. I brought my laptop because there is free wi-fi here. I am drinking 'English Breakfast' tea and waiting for my spaghetti to arrive.

Very un-Thai.

I am not having an 'I hate Thailand day' or anything...it's just convenient to get here and it's the kind of place where you can go on your own and not look like a weirdo, which is handy.

I thought this would be a good time to think about the things on my 'thought agenda'. My thought agenda is a mental list of things that I want to think about at some point. The idea is that I will do this by blogging about them.

The problem is that now I have a bit of time to think about them, do you think I can remember what any of the things on my thought-agenda are!!??

i.e. No.

My brain is too full of all the Thai characters I have been learning to read and write this week, and of thinking about all the things I need to try and fit into the next week. I feel like I haven't given this blog much attention recently, other than visually...perhaps this is linked to the fact that I haven't been thinking about much lately.

So I have just added this to my (currently empty) thought agenda:

'What things can I think about?'

As I logged that on the thought agenda I realised something. The Bible gives me an instant answer if I want something to think about. It is this:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8.

If my brain is a bit blank and needing something to chew over, what better place to start?

What is true? - The Bible, everything that it says about God and the world and the way to be saved from our mess and know God. Nothing is more true. (Psalm 119:160)

What is noble? - Jesus' substitutionary death in the place of sinners (i.e. every single person who ever lived/lives/will live, including ME) who have offended God with our rejection of Him and determination to live life our own way more than we will ever fully grasp. This death of the righteous in place of the unrighteous is the most noble act that was ever done. And the fact that I can have a relationship with God as a result of it is completely undeserved. Nothing is more noble. (Titus 3:3-7)

What is right? - Everything that God does or thinks. All his ways are just and right. Nothing is more right (Hosea 14:9)

What is pure? - God and God only. He is the only standard for perfection. Nothing is more pure. (1 Sam 6:19-21)

What is lovely? - The perfect love of God through Jesus Christ. Being in His presence. Nothing is more lovely. (Psalm 84:1)

What is admirable? - Jesus Christ. His wisdom, His knowledge, His divinity, His grace, His sinlessness, all His deeds, supremely His willingness to sacrifice Himself for us. Nothing is more admirable. (Luke 5:26)

What is excellent? - all of God's ways, His character, His revelation. The glorious message of the cross of Christ - the only hope for messed up people like us. Nothing is more excellent. (Titus 3:8)

What is praiseworthy? - Jesus Christ is God. He came into our world to die in the place of all those who have rebelled against God (that is, everyone!), He lived a sinless life and then died on a cross taking on Himself the anger that God rightly has against our sin and rebellion. As a result salvation and eternal life are available to all who trust that Jesus has done this for them and turn from their life of rebellion to new life with God through Jesus. Nothing is more praiseworthy. (Isaiah 25:1)

So I will think over these things. And in prayerfully doing so, I am sure that life will seem more interesting again. I trust that my perspective will be straightened out as I see how everything fits into the framework that God has created for the universe. My spiritual eyes will be opened again to the glorious truths that have been revealed to us in the Bible and how these are all I need. My spiritual appetite will be revived. My longings and affections will start to be directed back towards the one who is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Youth House Antics...[January 09]

Get some paint, apply to faces, do some dances and you have a fun (but typical!) evening at Nakhon Sawan Youth House!!

Tea Drinking.... No-body in the whole of Thailand makes (or drinks!) tea like these boys
- they are true experts!

AJ, Bom and Nam drinking tea.
Tea Party - Partii Naamchaa!
This happens every day at 'tea time' (roughly every hour).