Daily Devotional 10-31-12

Scripture: 2 Samuel 17:28b-29
They also brought wheat and barley, health flour and roasted grain, for sale beans and lentils, troche honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.”

Thought for the Day: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The origins of Halloween have been traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), which celebrated the end of the harvest season. This was a time for the ancient Gaelic people to take stock of their winter supplies, to make sure the community would survive until spring. As we prepare for winter, perhaps this is also a good time for us to take stock of our spiritual supplies, so we don’t become exhausted and hungry as we enter the busy holiday season

During all the hustle and bustle of these exciting winter months, energy and patience often run low. Let’s intentionally use the next few weeks to pray, meditate, sing and dance to God in order to store up some extra spiritual energy, to help us all remain a powerful presence of faith and spirituality, a connection to God for ourselves and others.

Prayer: Help me stay grounded in your presence, Holy God, so that as the winter envelopes me, I will have the spiritual supplies I need to remain connected to your glorious and renewing energy. Amen.

Daily Devotional 10-30-12

Scripture: Acts 28:31
He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

Thought for the Day: Paul certainly boldly taught his ideas about God’s revelation of self as the Christ. Yet his ideas are just part of the picture of God’s revelation. To truly even begin to understand the immensity of God and the intricate and subtle ways in which God interacts with our reality, case Paul’s teachings need to be weighed against James, sickness Mark, try Luke, John, the Prophets of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, modern science, other worldviews, archaeology and pretty much anything and everything else that comes our way. Why not consider God in every encounter, in every moment?

Deep faith—life-changing faith, requires a ceaseless commitment to learning about God from everyone who has come before us, from many different disciplines, from the world around us and the universe in which we spin. All of these concepts form who we are as Christians, and how we act as part of the human family. Hopefully, through critical thinking and inspiration of Spirit, we become a force for faith and peace, driven by God to change the world for the better. Like Jesus.

Prayer: God of endless knowledge, may I never stop learning and always be open to new revelations about you, so that I might become ever more like Jesus the Christ, who taught us that faith can truly change the world. Amen.

10 days in Thailand

Hello all! I have been in Thailand for the last five days participating in a workshop led by “Save the Children Sweden”. This organization is funded by the Swedish government, and runs international training programs in six African and seven Asian countries on medical and psychosocial services for children in especially difficult circumstances. In 2010, Save the Children Sweden held a four week training in Sweden where they taught thirty representatives from China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, and Laos different aspects of child and women protection. At the end of their training, each participant developed a pilot project that they took back to their country. Two years later, they have all gathered back together in Thailand to discuss the progress of their project implementation and to learn about some of Thailand’s human rights organizations and child protection laws. Madame Xuyen was invited by the Swedish to be the consultant for the Lao team (a pediatrician, two social workers, and a health educator at the Lao Ministry of Health), so she brought me along! I’ll break it down day by day with a few pictures and a summary of each activity so far (I apologize for the length–a lot has been going on!).

October 25-29: Visiting Model Sites 

Day 1:

The Lao team and I arrived in Bangkok around 9am, and headed to our hotel to meet the rest of the participants. Once we were all settled in, we went to a government meeting at The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. This ministry promotes welfare and the protection and empowerment of vulnerable groups. During this meeting, we learned about Thailand’s child protection laws and were able to ask questions about the problems they face and the implementation of these laws.

 

Day 2:

We traveled to Klong Toei (the biggest slum in Thailand) at 8:30am, and met in the Duang Prateep Foundation headquarters. DPF works to help poor people throughout Thailand. Their main focus is on the urban poor with an emphasis on community development, and they strive to give the best possible opportunities to the people they care for. DPF has a variety of projects that can be categorized into five groups: education, health, social services, human development, and emergency fund. This foundation was started in 1978 by a woman named Duang Prateep Hata. Ms. Hata was raised in the slums and became a child laborer at the age of 10. Although she only had five years of education, she aspired to be a teacher, and eventually started a small school out of her parent’s house in the slums. She is now a successful Thai activist noted for her work with slum dwellers in Bangkok. A former senator for Bangkok, she was awarded the 1978 Ramon Magsaysay award for public service. Before touring around some of DPF’s model sites, I was fortunate enough to meet the incredible Ms. Hata after she gave our group a brief welcome speech and introduction of DPF and the Klong Toei slum.

I’m trying to find the words that will accurately portray my thoughts and feelings after visiting the Klong Toei slum, but I’m finding this to be very difficult. Seeing a community of 87,000 in an urban setting living in extreme poverty was a very eye opening experience for me. I saw ‘houses’ sandwiched together surrounded by trashy water, families of 5 living with no door, toilet, or shower in a room smaller than my kitchen, starving people hardly clothed laying in the street, and trash piled everywhere. As I walked along the tight sidewalk in the scorching heat, all I could think was, “Why are there people living in such inhumane conditions while others (myself included) live a lavish life with luxurious houses, clothes, and cars?”. Although, to me, this seems a bit twisted, I understand that it is the reality, so I want to make sure I live a flexible life; I should be able to sit at the same table as the President of the United States, but also on the street and eat with the homeless. After all, we are all united in our humanity. It makes me absolutely ill when I hear people back at home (you would be surprised at how often I hear and see things like this..especially on Facebook) bashing others like these slum dwellers, saying things like, “they need to stop being so lazy. Get a job like everyone else and make a better life for yourself.” Almost everyone I saw in this community, including children, were doing something to make money and provide for their families. I saw people cleaning their ‘houses’, women and children cutting up chicken feet to sell, men selling food on the side of the road,  and women carving dolls out of wood to sell for money. I can tell you one thing, these people are not lazy, and they deserve just as much respect as anyone else. Thankfully, there are people like the ones I’m in Thailand with, who dedicate their lives to helping people who are living in poverty and other difficult circumstances, and I intend on doing the same throughout my life as well.

 

 

At 3pm, it was time for another government meeting at the Nonthaburi Provincial Administration Organization Center for Protection of Children and Women. This center has the authority to provide social work and quality of life promotion services to children, women, elderly, and vulnerable persons. Nonthaburi province has been recognized as the best in Thailand in terms of education management and environmental protection, so the group was very excited to learn from this organization and their goal to promote quality of life and to protect the rights of women and children.

Day 3 & 4: 

We had a free weekend to tour around Bangkok, and I went to some of the biggest outside markets in Thailand for a good day shopping! On Sunday, we visited the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok (the pictures do not properly convey its beauty!!!).

Day 5:

The group and I left Bangkok around 7am to go to a city about two hours away, called Pattaya, where we will stay for the last four days of the workshop. Once we arrived, we met in the Social Welfare Division of the Pattaya City Hall. There, we were given a presentation on Pattaya city and an overview of their strategic plan on the development of children and youth and their quality of life.

After the first meeting, we visited the Pattaya Police Station’s Center for the Protection of Children, Women, and Families. There, we heard from the head of the station, and watched a video on the work they do. This video depicted the seriousness of child trafficking and the sexual exploitation that takes place in Pattaya by showing images and videos of children ranging from 4-16 years of age being sexually assaulted by men over the age of 35. Saying the video was hard to watch is an understatement, but I learned so much at the station and was honored to meet policemen and women who work hard everyday for the safety and well being of children.

Our last stop was to the ATCC (Anti Human Trafficking and Child abuse Center). This is a child protection and life skill development center for trafficked, sexually abused, and street children. This is an absolutely amazing center that takes in these abused children and gives them a place to live and develop. The children not only go to school, but also clean their rooms, garden, cook, take care of animals, and create a family relationship with one another.

I do not have the pictures from Day 5 yet, but will upload them as soon as possible!

Daily Devotional 10-29-12

Scripture: Judges 6:13
“Pardon me, click my lord, health ” Gideon replied, prostate “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Thought for the Day: It’s pretty easy to have faith in God when our lives are going well. When the money is rolling in and our family is healthy, when we’re recognized for doing a good job, when the kids are excelling in school, we truly believe God is at work in our lives. Too often though, we think that if we act good and do good things, that good things will happen to us, and that if something bad happens to us, it’s because we have done something to offend God, as if God is some sort of karmic mirror.

During those times when we, our loved ones, our country, or the entire world is suffering, knowledge of God is still revealed in the things that surround us: the waves crashing to shore at the beach, snow falling on a mountain, a butterfly bursting forth form its cocoon, resurrected and transformed forever. It’s not karmic law that causes bad things to happen to us because we have done something bad, it’s that some days are just worse than others. It’s part of being human. But even on our worst days,  God is at work in our daily lives, working to connect us to the divine and reveal our true Christ-like nature, even when we’re as lost in the modern world as Gideon was in the ancient. God never deserts us, but unfortunately, we often desert God.

Prayer: God of eternity, who is always with me, may I see your divine touch in everyone and everywhere, always. Amen.

International Day of Older Persons

Donkoi school held a celebration for older persons’ day (October 1) on Saturday October, 20th. About 200 people gathered at 6am to participate in a three mile walk around Donkoi Village in honor of the elderly. There was a live band that played on the back of a pickup truck and followed us while we walked. The music was great and most were dancing instead of walking! Once we returned to the school, everyone enjoyed coffee and bread, and some local doctors and nurses came out to check everyone’s health. This was such a fun morning! I enjoyed getting to know some of the older people of Donkoi as we shared jokes, sang many songs, and did a lot of Lao dancing! One woman was even making plans for me to marry her grandson! Ha! I was very impressed with the amount of people who came out to honor the elderly. The people of Vientiane take this day very seriously, and I too believe this is such an important day to celebrate the lives, health, wisdom and achievements of senior citizens.

 

Devotional 10-21-12

Scripture: 1 John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, sildenafil and God in them.

Thought for the Day: One of the most effective and accessible ways to develop spiritually is to love. Because God, as the creative nature of the universe, creates out of love and using love, when we love we are tapping into the most ancient and powerful force that exists. If we want to experience God in our lives, we simply have to love.

In our postmodern era, love has come to mean an intimate personal relationship, and it’s certainly helpful to our spiritual development to consider ourselves in an intimate personal relationship with God. Jesus’ ministry in large part was about showing and teaching us how to have this personal relationship with God, so we too could experience the Christ in a very real way.

But when wisdom teachers like Jesus talk about love, they are also talking about a metaphysical, perhaps I should say hyperphysical energy that permeates absolutely everything that can be perceived, and from which everything is created. Nothing exists except it is created first in God, from love. When we love, we are one with God, and our love becomes infectious, touching the heart of everyone we meet.

Prayer: God of infinite love, may my relationships, both intimate and casual, all be informed by love and compassion. Amen.

Devotional 10-20-12

Scripture: Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, salve so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, medicine being rooted and established in love, site may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Thought for the Day: More of Paul at his finest. He prays for us to be completely enveloped by God with a “love that surpasses knowledge.” It’s an absolutely inspiring sentiment; a sort of knowing that comes from deep in the soul, a direct gift from God that roots all our actions and thoughts in love.

I think part of finding this love—this deep faith, comes from allowing ourselves to feel worthy of God’s love. We’ve been told over and over that we’re sinful, worthless, wretched creatures. And while humans historically have certainly acted badly, I don’t think, nor did Paul or Jesus think, that this inherently makes us “bad.” We were designed by God to be creatures of love.

Our true nature is to be at one with God, to be filled with the Christ, and God reaches out to fill us up time and time again. The real trick is in the knowing that we are worthy, that we are loved and that we are love. It’s a knowledge that is deep, true, timeless, and that ultimately comes directly from God.

Prayer: God of wisdom, may you always motivate me to learn more, to love deeply, and to be open to the new things you constantly do in my life and in the world. Amen.

Daily Devotional 10-19-12

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:5-7
For this very reason, there make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, find knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

Thought for the Day: Peter’s list of disciplines that lead to a life more fully lived in the Christ is solid and built like a pyramid, with love as the capstone. This is one of the best how-to lists in all of spiritual literature, because it is timeless and straightforward. No matter what age we live in, from the Bronze Age to our modern era, spiritual progress requires a lot of work across a broad spectrum of life experiences.

I think Peter mentions faith first because it is our foundation. We have faith that God is a force for good, and that encourages us and motivates us. I also love that he mentions knowledge, because too often faith and knowledge are represented as polar opposites. For me though, faith is always strengthened by knowledge, and I want to know as much as possible about everything. And the more I learn, the more I believe in God, and understand God on a simultaneously massive and minute level.

Of course, this takes perseverance. We make mistakes along the way (at least, I certainly have). Hopefully we learn from those mistakes and press on, ever closer to God and the humanity Jesus so perfectly exemplifies. Ultimately, we come to a place where we see God in everyone, and begin to understand that love is everywhere and everyone.

Prayer: God that is everything, you grant me the strength I need to persevere and learn more about you every day, as I strive to become love. Amen.