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Finding the Good in a World of Criticism

We live in a critical culture. This week, I have read articles criticizing: 1. a movement to send Christmas gifts to poor children, 2. a famous pastor moving his family (including several adopted children) to Asia to share the love of Christ, and 3. several charities that hold to Biblical convictions while serving the poor and marginalized. Much of the criticism of believers comes from within the church. In our house, we often say: be for everything that is good. Giving is good. Living out the Great Commission is good. Holding to Biblical convictions is good. Opposing what is good in the name of what we deem better is both judgmental and counterproductive. How can we be for what is good? We can trust the Spirit of God is leading our brothers and sisters to do what is right. We can stop thinking we have figured out the best way for everyone to do everything. The Bible includes many stories of giving and ministry that are not "sustainable". Jesus Himself fed and healed pe…
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"Why Isn't Everything ON FIRE?" and the Original Water-Derived Power Source

People who don’t know where their power is sourced have probably never had to ask. Admittedly, most of my life I hadn’t the faintest idea.
When we first visited Southeast Asia, I was struck by the innumerable electrical wires tangled up like piles of fresh spaghetti on forks high in the air. I remember wondering: where does all this electricity come from? Where does it go? Why isn't everything ON FIRE? 

This week, our neighborhood has been without power six or more hours each day due to a rotating blackout schedule. We are the lucky few with a generator in our apartment complex that runs intermittently throughout the day, keeping our food from spoiling.  Friends, 95 degrees is hot with an enormous fan pointed in your direction. Without it, well, that’s another level of sanctification.
Turns out half of Cambodia’s power is generated by hydroelectric conversion. Also turns out the nations' many rivers are flowing much slower than usual due to a severe drought and record high te…

Toddler Theology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Majority World Resilience, and All Things Things Totally Nuts

"Sometimes I'll be answering a question our toddler asked about God and think, 'This sounds totally nuts'."

I was a new Mom, relatively sleep-deprived, and conversing with a friend I had known for nearly half our lives. She smiled encouragingly at me. The rest of the conversation is a fuzzy memory, but that line has come back to me time and again. Routinely, I've wondered what that flicker of honesty was meant to illuminate. Until tonight.

After dinner I watched our 13-month-old explore his small world -- climbing over the clothes rack, scaling all the beds, filing books into a small case. He can produce several words and understand a plethora more in two (!!) languages. He effectively dodges tackles from his older brother and escapes snuggles from his older sister. Less than two years ago, he was a bundle of cells growing in my pelvis.

Out of nowhere, the thought hit me: this is totally nuts.

Suddenly an avalanche of moments when I had experienced the exact …

Dashing through the City, in a one Moto Open Tuk-Tuk

In the past week, I was vomited on in a tuk-tuk, found a squashed gecko under my couch, encountered at least two rats outside, and received vaccines for Japanese Encephalitis, typhoid, and rabies. I have not bought any gifts, eaten a single piece of chocolate that did not taste like chalk, nor experienced an ambient temperature under 77 degrees (with the exception of soaking in the cold while trying to rearrange our tiny freezer). Not good, not bad; just different. This is the mantra to repeat during your first year in any new place (within the majority or minority world).

Our family has moved from different to different over the past few years. Two Christmases ago, we enjoyed visits from our Cameroonian neighbors, caroled in the patient wards, and shared a delicious potluck with fellow ex-pats. Last year, we traveled from Africa into a Winter Wonderland and experienced a whirlwind of reunions in both New York and Arkansas. This year, Advent looked like moving to the other side of the…

Loving Something Better

Woke up to this magical black and white world. God is such a masterful artist, and I am going to miss this view of His handiwork.
Yes, I'm going miss this. People sometimes assume cross-cultural workers are different kinds of humans. That maybe we don't like where we were born, have some kind of unquenchable thirst for adventure, or don't want our kids to experience any of the good things we did growing up. None of those could be further from true for me. I am a Buffalo girl, through and through. I don't like change (I am a type A+ control freak). My heart hurts to think about our kids missing snow days, football/hockey with extended family on Sunday afternoons, huge free libraries, gorgeous parks, amazing public education, four uniquely delightful seasons, and all the beauty/privilege that accompanies life in America. 
I love all those things. But I love Something else more. I want to teach my kids to obey God, no matter the cost. If they are called to live in Western N…

We Do Not Have a Disease and We Are Not the Heroes (And Other Things You Might Assume About Cross-Cultural Workers)

Whenever moving our family to a developing nation comes up in conversation, several responses are typical.

Most often, surprise. Followed by awkward silence. (e.g., "Oh, wow. That's really something." [...]) Right. We suddenly went from interesting potential friends to people with a possibly-contagious disease. 
Similarly quarantining us from "normal" Americans are the responses that falsely attribute hero status to us (e.g., "That's something I could never do. I give you a lot of credit."). I haven't figured out the best way to respond to this sentiment, though I usually want to say something to this effect: "You could do it. Really. We are not heroes. And we don't deserve any credit for doing exactly what God has equipped us to do."
On many occasions, we've been engaged in conversations about why we should stay in America. Acknowledging our country's great needs, along with our country's great resources (including t…

An Algorithm for a Mind that Doesn't Mind Jazz

My brother once told me that people who didn't like jazz don't like to think. Or at least, that's the general premise I remember. He may have been more diplomatic in his actual phrasing.

Today, I re-encountered jazz during a brief and full night out. Alone. I went to the library to return a stray book found under the couch, stopped at Walgreens' to pick up some salt (hey, big spender!), and walked across the street to attend a free college concert. Listening to some familiar big band tunes brought me back to high school, which I suddenly realized was half my life ago.

The space between me and the girl I was when I last regularly listened to jazz didn't make me feel old; it made me feel grateful. In this half-lifetime, I have completed thirteen years of formal higher education, fallen in love, married a cancer survivor, brought three little ones into the world, witnessed several miracles, lived in West Africa, and spent a year in near-gypsy style as we prepare to mo…