Saturday, November 16, 2013

Along The Path

~ By David Cross ~

Recently I went away with the ZOE youth for a 3-day retreat in a remote village.  When I say remote, it was only a few hours drive away but in my mind when you are without electricity and your phone reception is intermittent, it qualifies as being ‘remote’.  I had such a wonderful time away with the youth and I just love any chance I get to hang out with them. 

Although my family and I are approaching our 4 year anniversary of being here in Thailand, it never ceases to amaze me how, when in the village, everything is either edible or useful.  Nothing is off limits!!

As our group walked along a small path that was headed toward a huge strawberry plantation (on a 45 degree hill) a group gathered a little way ahead of me.  Crouched down, they were picking up what could have mistakenly just been stones, but as they dug each one out of the sandy path, it was soon discovered that they were small chestnuts- still in their very spiky outer case.  We gathered them all up in bags (to be fried up later that day) and we continued on the path…

A little way further up, one of the boys was hurling rocks at a tree above and, after a few attempts, down fell some (incredibly) sour fruit that I am told is good for sore throats.  Though my throat was not sore, I was encouraged to try it. Yikes! My whole face screwed up like I had just swallowed a lemon, which of course always gets a chuckle from the kids!   If indeed my throat does become sore, I don’t think I could ever eat that again.  It was seriously sour!

We continued on again and I heard a rustle in the bushes beside me and out popped one of the older teenagers with a big stick in one hand and guavas in the other.  The ‘botanical knowledge’ that they possess is just so amazing.

We then continued onto to our destination… the strawberry patch
We were here to help with the pruning.  The last time we visited, it was the end of the strawberry season, so we searched the bushes and collected all the ones that were missed (and ate them), but this time, we were helping to prepare for the upcoming season by pruning the bushes and removing the weeds.

After a few hours of work, we started to head back to the houses but of course the journey along the path included many more discoveries along the way …

On the return trip, one girl held out her hand and offered me some delicious blackberries, then as I continued further I could hear the sound of a machete swinging, so I climbed a fence to go and see just what was going on.

There stood the best find of the day… bananas!  The boys had scaled a tree and cut down huge bunches of bananas.  Some were ready to eat (which of course we did … delicious!) and some others were still a little green, but they were just what we needed for our afternoon activity of making deep fried banana chips!

After all the work in the strawberry patch was done and thousands of banana chips were made, Denise (the youth leader) and I also had the privilege of seeing glimpses of the internal ‘work’ that’s been going on inside these precious youth. 

Just like it took a big effort to prepare the strawberry patch, to prune and to weed… a big effort is also required for a transformation to occur in the hearts and lives of our amazing ZOE children.  

 These teenagers have testimonies that regularly bring me to tears but when I get to witness the harvest, after all these years of our ZOE parents consistently pruning… and weeding… and sowing, then that’s when we get to see a yield of: reconciliation, forgiveness and trust. 

Along this path there are treasures a plenty and I can not wait to keep discovering what’s still to come.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Who Are You?

Yesterday I sat marking spelling tests whilst queuing in line for a medical examination that I needed for my work permit.  Suddenly I gazed around the room and a large poster hanging on the wall caught my eye.  It read "You are what you think you are".  It was an advertisement for a local university.

But just as quickly as the words sunk in, I caught myself disagreeing with that statement.  I don't know about you but, quite honestly... I am SO glad that I am not what I think I am!

I reflected back just half an hour prior.  How that 10 minute drive to the hospital had seen me in tears of anxiety.  
I had done it again... the petrol tank was empty and there was no petrol station in sight.  Okay. I know. Really bad.  I agree.  But I can explain!
Anyway so as I was driving cautiously watching the the dash board flashing EMPTY ... 0 kilometers ... all I could do was pray.  Would my wonderful heavenly father graciously and miraculously some how figure out a way of making my car run on complete emptiness till I made it a few more kilometers to the nearest petrol station? 

I am so thankful that He did!!  Hallelujah! 

But I am also so glad that the statement on that poster is not true.  What I thought of myself at that moment does not reflect who I really am.
Maybe you don't struggle with forgetfulness like me.  Maybe it's a low self esteem, a challenge with anger or feelings of hopelessness.  

I am so glad that I know where to find the truth.

If my brain tells me that I'm useless or my heart sinks with disappointment.  If someone doesn't like my idea or I'm never the winner.  If I make mistakes and feel like a failure.  If I quit or change my mind or do something that someone else disapproves of.

I know where to find the truth.

When lies comes.  When feelings rule.  And when our inadequacies guide our thoughts; we must know who we are!
Who am I?  If I'm not what I think I am, then who am I?

The other day, I took Tobi shoe shopping.  He'd outgrown he beloved fluorescent yellow soccer shoes and needed something suitable for kicking around in at school.  Well, setting his criteria from the beginning, "they had to match" his blue school uniform, we set off to the small selection of shops that sold kid's sizes.  I was skeptical about finding anything on the first attempt, but Tobi is a keen shopper with the determination to match.  He was there to hunt and gather.  Well, low and behold we came across a pair of shoes that he really liked.  The only issue was that they had laces and, because we are always taking our shoes on and off here, and he hasn't learnt how to tie laces yet, I was feeling {understandably} hesitant.  I tried to steer him to a different pair and talk him out of the laced ones, knowing that (being his teacher) I would be the one who ended up doing the laces up 15 times a day!
But here's what happened next.  As I am ranting and raving and giving all the reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea, he cuts in... "Mum! {in-a-kind-of 'calm down' voice}" And then he continues, "But I can do all things through Him who gives me strength".  
I stop, speechless.  "Mum.  If that's true, then I can learn to tie my shoes and you won't have to help me.  I can do it.  I can learn". 
I love it when my kids remind me of things that I should already 'know'.  I love it when the truth planted in a little heart every day over eight years, springs to life.  When seeds sown begin to sprout.    In that moment...   

He knew where to find the truth.

Even as mothers we can temporarily lose sight of who our children really are.  I'm glad God doesn't!

We have a couple of statements in our house for when someone does or says something unkind.  We say, "That's not like you" or "That's not who you are".

When the world around you is bombarding you with messages telling you that you must look a certain way to be acceptable, be a particular size or have this type of phone/ car/ house... whatever it is.  
Who will you listen to?
Are you what you think you are?  
Are you what others think you are?

Be sure you know the truth!