Pasticceria

Posted in Blog.

miniaturaMost people know that I lived in Italy, however, most people do not realize that I was raised in Italy. I moved there when I was 1 years old. My first word was in Italian and all of my schooling was too. All of my friends were Italian and I was, by all rights, Italian. I am grateful to my mother for teaching all of us kids how to speak English, although my lack of a foreign accent doesnt help people realize that Im not from “aroun’ here”.

My father accepted a job with Harding University in 1984 and we moved from Indianapolis, Indiana (my birthplace) to Italy. This move wasnt my fathers first time to Italy. My father also grew up in Italy as he was and is the son of a Missionary to Italy. My father moved to Italy when he was 3 and remained there until the day he left for college at 18. Thus, I am a weird third culture half/american - half/Italian.

My mom is a saint simply for going with him. My father speaks Italian fluently, as do all of us kids, but my mother did not. In the days before the internet, the fall of the Berlin wall, Chernobyl, mad-cow, the fall of the Soviet Empire, and cell-phones, my mother moved overseas with 3 kids under the age of 3. Gotta love Mom!

Ive decided to share some of my experience from my childhood over the next few weeks. These are simple little memories that have come to define me as a person.

I am one of 6 kids in a family that has always lived off of one salary (a teachers salary at that!) but my father, being a renaissance man, always chose jobs that would allow us as a family to do and see things that most havent or wouldnt be able to see or do. I am so grateful for this! This has allowed me to travel the world and see life in a different manner that most. I see the globe as my workplace. I see each and every culture and people as an adventure and something to know and understand. I am not limited by a single culture or geography. I see the world differently.

Todays little story is from one of my favorite places in the world - an Italian pastry “bar”. The Italians use the word “bar” in the same way we use the word “coffee bar”. What we call “Bars” they call “pubs”. This is a coffee and pastry place that is family friendly and is a local hangout for neighborhoods.

We always went to Mario’s Bar. He had so many different coffees and pastries! I loved going there. I would get a mille-foglie pastry, a chocolate bigne, or a melted cheese sandwich on schiachiata bread. One could get a cappucino, a caffe latte, a macchiato, an espresso, and so much more. These pastries were made with a love and a passion that most can not understand. They are made with generations of experience and artistry. Yet, the best part of Marios bar was what happened when you walked in.

“Ciao! Buon Giorno!” (HEY! Good Day!)

The greeting. He knew us by name. He would often come and sit down and ask about our days, work, life, and family. He welcomed us into his world with open arms and we were always his guest of honor.

When I returned to Italy after spending 2 years in China, I walked into Mario’s Bar not expecting anything. As soon as I walked in he saw me and proceeded to come from the back and give me a big hug and the Italian greeting. He remembered me.

He asked me about my dad, my family, my brothers, my job and life in general. He was truly glad to see me. He still remembered my “usual” and wouldnt even let me pay. I love this about Mario and his family.

To this day, he still calls my dad on my dads birthday. He also calls at Christmas just to wish us all a Happy Holiday.

I love how this carries over to our Father in Heaven. He also awaits for us and welcomes us with open arms. He knows us by name no matter how long we have been gone. He wants to know everything about us and all that we are. He makes time for us to talk.

I have had many homes all over the world. I now own a home in Helena, Alabama, which I love, but it will never be my home as much as Florence, Italy was and is. My many adopted homes (Helena, Athens, Wuhan, Henderson, Searcy, Tallahassee)  have a special place in my heart but my heart belongs to Florence.

“You can take the boy out of Florence but you cant take Florence out of the boy”.

Im sure Alabamans believe the very same thing about Alabama! As the holidays roll around and we all long to be “home”, wherever that may be, how much more should we long for our “home” in heaven?

Do you long for heaven? Do you long for it as much as we long for our “homes” when we are away from them?

I miss Italy and everything about it. That feeling has allowed me to better understand how much I need heaven. I want to feel the same about my savior. I want to long to see him. I want to run into his arms and talk with him. I want to go home to him. I long for him.

I miss Italy but I long for heaven even more.

What about you?

A Line in the Sand

Posted in Blog.

blogpostnotebookI took a quiz once that allowed one to see what time period I would have been best born in. It told me that I would have been best born in the 20's-40's. While being born in the modern world has its advantages, Ive always been an "old school" type of guy. I love the classics, history, and Shakespeare. Im a hopeless romantic who feels very lost in todays "relative" concept of love, passion, and dating. I grow tired of the meaningless relationships that have more to do with status than they do love. I love watching movies that deal with the 40's era (WWII). But most of all I love seeing how clear most saw good and evil. 

The distinction between good and evil was so evident and clear. One could look out across the world and see evil. Hitler and Mussolini. The Rape of Nanjing by the Japanese. You could see evil in a physical form (or at least it seemed).

While I know that this is a very ideological viewpoint I also like how ideological it is. I like knowing that evil has a face. That beauty is only that which is beautiful. That art is beautiful because it is and not because someone says it is. That good is good because it does good. That evil is evil because it is all that is evil. I love knowing the lines.

Nowadays, we are told that truth is relative, beauty is subjective, vulgarity is not vulgar, tolerance is "god", homosexuality is a "race", racism is disagreeing with anything said by anyone with a different skin color, and that love is lust. What ever happened to knowledge? What eve happened to wisdom?

I guess this is why I love the 20's - 40's. It was what it was. I know I have romanticized the flaws of that generation away, but I can only see the good. The positive. The beautiful. In a modern culture the is so negative and pessimistic, I miss the glory days.

I miss the days when love was something you waited for. That you fought for. That you died for. I miss the days when we had something worth dying for. Yet....yet....

We do. When I feel lost in a world of complete oblivion of negativity, depression, homelessness, I am reminded of our God and his never ending joy. He is all that is positive, happy, and caring. He is the arms into which we run. He is the ray of sun that fights of the storm on a sea of insecurity. He is never-ending joy. He is the line in the sand, the clarity between good and evil. He is the one who shows all that is true, beautiful, and worth fighting for. He is love to a degree that we can not only not understand, but on a degree in which we can never even imagine. God is the reason to live. To wake up in the morning. The die at the end of life. He is my existence and my joy. 

Lord, help me to not forget your clarity and joy. 

Cambodia Duck Egg

Posted in Blog.

balutWhen I was visiting Cambodia, we stopped in at a friends house who had recently moved to Phnom Phen from the states. He, Nathan Wheeler, and his wife, Cheryl, were missionaries and had been in school at FHU during my years. My travel mate, Kyle Hooper, and I has just finished two incredible weeks in Vietnam working our way down the coast from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). We were finally warm (after a frigid chinese winter in Wuhan) and were ready for the next part of our little adventure. Cambodia.

We stayed at a little hotel and soon met up with Nathan and Cheryl. After some wonderful hours catching up, we were ready to hit the town and see all that was Cambodia. What struck me the most was the use of the dollar bill as the common form of currency. After the attrocities of the 70's, 80's, and 90's, Cambodia was and is basically run by the UN. Thus we were able to easily use our money without having to convert it into the Cambodian currency.

Secondly, it was the poverty. The shacks, lean-to's, metal sheeting roofs, and hutches was unbelieveable. Id never seen so many people living in absolute poverty (by our standars). Not to mention the hundreds of thousands that were missing limbs from the landmines and the wars.

Thirdly, it was our need to eat a "balut". This semi-fertilized, half embryonic duck egg is supposedly a sign of manhood or the like. I personally think its what they do to foreigners to make fun of them. Here is the video of our little "Balut" experience. It made us ask a question. Am I willing to do this? Am I willing to do all that is required of me in this situation?

The reason I post this is a simple one. What would you do to prove your "faith"? Would you do anything to prove your love for you God? Would you?

So often I hear people say, "I couldnt do that" or "I would never do that"(assuming that which is being asked is not sinful). What if God asked you to do something that would cost you your life?

Do you limit what you are able to do because of non-existing pre-concieved notions? Do you live secluded from all that possibilities that this world has to offer?

Think about it. Maybe you need a spiritual "balut" to open your eyes to what all you are able to do.

 I did. 

A Meal in China

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china-flag-boyI miss Chinese food. In fact, one of my favorite things about Chinese culture is the food. I really do love Chinese food. I guess I've come to love Asian food in general! But its not just the food that I've come to love when it comes to Chinese meals. Its the time spent around the table.

We would go out just about once a day as a group of foreign teachers to a local eatery that we had playfully dubbed "Pops". He would always smile when we walked in and generally gave us a private table in the back room away from all the onlookers. We really did stand out quite a bit in the area of China that we were in!

We would all crowd around a round table with a lazy-susan in the middle. We sat on little tiny stools that barely held most of the guys. Then the tiny chinese girl with hair in front of her eyes would come in and take our order. You see, one doesnt order just for oneself in China. You order a dish, they place it on the lazy-susan, and everyone just grabs their little plastic bowl and chopsticks and gets what they want. This may seem very unhegenic, and it may be, but it was great to just all sit around the table and eat, talk, joke, and laugh together. Some of my fondest memories were the talks around those tables. Those old, stained, broken tables. The small, uncomfortable, plastic stools. How I miss those days.

I miss the hours spent odering sweet and sour pork, black skillet beef, fried green-beans, vegetable dumplings, fried rice, and fried corn. They girl with the hair in her eyes was our friend and we loved the way she served us with a smile. She always laughed when we mis-pronounced a word and would lovingly correct us. She would randomly bring us a new dish to try and it was always welcomed. I miss her.

I miss "Pop" as he would sit in the front of house, chain-smoking, and wave at us as we entered and left. He always had a smile for us.

I miss walking past the stray dogs on the street as we ventured to "Pops". I miss all the hair-salons we would pass along the way that would stop what they were doing to watch us, the "foreign devils", walk past.

I miss the people. I miss the time talking.

As I write this, I realize how fast paced my life has become and how I rarely take the time to stop, talk, eat, and enjoy the company of those I am with. I want to sit at a table with my family and eat, talk about our day, and enjoy each other. I want to listen to my daughter as she babbles about "Cinderwawa" and "Awiel". I want to learn more about my co-workers and interns.

I want to learn again.

I love realizations like these!

Forgiveness = Love?

Posted in Blog.

love2As I was working on this lesson for this coming Wednesday nights series (Gods Way. My Way.), I found myself thinking about forgiveness and love.

I find myself very frustrated by the modern concept of forgiveness and it having been confused with "tolerance". We are constantly told that we must accept all and that "tolerance" is the perfect ideal for society and our churches.

While in most aspects I agree, there is one in which I dont. If it goes against God's will, then it is not to be tolerated. Sounds simple enough, right?

Not even close! The concept of acceptance has gone so far as to teach us that we are to never hold each other accountable. We get the Matthew 7 brush-off (do no judge or you too wil be judged) and we are told to get off our high horse. I believe that the overarching premise of these verses are brilliant and ones I personally would never change, but these verses are so misused its not even funny any more.We have got to the point where if someone disagrees, calls you out on something, seeks to help you remove something sinful from your life, etc. that they are obviously even more sinful and should take a look at their own lives first! We instantly jump to Matthew 7 and quote it as if it was the "whole law and the prophets!"

Working with teens everyday, it is something I see alot. I see quite a few of our teens judge others, jump to conslusions, and generally be immature. However, nothing brings me more joy when I see teens use Gods word to hold each other accountable. To see them go and talk to each other when they know something is wrong. To see someone embarrased by their own sin and be held accountable is beautiful. To see Gods plan of action being done is incredible.

The most beautiful part is watching the forgiveness that goes into the plan. Watching a teen forgive even when the offending party does not seek forgiveness. Watching a broken heart heal is really something.

This has allowed me to realize that forgiveness is not always just for the one who has offended. It is a vital part of the healing for the one offended. If we do not create a culture of forgivers, we will continue to be a broken people who never heal. This type of forgiveness comes only thought Gods wisdom and power. We need to forgive even when we are not asked.

We need to hold each other accountable and then be ready to forgive even when the person disagrees. We need to be ready to move on. For us. So that we may heal.

While we are called to be tolerant, it is better to forgive. Forgive where God forgives. Love where God would.

Dont tolerate sin. Call it out. Get rid of it. Serve others and forgive others.

Most of all, love God and others!

Hotel Smiley

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hotel-smilieI remember waking up one morning in the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia at the "Hotel Smiley". It literally had a huge big smiley face as a sign. For some reason, this stands out to me.

We had just arrive the night before after a long bus ride from the capitol city of Phnom Phen. Driving through the beautiful, yet utterly sad, jungle area in Central Cambodia had been eye opening. Seeing the "crews" burning the fields so as to force not-found landmines into combusting was strangely surreal. Driving on dirt roads filled with pot-holes the size of people was bone jarring. Sitting in a crammed seat for hours on end with my travel pack jammed into my spleen was....well, interesting. I even remember staring at a cow and seeing it stare back as if for some reason we had meant to have that moment together. It was a cow....that's not normal. 

Yet, it wasnt all the incredible experiences, however ridiculous they may seem, that stood out in my mind that day. It was that stupid smiley sign.

Now, I don't have some existential story that relates to that smiley sign. No pearl of wisdom. No great moment of truth that overcame me and made me sit up and realize the meaning of life.

It was the simplicity of that smile sign that got me. The simplicity of a smile. It MADE me smile.

I guess in a way I did have an existential moment, a moment of truth that made me sit up and realize the meaning of life.

Joy is so much more than an emotion. Its the very driving force of faith and life.

Now, if you know me, you know that I love to travel and meet and see new places and people. This brings me great joy.

The greatest realization in this life for me was the concept and idea that Joy is a choice. I choose to be happy wherever I am and with whomever I am with. I decide to be happy. I decide to live joyfully. Joy is so much more than just an emotion. It is the very spirit of happiness.

This led me to realize how much God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is more than just an emotion, a feeling, or something that drives me. HE is a decision that I choose. HE is the one I choose to follow spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I follow and obey HIM because he is more than just a friend. He is GOD the FATHER, all mighty, all powerful, everlasting. HE is worthy of following and placing my joy in. HE himself is not just a feeling that I ride when on a spiritual high. HE is my REASON for Joy. He is the very essence of all that is worth being joyful about.

And for that, I smile.

A smile can change a worldview.

Perspective

Posted in Blog.

a change of perspective by kuschelirmel1-300x300Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to travel most of the globe. Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, North America, and the Austral Realm. 

Its hard for me to believe all that I've been able to see and hear. Languages with clicking. The first foreigner in a mountainous remote village in central Asia. Underground churches in China and Cambodia. Churches thriving in Sicily and the USA. Hit men, mafia, thugs, murderers. Mothers, daughters, sons, fathers. Friends and enemies.

All of these people, places, and events have shaped me.

They have changed me.

My perspective on poverty has changed. My perspective on living has changed. My perspective on dying has changed.

But one thing has not.

My perspective on God.

I AM will always be I AM. He is all powerful. He is God.

Pain and suffering are nothing in comparison to HIS love. This world may seem cruel, beautiful, dying, and so much more, but the answer is staring us all in the face. I AM. 

He is the answer this world needs.

He is the very thing that resolves, gives meaning to, and defines our very existence. 

We serve a great and wonderful God.

Friendship

Posted in Blog.

friendship-3 365I have had this topic on my mind a lot lately. As Christians, how are we supposed to treat our friends? Are we really called to love our friends at ALL times? What if we don’t feel loved by our friends? Well just look at the Bible! I went to Biblegateway.com (the best site ever when you are trying to find something in the Bible and you aren’t sure where it is!) and I typed in friend and it was amazing to see how many verses popped up with the word friend in it! There were at least 7 pages of verses about friendship. I was also surprised to find out how many talked about being betrayed by friends or put friendship in a negative light however, the key message about friendship that I found is to love them no matter what. That can sometimes be easier said than done! But then I found verses like 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” I know this verse is talking about temptation but I think it applies to other things in life as well. God is not going to give us more than we can handle with His help. We have to be patient and loving with our friends. We have to strive to be Christ like. Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Well what if they have wronged us? There were three verses that just stuck out to me: Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” And Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” I’m pretty sure God meant for us to love our friends no matter what they do. A true friend is one who sticks with you no matter what the circumstances. His or her love is not dependent on things going well.

Now, I do think that we need to be the type of person that someone would want to be friends with. We should treat others, as we would want to be treated, with respect, love, and kindness. Ecclesiastes 4:10 ”If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” So what if you are that person that doesn’t feel loved by your friends, or maybe doesn’t feel like you have any? Well first off, I guarantee you that you do have someone out there that would like to be your friend if you would just let them. Secondly, there is no friend like the one you have in Jesus! People will fail you, God will not. Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." You can always go to God and tell him about your troubles. In James 4:10 it says to, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” So if you are feeling lonely or dejected just remember you have God and that is all you need. So continue living life with a good attitude and God will bless you with the friends you need.

Convinced - The Bible

Posted in Blog.

alg bibleI recently had the opportunity to speak on the importance of scripture. It had been something that had been on my mind and heart for a while and I felt the time to share it had finally come.

I started to notice a while back that scripture had started to lose its value in society and even within the "christian faith's". It honestly amazes me. I find it so hard to listen to those who doubt scripture, its historical value, and its literary value. Thus, I propose to you this evidence.

Over 40 different authors wrote the Bible over a 1500 year period (1500 B.C - 100 A.D.)

The authors differed widely in education and culture, yet no contradictions.
The first book was written by Moses (an Egyptian born Jew). The last by John (a Galilean fisherman)
30 different authors wrote the Old Testament.
The New Testament was written by at least 8 men over a 50 year period. 4 of these, Apostles.

The Bible deals with the subjects of history, biography, poetry, speeches, proverbs, songs, parables, prophecies, romances, drama, tragedies, sermons, dialogs, and ethical teachings.

The bible was written in 3 different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
Until the 15th century, the Bible was copied by hand.

The Bible began to be circulated in its completed volume in the 4th century.

The Bible was divided into Chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The verses were introduced in 1551 by Robert Stephanus, a publisher of the Greek-Latin version.
There are more than 4000 manuscripts, preserving all of part of the text, dating from about 200 A.D.

There are some 8000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate , and at least 1000 other version into which the originals were translated.

In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. A part of every book of the Old Testament , except Esther, was found dating to the 2nd century B.C.
 
Author                 Written              Earliest        Time Span     # Mss
Caesar                 100-44 BC             900 AD           1000              10
Plato                    427-347 BC          900 AD          1200              7
Thucydides          460-400 BC           900 AD           1300              8
Tacitus                 100 AD                 1100 AD          1000             20
Seutonius             75-160 AD            950 AD            800               8
Homer                 900 BC                  400 BC            500              643
New Testament    40-100 AD           125 AD           25-50           24,000
 
 
 
 
I love the beauty in this evidence! Im amazed at how someone can take such beautiful, historical, literary evidence and merely chalk it up to the works of man.
 
The modern issue with "christians" is that more and more seem to take away its importance and inspiration. They state "all you need is Jesus" and "who needs theology? Jesus is all I need!". In a very loose form, I could agree! However, the idea that scripture needs to be revised, changed, updated, etc. for our modern day man is absurd and goes against the very thoughts of Jesus Christ!
 

Jesus quoted from 24 different Old Testament books.

He knew the Scriptures thoroughly, even to words and verb tenses. He obviously had either memorized vast portions or knew it instinctively: John 7:15
 
 
He believed every word of Scripture. All the prophecies concerning Himself were fulfilled, and He believed beforehand they would be.

He believed the Old Testament was historical fact. (Luke 11:51, Matthew 24:37–39, John 8:56–58, Matt 10:15, Matt 11:23, 24,Luke 17:28–32, Matt 8:11, John 6:31, 49, 58, John 3:14, Matt 12:39–41, Matt 24:15)

He believed the books were written by the men whose names they bear.

He believed the Old Testament was spoken by God Himself, or written by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, even though the pen was held by men: Matthew 19:4, 5; 22:31, 32, 43; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37.

He believed Scripture was more powerful than His miracles: Luke 16:29, 31.
 
 
He actually quoted it at Satan! The O.T. Scriptures were the arbiter in every dispute: Matthew 4; Luke 16:29, 31.
 
 
He quoted Scripture as the basis for his own teaching. His ethics were the same as what we find already written in Scripture: Matthew 7:12; 19:18, 19; 22:40; Mark 7:9, 13; 10:19; 12:24, 29–31; Luke 18:20.
 
 
He warned against replacing it with something else, or adding or subtracting from it. The Jewish leaders in His day had added to it with their Oral Traditions: Matthew 5:17; 15:1–9; 22:29; (cf. 5:43, 44); Mark. 7:1–12.

 

He will judge all men in the last day, as Messiah and King, on the basis of His infallible Word committed to writing by fallible men, guided by the infallible Holy Spirit: Matthew 25:31; John 5:22, 27; 12:48; Romans 2:16.
 
 
He made provision for the New Testament  by sending the Holy Spirit. We must note that He Himself never wrote one word of Scripture although He is the Word of God Himself. He committed the task of all writing of the Word of God to fallible men—guided by the infallible Holy Spirit. The apostles’ words had the same authority as Christ’s: Matthew 10:14, 15; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; 14:22; 15:26, 27; 16:12–14.

He not only was not jealous of the attention men paid to the Bible (denounced as ‘bibliolatry’ by some), He reviled them for their ignorance of it: Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24.

Nor did Jesus worship Scripture. He honored it—even though written by men.

Although some religious leaders profess to accept Scripture as ‘God’s Word,’ their low view of ‘inspiration’ belies the fact. They believe and teach that Scripture is, to a very significant degree, man’s word. Many of their statements are in essential disagreement with those of Jesus Christ. From the evidence of their books, we conclude that some “Christian” are opposite to Christ in His regard for the authority, the inspiration, and the inerrancy of Scripture.

 

Jesus obeyed the Word of God, not man. He was subject to it. If some leaders’ view of inspiration were true, Jesus was subject to an errant, rather casually thrown-together ‘Word of Man.’ Jesus would have been subject, then, to the will of man, not the will of God.
 
 
However, in all the details of His acts of redemption, Jesus was subject to Scripture as God’s Word. He obeyed it. It was His authority, the rule by which He lived. He came to do God’s will, not His own, and not man’s. Note how all of His life
 
He did things because they were written—as if God had directly commanded. He fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about Himself. The passages are found all over the Old Testament. Matthew 11:10; 26:24, 53–56; Mark 9:12, 13; Luke 4:17–21; 18:31–33; 22:37; 24:44–47.

 

He Himself is the Word of God. All the words from His lips were the Word of God. (John 3:34). If He had desired, He could have written a new set of rules and they would have been the Word of God. But, He did not. He followed without question the Bible already penned by men.
 
This is the sensible thing for every believer to do. May all who read this adopt Jesus’ attitude and become subject both to Him as Living Word and to the Bible as the infallible, written Word of God.

 

The Holy Scriptures … make you wise to accept God’s salvation  by trusting in Christ Jesus  and obeying his will. The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.

 

History show Gods power, beauty, inspiration, and forethought.
 
Jesus, the very savior and Messiah, gives incredible weight to scripture and the Bible.It teaches us that it cant be Christian, if Christ didn’t teach it!
 
 
With all the add-ons, changes, omissions, and cafeteria style reading of scripture in today’s Christian world, we must take back scripture!
 
It is up to us to make sure that the word of God is respected and seen in the same light as Jesus Christ saw it. Scripture is not relative!
 
 
God bless!

Cambodia

Posted in Blog.

cambodiaAfter spending almost a month traveling through southern China and the entire coast of Vietnam, we found ourselves heading to Cambodia. We had a friend there that we wanted to go and visit and we were really excited about seeing him and his wife.

When we arrived at the Vietnam/Cambodian border, we found out that our travel companion, Darla Pinkley, had no pages left in her passport and thus would not be allowed into Cambodia. (side note - this was the second time this had happened. We feel she should have learned this lesson the first time when on her way to Brazil! love ya Darla!) So, we left her at the border and headed into Cambodia! Now, dont get mad at us. She eventually found her way back to China....even though we did worry alot. (another side note - we sent her countless emails none of which she responded to until a month later!)

As we made our way to Phnom Phen, we were amazed by the continued devastation left behind by the Pol Pot regime. The squallor of the cities and areas was incredible. We saw hundreds of amputees from landmines and people who had survived years of torture. It was quite incredible to witness.

We walked through an old high school that had been a house of torture. We saw pictures of thousands of kids who were forced into being the torturers. Some of them were even forced to torture their own parents. We literally saw the beds of torture in every room. I cried. I cried alot.

But as in all things, God can show his light. Nate and Cheryl felt the call to go and they went. The small group of Christians that meets with them is a ray of light in a very dark, poor, devastated place. Sok Jan (pictured hugging Nate) was one of my favorites. He lives in squallor, but has a heart of gold and is thankful for all that he has.

I want that happiness. I want that peace.

With all the pain, sorrow, and devastation in Cambodia, he is thankful for all he has. He is thankful for the love of God and the sacrifice of his Son.

Im amazed by this. Im amazed by people like Sok Jan.

I long for the peace that he has.

I long for God in the same way.He has given so much for me.

I am truly blessed.

A Beach in Vietnam

Posted in Blog.

beach in vietnamWhile I was working in China, a close friend of mine came to my door and let it be known that it was simply too cold to stay in China during the winter months. The school had shut off power to our apartments to save china money (or so they said). So we headed south. Really south.

So we ended up in the beautiful city of Nanning in southern China. We enjoyed the city for a few hours and then got on a bus headed toward the border. The border between China and Vietnam.

Now, most americans have a really bad taste in their mouths when it comes to Vietnam (understandably so). We just figured it would be a fun place to go and see.

Well, the bus blew a tire and we spent 3 hours waiting for someone who could change a tire. Not too much fun especially since we were some of the only foreigners on the bus and everyone sat staring at us. Well, the bus rolls on and finally comes to a halt in a little village about 10 minutes from the border. We get out of the bus and get into a rick-shaw (or tuk-tuk) and putter our way towards to border. We get out of the tuk-tuk and walk over the border towards Vietnam. This felt very shady and really odd as the guards on both sides did not look very happy about our being there. 

We thankfully cleared customs and got into a really shady bus going towards Hanoi. As we rode, we noticed something come behind us. The police.

They pulled us over and we soon found ourselves being searched on the side of a dirt road in Vietnam. The van was searched and they soon found what they were looking for. Contraband from China.

Our van driver we had hired was smuggling contraband into Vietnam. We sat watching in awe as our bags were searched and the contraband was loaded into the police van. I thought we were going to jail. But, alas, no such misfortune.

The contraband was "given" to the police so they would let us go. So we did!

We arrived in Hanoi, enjoyed a few days there (stories from here at a later date!), and then headed on our way towards the warm sunny beaches of Vietnam.

We boarded an overnight bus that eventually arrived in Mui Ne, Vietnam. We booked a tiny little bungalow that sat 30 yards from the beach. 80 degree weather for 6 days in a row with not a cloud in sight. We swam, laid around, read our bibles, prayed, took bike rides along the coast line, and watched the kite-surfers ride the waves. But the best part was Sunday.

We arose early and watched the sunrise. We sang hymns, prayed, and talked about our faith, the incredible things God had done for us, and so much more. We took the Lord's supper in remembrance of HIM who died for us. We communed with the Lord. We saw Gods beauty around us. We felt the warm breeze, the water at our feet, and it seemed that the very presence of God was there. It was quiet. Not one other person out. We rejoiced and felt renewed after a long fall of teaching, working with the "families" in China, struggling with the school officials, struggling with the Chinese government, and more. I felt like I could go back right then and do it all over again.

I felt renewed and it was an amazing feeling.

Later that night we sat out and watched the sunset and sang some more. We wanted it to go on forever.

I sat on a beach in Vietnam and was renewed in spirit. I will forever remember singing to God on that beach in the tiny little town of Mui Ne, Vietnam. 

I wish I could have stayed there forever. But we needed to move on to our next stop. The place where we knew God was calling us to. Cambodia.

Even this morning as I write about my time in Vietnam, I am renewed.

China

Posted in Blog.

My time in China was great. I truly loved being there and I truly love the people. The thousands of students I met. The millions of chinese who stared at me. The hundreds that I became friends with. This is just a little exerpt from my life from that time for the teens at Riverchase and all of the rest of you who stumbled upon this.

When we landed in Wuhan on that beautiful fall day, I was amazed at how far out in the middle of nowhere the airport was. Having flown all over the world, this was by far the most distant airport from its stated city of landing. Once we arrived at our apartments on campus, I started unpacking and getting ready for our meeting with the school officials the next day. Not knowing what to expect, I was going over my contract on what I might be asked to teach, how many hours, what my schedule would look like, etc. I have to say I was a bit worried because Id heard that sometimes they like to push the foreign teachers when it comes to hours. But alas, my thoughts were interrupted by a knock on my door.

There she was. She stood there with her head bowed down a bit. She had her hands pushed forward holding a piece of paper in my direction. This tiny, little Chinese student stood in my doorway.

I was a bit taken back because, well, I didnt know anybody in the whole entire country! I knew the other foreign teachers but I didnt know anyone else! Why in the world was she standing at my door. I dont speak Chinese. I dont even know where to begin.

She again pushed the note in my direction. I reached out and took the note from her. I looked down and read the note. Chinese characters. How in the world am I supposed to read this?!

I motioned to her that I culdnt understand or read it. She smiled shily and motioned for me to turn the note over. Ah, she had it translated! WOOHOO!

Then I read the translation and my heart sank.

"What IS God?"

I was astounded. It didnt say, "Which God is right?", "Which religion is best?", or "Which denomination is better?". 

"What IS God?"

I read it again and again. I suddenly was very thankful for the fact that I didnt speak Chinese! I didnt even know where to begin with such a question. The idea that one would grow up in a culture where the very concept of "God" is not even known absolutely blew my mind. I looked at her, wrote down the next days date on the note, and told her to come back the next day. She smiled, thanked me, and walked away with a glow about her.

I sat that night in my apartment not worrying anymore about my classes, how many hours I would teach, or whether they would over work me. I sat there and remembered the question.

"What IS God?"

I worried about what to say, whether I could get into trouble (I later found out I couldnt because she approached me), how to explain, and so much more. I stressed, prayed, read, searched. But then something happened. A thought went through my mind that suddenly allowed me to fall into a deep sleep like never before. What was that thought?

She asked the right question.

Her very question was filled with hope, awe, a seeking spirit, a want, a desire, a longing.

She asked the right question and left with a smile.

She left my door with hope.

She asked the right question.

Adventures...

Posted in Blog.

I went to a meeting yesterday that partained to Riverchases' upcoming trip to Guatemala this summer. This will be my first time to Central America and it has all the signs of being another great adventure. If you know me, you know that I love to travel and see new places and new people. I love cultures and history and all that comes with it. I love the idea of putting on an Indiana Jones hat and sliding down into the pyramids. Thats just the way I am.

But, as I sit here this morning, I realized something. I did something that I hadnt done before. I looked out my car window as I was pulling into the parking lot and thought, "How many people did I drive past this morning?" How many? 100? 500? 1000 people in a 10 minute drive? I suddenly found myself fascinated by who they might be, where they might come from, and what their story is. I wanted to know! I still do. Maybe I just hadnt stopped to ask quite yet. Maybe I need to stop for a second and realize that history, culture, and fun adventures can begin whenever and wherever I so choose. I choose to walk outside my door and be blown away by all the possibilities.

I want an adventure today. I want to meet new people and be blown away by their story. I want to stop and listen to all the fascinating things that are happening around me. I want God to show me all of his opportunities that I am missing. Im ready for an adventure today. Are you?

Speak With Conviction

Posted in Scriptural Encouragement.

I watched a short youtube video a few months ago called, "Speak with Conviction" by Taylor Mali. It stuck with me. Not only is it quite funny, it is so true and relevant to our world. But not only to our world, our religious world as well.

He speaks about how we have become the most aggressively inarticulate generation since "you know.....a long time ago!". We have inserted "you knows" and "you know what Im sayin" into our very speech and it has made us lose the very nature of declarative sentences. They used to declare things. Now, they simply invite all to jump onto their own bandwagon of uncertainty as they have not really put any thought into the things they have said.

Its quite true when you think about it. We dont "mean what we say, and say what we mean" anymore. We speak in a way that always leaves us a way out. We say things like "I dont remember saying that" or "I didnt mean it in that way" all the time. We dont take responsibility anymore for what we say. If we find ourselves having said something that isnt true we usually get mad at the person who pointed it out to us. We live with this idea that we are victims of every person and situation. We rarely say "Im sorry" and even more rarely say "I was wrong".

What has happened to our conviction? What has happened speaking the truth? So, maybe we should all take a minute and think about how we speak. Does your word mean anything to anybody? Do people constantly not believe you? Maybe you should stop for a moment, pray to God for a truthful heart and toungue, and start again. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Peoples souls are counting on it.

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