Monday, January 26, 2009

And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart; for the Lord searches every mind, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever” I Chronicles 28: 9.

When searching through a concordance, there are more verses that speak of the imagination as evil than speak of it as good. But imagination can be good. As a child I loved to read. Books carried me far away and my mind imagined all the scenes in the books I read. Perhaps learning about all those lands and the people who inhabited them was part of the impetus to my becoming a missionary.

When, around the age of 17, I was introduced to scripture, I read it with imagination intact. I imagined creation as I read about it. I imagined what it would be like for an angel to stand before me and say, “Fear not.” I always doubted those words from an angel’s lips to me would help me fear less, because it seemed to be a pretty awesome experience to me. No story escaped my imagination as I don’t think I can read without seeing pictures in my mind.
After reading Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I began to add other details to what I read, such as imagining the smells, what things may have tasted like (manna) or felt like as I meditated on scripture.

Corporate worship is most always very meaningful to me. I think it is because I have such a repertoire of biblical stories in my memory and I can envision these stories in my mind in so many different ways. When I hear the word read, when I sing or when I take communion I see what I hear, read, sing, or meditate upon. Often when I pray I can see the four creatures flying up and down above the Father crying Holy, Holy, Holy. How great our God becomes as we try to picture what is impossible to picture. Some of my happiest moments in my life have been moments in active worship.

Scripture is correct to warn us about evil imaginations of our hearts, but imagination can be a good thing if it comes from a single heart that honors God, however, Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 2:9, "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him." Imagination fails us when it comes to experiencing the reality. I look forward to that reality. Until then, I will imagine it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

But if one of those who don't believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience (I Corinthians 10:27)

I had lunch with a friend this week. Her husband is off on a short-term mission trip in a country where cleanliness is not a priority and eating some foods might make him extremely ill. To alleviate this possibility, he took along some peanut butter and some crackers. When he called home and had only a few minutes to talk before heading into a jungle area without cell phone towers, she only had time to tell him not to eat the peanut butter – it might be contaminated with salmonella (the news is the U.S. about a recall of contaminated peanut butter). Makes one wonder, does it not?

Years ago, after reading Ted Ward’s book, Living Overseas: A Book of Preparations, I have made it my habit to eat, when in doubt, Chinese, or any food that is prepared using very high heat and drinking boiled tea, while avoiding raw, unpeeled foods. I’ve tried to be carefully adventurous. There are some foods I don’t want to try again if I can help it and sickness has been fairly limited thus far…though I carry little bottles of remedies with me everywhere I go. But then again, I had to check out the peanut butter I bought last week. I guess none of us will get out of this world alive.

I found this on Godtube. Hope you enjoy it:

Love's Prayers,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into a TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background" Pollock, David & Van Reken, Ruth, Third Culture Kids, The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston/London: Nicolas Brealey Publishing, p. 19.

Below is a letter from one of these TCKs to a family considering coming back to U.S. for the sake of the children. This TCK gave me permission to place this on my blog and also gave me permission to allow her name and phone number to appear, so that if you have questions about raising children elsewhere, she might be helpful to you.

Hey, I’m Kris Bowen, daughter of Mark and Debbie Hooper. I understand that you are having some inner-struggle on raising children in a foreign culture. I wanted to give you the perspective of one of those children! As you might know, my parents moved our family to India when I was 4 months old. We lived there for five years. I have NEVER regretted their decision. In fact, I have always felt incredibly blessed to have been able to experience a different culture, and often wish we could have been there longer, so that I could have experienced it when I was a little older as well. It is true that I was not able to be close to my grandparents, aunts and uncles, but the people there became my family and I never felt deprived in any way. Since I was so young, this was just how life was. I didn’t feel like I was weird or that something was missing from my life. When we moved back to the States, it was definitely something that set me apart, but never in a bad way. And aren’t Kingdom children supposed to be “set apart” anyway? I always felt cool, because I had lived in a foreign country when many of the children that I went to school with had never even left the state of Tennessee. I feel like I matured a lot faster than my peers as well, because I had experienced so much. Now that I am older (24 now), I am still so thankful for the experience. It has helped me in my chosen profession of social work and just in life in general, to be able to relate to people better, especially those that are here in the States that come from a different culture. And it sure didn’t hurt when I was looking for a job! I have experienced life in a totally different way than the “norm” and it has changed who I am (or I guess who I would have been), but I think I’m a better person for it. In fact, sometimes I forget that this is not how everyone’s life is! I am married now to a wonderful man, and we plan to move overseas to do our Father’s work. And I have no apprehensions of having/raising children in the same manner in which I was raised. I feel so “lucky” to have experienced what I have and I wouldn’t trade it for any amount of “normalcy”!

Kris Bowen, BSW
Infant Adoption Training Specialist

111 Racine Street
Memphis, TN 38111
(901) 634-8199 (office)
(901) 323-3640 (fax)

While there might be disadvantages in growing up in a cross-cultural environment, Clyde Austin, Ph.D. compiled a list of advantages which I have copied below. I would like to add, that I've never spoken to someone who, though s/he might be struggling with U.S. life, would ever trade their cross-cultural life experiences for a mono-cultural identity.

Advantages of Being a Missionary Child or TCK
Clyde N. Austin, Ph.D.

* family becomes a major social supportive agent; develop closer ties to family; more individual attention and time spent together as a family (Harrell, p.3)
* “enriched and strengthened from roots in different soils”
* oriented to involvement in social and community service
* forced to “grow up”
* meet a lot of people
* see people working at the “gut level”
* learn not to stereotype
* able to handle adjustment problems
* “never a dull moment”
* slower pace
* less complex life

* achieve a “sense of mission”; develop a sense of pride in helping in the work
* Christ-centered home
* know all about mission work
* spiritual bond with parents
* spiritual & mental maturity
* fellowship of missionaries
* proud that parents were presenting the Gospel

* academic curriculum for college-bound student frequently excellent (Harrell, p.5)
* learning enrichment in host country
* cultural exchange
* second language
* understand and relate to diversity
* broader educational experiences
* boarding school a good prerequisite for college
* independence of thought
* better prepared for study in US
* enjoyed closeness of school on mission field
* become more open-minded
* firsthand study of a different culture
* often superior to US (Harrell, p.2)
* base setting a good place to encourage creativity and flexibility among students (Harrell, p.5)

* widened horizons
* “On the general level, ‘expatriates’…gain a separate identity of their own, irrespective of their nationality”
* clearer perspective in world affairs
* enlarged world view
* another perspective on life & values; compare with home
* “Grew up as an international citizen instead of an ultra-patriotic nation-worshipper…”
* become aware of privileges in USA
* objectivity: Can step back and look at American life without many biases that US residents have
* “Getting to know the cultures as they are instead of how America portrays them”
* the opportunity to know other cultures personally compensates for leaving the US (Harrell, p.2)

* learn to accept new friends with different backgrounds
* varied contacts with many interesting people leads to broader scope of friendships
* being creative at play

* freedom of outdoor life
* beauty and climate of another culture
* a lot of outdoors time

* diverse traveling experiences
* variety of adventures

* new and interesting animals
* being “special” because I lived elsewhere
* realize that being “different” is okay (Harrell, p.3)

This is the day the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:4)

Monday, January 19, 2009

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them (Revelation 14:13).

This last weekend after worship, it was my turn to work at the Member HUB (place to sign up for workshops or get information about upcoming events). A couple stopped by the HUB and inquired, “You are Dottie Schulz, aren’t you?” “Yes,” I replied. They then proceeded to tell me how much my husband, Tom, had meant to their three children, who had attended York College and had studied under Tom. How special it is to still hear good things about my husband. Lately there have been several such occasions.

Just recently, a former York College student from Chicago was visiting friends in Frisco, Texas, heard from his friends that I now work at Missions Resource Network and drove all the way over to the office with his youngest child just to tell me face-to-face how much my husband had meant to him. Before he left the office, he said, “I’m headed for Zambia and it’s because of his influence.” Last month another former student, who spent years in Europe, asked to be my friend on Facebook. He wrote on my Wall that he went to the last York College Homecoming just to find me so he could tell me personally how much Tom meant to him and how great his influence had been in his life. The Winter 2008 issue of Heritage Magazine from York College featured an article about Brian Kohlsheen, former York College student and former YC baseball coach. Brian left York to become a Scout for the Atlanta Braves and is best known for recruiting Kerry Ligtenberg and Adam LaRoche for the Braves. In 2000, Brian became the Regional Manager of the Phillies. Brian came to York on a baseball scholarship. He was in Tom's Bible classes and had lots of questions, which he said Tom patiently answered. I don't remember who baptized Brian, but I know Tom baptized a lot of students.

Max Lucado told part of Tom's story of his last day on earth (anonymously in one paragraph) in his book, 3:16, and then honored Tom in the last sermon he preached at the Richland Hills Church,, and though Max got part of the story a bit wrong, you can imagine how special it was to have Tom honored in this way.

But the story doesn’t end there. Every time our family gets together, our children talk about their “Papa.” This last Christmas our youngest daughter and her husband, a graphic artist, gave everyone in the family a special gift, a one page, 24 by 18 inch calendar. The calendar paper is black and all the printing is in white. At the top of the calendar are the words, “It's just as we feared. It’s another day.” Those were words Tom spoke to me every morning of the world when he would come into our bedroom to awaken me and to give his sleepy-head wife a strong cup of hot, black coffee. Underneath those words are three small pictures of Tom, copied from black and white glossy pictures, taken by one of his students for an art project, that I recently rediscovered in a folder in his file cabinet. I scanned the pictures and emailed them as attachments to all the children. Below the pictures of Tom is a 12 month calendar and at the bottom of the calendar is written, “In loving memory of Papa.” Such a special gift to all of us and so appreciated by all of us!

What was it about Tom? For one, he loved God. He loved God's word and he was obedient to that word, no matter the cost. He truly cared for people. He listened a lot and spoke little. He would state his opinion, but never tried to force his will onto others. He went the extra mile. He was a man who knew how to work without complaint. After his left arm was eaten away by cancer, he still worked in the garden and together we cut wood and hauled it home in the pick-up. It was his attitude. If something unpleasant needed to be done, from confronting someone about their sin to helping someone butcher a hog, no one would have ever known he thought it was unpleasant. Shopping was not his favorite activity, but he would go shopping with his family and be cheerful about it. He didn’t always like to attend social functions, but he would go and no one would ever suspect that he didn’t want to be there. He could be dead tired and want desperately just to be alone, but if the door bell rang and someone needed to talk, no one was more welcoming. But the day after Tom learned that there was no more medical help for his condition, he turned to me and said, "Okay, I'm dying. I don't want want you to cook any more brocoli for me." I must have looked shocked. I said, "But you love it. I buy it and fix it just for you," to which he answered, "I have never enjoyed it." Since our return from Holland, I must have cooked brocoli for supper at least once a week. In all the years we were married, I can probably count on one hand any complaint he might have had about something I cooked. After each meal he would get up from the table and hug me from behind, give me a big kiss and thank me for the meal. It was his ritual - like his ritual of waking me with a cup of coffee. The hospice nurse remarked at his funeral that he must have loved me very much because he never complained to me about the amount of pain he was experiencing (though we all knew). Did Tom ever object to anything, you wonder. Yes, he would stand to the death on important matters, so that when he did stand, people stopped and listened. Tom knew he was saved by grace and he believed saved people needed to be grace-filled, gracious people. He certainly showed grace to me. Tom has been with the Lord since January 1, 2000. 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them (Rev. 14:13).

I pray Tom's example encourages you.