If You Won the Lottery

What would you do with a million dollars? I would offer scholarships to all the worthy PhD and masters level students I care about. One of the hardest parts of ministering in developing countries is all the times I have to say “No, I’m sorry…” to our students, colleagues, and former students when they ask for financial help to continue their studies.

Former Scholarship Recipient, Lecturer in Pastoral Theology

Former Scholarship Recipient, Lecturer in Pastoral Theology

A scholarship is such an excellent investment! This winter I ran into a former scholarship recipient who we helped in 2007 when he was studying for his Master of Divinity degree. Now, he is a college teacher  sharing his knowledge freely with hundreds of students.

San Lian, Lecturer in World Religions

San Lian, Lecturer in World Religions

Yesterday I received the wonderful news of San Lian’s acceptance to a PhD program at the Lutheran School of Theology in Philadelphia. I’ve known San Lian for four years. He’s a good scholar and a caring teacher. He uses wonderful pedagogical methods and has put all his former education to work in the classroom and in the articles he publishes. He needs is around $13,000 a year to continue his studies. I hate telling him, “I’m sorry we can’t provide the scholarship you need.”

Sam, An incredible scholar in need of funds

Sam, An incredible scholar in need of funds

Sam, a Kachin Pastor from Yangon, is finishing up his Master of Theology Degree in the US with honors. As our scholarship student these past two years, it’s been our joy to congratulate him on straight As, special awards, and well-written papers that have helped me understand so much about our context here in Myanmar. Claremont encouraged him to apply for their PhD program, accepted him, and have offered him half a scholarship. I wanted to cry when we had to tell him, “We’ve already committed to helping other students next year.” He works two jobs to provide for his living expenses, but he’s looking for $13,240 a year in tuition help. Whoever invests in him is investing in the future of Myanmar.

Agnes and her husband in 2007 with Tim and Jill

Agnes and her husband in 2007 with Tim and Jill

When we wrote to Agnes, a former student in Goma, D. R. Congo that we couldn’t help with expenses related to her doctoral studies in the Philippines  (they gave her a full tuition scholarship), she responded to our assurance of our prayers, “Thank you so much for your support. I know God is hearing your prayers for me and He will do what is best for me and my family. God bless you.”

Moe Moe Nyunt discusses her book on Pneumatology with Tim

Moe Moe Nyunt discusses her book on Pneumatology with Tim

Moe Moe Nyunt is a first year PhD student at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. She wrote a very meaningful book, “A Pneumatological Response to the Burmese Nat-Worship” after her master degree studies. Now she is continuing her research on the topic of the Holy Spirit and Evangelism. She received all As her first semester, but her funding is running out. Last year she received a one year scholarship to get started, but needs tuition help to continue.

Will you pray and ask God to show you how and who you might help? We can recommend so many of the faculty we know here in Myanmar and Congo for your consideration. Here are the photos of just a few more worthy candidates:

Seng Tawng, Old Testament Lecturer, audits 2 of Tim's classes in order to be more prepared for PhD studies.

Seng Tawng, Old Testament Lecturer, audits 2 of Tim’s classes in order to be more prepared for PhD studies.

Rev. Bolingo, Chaplain at Heal Africa in Goma, DR Congo (where rape victims from the war-torn area are treated) would like to pursue a PhD in Old Testament.

Richard helps Tim teach New Testament Theology. With funding he will be able to get his PhD in New Testament.

Richard helps Tim teach New Testament Theology. With funding he will be able to get his PhD in New Testament.

Fanang Lum got her masters at Princeton. Her professors encouraged her to apply for a PhD program, but she was required to come back and teach for 2 years. Now the seminary has released her for study leave.

Fanang Lum got her masters at Princeton. Her professors encouraged her to apply for a PhD program, but she was required to come back and teach for 2 years. Now the seminary has released her for study leave.

If you sense God tugging on your heart or mind, please be in touch with me or Tim (info@fhlglobal.org) and we will gladly connect you with a student, explain our requirements for those requesting scholarships, or pray with you about how you can help.

Joseph and Tin are both PhD students at Biola with full scholarships. They recently wrote: Our daily prayer is "Give us this day our daily bread and this month our apartment rental."

Joseph and Tin are both PhD students at Biola with partial scholarships. They recently wrote: Our daily prayer is “Give us this day our daily bread and this month our apartment rental.”

I can’t tell you how your investment in one of these future professors will reap abundant returns as these scholars contribute to the future of the church in their countries and beyond.
Tim with a student we have sponsored during his Master of Divinity studies. After graduation he will serve his church as a missions pastor.

Tim with a student we have sponsored during his Master of Divinity studies. After graduation he will serve his church as a missions pastor.

Final note: an annual gift of approximately $500 provides a future ministry candidate at the Myanmar Institute of Theology with one year of studies towards her/his Master of Divinity degree.

Prayer: God of all abundance, please supply the necessary funds for these scholars. May you lead them each step of their journey as they seek to know more and serve better. In Christ’s name we pray…

Connection: What Does It Take?

Watering flowers in Yangon

Watering plants in Yangon

A beautiful smile beamed at me from beneath a wide brimmed woven hat. I gestured at the flowers she had been watering and gave her a thumbs up. She received the compliment and responded with an even broader smile. I held up my camera; she nodded, and I clicked. As unlikely as it seems, a friendship began with this random encounter along the lakeside walkway in Yangon.

Enjoying our picture together

Enjoying our picture together

I made a copy of the photo and carried it in my bag for weeks, hoping to see the gardner so that I could share it. One day our paths crossed again and I gave her the rolled up picture which I had printed on plain white paper. It brought her so much delight that we had our picture taken together, and I printed and shared that one too. Another afternoon, after she was finished with work, she took my hand and led me to her home for tea. She wanted me to see so how the gifts I had given were displayed on her wall.

Home visit

Home visit

We communicate with gestures, sounds that the other almost never understands, and laughter. Amazingly, in this way we’ve come to know about a bit about each others’ lives. Sometimes we are able to share about deeper things–all without words.

Home altar

Home altar

While our life experiences couldn’t be more different, they are also strikingly similar. Di Di Aye is Buddhist and I am Christian. Because of language differences, we can’t talk about our spiritual lives, but when times have been hard, we have used our facial expressions and tone of voice to express our concern. Once when Di Di Aye feared homelessness, Tim and I asked if  we could pray together. She nodded an appreciative “Yes.” We held hands and through tears we joined our hearts, asking God for help.


Bridge of pipes

I can’t say I fully understand our connection, but it is deep and real. We both value it. Yesterday I was walking by the lake and scanning the island where Di Di Aye lives, hoping for a reunion with my friend. To my delight, in the distance I saw two hands go up and wave. Next, I watched as Di Di Aye ran across her “bridge” and came to meet me, inviting me to return to her house with her.

Enjoying our reconnection

Enjoying our reconnection

We hadn’t seen each other for seven months since I was last in Myanmar. There was a new grand-baby to introduce to me. When Di Di Aye pointed at the large boil on her foot, I took a good look at it and learned about the two shots she had received as treatment. But what Di Di Aye most wanted me to see was the little flower garden she had planted. I wanted to cry when I realized that the seeds that I had left in June were now blossoming in her yard!

Gardener's flowers

Gardener’s flowers

Life is full of mystery. What unnamable bond unites my heart to Di Di Aye’s and hers to mine?
Life is full of gifts–given and received. A smile. A photograph. A cup of tea. A bag of seeds.
Life can be full of beauty and joy, but we have to be willing to engage–to say “Yes” to the opportunities that present themselves, to live the unexpected blessings that are offered to us, to value connection.

Question for reflection:

What do you need to do to make space in your busy day to notice the gifts that God is offering?

Scriptural Touchstone:

Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of a gift never given. (Proverbs 25:14)

Once Upon A Tree: Wedding Words for My Son and Daughter-in-law

If your son and his fiancée asked you to officiate at their wedding service, what would you want to be sure to say–to them, and to all who witnessed their union? In July, I had the amazingly joyful opportunity to ground the beginning of Stella and Tim’s marriage ceremony with these remarks.

The amazing oak

Stella and Tim, you decided to be married beneath this magnificent oak tree.  How wisely you have chosen! Oaks have always symbolized strength and endurance. Their leaves and bark can be used for healing. Their fruit, the familiar acorn, provides food for hundreds of species of insects and animals. The ink used on many medieval manuscripts, perhaps even some that you will hold and study, Stella, was created using the galls that grew on oak leaves. Oaks, which adapt easily to a variety of soil conditions, are considered one of the best shade trees.

As we all receive the gifts of beauty and inspiration that this oak is offering, I would like to suggest that you consider how your marriage can mirror this oak. (For those of us who are married, we may want to also do this!)

©Lucy H. Heegaard

Oaks are known to have extremely deep taproots that both hold them firmly in place and help them to find the water they need to live. As I look out on the faces of the family members that have come to support you, I see a deep taproot of love that will help to stabilize and nourish your marriage.

©Ken Geoffrion Photography

The trunk of this tree provides the stability for all that grows from it. The base of your marriage is your shared experience. You are two individuals, but you are also one couple. As the years pass, your union will always be growing just like the trunk of this tree, and thus always supporting the rest of your lives.

As our eyes follow the trunk of this oak upwards, we see both how it reaches for the sky and how branches extend from it. You two have shared interests, values and dreams, but each of has other personal aspirations and desires for your life that you will want to continue to explore and develop. Just as the branches overhead are connected to the base of this tree, so those parts of you that reach beyond each other will have a life of their own, yet will be connected to who you are in relationship to one another.

The wonderful canopy of leaves that is offering you shade reminds us of how your relationship can be a great gift not only to you, but also to your friends, your family, your community, and the world. What you create together has so much potential to bless others—something I know you care about. If you allow it to be so, your marriage can be a shelter and a place of rest for many.

Oak trees produce thousands of acorns every year. Like oak trees, marriages are meant to be creative. If you want and are able to have a family, we all wish and pray for this joy for you. But I am thinking far more broadly about the potential of your union to bring into being projects, relationships, art, organizations—whatever you two will imagine and work towards together. Each year a new batch of acorns is produced—may your relationship be full of continual creativity and generativity!

Finally, there is a vital part of the oak tree that we do not see: deep within it, there is water running from the roots to the leaves. Without this water, and oak trees can need up to 50 gallons of water a day, the tree will suffer and eventually die. God, too is unseen, but it is God who animates and nourishes all of life. As you allow God to freely flow in your marriage, you will experience vitality, growth and beauty.

Tim and Stella, you have chosen to be married beneath this awesome oak tree. May your marriage always mirror its strength, endurance, fecundity, beauty, and vitality!

© Lucy H. Heegaard

To read the homily, “What Kind of Love Makes a Marriage Flourish?” given by Tim’s Dad, click here.

Hearing God During 30 Days of Silence

Silence is but one of the many spiritual tools that we can use to draw near to the heart of God. This summer, it was my joy and great privilege to join the Chemin Neuf community in Tigéry, France for a 30 day silent retreat using the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. While the retreat was challenging on many fronts as I sought to rededicate myself more fully to God’s service, the silence was not! It was a gift inside of which I was able to hear God’s deep love for me and for the world.

View during four daily periods of Bible study and meditation

While the 35 retreatants were silent in terms of talking to others, we were not idle! Each day we worshipped as a community in the morning (lauds), at mid-day (communi0n), and often in the evening. We were guided by a team who taught on the Ignatian exercises each morning and afternoon. In between, we had four periods of personal Scripture study and meditation (45-60 minutes each), various chores (I set the table for the evening meal the first two weeks and helped prepare dinner the third and fourth weeks), an hour of work each afternoon (I joined the garden crew) and “household care” (along with two others, we kept the chapel area clean). My favorite half hour of the day (and not just because I got to speak!!!) was meeting with my spiritual “accompanateur” to discuss what God was communicating with me as I studied, prayed, and worshipped. While the schedule was a bit rigorous for my sensibilities, I did find time each day after lunch and dinner to prayerfully walk around the grounds.

Pathway through the forest

I am deeply grateful to my many friends who faithfully prayed for me during my retreat. I long to share with you the fruit of the 30 days, but I still find it hard to put words to my experiences! Until they come, let me share through brief sentences and images a few of the many, many gifts that I received from God.

A sense of “enough.”

A recommitment to living the rest of my life as a servant of Christ.

A deep sense of our Creator’s delight in me and all creation.

A call to “integrate everything” as I seek to minister.

The delight in prayerfully affirming “Thy will be done.” throughout each day and night.

An deeper understanding that suffering, whether my own, or those with whom God allows me to be present, links me to Christ’s experience in this world and God’s love for us.

A profound longing to see Christ in others, creation, and myself so that I may express the beauty of God in ways that inspire and call forth faith.

Jill serving in the kitchen as a cook.

Thank you for your patience and prayers as God grows in me the many seeds of faith, hope and love that were planted during this silent retreat!

Taking Root: The Labyrinth in Myanmar

My heart is jumping for joy! I literally cannot believe my eyes! The labyrinth is appearing on the floor of the new chapel here at the seminary in Yangon.

A paper Chartres-style labyrinth diagram had been given to the builders. Thanks to Robert Ferré (www.labyrinth-enterprises.com), the correct measurements were shared. Together with the architect who had never seen a labyrinth before, we came up with a diagram for the dimensions and placement of the first-ever permanent indoor labyrinth in Myanmar.

Day by day, right behind the workers carrying bags of sand, I would walk up the five flights of newly built stairs.

At first, all I could do was to check on the progress of the floor construction.

But then one happy day, I saw more. The workers seemed as pleased as I!

We checked to make sure that the measurements were accurate. Thankfully, they were perfect!

Now, every day is more exciting than the last as more and more of the labyrinth appears. First came the outer turns.

Then more of pathway.

Next, the crown (as the architect here calls it) was installed.

The center was saved for last.

I walked the pathway to make sure all was as it should be. My prayers for all those who would come and pray this labyrinth flowed freely all the way to the center and back out! The next step will be filling in the dividing lines with a black material, shaping jade color terrazzo stone to fill in the path, and installing yellow terrazzo stone around the outside.

I’m leaving the country now, so I won’t be able to watch more of this labyrinth’s birth.  I can’t wait to be back to walk it with the seminary community during its dedication in June!

The cross at the center. The beginning of all the measurements.

Prayer: May all who work build this labyrinth and all who walk it be blessed by Your Presence, dear God. Amen!

Question for reflection: If you could be the first person to walk a new labyrinth, what would you pray for?

Scriptural Touchstone: “You gave me a place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.”

Encouragement In The Midst of Our Sufferings

I would like to share a homily (and accompanying images) that I preached this morning in chapel.

Greeting and Introduction

…I would like to especially thank you for your prayers during my period of convalescence since November 2010. God has been answering those prayers for the return of my health, slowly, in God’s own time.

This morning I would like to share with you what God has been teaching me through my suffering and encourage you as you experience whatever suffering is a part of your life.

Question for Reflection

Someone has said, the best question we can ask one another is, “What are you suffering?” It gets at the heart of our human experience. If your best friend, or someone who loves you and whom you trust asked you, “What suffering is a part of your life right now?” What would you answer? Take thirty seconds to consider.

Telling My Story

The Apostle Paul, who suffered much in his life and his ministry, wrote these words, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”  I would like to share with you what these verse have come to mean to me.

In November 2010, after two wonderfully rewarding and exhausting weeks of ministry

and teaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo, my husband and I flew France.

I was feeling so happy and alive.

We checked into a hotel in Paris where we were planning to rest for three days before continuing home to the United States. The first night, I woke up and could not breathe. We feared that I was having a heart attack.

While Tim asked me questions about my symptoms, I left my body.

We were staying on the fifth floor of the hotel and strangely, I saw my body laid out flat, with my feet first, go right through the closed window, and as if on a conveyer belt, move towards the horizon. When the conveyor belt had taken me a long way from the hotel, I suddenly understood that I was dying. Without thinking, I screamed “NO!!!! I have a husband, I have two sons!”

Immediately, the conveyor belt stopped. Then, it jerked into reverse, and took me back through our closed hotel window where I reentered my body.

When we got to the hospital they explained that a blood clot that had formed in my leg on the long airplane ride had broken loose, gone to my heart, splattered and then gone to my lungs where it had killed lung cells. That’s why it was difficult for me to breathe. They told me I was lucky to be alive, and that it would take at least a year to regain my health.

My life had changed in an instant. I had no idea how much physical and emotional suffering was to come as my body and spirit tried to heal.

God has used the past fifteen months of healing to teach me more about what Paul meant when he said, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

Reflections on Suffering from a Christian Perspective

Rejoicing in hope, as you know, is not always easy.

Our Christian hope is not that we won’t have suffering, but that God will use our suffering for good. Suffering changes us. If we allow it to, it can help us become more sensitive to the suffering of others. When we have made peace with our own suffering, we are no longer so afraid of the suffering of others. We can be with them and help them in the midst of their pain.  We can sit with them, pray with them, and love them in whatever ways God shows us they need.

I remember one day when the physical pain my body was overwhelming. On a scale of 0 to ten, with zero meaning I felt no pain and 10 meaning that all I felt was pain, my pain ranked at an eight or maybe a nine.  I was with a friend and we had prayed together, asking for healing in my body. When we were done we sat and looked at each other, saying nothing. Then I started to cry. “Kate, do you the pain will ever go away?” I asked. I am sure each of us remembers a time when we asked that question, “Will this pain ever go away?”

My friend answered me very wisely—and with great compassion. “Yes, Jill,” she said kindly, “but it is going to take time.” I clung to her words, even though my fear made me doubt that they were true. Sometimes we lose our hope; that is when we need others to hope for us.

Our Christian hope is not that we won’t have suffering, but that God will use our suffering for good. Suffering changes us. If we allow it to, it can help us become more sensitive to the suffering of others. When we have made peace with our own suffering, we are no longer so afraid of the suffering of others. We can be with them and help them in the midst of their pain.  We can sit with them, pray with them, and love them in whatever ways God shows us they need. Our suffering is not without fruit. If we allow it, God can use our suffering for good.

Suffering reminds us that life is far beyond our control. In our need, we can turn to God who was willing to come to this world and suffer himself. Nothing that we suffer is greater than what Jesus suffered. Because Jesus experienced suffering of every kind—physical suffering when he was tortured, spiritual suffering when he felt abandoned by God, emotional suffering when people he loved disappointed him as his disciples did in the Garden of Gethsemane, and relational suffering such as when his friend Lazarus died, we can have confidence that in the midst of our suffering God can understands what we are going through. Our hope right now is this—we are not alone in our suffering. Our ultimate hope is that one day there will be no more suffering of any kind.

Paul urges us to rejoice in hope, but he also reminds us of our need to be patient when we suffer.

Being Patient in Suffering: Illustrating Our Hope

Being patient in suffering is a lot like crossing a busy road here in Myanmar.

Every evening Tim and I have to get from one side of Kabar Aye Pagoda Road to the other.

First, we wait for an opening in the flow of the busy, oncoming three lanes of traffic. When it is possible, we get to the center white line and wait.

Looking back at where we’ve come from is of no use, we have to focus on the traffic that is coming towards us, making sure not to get hit, and waiting for just the right moment to continue across three more lanes of busy traffic to the other side.

Sometimes when I stand on the white line in the middle of those six lanes of traffic, even though my husband tells me that it’s safe to cross and urges me to keep going, I’m too afraid. Then, he has to take my hand and lead me to the other side.

Whenever we get all the way across that busy road safely, relief and gratitude well up in me!

Being patient in suffering is not so different! When we suffer, we try to find a way to get to the other side of it. We set off, finding a way to distance ourselves a little from the pain we’re experiencing.

It’s as if we make it to the center white line. But then, we find our way blocked by the oncoming challenges that are such a normal part of our lives.

Sometimes these difficulties keep coming and can make it impossible for us to move for a long time, so our suffering continues. Looking back to all we’ve already suffered only makes the current suffering greater, so we find it much more useful to look in the other direction, seeking a break that will let us cross to the other side of the physical, emotional or spiritual pain we’re enduring.

Sometimes an opening presents itself, but we’re so afraid that we don’t move, or take advantage of it.

Sometimes, someone who cares for us and knows how much we are suffering, takes our hand and helps us get safely to the other side. When our suffering finally ends, we feel both relief and gratitude.

Applying the Message

What are you suffering? Right now? I know that God cares about whatever difficulties are a part of your life this morning. I would like to offer us a minute of silence in which we can each talk to God about our suffering and also to listen to what God might want to say to us as He is present to our suffering.

In silence, let us pray.

(one minute of silence)


Safe and Secure: A Finger Labyrinth Prayer

Your embrace encircles me.

This spiritual landscape opens

to welcome other visitors,

seen only with the eyes of faith.




spring up from this fertile soil.

This beauty is all that is needed

while we move on.

What a privilege it was to introduce labyrinth prayer to this group of young leaders.

We didn’t have a labyrinth to walk, so we walked with our fingers and pens.

The poem, “Safe and Secure” synthesizes the prayer experience of one of the class members as explained to me through a translator.

Question for reflection: What is my prayer experience as I walk the labyrinth with my feet, eyes or hand?

Prayer: May the messages I receive be integrated into my life. May I live out of my relationship with You. Amen.

Scriptural Touchstone: Psalms 16:11

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Special thanks to Alain Kilar for donating finger labyrinths of his amazing photo of the Chartres labyrinth (in the lead photo here)
to Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries. We are happy to share then around the globe.  www.alainkilar.ch

Labyrinth Construction To Start Soon

In 2009, a permanent labyrinth was installed on campus. As far as we know, it was the first in the country. Many used it and found its pathway a supportive environment for prayer.

In 2010, after a permit was granted for the construction of a new seminary building, the labyrinth had to be taken up to make way for water tank that was needed for the project. A vision for an even more permanent labyrinth, one that wouldn’t be able to be removed if land was needed for another purpose, began to form. What if an in-floor prayer labyrinth could be placed in part of  the 5th floor chapel and multipurpose room?

The labyrinth entrance will be below the central window on the top floor.

In late 2011, the decision was made; a new labyrinth would be installed! Since coming back in January, we have met with stone merchants and engineers to discuss the dimensions,


and materials for the labyrinth.

Concrete floor that will be covered with terrazzo stone. The labyrinth will be jade-green with black lines. The chapel floor will be the yellow seen in the photo below.

Next week, construction of this labyrinth will begin. The team here is very excited. We would appreciate your prayers for this project.

Jill, Engineer, Floor Specialist, Treasurer

Question for reflection: What spiritual tools could you share with those who are seeking to know and love God better?

Prayer: God, bless this pathway of prayer. Bless those who build it and those who come to pray on it. May its pathway lead us all, step by step, closer to You, the Center of All.

Scriptural Touchstone: Isaiah 30:18, 21
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore God will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
…and when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”

What is the power of one word?

Mingalabar, the customary greeting here, was the only word we ever spoke to each other. But we spoke it often, as I passed her home on the way to a walk around the lake in the late afternoon and again as I made my way home through her neighborhood. The simple greeting was usually accompanied by big smiles on both her face and mine, and waving with two hands (a sign of respect) by both of us. We couldn’t speak to each other, but we clearly could connect.

She was obviously sick. Most nights in October and November she lay quietly outside our her home, getting a bit of fresh air, and watching whatever activity happened on the out of the way street. Her house was simple. Members of her multigenerational family were always coming and going. Her husband often stood at the end of the street and silently looked into the distance. When we came back in January he began responding to our greetings as we passed him there. His wife, however, was no longer outside. We could see her lying listlessly on the floor inside, turned away from the door with her face towards the illuminated television. We always called out, “Mingalaba!” and when she could, she would turn and exchange the greeting.

Yesterday, we noticed a change when we approached the home. People were talking in loud voices, sounding upset. We called out our usual greeting, but the older man didn’t even hear or see us, even though he was looking directly at us. A woman, sitting in the chair that the our friend had usually occupied, was crying. We stopped, but lacked the ability to do more that try to express with our faces that we understood something bad was happening. Feeling the powerlessness of being able to communicate more, we continued on.

Then suddenly, we heard the shriek that needs no translation. Women all over the world make the same sound when someone they love has died. It pierced the quiet of the neighborhood. Then, a woman, emerging from the home, ran to other women who were standing on the corner, her wailing growing louder and expressing more of the grief she was experiencing.

Feeling helpless but very concerned, we looked on. Our hearts, joined to this family by nightly greetings, felt a longing to help in some way, to be present in this experience of pain. But we could say nothing comprehensible and we were unaware of the appropriate cultural protocol. “This isn’t our place,” was all I could think to say to Tim. We turned and walked on in silence, reaching the pathway that skirts the lake, feeling what comes so naturally when one encounters the reality of death. Quietness, resistance, sadness for those who are left behind, and general disorientation overtook us. After some time, we shared our thoughts, memories, and concern.

As we headed home about forty minutes later, we once again passed the family’s home. Fourteen women sat silently in the porch area. I thought of the church ladies in the movie Lars and the Real Girl, who came to sit with Lars when his beloved was dying. “This is what we do,” one said, “we wait together.” The husband, standing to the side, greeted us with a weak, “Mingalaba” which we returned, along with an English sentence expressing our concern (the words which of course he didn’t understand). We wanted to communicate that we understood that something very sad had taken place and that we cared. Thank heavens communication is approximately 93% non-verbal.

As we continued on, we encountered a young woman who spoke a little English. She told us that the woman had just died of a heart problem. We asked that she express our sadness to the family. She thanked us for our kindness. We told her we would pray for them, folding our hands in front our hearts to show what we meant. She assumed the same prayer position, and we bowed to one another.

One word is enough to bring relationship into being.

One word is enough to create a bridge of mutual care.

I never took a photo of our friend. I was waiting. I wanted our greetings to create more connection so that when I did take her photo it would be a portrait, not a snap shot. I wanted that image to express the beauty that I experienced in her greetings. I wanted it to speak of her living and her dying. Interestingly, I do not regret never having taken that picture. Her image is imprinted in my heart, which is enough.

And it all started and ended with one word.

Questions for reflection: What words of connection have I spoken today? How can the words I use today bring me closer to those I encounter?

Prayer: God, may the words I speak create bridges over which I can travel to others and over which they can travel to me. Amen.

Trusting in God

“Look carefully, look care-full-y” was the message I received when praying early on Sunday morning.

Later, when we arrived at a house church, I was ready “to see whatever there was to see.” Making my way into the kitchen to greet the pastor’s wife, I was startled and delighted to find a 16 day old baby.

I asked if I could hold her. She and I looked into each other’s eyes. I felt as if I was witnessing something beyond words, something beautiful, deep and true.

All through the service, I kept returning to the wonderful feeling of holding and connecting with that new life. My heart felt completely open to her, completely curious, completely smitten! I wanted to look into her eyes some more.

After the service, I watched as others held her. Then I got my turn. She was sound asleep, so I lay her on my knees.

Looking down, I saw a vision of complete trust. She slept so soundly, so peacefully, so securely in my lap.

Of course I struggle to trust God, like every adult I know. But in that moment of seeing, I was given an image to encourage and inform  me. I am just as safe and secure in God’s care as that precious life was in mine. I knew it then, and even now, four days later, as I recall the feel of that baby’s warmth, I know something I didn’t know when I arrived at church. I know that no matter what happens (and we all know many things happen in this life), I can find a feeling of trust in God that is true.

Question for Reflection: If God reminded me to look carefully, to look care-full-y, what might I be alert enough to see today?

Prayer: Thanks be to You, God. Thanks for beauty that is beyond words, truth that is shared by looking into the eyes of another, love that has no strings, and trust. Help me to rest as I trust in You and Your love.

Scriptural Touchstone:
“… happy are those who trust in God.”
Proverbs 16:20b

What Makes Me Pause

Sunrise behind a pagdoa

The day starts beautifully. I stopped writing an email (internet connections are fastest before 8:00 am)  to appreciate the rising of the sun.

On the way to school, I gaze out the window of my taxi. I consider the lives of those around me.

Through the lens of my camera I see the incredible blessings of our lives–meaningful work,

students who are eager to learn,

and a shared value of using your gifts in service of others.

After class, I walk through the neighborhood. The construction of a new classroom building is the fulfillment of many years of prayers.

Arriving at the home of a friend, we share a cup of tea and a conversation that takes us to the heights and depths of our lives. A sense of gratitude for our friendship of twenty-plus year wells up within me.

When the community gathers for worship, my voice joins many others. Singing lifts my spirit into the presence of God; I let myself feel my body resonating with the shared sound and message.

Tim waits for me as I stop to enjoy the beauty of a woven hat sitting on a pole. Beauty is everywhere! It’s a joy to see it.

Sharing greetings, laughter and bits of news with a woman from the Peace Studies Center who I worked with two years ago is an unexpected surprise.

On the way “home” to our hotel, I take in the sounds, sights, and smells of the urban streets. I wonder about the challenges of feeding a family.

Two colleagues have been attending a conference held where we live. They join me for an hour of discussion, questions, and laughter.

Afterwards, I pause to sleep. The fullness of my life can feel almost overwhelming. Gratitude seems to keep me grounded. Being in the habit of pausing when I notice that something important, beautiful, or out of the ordinary makes the fullness vibrant.

Question for Reflection: When did I last pause to appreciate what is happening? What would help me to do this more?

Prayer: God, for the gifts of this day, a gorgeous sunrise, a friend’s loving smile, an important question to ponder, the joy of community, and rest, I give You thanks. Amen.

Why Bother Going To Church?

Here are a few answers to the question, “Why bother going to church?” that came to mind yesterday morning as I sat in the worship service.

A weekly infusion of Mystery helps me stay balanced.

No matter where I am in the world, I am never alone. Brothers and sisters in the faith always welcome me into their community. (A special thanks to Alan for inviting us to this particular worship service.)

I love being reminded of the Biblical stories that speak to my heart. I love pondering them.

There are often surprises that delight. In Asia, you approach the altar with bare feet. That’s what I call a treat!

Beauty calls with a voice that can strengthen in the most amazing ways.

Plaque Caption: Blind missionary to the blind...

Stories–verbal, visual or embodied–inspire me.

Tabernacle Carving

My soul is fed.

Beforehand and afterwards, there are always people to meet, and conversations to be shared.

There are some other significant reasons that I embodied yesterday: singing connects my heart and mind, praying for all those people and concerns that I am carrying in my heart is encouraged and supported, appreciating the sense of history and the unseen communion of saints that are with us fosters a sense of awe, kneeling is a posture that reminds me of who God is to me, hearing the stories of Scripture in new ways based on my current life circumstances happens, pondering my life in the presence of God occurs naturally when I sit still for twenty minutes (if the sermon doesn’t hold my attention, I still use the time to let God influence my perspectives), being challenged to let go of the past and live into God’s deep desires is something I value and need.

Question for reflection: Based on your most recent experience of being in worship, how do you answer the question, “Why do I bother going to church?”

Prayer: God, thank You for helping me to get to church yesterday. Thank You for meeting me there–in my heart, the Scriptures, the light, the wine and bread, the images, the stories, and those who worshipped with me. Amen!

Working Hard To Understand

Student in one of Tim's classes

Learning something new is hard work. First of all, it takes desire, then the right material, an open mind, and often a lot of will power to stick with one’s commitment when new concepts don’t make sense right away or demand change. I was reminded of this as I watched with admiration the students in Tim’s Friday afternoon class listening to his lecture, participating in the exercises he proposed, responding when he asked how concepts applied in their contexts, and asking him questions so that they could wrap their minds around the ideas he was proposing.

Like the students, we are working to hard to understand many things as well. We know that what we see is conditioned by how we have been trained to look, but that doesn’t help us know how to interpret what we see. How for instance, might I understand the purpose and meaning of a tree shrine with used light bulbs stuck into it’s bark?

When others speak, we hear sounds, but we can’t decipher them, unless the person is graciously using their second, third, or fourth language, English. The smell of curry simmering in our kitchen directs my mind to my favorite Indian restaurant in Minneapolis, or Paris, but its origin is not from across the ocean, it’s from across the border. Things are the same and “different”.

Working in a cross-cultural environment calls for a lot of humility, a good sense of humor, and an inquisitive mind. Wherever we travel we have found friends and colleagues who are very willing to help us understand more about what we are experiencing–if we ask. I’ve learned, often the hard way, that even when I think I know “what is going on”, it’s best to ask a trusted interpreter from inside the culture whose answer will shed light of the validity or inadequacy of my ideas. The hard work is letting in what is real (not what I want to be real), being willing to rethink ideas, and when appropriate incorporating the new learning into my life. True learning demands change. It’s hard work–and like Tim’s students, I think it’s worth it.

Question for reflection: What am I seeking to learn? How committed am I to the process of discovering what is real? How am I readying myself for the changes the new learning will invite?

Prayer: God, for the privilege of being alive, I give You thanks. Thank You for the desire to learn, friends who are willing to teach, and the courage to let experiences form me. As I change, I pray I will more fully reflect You. Amen.

Seeing With The Eyes of Your Soul: Don’t Look Away!

Our late afternoon walks take us across six lanes of busy traffic (no crosswalk), through a neighborhood with high-end and very low-end homes, and beside a tranquil lake, its shores littered with trash. Tim and I enjoy talking about the events of the day, what we’ve been reading, and upcoming ministry opportunities.

Neighborhood soccer game

Contrasts reign along our route. For example, just before we pass the biggest mansion that boasts a very high security fence and what looks through tinted windows a lot like an indoor swimming pool, we gingerly make our way around a small pack of very mangy dogs who have claimed the spot as their own. Every time I see them lounging in the sun on the bamboo-backed bench I think back to my doctor’s pleas that I consider a rabies vaccine. Their sores and patches of hairless skin frighten and repel me.

Lover’s Lane might be an apt description for the walkway beside the water. Young couples huddle behind umbrellas that block out the bright sun as they sit together on metal benches talking and touching. They often look at us with curiosity, and sometimes laugh when we greet them in the local language. Their physicality reminds us to reach for each other’s hand, and enjoy the connection and comfort our relationship brings.

We join all manner of humanity on the paved walkway: ex-patriots jogging in their shorts and t-shirts, police or military officers with their guns, children dressed in ragged clothes picking up plastic bottles, overweight businessmen in suits wiping the sweat from their faces with towels, buddhist monks in maroon robes, groups of youth sitting together playing guitars, men dressed in fatigues fishing with extraordinarily long wooden poles, day laborers directing water from a bursting spigot as they try to wipe away a ten or more hours worth worth of mud on their arms and legs, senile grandparents being led by members of their family, an older gentleman who walks with a golf club as a cane and seems to hold court, workers cutting the grasses with machete-like tools, friends sharing a laugh, men and women bidding good-bye to the sun. As the ball of fire descends, we are all happy to share time outdoors when the tropical heat is least oppressive.

While there are happy moments of connection and greeting, there can also be tense moments when a band of young men, high on drugs, or passing a bottle, approach. What seems important is to live all the moments. It’s harder than one might think.

After a long day in a culture not our own, it can be tiring to look at the complexity of a society as it manifests itself all around us. We can lose ourselves in conversation, which of course is an enjoyable thing to do, but can also be a defense. Letting in the effects of poverty, suffering and social inequality is never easy. Just as challenging can be making the effort to stop and let the beauty of the moment reorient us. This week the pampas grass is in bloom; you have to look out towards the islands on the lake to notice.  The sunsets, gorgeous as they are, also remind us that if we don’t keep moving we’ll be crossing those six lanes of crazy traffic in the dark. There are so many ways to not be present right where we are!

Yesterday, I spied a man sprawled out behind a bougenvalia bush. I found myself wanting to look away, to “give him his privacy” (even though he was passed out!), to pretend that he wasn’t there. Truly “seeing” suffering means feeling its truth. But I was surprised to discover that there was also a temptation to let the magnificent sunset go unappreciated. To look at it meant having to stop and turn slightly, and such intentionality strangely seemed a burden when our rhythm pushed us forward.

The world with all its complexity is our home. It doesn’t seem as if it would take much effort to be fully alive right where we are; but it does. There is the seeing that lets in more than light, it is present with what is real in that moment and space– whom we are with, and what surrounds us. I am trying to see these things with my eyes, but also with my heart. I wonder why I redirect myself when fear or awe invite me to pause.

Question for reflection: What is right in front of you, or all around you, that you would like to see more clearly? What makes it difficult for you to see with your heart?

Prayer: God, for this breath that makes life possible, I give You thanks. May I be brave enough to let both terror and amazement help me to see more clearly and deeply.

Coming in for a Landing

As I travel with Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries, each time a plane lands, I find myself in a “different” place. But before the wheels touch the ground, there is an in-between time. Periods of transition are useful as one looks back and forward without any point of grounding; one is “up in the air” both literally and metaphorically. From this vantage point, life can be seen more objectively.

Big questions can surface and be considered. “Where is God?” often comes to mind (even though I believe that God can not be so isolated as to be totally localized), as does the echo of Psalm 139:7-10

…where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning

and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.


With each landing, I arrive in a new context. There is much to do to ground myself. At the same time, the Ground has been below me always, supporting me.


Question for reflection:

What grounds your life?


Prayer: Ground of all Being, Ground of my being, may I sense my roots extending into Your soil—in this place and in every place that I land and live. Amen.


A beheaded plucked chicken sitting before a Nat House honoring the property’s guardian spirits, caught my eye as I basked in the humid warmth of the Bangkok morning. I was eating breakfast, looking into the garden area of our modest hotel. My mind wandered back to college and seminary classes when I had studied animism. The need to feel secure in a world where one often feels out of control is basic to humans. We use many different strategies to feel safe and remain hopeful even though life seems unpredictable and deeply challenging.

A young hotel employee approached the altar area dedicated to the spirits of the area, took off his plastic sandals and placed a very appetizing frozen coffee drink before each of the two miniature houses on raised platforms. So many questions flooded my mind. How did this young man understand his actions? Would someone drink these delicious looking frappaccinos or would they “go to waste” (my bias)? What religious behaviors do I use to try to bring balance to my life? How can one differentiate between human beliefs that “help” and those that “harm?”

Nat Houses, Bangkok Hotel Garden

Stepping into a different culture is very engaging. People do things that seem odd. Sights, sounds, and smells are not only different, but often incomprehensible. Questions arise out of almost every experience. Cultural assumptions are revealed and reviewed.

Garden Ornament, Bankok Hotel Garden

I find that my conversations with God sound different when I travel. This morning as I lingered in prayer, I meditated in God’s presence on Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

What types of sacrifice do feel compelled to offer to God? What makes you think that these are worthwhile and efficacious? What do they say about who you believe God to be?

Prayer: God, Thank You for the love in my heart for You. Thank you even more for Your love for me and for all people in this troubled world. Melt our fears and transform them into hope in your goodness, kindness and mercy. May my body, my living sacrifice to you, be a conduit of Your gracious invitation to trust in You as You use me to share the love that Jesus embodied when he walked among us.

Nat House in the corner of a parking lot in Bangkok


Come Along!

Welcome! I invite you to journey with me around the globe. May my images, words and prayers be an encouragement as you seek to know, love, and serve God better!

Leaving the United States, I’m heading back to Asia for the next two months. The question of “home” is vital to us all and very present to me as I separate from loved-ones and anticipate joyous reunions with beloved sisters and brothers half the world away. Is home a place? A cluster of relationships? A state of being? I wonder where you feel most at home?

Chartres-style labyrinth installed in Asia, 2009

When I close my eyes
travelling to the center of my Being,
I am Home.

When I put down my shopping bags
so that I can ring the bell
that sounds in God’s heart,
the front door opens, and I am greeted,
“Welcome home!”

When I lose myself
in service for the One I love,
I find myself at home.

When in the presence of those
whose faithfulness to Christ
shines through prayer,
I rest in their home,
that for a time becomes mine.

Home within
has meaning
that home without
only begins to mirror.

Home is where all is well.
Home is what we all need.
Home is where I long to rest.
Home is who I want to know.

Prayer: Home, may we all find our way to You. Amen.