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faith | Ruth Tshin

As Lausanne 3 approaches…

At small group tonight, stomach we covered the history of the Lausanne Movement together, hepatitis including reading aloud the Lausanne Covenant from 1974.

The first thing that struck me is the incredible scholarship but elegant simplicity of the Covenant itself.  The second thing was that this event is the culmination of accumulated wisdom of global Christian thinkers and leaders and an amazing feat to gather them, cialis 40mg put aside differences and dialogue together, including about mistakes made in the past.  This is especially poignant at a time in my own journey as I’ve been moving towards setting aside pet peeves within Christianity (which we all have, admit it!) and towards the person of Christ and how he unites all Christians no matter the scope of our interests or passions.

But the third thing that struck me is the “spirit of Lausanne” and how it is relevant it is for Christians to be articulate in what we believe but to always temper our beliefs with gentleness and love in all situations.

Grasping at things not yet understood

October marks three months back in Canada and the first time I’ve experienced fall in about five years! The sky is grey all the time and the weather has morphed from a pleasant coolness to having the brittle edge of winter.  Experiencing the transition from summer to fall has accompanied thoughts I’ve had lately about my time back in Canada and as I’m getting ready to head back to Thailand.

The first thought – The past two years have been HARD.  And it won’t get any easier.

The second thought – These difficulties are a requirement, refractionist the cost if you will, mind if I believe what I’m doing is in line with what God is doing in the world because of His love for the world.

The frustrations, intensity of loneliness, wondering my relevance professionally and in lives of friends, family and continued mishaps & misunderstandings of cross-cultural work – none of this is a walk in the park and has required constant and continual adjustment to new norms (which include having huge ant eggs in my room up north).  Each return to Canada gets harder and harder because my opinions no longer fit with what is acceptable in Canada as a result of my continued reaction/struggle/acceptance (whether partial or full) of what is normal in Thailand.

This doesn’t get any easier because I choose to remain in a vocation that requires commitment to choices and resulting consequences I’d rather not have and results in a necessary exclusion from things I’d embraced as “normal” before.  Cases in point – It’s tiring to train my co-workers in Thai on basic concepts of project management that high schoolers in Canada understand and when I have time to connect with good friends/family, our exchanges are often challenged by physical distance, time differences and my current exhaustion and I’m often hurt by their lack of interest in my work.

Or, Questioning the relevance of what I do when I come back to Canada and my friends are warmly ensconced in homes of their choosing, with partners, children and income streams, but I’m raising money to go back overseas and have much less control over things like housing and transportation.  Don’t get me wrong – I have many privileges in life and am in no way suffering like many others.  But take my cases and multiply it over and over again in the almost six years I’ve lived outside of Canada.  Believe me, I’ve questioned the sanity of what I’ve committed to.

This brings me to my second point – exhaustion and questions of relevance, among other things I’d rather not struggle with, are requirements if I believe my role of being “the hands and feet of Jesus”.  At the most basic, accepting these discomforts have led to a better understanding of my co-workers’ struggles and that of their communities (not enough food to eat, no dignity in the work they do, discrimination by Thais, etc.).  I’ve also begun experiencing Jesus as my comfort (vs. only my comforter), something I’m not sure would be possible for me living in Canada.  Along the way, though, I’m beginning to grasp at the edges of something bigger, beyond my comprehension.  That this is for the benefit of my soul because it’s within the will of God.  Whom I choose to believe in.

Here’s the long stretch forward.  Sheldon Vanauken, in his deeply moving book “A Severe Mercy”, describes this better when he reflects on the death of his beloved Davy with whom he had a beautiful love story.  That God required him to experience two separations from his wife (the physical one of death, and then the “second death” of no longer sensing her presence) so that Sheldon’s heart could be truly full of God’s ravishing love for him – the severe mercy.

So.  I continue grasping at things not yet understood but with this certainty: that working out my faith and my vocation requires a constant belief in things I don’t yet understand.

Black Sheep Farm

I recently visited my friend Brenda’s farm called Black Sheep Farm near Chesley in the Bruce/Grey penninsula.  She left her Toronto life to fulfill a vocation to live out a practical, oncologist down-to-earth existence by farming organically.  The hours are long, the work back-breaking and she has yet to turn a profit.  But guided by a deep call to be a good steward of the earth and its resources, she’s taking one step at a time to figure out how to invest in the land and to produce sustainably.  During our visit (where I succeeded to tan a thin strip of skin on my behind to serve as a reminder of weeding her garden!), she encouraged and reminded me to continue seeking boldly and exuberantly, not cowed and defeated, how to outwardly express my hope in a Kingdom yet to come.

Six months in

Today is officially the midpoint of my year in Thailand.  I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and ruminating lately about the previous six months, advice and also about the events that led to me being in Thailand. Last year at this time, diet I had posted this verse in my room in Florida:

“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:8

When I compare my current emotional and spiritual state to last year, I’m quite far off from the sense of confidence and assurance I had then.  It’s been equally eye-opening and agonizing to be in this place right now: experiencing an overall malaise that is connected to questions about my self-worth; my ability to cope in a foreign culture; fear and anxiety about the future (what will I do?  where will I be?  who will I be with?); questions about my spirituality, lack of spiritual discipline and not understanding both the local and expat Christian communities; struggles towards accepting Asian communication (due in large part to rejecting my parents’ communication style and embracing more explicit, Western approaches but then finding out here I am very Asian on some issues and ways of communicating).

I’ve spoken to many friends over Skype and on the phone in the past few weeks and one thing I am starting to realize is just how lonely I am here.  Sure, there are three other American interns here too, but the loneliness stems from lack of intimacy, of needing to explain who I am/what I think, etc. over and over to people.  It’s a consequence I knowingly accepted when I chose to move from country to country in search of work I love and the lifestyle I enjoy – but a sobering realization as I see the loneliness persisting.

Perhaps this is all part of the continual shaping by the Potter, to be made into a useful vessel.  Someday.

Fabric of faith

The Internet Monk writes:

“Post-evangelicalism is a way of relating to the present seriously compromised, orthopedist perhaps terminal, more about condition of evangelicalism by accessing the resources of the broader, deeper, more ancient Christian traditions that contemporary evangelicalism, in its pragmatic idolatry, has largely abandoned as sources and influences (article here).”

He writes succintly about a way of believing, that I have been contemplating for the past year and a half: delving deeply into rich and meaningful Christian traditions of the past and present to focus on the good news Christ presents.  Exploring a fabric of faith woven through centuries of seeking truth and God’s character.

I continue to contemplate this while living in a deeply Buddhist country.

Church

I was accepted into membership on Sunday at Rexdale Alliance Church in Toronto. This is a milestone in my faith journey, physician seeing as I had left “the church” when I was a teenager because I was sick and tired of the hypocrisy, anesthetist posturing and inauthentic relationships  I witnessed earlier. During the past ten years, I’ve meandered through and been involved with various faith communities, all the while seeking out the character of the God of my youth and asking questions. Now, I view my membership as a symbol of my submission to the “body” of Christ, that I am not a “lone ranger” in this journey, and my decision to seek truth and worship a God who extends unbelievable grace and mercy to us, within a fellowship of believers of Jesus. I realize these are heavy words (submit, truth, worship, God), especially for this day and age when most people would rather seek truth through their own mediums and experiences. But as Peter said in Luke 5:8, when he realized who Jesus really was after his nets were miraculously filled with fish after a long and unsuccessful night: “…I am a sinful man!” This is a heavy reality that requires a response of an equal weight.

Little pennies

From Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, sale by Annie Dillard:

“There are many things to see, pestilence unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny?

“If you follow one arrow, view if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go on your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny.

“But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.”

Asceticism, simplicity and grace

Something I’ve been thinking about since returning to Ontario, pills and being surrounded by consumer-oriented lifestyle and culture:

Asceticism: when legalistically applied is idolatry
Simplicity and grace: everything in its proper perspective

– Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

As posed to me by B: how do I live well and faithfully with what I have?

———-

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace…
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that, changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma, karma
She travels outside… of karma

When she goes to work, you can hear the strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace…
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings…
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty in everything

– U2, Grace

Conference

Conference 2007.jpg

I have eight more days left in my internship, recipe and it feels like the past year just blew by. The main reason I haven’t posted regularly on my blog since last spring, is total physical exhaustion from construction and planting projects in my garden, and from managing volunteer work teams. The past two months were extremely busy, as I started to hand over my garden and my goats over to new interns, planted like CRAZY to make sure the fall crops were in the ground before our annual conference in November, and then attended a flurry of activities also known as Conference.

The picture above was taken at Conference at the start of November – you can see little ol’ me in the bottom right corner, sitting on the ground. I was a little overwhelmed (well, really overwhelmed) the first day because I was finally meeting people who live agricultural development – they’re the warriors who’ve each dedicated over 20 years living with different ethnic groups in Haiti and Africa, and quietly, tirelessly seek to improve people’s diet, sanitation and eating habits. No Angelina Jolie to bring attention to their work.

The best part of the week was hearing people’s stories of faith intertwined with gutsy perseverance. Bruce shared his story of how in his first year drilling wells in Haiti, he came up completely dry with every single well. Can you imagine how hair-tearingly frustrating that would if you were a well-trained, educated civil engineer with completely altruistic intentions to bring clean water to people? Those lack of results would scare off donors and crush your self-confidence. 25 years later, he can laugh at the experience and say with confidence that it’s only God who will move mountains for you when you’re in the field, to bring glory to Him, not to Bruce (Matt 17:20 “…for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”). And he’s humble enough to say that he’s still learning huge lessons out in Haiti.