Five non-missiony books to help you live and minister across cultures

by Jonathan

These aren’t mission-y books. They’re not even about cross-cultural life or transition. Nevertheless, these books have been fundamental to my life (and sanity) abroad. In no particular order…

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, by Timothy Keller
Because if you didn’t have a good grasp on these concepts before moving, you’ll need to get one pretty quick after moving. I very much appreciate Keller’s deeply theological and yet tender writing in this book. Those two things do not often coexist, unfortunately.

Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller
This one makes the list because the basic story is known but the deeper message is typically missed. This book and the truths in it have the power to reshape our understanding of God’s character and of his view of us. In the world of cross-cultural ministry, God’s character and how he views us are pretty big deals. I recommend this one all.the.time.

The Psalms
I had to not-so-subtly sneak this in. Of course, this one is not co-equal to the others, but it’s often overlooked. I’ve written here and here about the importance of the Psalms in the lives of missionaries and cross-cultural workers.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero
There’s nothing wrong with being a pastor at a suburban, wealthy, primarily white church. But this guy isn’t one. So, although he writes from an American context, he also writes from a cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, church-centered context. I also love how he assumes that the majority of people are going to be truly transformed and discipled, not through professional counselling, but through consistent and loving relationships.

A Year with G.K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder, by Kevin Belmonte
Life is serious, the world is a mess, and we need the aged brilliance of Chesterton. His humor, his levity in the face of a world that was no-less troubled, his talk of fairies and mysteries and paradox, it’s all for our time. Get to know the author who pretty much gave the world C.S. Lewis. You’re welcome.

Welp, that’s it. Have a great day! Oh, and if you have a book that you’d add to this list, link to it in the comments section below. Thanks for dropping by!

photo-1465433045946-ba6506ce5a59

*Contains Amazon affiliate links

About money, ministry, and the absence of a hard sell

This site isn’t a platform to raise money.

That being said, we’re in the middle of raising money. If you’d like to hear the whole spiel, check out this page: We need your help.

If you’d like to read a more general update, check out this page: A snapshot of life and ministry in Phnom Penh.

OK, that’s about as close as I get to a “hard sell.” God bless, and happy (early) Friday!

all for ONE,
Jonathan

Let the River Run

by Elizabeth

PiSky2

Only two songs have ever won all three major awards (Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy) while being composed, written, and performed by a single artist. Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” the theme from the 1988 film “Working Girl,” was the first to do so.

Now, a few others have received all three awards but were co-written. One of those songs was Howard Shore’s, Fran Walsh’s, and Annie Lennox’s “Into the West,” the final song of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and an absolute family favorite. “Into the West” speaks to something so deep and true, so simultaneously melancholic and hopeful, that it’s no wonder it won all three awards.

But anyway, back to “Let the River Run.” I first heard the song not from the movie, but from my junior high choir director Mrs. Chaney (whom you may remember from last week’s musical contemplations). Simon described her song as an “anthem with a jungle beat.” And indeed it was the sound that first drew me in, not the density of the lyrics — lyrics I could not possibly have comprehended fully at the time.

Even so, something in those words was stretching out and reaching for me. And I think it’s safe to say that, having won all those awards, the song spoke to deep, cracking places inside a lot of people. Of course there are layers of meaning here — some more material, some more spiritual.

And I’m still not sure I understand the song in its entirety, but I understand bits of it. I know it’s about dreams and desires. I know it’s about longing and risk. I know it’s about waking up and about waking up others. I don’t think you have to understand every part of the song anyway. It’s not necessarily for understanding but — like all art — for feeling.

Speaking of art, you all know I am no artist; I cannot even draw stick figures. But this semester I found myself teaching an art class in our home school coop. (In actuality, I’m substituting for the real art teacher until she gets back into town.) I love numbers, patterns, and designs, so I figured we could explore the intersection of math and art together.

In preparing for this class I used some old material but also sought out new material. One of the new art projects I stumbled upon was the Pi Sky Line. While the New York City skyline (complete with Twin Towers) is the setting for the song “Let the River Run,” the Pi Sky Line is a city skyline whose building heights are based on the first 30 digits of pi.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. And it’s an irrational number, which means its decimals go on and on forever, never terminating and never repeating. There are no patterns to its digits, and there is no end either: it is infinity captured in a single number.

After you create your sky line, you paint or draw a background for it. And bringing this conversation full circle here, I knew I could not draw any background but Van Gogh’s night sky: “The Starry Night.” It was a painting I first encountered in Mrs. Chaney’s class. And this photo is the finished product. For me it is the intersection of art, music, math, literature and, most importantly, my soul in motion.

Educational thinker Charlotte Mason said, “Education is the science of relations,” and each week Mrs. Chaney assigned us a “Connection” paper. We had to connect something in her class to something in the rest of our lives. Every week we did this. She may not have known of Charlotte Mason’s century-old philosophy, but she knew that brain science supported the idea of interdisciplinary studies. Maybe that’s why, all these years later, the soundtrack of her class is still playing in my life.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We’re coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark’ning dawn.

It’s asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
The sky is the color of blue
You’ve never even seen
In the eyes of your lover.

Children’s caskets are the worst

by Jonathan

A tiny casket.

White lace.

Autumn sun.

Tearful community.

Perhaps more than any of my other siblings, Laura Beth’s short life and early death changed mine.

The death of a little one changes things. It always changes things.

It’s a giant slap in the face, wakening those near that things are not as they should be.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I slow down long enough, I begin to feel the undercurrent of real sadness. It’s there. It’s always there.

Sweet Laura Beth. I love you.

I miss you.

Yes, there is joy, there is laughter, and there is hope. There is also a deep — almost foundational — sadness.

Unanswered questions. Gaps. Unfulfilled longings. Dissipated relationships.

And sometimes the Psalm just ends.

18951418_10158739381615621_2264291614879827454_na

Leaving and Arriving Well — what to do when your time comes {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

You’re probably going to leave the field.

Someday, somehow, the vast majority of us will say goodbye, pack up, cry tears of joy or sorrow or both, and depart.

How will that work out for you?

Well, frankly, I have no idea. But I do know that there are some things you can do to prepare to leave and some things you can do to prepare to arrive. And while a cross-cultural move is stressful no matter which direction you’re going, knowing some of what to expect and how to prepare really can help.

The first part of this article deals with Leaving Well, while the second part deals with the oft-overlooked importance of Arriving Well.

In Arriving Well, we’ll look at

– Embracing your inner tourist,

– Making movie magic,

– Identifying your needs, and of course,

– Grieving

We’ll wrap up with an Arrival Benediction, which is a prayer for you, the transitioner, from the bottom of my heart.

Click here to read the full post.

michal-parzuchowski-262847b

What Jesus Has to Say About Dealing With Rejection

by Elizabeth

stamp-1726352_960_720

Rejection. I hate it. I hate the feeling. And I was feeling it again recently. In a major way. So I searched through my journals till I found an entry from over a year ago. It was the notes from a sermon Tim Krenz preached to the graduating seniors. The ideas helped me so much that I re-copied my notes into my current journal, and now I’m going to share them with you. It’s based out of the words of Jesus in Luke 10.

“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

“If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’”

Tim offered the graduates a handy little acronym for dealing with rejection: GRAD. It stands for:

GO

REMEMBER

ANTICIPATE

DETERMINE

Here’s how we can deal with the rejection we so much long to forget:

We GO out into the world like the disciples of long ago.

We REMEMBER who we are and what we have — God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

We ANTICIPATE rejection — whether it’s unfounded or not, we cannot avoid it.

Lastly, we DETERMINE ahead of time how we will respond: by shaking even the dust of that rejection off our feet. Even down to the last bit of dust, we will not carry it around with us, because we remember that even when man rejects us, God has not rejected us. We don’t call down fire from heaven on our rejectors like the Sons of Thunder wanted to do in the previous chapter (Luke 9:54). No, we do not take that rejection up: we shake, shake, shake it off.

 

You may also be interested in what I wrote about rejection a couple years ago.

Where does the love of God go?

by Elizabeth

building-2560843_960_720

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I believe in the love of God. And sometimes when I need to do that, I listen to Gordon Lightfoot. I first heard Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” in Mrs. Chaney’s junior high music class. Mrs. Chaney was an ex-hippie who brought her love of 1970’s music into the classroom and subsequently taught me to love it as well (thus preparing me for life with a man whose mother loved that music too, but died young).

It is quite literally impossible to overstate how much Mrs. Chaney’s 7th and 8th grade music classes formed me both musically and personally (and she probably never knew this; but neither did my 10th grade British Literature teacher – so music, art and literature teachers, take heart).

It was Mrs. Chaney who taught us that “religious music is always the best music” and who had us singing religious music at our public school concerts. It was Mrs. Chaney who, after we’d spent hours and hours practicing and performing choral music with her, played us her favorite 70’s songs, handed us the lyrics, and had us sing along.

It was from Mrs. Chaney that I first heard Don McLean’s “Vincent,” along with the radical idea that suicide only happens to people who suffer from mental illness. (That’s radical for a girl whose religious culture considered suicide to be an unforgiveable sin.) And it was in her classes that I began a lifelong love affair with the song and with Van Gogh’s The Starry Night painting, a painting scientists later determined was a true artistic rendering of the scientific principles of fluid mechanics.

It was with Mrs. Chaney that I sang the Holocaust remembrance song “I Believe in the Sun.” It was she who arranged for girl who knew sign language to sign during performance, moving the audience to tears (a phenomenon I didn’t understand at the time). And it was with her that I first heard “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I was immediately captured by its sound: the beautiful, haunting sound that’s woven into so many of our family’s favorite songs. The story stayed with me too, the tragic true story of a ship and crew lost to storm in the American Great Lakes.

Over the years I nearly forgot the song and the story, but one day I discovered how to google song lyrics and found it again. During one particularly sad season in my life, I purchased it. I still listen to it when I’m sad. I listen to it when I want to transport myself back to the simplicity of warm spring days in Mrs. Chaney’s music classes. And I listen to it when I want to remind myself why I believe in the love of God.

This is the way I do it. I listen to the entire tragedy, waiting for the 5th verse that asks, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” And I place myself in the shoes of the 29 men on board who knew they were going to die together, and then I place myself in the shoes of their families back on shore, who didn’t. And then I wonder “what if” along with the musician: what if this terrible thing hadn’t happened? And I swallow a lump in my throat and stay quiet for a bit.

The last time I did this, one of my children asked me where I first heard that song, and I told them the whole story the way I just told you. I told them: I listen to this song to remind myself why I believe in God’s love. I listen to it to remember that when bad things happen — and they do happen, all the time — when bad things happen, where is the love God? Is it still there? Or has it gone away?

It might be a personal loss or a tragedy back home or a tragedy here in my host country or somewhere else in the world. Truly, there’s so much tragedy to choose from. Regardless of the loss, I know I can listen to this song and somehow remember and believe that God’s love is still here and is still real. That God is still good and God is still love. I always cry at that point in the song, and I always remember that the love of God is really all I have to hold on to. I know that if I don’t keep my belief in the love of God, I would be lost. I would have nothing left.

So even when I don’t understand – and I mostly don’t understand – the love of God has not vanished. It is not buried at the bottom of the sea like so many ships. It is still present, in the midst of us. It still survives, though millennium of loss piles on millennium of loss. For me “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” gives voice to sadness but mysteriously brings me to a place of remembering God’s goodness. It helps me stand in the cruel face of tragedy, whether mine or someone else’s, and reminds me that no, God’s love has not gone away. Even though I can’t always see it or feel it, the love of God is still here among us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~