Wednesday, April 21, 2010

His Precious Princess


As I’ve said before, while in Kazakhstan I’ve been trying to figure out some big important things in my life. One of those things is romantic relationships. I was reading a book today called, “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy. It’s a good book, sometimes a little too sappy for my taste, but full of great reminders nonetheless. In the book they write about a wedding they attended and how they imagined Jesus standing there proudly, applauding with tears in His eyes for His “precious princess.” I felt a flood of emotion come over me as I pondered those two words; God’s “precious princess”. My mind went back to some relationships I’ve had in the past and I couldn’t recall ever treating a girl like the princess of the God of the universe.

My brother always jokes that if he has a daughter he is going to be a terror to any boys that try to woo her. As men, we know the filth of men. So his plan is one that we envision of crazy rednecks; sitting on his recliner in his boxers cleaning his shotgun. He will grunt as he asks the nervous boy what time he plans to have his daughter home. As the young man, with sweaty palms responds, “umm...10:00 sir.” He will cock his freshly cleaned shotgun and correct the foolish boy. “How about 9:30.”

Meeting the parents of your new or prospective girlfriend is always difficult. You desperately want their approval and you also want to know that you can get along with them. If you really want to be a gentleman then you will go ask the girl’s parents for permission to “court” her. This in itself can be horribly humiliating; trust me! But, today I was struck with awe. Someday when I finally meet that beauty; the incredible girl that I choose to spend the rest of my life with, I will not just be proposing to the daughter of great (or not so great) parents, but I will be proposing to a daughter of God. Sure, this may not be an uncommon thought, but it hit me today with full force. When you are with a girl, you want to honor her (at least you better!). You want to honor her parents by having her back on time and keeping your respect in their eyes. I’ve been in relationships and I’ll admit there were times when I didn’t have her home on time. There were times when honor slipped through the cracks, and I now realize why. I wasn’t viewing her in all the glory and splendor she deserved. Had I been fully convicted that this was God’s precious princess, I would never have even had the thought of taking her home late. I would have had her in the door at the proper time, with the proper greeting and farewell to her parents. I would have worked harder to make our time together more special and I would have treated her like she deserves; a precious princess of the Most High. My fellow men: we have precious princesses of the King of Kings all around us. Treat them as their glory calls for. Remember who their Daddy is.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crossing the Bridge


I stood at the edge of the long, tattered rope bridge. I have always hated bridges, and this was perhaps the most frightening one I had ever seen. As I put my foot on the first plank, I prayed anxiously, “God! Give me a sign, something to assure me that you’re right here with me!” All of a sudden a beautiful white dove flew out of the forest on the other end and soared gracefully through the sky above me. My confidence was boosted and I was ready to conquer my fears. I took a few steps forward until my foot slipped and I fell to one knee. The bridge swayed violently from side to side. “God! I can’t do this. Help me! Give me some indication that I’m going to make it to the other side!” Another dove soared high above me, but I kept praying, “Lord, I need to know you’re with me.” Suddenly three doves came out of nowhere and fluttered around me, seemingly helping me to my feet. I now knew without a doubt that God was on my side and that I would get safely across. I took several bold steps and even though the bridge shook beneath me I remained confident. When I got past half way one of the boards completely gave way and my leg fell through. The splintered wood cut my skin and I dangled there hopelessly. My face was forced downward and I noticed for the first time the raging waters beneath me. If I fell, it would be certain death. “God. You have abandoned me. I need you. I know this is the bridge that I was supposed to cross, but I’m going to die. I cannot move on unless you give me a sign and assure me that you are with me.” The plank in front of me started to jiggle and I noticed writing starting to appear. It said, “I promised that I would always be with you. I told you I love you, I have sent you signs, but signs will never be good enough. You have to learn to trust me.” Humbled by the Lord, I managed to lift my leg from the broken plank and I began to crawl towards the nearing end. Tears were dripping down my face as I pushed my body further and further. I could hear the rope stretching and as I made another push the rope on one side completely snapped. The bridge shook violently and teetered to one side. I held on for my life, knowing that I would never make it, even though the end of the bridge was right before me. “Thank you Lord, for bringing me here to die!” I screamed bitterly. “I just wanted to know that you were with me, that you hadn’t abandoned me, but I see it clearly now.” I gazed up and noticed a man walking out of the forest glowing with a brightness that I had never before seen. He walked over to the edge, knelt down and reached out His hand. “I have always been with you, I gave you the signs you asked for and they have proved meaningless. Even now, I am appearing to you in physical form and this will not be enough. Take my hand.” I wept bitterly as I hung in the air, grasping the rope and the planks. “No!” I told Him. “How do I know you’re not going to drop me? How do I know that you’re strong enough to lift me?” Tears streamed down my face and joined the raging waters beneath me. “You know who I am. You know that I’m strong enough. You are about to die, take my hand!” “Prove it!” I howled. “Prove to me that you are strong enough.” The man’s eyes filled with tears. “It won’t help. There is nothing I can do to prove my strength to you. You have to trust me. Remember the doves, the writing, I am here. Please, take my hand so that we can get away from this mess.” I stared at His shining hand that was stretched out toward me and could hear the rope stretching on the other end. I was running out of time. I would have grabbed His hand, but He wouldn’t show me He was strong enough. Tears streamed down His face as the rope snapped. I clung to the plank and fell to the crashing waters beneath.

Signs will never be enough. Audible voices, prophetic dreams, writing in the sky will not build our faith; it will only make us dependent on things we can always rule out as coincidences. We must learn to trust Him. I am tempted to pray for signs, to pray for assurance, but Jesus said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Signs will never be enough.

Echoes of Grace


A long, long time ago God created this beautiful world. He poured His love into a creation that He created in His very own image. A long, long time ago God saturated the soil of the earth and the soil of men's hearts with an astonishing type of love. When men ignorantly rejected that love, that love wouldn’t die. A long, long time ago God shouted, with a shout that only God can shout. He shouted one word that would quench the thirsty, fill the hungry, and heal wounds of every kind. That one word is GRACE. God shouted this word and it flew through the blades of the green grass, rang in the deepest canyons, resounded though the wide valleys, and reverberated off the most majestic of mountains. When beauty should have shriveled, it thrived. When men were supposed to fall, they flew. This was a long, long time ago, but even today, thousands upon thousands of years later, this word still echoes through our world. As I was walking down the polluted streets of a torn down world, I saw the radiant smile of a mother as she watched her little girl chase little birds, giggling uncontrollably; echoing grace. I saw a bride marching through the park with her new husband, bound by love; echoing grace. I saw a student smirk with understanding, finally grasping the difficult concepts; echoing grace. I saw a child trip and fall, scraping his knee, only to find a hand above him; echoing grace. I heard a song with the instruments harmonizing to produce a sound that filled me with peace; echoing grace. I ate a food, prepared with simple ingredients, bringing a pleasure to my tongue; echoing grace. I saw the sunset, closing another day, painting the sky with hues of red, purple, and gold. My heart swelled as I realized I was seeing more than natural beauty; I was seeing yet another echo of grace. This world is damaged, filled with screams of pain and confusion, filled with the tears of uncertainty and the sighs of monotony. This world is hurting, but I see smiles despite the pain; smiles that echo the same word that was spoken the moment the creation began to crumble. Grace. It’s more than a word, it’s more than a means to a life eternal. Grace. It is that beauty that lies in front of you, that love that you cannot contain, that smile that lifts in spite of your circumstances. It is the simple pleasures that get you throughout the day. It is that tingle that shoots up your spine, and that breath that calms your tired soul. Grace. It was spoken a long, long time ago by the only One capable of saying such a word. Today it echoes all around us, reminding us that we are more than just another creation, reminding us of the love within us and the astounding love outside of us. I hear them, I feel them, I see them, I smell them, I taste them; these echoes, these echoes of grace testifying of a love so much greater than myself; a love that cannot be stifled; a love that will last forever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Weekend Adventure: Man and Beast


When we got out of the Lada we stepped into the best part of our trip—Nazira’s village. Since coming to Kazakhstan I had been longing for this experience. We arrived in the late evening and were greeted warmly by all her family. We washed up and went to the dining room for a late dinner. The woman served us several incredibly delicious salads, meat dishes, and tea. In America it seems like we have one kind of salad that usually consists mainly of lettuce, some tomato, carrots, and maybe cucumbers. We dress it with Italian, Ranch, or some lemon juice and oil. In Kazakhstan they get creative. They have salads of shredded carrots with hot spices, coleslaws with beans, and all sorts of different creations. The tea was black mixed with fresh cow milk and was amazing with a sugar cube. I must have drank at least 6 cups every meal. At every meal we were served with barsack (fried bread, like a donut without the sweetness) and some other fried things that were crunchy. A lot of bread, with freshly churned butter, and a lot tea makes me a happy man. All of us were tired and so after much conversation, and much food, we retired to our pads that were neatly laid out on the floor waiting to take us to sleep. We all slept great and woke up ready for the day. We wanted to go hiking in the nearby mountains and we also wanted to ride horses. As they saddled up the horse and a donkey for us to ride, we went to play with the sheep. There was a little black lamb that was incredibly adorable. I picked it up and held it close as it snuggled up against me. I decided that I want to have sheep when I get my own place some day. All of a sudden everyone was laughing and screaming, I lifted the lamb off my body and discovered that it had pooped all over me—nasty baby poop. The pocket to my jacket was open and so I had a pocket filled with poop. It was quite funny, but my jacket is still stained. The horse was ready and Veronica was anxiously waiting to be the first to ride. All of us were ignorant when it came to riding horses so that just made for an even greater adventure. Veronica mounted and trotted around the road for a little bit thinking she had got control of the large animal, but soon things were about to change. The horse started trotting fast down the road and all of Veronica’s attempts to stop it were not working. Soon the horse was in a full gallop down the street and Veronica was struggling to hang on. I started to get very worried, but everyone else was laughing so I assumed things would be alright. We started running after her and it wasn’t long before the horse came running out from behind a corner, without Veronica. We found Veronica laughing hysterically exclaiming how fun it was and then took off after the horse. The horse had ran quite far and our attempts to chase after it were not succeeding. Finally Nazira’s brother caught it and commandingly rode it back to where we were. Emily strode up riding on a donkey and we were ready to set out for the mountains, but first we went to a little Mausoleum that was in the village. On the way, I rode the horse and felt like I had a good command of it. Next, I let Steven have his turn and he also did not fall off and kept control. The Mausoleum was also like a Muslim school and we traveled all around it after tying up the animals outside the gate. In the back was a graveyard. We arrived right as one of the town’s oldest women had passed away. She was in her nineties and people were mourning. We went to the graveyard and found about 6 guys digging a large whole which would soon become the babushka’s grave. It hit me full force that this village life was different than anything I had ever experienced. The people were close, they looked out for each other, they dug each other’s graves and mourned with each other’s families. It was a humbling experience. Nazira went to pay respects to her sister’s grave and everyone become solemn for the moment. After leaving the Mausoleum and untying our animals, we kept trekking toward the mountains. Orken was next to get on the horse. He’s a native Kazakh, but has spent all of his life in the city. I told him he would be a professional—that horse riding flowed through his Kazakh veins. He mounted the horse and soon was bouncing up and down as the horse galloped out of control. I again watched nervously as Orken struggled to hang on trying his hardest to stop the creature. Soon we all watched as he slid off the side and cringed as we thought he might have been stepped on. After running up to him and seeing he was ok we again took off after the horse. This time it went further than before, out of our sight. Nazira’s brother was in full pursuit. We took the donkey and went to the mountains, the same direction the horse was galloping uncontrollably. As we enjoyed the fresh air of the unpolluted countryside, we explored all around and admired all the animals grazing on the hills. It was a cold day and the wind was blowing with an intense force that I have rarely experienced. After crossing a little river, chasing some more goats, and taking turns riding the donkey up the mountain, Nazira’s brother returned again in full control of the horse. The way he handled that horse was incredible. He was in full control and he galloped across the land like a hero. It has always been one of my goals to take up horseback riding and this certainly reinforced that. There is something that evokes truly manliness when you connect with a wild beast and work together to achieve tasks and have fun. I think our mechanized culture is missing out on that. We continued up the mountain, in the furious wind embracing this new world that we had fallen into, embracing this curious lifestyle...

Weekend Adventure: Turkistan and the Little Red Lada


We rode the bus for over 13 hours. We traveled nearly 900 kilometers, and all we paid was 1000 tenge (about $7.50). The buses are insanely cheap here, but you get what you pay for. Turkistan was small, and we didn’t actually see much. We arrived near a 6th century Mausoleum. After heading to the public restrooms, which were free and had semi-nice squatty potties, we washed up and got ready for a sleep-deprived day. We wandered around the Mausoleum and saw everything there was to see. We even had an English speaking tour guide who took us all around. Central Asia is such an interesting, but strange area. There is a lot of history, but it’s not well-known or well-documented. It all is tied with nomads, Mongolians, and people like Genghis Khan who the West views as a terror and locals here view as a hero. I don’t confuses me. However, wondering around these old remains buildings erected long ago was pretty fascinating. I walked in rooms that were once filled with royalty and gazed upon the graves of people who shaped history. Surrounding this mausoleum were many shops selling cheap souvenirs and Turkistan paraphernalia. We attracted all the locals because one of the girls in our group was black. Seriously, many of these people have never seen a black person in their life and saw this as life-defining moment. All of them wanted pictures with Veronica and she was making new friends all over the place. We ended up getting invited to this lady’s café and ate in the authentic Central Asian style. Reclined on the floor with pillows and a very low table; many cups of black tea with milk, and dish after dish filled with meat. Dishes like Plof, and Lagman, Shashlik, and soups. I decided that as long as I am in Kazakhstan, I will not be a vegetarian unless I am cooking my own meals. I will eat anything that is served to me as long as it’s clean and well-cooked. We stayed in Turkistan until the late afternoon and then started searching for a taxi to take us to where we would be staying. On our trip it was the four of us American teachers (Me, Steven, Emily, and Veronica), a Kazakh woman with her son (Nazira and Emir), and another Kazakh guy (Orken); both of the locals were the girl’s students. The Kazakh woman invited us to the village where she had grown up and where most of her family was currently living. Ever since coming to Kazakhstan I had been in Almaty. Every big city has its own culture and so you don’t really get to taste what the actual surrounding culture is like. It’s like travelling to Atlanta to experience Southern culture. I’ve been in Atlanta and you don’t realize you’re in the South at all. So it has been with Almaty. I was thrilled to finally experience real Kazakh culture without the city influence. We finally found a taxi. We had to pay as much as the 900km bus ride—another 8 bucks or so. Except we didn’t get to ride in a bus—it was a Lada. I don’t know if you know about Ladas, but I will be sure to post some pictures soon. A Lada is a car built during the Soviet times. The model we were graced with was a very small 5 passenger vehicle, and 5 passengers would have felt cramped. Fortunately, we didn’t have 5 people in the car. Including the driver and the child, we had 8. We drove without any personal space, on each other’s laps, smushing each other for nearly 3 hours. Now that...that was an experience I will never forget! The Lada erupted ghastly fumes that choked us the whole way. And once we got off paved roads we didn’t have to worry about the fumes as much as the dirt and dust flying in. We all covered our nose and mouth, trying to remember what fresh air felt like. Now, this cramped car was not something that was legal, but we had no other choices. So as we would approach small cities and bigger villages they would toss the child in the back and we would all try to get down as best we could. When we were driving through one town the driver saw a police car and started to panic. He was yelling at Nazira in Kazakh and telling her to roll down the window. We had one window crank that we passed around (quite humorous) and she struggled to understand exactly what he meant as she struggled getting the window down. Unfortunately it was too late. The police were behind us with their lights flashing and their sirens spewing out bursts of loud noise. We pulled over, everyone nervous. After all, here was a car in the middle of Southern Kazakhstan filled with 4 foreigners breaking the law. They looked inside and they wanted to see our documents. We all pulled out our certified copies and prayed for a miracle. One of the officers looked at one and threw it aside. “I can’t understand this he said.”Nazira started talking with them in Kazakh and it wasn’t long before she said the magic words. Her father apparently worked as a food inspector and the police men knew him well (Thank the Lord for family connections). The police officers immediately become nicer, but they still wanted our taxi driver to rip off the dark tint on the front windows (This is what got us pulled over in the first place), and still was a bit skeptical. He yelled to a young boy walking a distance from the road. They young boy came. The officers asked (in Kazakh, of course) “Do you study English in school?” “Yes.” He replied. “Ask these foreigners something in English. They young boy turned to Steven and very rehearsed said, “What’s your name.” Steven told him and they he started talking to the officer again. The officer was convinced that we were American and that Nazira was telling the truth. We were still crammed in the backseat not wanting to get out and cause more of a commotion that was necessary. Our taxi driver ripped off his window tints and the police took him away for a few minutes. I got a feeling he was fined. He told Nazira that we had to pay him to get the tints replaced, but she yelled at him telling him that it wasn’t our problem. Kazakh has that same sound as German. Everything they say sounds like a heated argument and it can get quite scary when they’re actually arguing. Anyways, we continued on our way in the little red Lada embracing all of the incredible memories that were being formed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend Adventure: Irritated Bowels on the Bus


As a child I was very imaginative. My teachers always told me I was in “LaLa Land” and I was always caught staring into space letting my wild imagination take me places I could never really go. I loved playgrounds. I remember in my early elementary school years running around the playground by myself. I loved how they put steering wheels on the playground. The entire structure became my spaceship as I steered it through the deep unknowns of the universe and the next day it would be my submarine as I explored the deepest depths of the sea. Everyday it was something new, and I was always in control manning my steering wheel. I suppose I always knew I was just playing around, but I remember one day when I fully realized that the steering wheel was attached to the bars of the playground and served absolutely no purpose. I was disappointed. Since being in Kazakhstan, I have done a lot of worrying about my future, but I have finally reached the point where I can’t do it anymore. I am not sure if it is a small dose of apathy, or if I have finally come around to trusting Jesus. I feel like I’m on the playground again. I have been trying to steer my life through the obstacles of this world, but I have finally come to the conclusion that the steering wheel I have been grasping is not connected to anything, its just a toy. I find the whole situation quite humorous, really. But the truth is I have realized that I have no control over my life except for my day to day choices. I might be able to plan ahead a little, but my plans will be stopped, they will be changed and corrupted. So I am done planning. I am done worrying. I really believe that tomorrow will worry about itself. Even though the steering wheel is fun to turn and play with, I’m not in control. This world, this life, is too big for me to handle in one sitting.

Last night one of my students, who is an older man that always gives us a ride home, invited me downstairs to play ping-pong. Even though I am a terrible ping-pong player, it was really fun. It was something small, but it made me appreciate life, appreciate the little things that make up life. Life is good.


I promised that I would tell you about my weekend all throughout this weekend so here it goes:
We finally met up with the girls, and got a ride to the bus station. Everyone was a little mad at me because I, of course, was running late. It was due to bad planning on my part and some rumbling in my stomach. I was worried to embark on a 13 hour bus ride with my stomach feeling so uneasy, but I certainly was not going to stay behind. I went to the bathroom before we got on the bus and determined that I should be fine. We got on the bus with time to spare and pretty soon we were heading for Turkistan. We left at around 6:00pm and drove all night. I sat in my seat and my stomach, instead of feeling better was churning more than ever. Emily gave me some medicine and I had an apple thinking that would help. But, as we started driving, I knew I was in trouble. I was in pain and extreme discomfort. I closed my eyes and gasped for air as I clutched the arm rest. Pretty soon, Steven was asking if I was ok and Emily came to sit closer to me as she gave her kind empathy that only women can give. I struggled, knowing that something needed to come out, but I wasn’t sure which end it was heading for. (sorry for the graphic presentation) After awhile they went to ask the bus driver if we would be stopping soon. He said that it would be two hours and that there would be no exceptions. I frantically told them that I didn’t need the bus to stop just for me, but as the discomfort and horrible feeling escalated, I desperately wished the bus would just stop. I felt as though my insides were exploding and that I couldn’t breathe. It was horrible. Emily tried to get me to drink some carbonated water, but nothing helped. Soon the bus driver stopped (I think something was wrong with the bus because there were men under it with their tools). I took the opportunity and made for the exit. Veronica handed me a roll of toilet paper with a huge smile and said, “Words on your page, words on your page.” I groaned thinking that these were not the words I wanted on my page, but appreciating her optimism nonetheless. I went to this little white building, which I found out was just a slab of concrete. A bunch of men were peeing, and I frantically looked around knowing that I needed to more than what they were doing and I didn’t want to do it on their shoes. I made for a field, found a ditch, and the rest is history. I took deep breaths of the fresh air and walked around. After a few more swigs of gas water and some charcoal pills I was feeling much better. I had cooked the day before and everyone said they had stomach problems afterwards so maybe there were some rotten tomatoes in my salsa or something. As I sat in my seat after all the commotion, I was struck by the post-sick feeling. After feeling so horrible for so long, I felt better, and I was thankful for everything. I just sat in my seat for hours listening to my iPod and pondering how great my life was. I didn’t get much sleep and bus was hardly comfortable, but we made it to Turkistan by morning and the adventure just kept going and going...

Problems Posting My Blogs!

Many of you have probably noticed that my blogs are posted in clumps and they sometimes appear weeks apart. The reason is that this website is only available at random times that are sometimes frequent and sometimes completely infrequent. I don't know why this happens, however, whether anything gets posted or not, know that I am writing and know that posts will show up eventually.

Weekend Adventure: The Beginning


Maybe some of you can empathize with me; those of you who are really into camping or my fellow missionaries. You know that feeling you have after not showered for days. Today was my first real shower in almost 2 weeks. Now, I know that sounds gross, but I have been able to squat under the sink and get quite clean, but this weekend, while venturing across the country, I went days with no shower. Just some wet wipes, a toothbrush, and some deodorant. Our trip started Thursday night and we have just arrived back to our flat this rainy Monday morning. Luckily, when we returned there was a shiny new showerhead hanging in our bathroom ready to cleanse me of all the yuck I put on throughout my travels. You know the feeling when you feel so filthy; greasy hair, smelly body, dirty face, but then it all goes down the drain when you step under the warm, flowing water of the shower. It’s a great feeling! I feel clean, completely clean for the first time in a long time. I again feel comfortable in my little Soviet home, but this weekend was completely indescribable and I am not quite ready to be locked in the city again. If I could, I would trade the shower for a week more in the country. I would love to just sit here and type out all the adventures and crazy things that happened, but it would take a long time, and I would start to get slack on the details, and you would miss so much. So, I am going to take this whole week and share a piece of my adventures with you every day.

It all started on a bus, traveling to a bus station, listening to my watch tick, reminding me how late I am and feeling my stomach churn...

Good Mornings


Every morning, or afternoon, depending on what time I went to bed, I drag myself into the kitchen, flip the switch for the electric kettle and sit staring out the window into the old Soviet courtyard entrapped by apartment building. Every morning is different. It used to be a regular thing to sit there and watch the branches of the trees bow with the stress of inch upon inch of snow. I have seen those cold, dry branches dripping with Almaty showers, and I have seen those trees stand tall in the bright sun of the approaching Spring. This morning was different. I went to the window and the normally dry, brown branches were standing tall with little green buds all over them. Spring is no longer lingering, or approaching, Spring is here. While I am going to miss the snow I am excited to hike in the mountains with all the tall grass and the freshly blossomed flowers.

As the electric kettle fires to a boil and automatically shuts itself off, I pour the steaming water into a cup and mix my coffee. I usually sit there for a couple more minutes, just staring out the window, thinking about all there is under the sun. Once the coffee has cooled down enough to drink I take a sip and dig into one of the four books I am in the middle of. I usually read until the coffee is done or until I get hungry and then I start making oatmeal. I cherish my mornings here in this country. They are my tranquil times where I can just sit, stare out the window, read a good book, and just think. Think as I sip some delicious American coffee.

Squatting, Hiking, Thanking


Last night Steven reminded me of an interesting fact. While in Kazakhstan we have pretty much gone without everything, just at different times. When we first got here, we had no internet for over a week. Also, our washing machine was broken so we washed many of our clothes by hand. We’re still going without a dryer, they don’t exist in this country. We had a time, a little over a week, where our water would randomly be turned off for hours and hours. Apparently, just recently, the old Soviet plumbing has proven itself junk again. One day we came home from work, looked in our bathroom and noticed that our showerhead was gone and some more attempts had been made to seal the grout around our shower. Our shower consists of a little hose attached to the sink. When we first got here I rigged the showerhead with some plastic bags and a little clip to this bar that hangs above the shower. I was happy to have something like an American shower, but now he took our hose, showerhead, and messed up my brilliant work. So for the past few days Steven and I have had to squat under the faucet in our poor attempts to get clean. Again, we’re doing without something important and getting more experience in the wondrous world outside the comfortable USA.

Yesterday, the girls thought they had this great idea of waking up early and going to the mountains to watch the sunrise. That meant that I had to wake up early, which is not my specialty. However I was sick of staying in the apartment so I reluctantly agreed to meet them. Steven thought it was crazy so didn’t bother waking up. None of us were sure what time the buses started running, so I took to the city at around 6:30am found a bus and met the girls at the bus stop to go to the mountains at about 7:00am. By the time we got to the mountains it was around 7:30 and the sun was already sitting low in the sky. We missed the sunrise, but the cool, morning mountain air was enough to refresh anyone. We ended up climbing the horribly long stair case of Medeo. It seems like a never ending stair case, but it was fun. Then we hiked around a valley, found a soccer ball, and played soccer on a frozen stream. We walked further and soaked in the sun as we set up a wonderful picnic. Emily brought all the fixings for a Subway-like sandwich and I brought a PopTart for all of us to have a little piece of America. Afterwards we climbed up to walk back only to end up sliding down on the hard snow. We figured this was probably the last butt-sliding adventure we would have for this winter. We also did some penguin slides (sliding on our stomachs. It was a blast, but of course I ended up leaving the mountains soaking wet. We swung by the girls place so they could grab a few things they needed and then went to John’s Café and enjoyed some coffee and French fries. I had a skewer of chicken shashlik. It’s like now that I have eaten meat, I justify eating more meat by thinking, “Well, I already blew it.” I’m not saying that eating meat is a treacherous sin, because it isn’t. But, I do think that this is many people’s mindset when dealing with sin. They figure that once they do something bad once, that they might as well do it again and again because they already blew it. It’s a slippery slope that we all need to be careful of.

Today is Saturday. It’s the Saturday in which the world wept hopelessly some 2000 years ago; the Sabbath in which Jesus slept in His grave. I honestly don’t know if there was more rejoicing in heaven or more sadness. In this world, people weren’t really expecting Jesus to die and they certainly weren’t expecting Him to rise so it’s pretty safe to say that most people were in complete despair and sadness. However, in heaven everyone knew Jesus was going to die, and more importantly they knew He wasn’t going to stay dead. I’m sure there wasn’t a dry eye in heaven as they saw their King beaten, mocked, tortured, and crucified. I’m sure there were plenty of angels screaming “Hold me back!” Trying to contain their anger towards this love-empty race. But on this day, on the Sabbath, what was happening? Maybe it was quiet as they waited for the Father to call His Son out of the grave. Maybe some were mourning after the traumatic events that transpired the day before. Or maybe there was great rejoicing. Maybe all the angels and the Father along with the Spirit were celebrating the victory over sin, the victory of love; celebrating the fact that humans would be able to freely communicate with them again. I don’t know what it was like, but I do know that if I had been around all those years ago I would have been with the people weeping, lost and confused, not knowing the next step, or how it would even be possible to take another step. Do yourself a favor, thank God for the brilliantly crafted plan of salvation right now. Jesus is risen, indeed He is risen, and soon we will all be risen with Him.



Another week of teaching comes to a close. This week really flew by. I was in such a rush making exams and worrying about my life that everything is kind of a blur. Last night I wrote about having no peace and how I would wake up with my peace in one peace. I woke up and my peace, although maybe not it one whole piece, was definitely more put-together than when I went to bed. Today I am actually marveling at the inconsistencies of human emotions. We can have a single issue that disturbs people to the very core of their beings and others will not be fazed in the least. One day we can feel distraught and hopeless and we can wake up 7 hours later feeling strong and courageous. I don’t understand humanity—that including myself. Since the fall of man I think we are in a constant battle with our own minds. I went to bed last night feeling pressure from all the possibilities life has to offer. I woke up this morning (this afternoon rather) and felt freedom from all the possibilities life has to offer. I like the freedom better, so I think I’m going to stick with it. I was once referred to as “the epitome of optimism.” I have since lost this trait, but I am determined to get it back.

Around this time some 2000 years ago, Jesus was eating the Last Supper with His disciples. He was preparing them for tomorrow, when He would go to the cross and hang for hours until the weight of the world killed him. The world would mourn for a couple days until death itself was put to death. Jesus rose, and His disciples ran around with fervor and passion that still flows through this world today. Christianity can be frustrating if you look around nowadays. The top words to describe our people are: hypocritical, close-minded, naïve, and all sorts of other negative-rich adjectives. But, we cannot forget our roots. We cannot forget the God who created, the God who lived with us, the God who taught us and walked with us, the God who ate with us, and healed our sick children. We cannot forget the Man who went fishing, walked on water, turned water into wine and prostitutes into saints. We cannot forget our roots—the roots of the tree that was cut and crafted into a cross—the cross that was shoved in the cold ground of Golgotha. We cannot forget the Christ that begins our name—the Christ who begged forgiveness for the men pounding stakes through his wrists. We cannot forget the Son of God crying for His Dad like a boy lost in a crazy department store called earth. We cannot forget. The Man who had the power to spit fire on those who had spit saliva on His wounds; the power to flatten those who were screaming His condemnation; the power to get rid of all of us selfish, bedraggled sinners. We cannot forget the love that endured to the end—the love that loved us as a Godly Father loves a Godly Son. We cannot forget when Love itself prevailed. This is the Christ that we cling to in our Christianity. This is who we are despite the flawed people among us. We cannot forget.

Be positive. He paid it all. Happy Easter.

We’re going to try to get to the mountains tomorrow before the sun rises. I got a date with my Savior.

No Peace


I’m tired tonight. It could be from my alarm blaring this morning before my eight hours were finished, but I don’t think that’s it. It could be the fact that I’m in the middle of exam week and am bogged down with writing tests and grading them along with stacks of writing assignments, but I don’t think that’s it either. It could have to do with my university starting registration for the Fall semester and the fact that I feel lost in my future plans, I’m not sure if that’s it either, although we’re getting closer. I don’t have peace tonight, and I don’t know. Throughout my life I’ve always been addicted to the hectic lifestyle and I’ve always had a tendency to do a little worrying, but to be honest my peace always felt intact. Lately, I’ve been feeling like my peace is in pieces. I need to do some searching, but I’m tired.

I like prayer. I can’t say I fully understand it, but I like it. I like asking someone for prayer and then hearing that they’re praying for me. It’s comforting. Tonight, I am tired. I should probably be that megachristian and pull an all nighter in prayer and fasting, but the Lord knows how short my attention span is and He knows I would fall asleep after only a few minutes. So tonight I am asking Jesus to pray for me. I figure if He prayed for Peter before the man betrayed Him, then He certainly can pray for me. If He can intercede for me and be my High Priest then I’m certain that He must utter prayers on my behalf once in a while. I’m not copping out. I’m not just saying, “Dear Jesus, Pray for me. Thanks. Amen” I’m just saying that He is going to pray for me and coincidentally He is also the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. I think I’m in good hands. I don’t think I have much to worry about. Maybe tomorrow, I will wake up with my peace in one piece, shining with the glow of God’s approval, doused in His grace, His love, and His wisdom. Jesus left me with His peace, now I just have to remember where I left it...



I love pictures. I have many frames filled with family members and friends all smiling at me reminding me that people love me and that life is worth living. On top of that I have a little slideshow gadget on my desktop that filters through all the pictures on my computer. Before I left for Kazakhstan, my mom bought me an electronic keychain picture frame that stirs through a little slideshow of pictures. Every day I find myself gazing at more than one picture for an extended period of time. Every time we look at a picture, emotions stir, and some sort of response is evoked. Think about it, when is the last time you looked at a picture and felt nothing. Even when I am shopping for frames I look at the display pictures and feel something. Pictures bring out what is inside of us. When I see pictures of my smiling family I smile, because I have been blessed with a wonderful family. However, when somebody else sees a picture of their family it might bring them a lot of pain depending on the circumstances they’ve gone through. I get lost in some pictures, remembering great memories. Other pictures I stare longingly at, wanting something that I can no longer have. Pictures cause me to rejoice in the love this world has to offer and they also cause tears to well up as I wish for brighter days. Try going through some old photographs. Embrace the emotions that they bring out of you.