Being an MK

Being an MK is more than where you’ve lived, how many countries you’ve been to, or whatever ministry your parents do. It’s an identity that sticks with you the rest of your life.  I’m now 22 (almost 23) and have carried the name “MK” for 15 years.  True, that’s not my whole life.  I have a couple friends that were born on the field or arrived as babies.  They don’t remember a time when they weren’t overseas with parents planting a church or sharing the gospel in another language.  They don’t see America as their home because, while they’re passport claims they are “American,” they’ve never lived there.  They don’t know the lingo or what’s popular.  (Most of us catch onto fads about 2 to 5 years late…)  They don’t know how to talk with other American kids.  They don’t know how to answer the question, “What’s it like to live overseas?”  How do you explain your life?  How do you describe everything you’ve ever known without something to contrast it?

There are others of us, though, who have lived in the states for a period of time before moving overseas, which almost makes it worse. I was born in Tacoma, Washington, and lived in the Northwest until I was 8.  I do remember some of America.  I did have friends who were full-fledged Americans.  But I didn’t go to public school past second grade.  I still can’t figure out American idioms.  In fact, when I try to use idioms, I turn out sound like an idiot.  Sometimes, after four years of college in the States, I still make cultural faux pas.  I know that no matter my heritage, I’ll never really be fully American.

But there’s a beauty to that.

A friend of mine (who is an MK) talked about how he so desperately wanted to go to Japan and be so immersed in the culture Japanese people would see him as Japanese. All he’s doing is trading one national identity for another, when truly he is neither, yet both.

See, the wonderful thing about being an MK, or a TCK, is the fact that you’re not just one thing. You aren’t just American or Russian or Chinese or Ugandan.  You’re a little bit of all of them.  MKs can relate to other nationalities in ways full-nationals can’t.  I’ve never lived in Germany, but I find a strong connection with Germans because I lived in the area and visited so many times.

Something God uniquely gifts TCKs with is the ability to reach all nations in a way others can’t. We’re more culturally sensitive, more aware of differences, and adapt quickly to new places and people.  No matter where we go, if we just put in the effort, we can reach so many for the name of Christ.  So, my fellow MKs, maybe instead of clinging to a nationality in an attempt to have an identity, let’s remember heaven is our home and find our identity solely in Christ.

He is where our hearts belong.

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Rewards

How many of us have read the passage about faith the size of a mustard seed? How many have read it from Luke, where the faith doesn’t move a mountain but instead a mulberry tree?  Furthermore, how many have continued reading until verse 10?  I surely haven’t, at least not that I remember.

Jesus describes a slave who comes in from working all day tending the sheep and the fields. He asks the question, would the master invite him to sit down, kick back, and have something to eat or will the master command him to make him some food, clean up, and serve his meal then the slave eat afterwards?  Of course the latter.  And once the slave has done this, will the master thank him for his faithful and sacrificial service?  Jesus’ question is rhetorical, but I think we in this day-and-age need to answer the question accurately.  No!  A slave doesn’t receive thanks for doing his job.  Whether we think it’s right or not with our cultural background is irrelevant in relation to Jesus’ story.

Jesus ends the story with saying, “In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” (Luke 16:10)

Harsh.

When I first read it, I thought I must’ve misunderstood. After all, how could Jesus say such a thing?  He’s this meek and mild child, right?  He teaches only about love and flowers and forgiveness, right?

Ha, no, no. It’s been a while since I’ve read through the Gospels and if I’ve walked away with one thing it is that Jesus is SO not PC.  In fact, He outright says all the wrong things, culturally.  Yet every single thing out of His mouth is Truth.  He doesn’t make anything more palatable for the crowds, yet He has overwhelming compassion for them everywhere He goes.

To relate this back to the passage, though, we can see a very hard teaching. Now, let’s put this in context.  He’s not addressing the crowd at this point.  He’s talking to the disciples after they ask him for increased faith.  There have been times previously where He’s told His followers the cost of following Him.  This, I believe, is a bit of a twist, especially for us today.

What is our culture all about? What do we do from the earliest age for children?  Accolades.  Rewards.  Stickers (oh, how I miss the stickers!).  Trophies, and even to the losers now.  Ribbons.  Pins.  You name it.  If someone did a pretty good job then they receive a reward.  A thanks.  An “even though you lost, here’s a trophy for participating.”  You can’t turn a corner without getting some pat on the back.  Because we’ve been so conditioned as children, when we’re out in the real world as adults we expect the same thing, and protest when we don’t receive it.

Sadly, I think we’ve transferred that into our faith, too. Let’s be honest for a second: how many of us share a “please pray for this person I witnessed to” and the story behind it then secretly hope that someone gives us props for our witness?  We certainly didn’t get it from the object of our witness, so we should from the church, right?  I’ve been there too.  I’m terrible at witnessing, so when I actually do, I want to tell everyone to show that I’m so holy and evangelical.  It’s definitely a pride issue for me, but I think there is an element of how we were raised as well.  Anything from mediocre to excellent deserves a reward.  A good grade, a plaque, something.  I think if we were real with ourselves we would admit we expect that from God, too.  Maybe not all the time and in every way, but at least a pat on the back.  A “good job” from the Big Father upstairs.

Please don’t hear me saying He doesn’t give those things. The Bible is clear that we do have rewards in heaven, that there is a place Jesus is preparing for us to eternally dwell.  But our greatest gift, our eternal reward is worshipping in the presence of the Holy One forever.  Do we need anything more?  In that moment, do we need a “thank you for your years of faithful service”?  I don’t think so.  As the passage points out, we’re simply doing our duty down here.  A soldier who does his job doesn’t get a thank you every time he goes on patrol.  It’s his job; he’s expected to do it.  And if he doesn’t, he gets reprimanded.

At least for me, and I hope that this raises some thoughts in your hearts as well, I want to stop thinking about fulfilling my duty down here as something worthy of accolade. I don’t want to have an attitude of “I deserve this because I have been faithful”.  Our faithfulness shouldn’t be conditional.  It should come out of a duty, an obligation, an obedience to the commands of Christ.  Need I more than that?  Isn’t the fact that I can even obey those commands through the Spirit enough of a reward?  I don’t want to expect a thumbs up when I’m obedient.  I simply want to be obedient because God requires it of me.  And one day, after years of doing what I’ve been commanded, my reward will be bowing at the feet of the Lord and praising Him for eternity.

Nehemiah Prayer

Nehemiah 9

Have you ever compared your prayers to those in Scripture? Not just Jesus’ example of the Lord’s prayer, but those of other people throughout history? I see a lot more differences than I’d like in my prayers from those whose faith I admire. One such prayer is found in Nehemiah 9.

Let me start with this question: how much of your prayer is exaltation and rememberence of God’s actions and how much is request? 50/50? Or is it more like 20/80? I hate to admit it, but mine looks more like 5/95. Contrast this to Israel’s prayer in Nehemiah.

They had just gone through 70 years of exile as slaves and captives of the Assyrians and Babylonians. They were lesser citizens, a conquered people, effectively abandoned by their God from the world’s perspective. But as God promised, they were restored. The Persian king Cyrus declared they should go back and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua and spiritual guidance of Ezra, they begin the process, not without its struggles. Fast forward a couple years, here comes Nehemiah as governor and rebuilder of not only the Temple, but the walls of Jerusalem. Finally, after decades of having no home, the Israelites were back.

And here’s a prayer in the midst of it. After threats of attack, no real homes to speak of, and a whole lot of hard work. Ezra reads the law of Moses, reminding them what God is all about, what is required of them. A prayer and promise spring from their lips and their hearts. What does that prayer consist of?

It is a total of 32 verses. 30 of those verses are exaltation and remembrance. It goes all the way back to God’s creation of the world, then His covenant with Abram, and how they came to possess the land. Then their sin, how they rebelled against God, and yet how He never abandoned them. “Because of Your great compassion” v. 19. Over and over they describe God’s mercy, their sin, and His compassion, up until their restoration to Israel. The last two verses are an explanation of their current position – slaves in their own land. They confess they are in their position because of their sin, but describe their “great distress” to the Lord. They don’t even ask anything. Now, what is that percentage? 93.8/6.2.

That’s the kind of prayer life I want to have. I want to remember all He’s done for me, exalt Him for everything He is, all He deserves. He is so worthy of my praise, so worthy of my remembrance. Every event in human history is ultimately about God. It is. It’s about His glory, His salvation, His grace toward mankind. Yet, in His amazing grace, we are told, even commanded, to ask for that which we need. The Israelites at that time needed to be free in their own land. Nothing wrong with that. But they knew their position was deserved. Even so they believed in God’s continued compassion toward them. Hence their cry in great distress. God had proved Himself so faithful, so good, that they knew (I believe) that He would come through once more. They consecrated themselves to God, made promises of conduct consistent with the law of Moses, and lived it.

I hope and pray that I will remember what He’s done, praise Him for it, recognize my position with Him, and rely on His faithfulness.

Soap and Salvation

God recently shared an object lesson that gave me a better perspective on sharing the Gospel with non-believers.

So I was just having a casual conversation with my aunt and uncle.  We were in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner, and I noticed my aunt’s stoneware baking pan and pizza pans.  For those of you who, like me, have no idea what stoneware is, it’s a type of clay that you bake with (obviously) but you don’t wash it with soap.  The soap harms the finish, so you just rinse it every time you use it.  Since it’s used for baking, the likelihood of any bacteria still living on it is very low, so it’s not a huge deal to not wash it with soap.  I made the offhand comment to them that I’m not sure I’d ever get stoneware things because it messes with my mind to not wash it with soap.  In my mind, it’s not clean unless it’s been satisfactorily sudsy.  Plus, they’re crazy heavy.

My uncle’s sister is a nurse, and they have had the conversation that apparently, according to “science” (note the skepticism), soap doesn’t actually clean something.  In other words, soap isn’t involved in the sanitation process.  The soap really only loosens whatever food or bacteria remains on the dish then the water removes it from the surface.  In this process, the main factor that cleans the dishes is the hot water.  Now, I don’t doubt this is true.  I don’t doubt that my uncle’s sister knows what she’s talking about, and I don’t doubt science (no sarcasm now) has found this.

Still, in my mind, it seems wrong.  For 23 years I’ve lived with the belief that soap sanitizes things.  Out of nowhere I’m informed all those wonderful suds and the clean smell of soap does little more than my hand.  Against all reason, including myself, I found myself arguing with them.  I started throwing out the stupidest questions like, “Well, why use soap at all since it’s useless?”  Definitely catastrophizing.  But in my mind, I couldn’t resolve what I had always believed with this new truth.

It wouldn’t surprise me if non-believers feel a similar way about the Gospel.  I mean, these people have lived their whole lives with an idea of what they thought was real and suddenly all that is challenged.  This isn’t just an issue of soap making things clean; it’s an issue of Christ making us clean for eternity.  That’s a much bigger deal.  No wonder many people struggle with these questions and take time to step back to re-evaluate it all.  Their whole belief system is shaken in one or two conversations and they have to figure out how to pick up the pieces.  We know that God, in His wonderful and gracious love, picks up the pieces for us, but they don’t know that yet.  All they know is all foundational truth for their worldview has been washed away (see what I did there?).

From now on, I want to keep this in mind.  When witnessing, when presenting the Truth, I want to be sensitive to their struggle.  I tend to say, “Well, it’s true, so get o’er it.”  That’s not in any way biblical, and I apologize to anyone I’ve hurt because I have that perspective.  They need time; they need some space to process it all.  We should never pad the truth, but we also need to lovingly and patiently walk through the difficult road with them.  Discipleship.  Go figure.

But just as I have now been able to – and continue to – resolve the truth of soap’s inability to sanitize, the truth never comes back empty.  Through prayer and seeking the Lord, the Truth will be known.  He’s pretty great that way.

Faith and Righteousness

After nearly twenty years as a believer, I would likely characterize myself as “young adult.”  This is not only because I actually am a young adult by age, but because my faith often feels like I’m almost mature but not quite there yet.  I wish I could say I’ve grown more than I have but the reality is I still have so much to learn.

Recently, I was blessed with two job opportunities.  After two months of absolutely no word from any company, I was bombarded with businesses offering me positions.  Due to my interests and the Lord’s leading, I took a job at Starbucks and a position at the Disney Store.  Both are very close by and it seemed they would work out well together.  Ha.  If only I had known.  Fast forward a couple weeks and I’m still trying to figure out how to schedule them.  Both want weekends but both would prefer Saturday.  Eventually I just broke.  Sobbing, I cried out to the Lord as I so often do.  And as He so often does (let’s be real – always does), He spoke back and had me bow out of working at Starbucks.

Now, let me put this in perspective.  Starbucks was a full-time, above minimum wage plus tips job.  Disney Store is between 6 and 20 hrs a week and minimum wage.  So the question naturally arises: why choose Disney?  A lot of factors played into that decision, but one that pressed upon me most was the fact that God has continually told me to trust Him with my finances.  I have this terrible habit of obsessing over money, usually the fact I don’t have enough, and it becomes an idol.  To combat this idolatry, I believed the Lord had me quit Starbucks.

It’s been about two weeks since I made this decision.  I technically haven’t quit because I haven’t given a letter of “resignation” or whatever it’s supposed to be.  While having a conversation with someone I highly respect, I mentioned that the hours at Disney aren’t guaranteed.  A lot of my time is on-call and it’s uncertain as to whether they will call me in for it.  As a result, there’s a good chance I won’t get a whole lot of money this summer in preparation for my masters.

Then this person gave me a face.  The expression felt like someone had punched me in the gut, and I broke.  All the peace, all the certainty, all the confidence I had in the decision to leave Starbucks was gone.  Did I hear God wrong?  Was I making a wise decision?  Was my decision to focus on people misguided?  Do I have to just suck it up and sludge through a job I don’t really like?  Do I ignore the feeling of turmoil every time I walk into work?  All these questions rolled through my mind, but one stuck out the most.

Do I trust God?

Regardless of all my other reasons, the main reason I left Starbucks was because God told me to trust Him.  He said to leave my finances in His infinite hands and see Him provide in ways I could never imagine.  He didn’t promise insane wealth or everything I ever wanted, but I knew He wanted me to have faith in His provision.  In that moment, when I was (figuratively) doubled over cradling my stomach from the facial expression on this person’s face, I doubted God.  The reality of what I had done washed over me and I thought I was making a huge mistake.  How can I walk away from more than twice the income when I desperately need it?

Because He told me to.

I took a drive (which I know you’re not supposed to do while emotional), went by Disney to talk with some of the other workers about scheduling and whatnot, and prayed.  And cried.  I didn’t know what to say, but I had a question rolling through my mind.

How do I trust You?

How do I leave this huge thing in Your hands?  How do I live out this faith that seems like complete foolishness to the world, my family, and even myself?  How do I throw caution to the wind and cling to a promise I can’t tangibly hold?

“Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Belief.  Faith.  Hoping against hope that something impossible would happen.  And it did.

Abraham’s righteousness didn’t come from immediately getting up and sleeping with his wife to make it come true.  It didn’t come through conquering the people already inhabiting Canaan to possess the land.  It didn’t come through hours of constant questioning or pleading to see if he heard God right.  It came through faith.  Childlike faith.

I’ll admit, I still don’t know how to live in faith.  Not radical faith, at least.  I know God is faithful, I know He is loving, I know He is all-powerful.  What I tend to doubt is whether He’ll use that faithfulness, love, and power to provide for me.  It’s a terrible thing to admit, but it’s even worse that it’s true.  But starting today, right now, I want to live in radical faith.  I want to follow the Lord no matter what, even if those things He leads me to are foolishness to the world.  I want His wisdom above all else, and, God help me, I’m willing to walk through the fire to reach Him.

The faith of a mustard seed, right?  God, please grab Your spade and start planting.

Airports

Airports.  The international land of security checks, overpriced food, rows of seats, muffled overhead PA systems, large windows, and gaggles of travellers.  No matter where you go in the world, no matter what language they speak, or what culture they’re from, people are the same in airports.  Not only is the land itself international in that no country can truly claim it, the people that inhabit it are never mono-cultural.

I would call it “the land of misfit toys,” but that’s not all true.  It’s not that they’re misfits – they’re cultured, learned, or just looking to go somewhere else.  The thing about airports is there’s no one demographic.  No one race, language, socio-economic status (besides buying a ticket), gender, age (though sometimes I wish we could give an age limit, eg. ages two and over), or religion.

Ha.  I wonder if there was a way to start a church in the airport.  Ingenious.

No matter the person, all TCKs have seen their fair share of airports.  In fact, there are airports we go to in countries we’ve never entered.  (Remember, going to the airport in the country does not count as having visited.)  With layovers and legs and delays, I’m pretty confident TCKs spend more time in airports than they do in their country of origin.  For realz.  Try to count how many hours you’ve spent in an airport.  Yeah, after 16 years of being an MK, it’s impossible for me.  No can do.

But that’s the point.  I’ve heard multiple TCKs comment that they feel more at home in airports than they do in countries.  It’s certainly true for me.  Whenever I walk into an airport it’s automatic.  I know generally where to go, what to do, what the etiquette is, how to read signs, all that.  I know airport culture.  And as a result, I feel at home there.  I know what to expect, and I know what’s expected of me.  I get to fly on autopilot – see what I did there?  Instead of anxiousness I feel calm.  Instead of discomfort I stretch out like I own the place (while still being respectful of other travellers).  Instead of confusion I’m confident.

Yes, there’s still a margin of error in a new or remodeled airport, but let’s be honest: you’ve seen 20, you can navigate them all.

I love airports because of where they get me.  I love travelling and seeing new places and people.  But I also love airports.  Just the airport.  Not all mind you – still not a fan of Frankfurt – but most.

 

Where’s my home?  International land, aka the airport.

What’s my language?  Muffled PA intercom.

What’s my culture?  Security checks and grumpy travellers.

Where do I belong?  Wherever the planes take me.

Know and Be Known

We’ve all met that person.  You know, the one who wants to meet up to get to know each other but they end up talking the whole time.  By the end of the two hours, you know everything there is to know about that person yet they know nothing about you.  They think they do, but you barely opened your mouth.  As a result, everything they “know” is assumed from your one-sided conversation.

And before we roll our eyes, let’s be honest: we’ve all been that person, too.  I know I have.

A one-sided conversation isn’t very fun.  Not just because only one person’s talking, but because the person who’s silent doesn’t feel known.  The Chatty Kathy walks away thinking they’ve made a new best friend while the other says, “Yeah, not doing that again.”  It’s ultimately unfulfilling for both parties.  So much of a conversation is listening, whether it be silently or actively (with grunts of acknowledgement and such).  To really know a person you must listen and to be known you must speak.  It’s gotta be a two-way thing.

It’s not like this comes as a shock to anyone.  It’s not earth-shattering.  It’s not going to stop a war and bring world peace.

It’s just a reality of life.  And it’s a very important aspect of our lives.  We don’t like to be the person who doesn’t have a chance to speak.  Sometimes we need silence so someone can fill it.

So here’s the question: how often do you sit in silence when you’re in a conversation with the Lord?

For most of us, when we pray, we praise Him for things He’s done, ask Him for things, or process something.  Often I’m hashing out something I read in Scripture and I just need to hear it out loud to really get it.  But do we then make that conversation one-sided?  Do we get so caught up in our own requests, praises, and thoughts that we miss God’s?  This isn’t meant to diss anyone because I’ll be the first to admit I do this on a daily basis.

I just start speaking and forget to leave enough silence for God to speak.  Then I walk away from the conversation saying, “Wow, I’m so glad we had that talk.  Now I know you so much better.”  Do I really?  What did I even learn about Him?  That He likes to hear the sound of my voice?  He thinks my ramblings are entertaining?  I’m so profound I leave even God speechless?

Answer: D.  None of the above.

I didn’t learn anything about God except He’s patient.  If I leave silence, though, He speaks.  If I ask Him a question, expect an answer, and actually listen for it, He’ll answer.  It’s not always when I expect Him to and it’s not always the answer I’m looking for.  Sometimes He answers a different question, one I didn’t even ask.  But God in His infinite wisdom and knowledge knows what we need exactly in that moment and that’s what He addresses.  “Give us today our daily bread.”  Not the bread for tomorrow, not the bread from yesterday.  Like manna, it’s the bread for that day.  And that’s what He gives us when He speaks.  Sometimes it does address a question we asked and sometimes it’s something about the future.  God isn’t limited in anything.  But just keep in mind that when you leave silence and listen, it’ll be God ‘s words, not those you expect from Him.

His voice is beautiful.  His words are powerful.  His presence is overwhelming.  And silence, especially in this case, is golden, because in it, we hear from our Lord.  Silence isn’t scary and it’s not a waste of time.  When you pray, make it a real conversation.  Know and be known.

David’s Psalms

Imagine running for your life from the guy who used to be your boss who suddenly went bonkers and has sworn to kill you.  You didn’t do anything wrong, but he’s after you anyways.  And nothing’s going to stop him.

Sounds pretty horrific.  Poor David.  He goes from Saul’s most decorated commander to #1 enemy because of jealousy.  On top of that, he knows David’s going to replace him as king because he was disobedient to the Lord.  Still not David’s fault.

In the midst of the chase, as David’s going from one wilderness to the other or staying in the cities of Israel’s real enemies, he writes these Psalms.  Songs of deliverance, pleading to the Lord to save him from those who would destroy his life.  Former friends, a man who was like a father, now pursuing him like a hunter after a deer.  It’s traumatic; it’s unfair.

These psalms speak to David’s character maybe more than anything else.  David’s got this force of guys, a band of misfits as I like to call them (I Samuel 22:1-2), who are pretty good at fighting.  Later (I Samuel 27) we see them taking out whole cities on their own, so they’ve proven they have some muscle and skill among them.  But in David’s songs, he doesn’t ask God to strengthen his men or show them which enemies to take out.  All he’s asking is God will be the Judge, see that he is innocent, and vindicate him.  A man who’s commanded thousands is asking God to fight for him based on the evil of his enemies.

Maybe it’s because he knows his band of misfits can’t take on Saul’s army of 2000.  Likely.  Or maybe it’s because David doesn’t trust himself to rule fairly in the case, and he doesn’t want to kill the innocent.  I think, though, based on David’s past actions and intimate relationship with God that he’s calling out for God to act on his behalf because he trusts Him.  He knows God alone can judge the heart of man and He is all-powerful.  He saw God work in the situation with Nabal (I Samuel 25) – and even got a beautiful wife out of it.  David’s hands were free from needless bloodshed and God punished Nabal for his wickedness and folly.  That, I believe, set a precedence where God proved He was going to act on David’s behalf, to keep him from evil and to punish those who did evil against him.  And through it all God was given the glory.  We have it documented x-thousand years later.

In each life we face hardships.  Granted, most of us aren’t vying for our lives, but it’s still big to us.  I’d like to be more like David where I leave the details, the resolution, all the things I can’t possibly know or control in God’s hands.  Not only because I know He can work, but because I trust Him to work on my behalf when I cannot.  I want God to be glorified in my life and we see throughout Scripture and in our own lives that often happens when we surrender control and let God do His thing.  It doesn’t always look the same and it certainly won’t resolve the same way, but it’s all according to His plan.

I want to trust God so much that I have full confidence He will punish the evil and exalt the righteous.  I want to say, “You have tested my heart; You have examined me at night.  You have tried me and found nothing evil; I have determined that my mouth will not sin.  I call on You, God, because You will answer me; listen closely to me; hear what I say.  Display the wonders of Your faithful love, Saviour of all who seek refuge from those who rebel against Your right hand.”  Psalm 17:3, 6-7