30 March 2011

God's ways are higher than ours!

This afternoon as I headed home from school I had a desire for chocolate, so I decided to make a slight detour and stop at a grocery store that I don't often visit but which is reasonably handy. To do that, I drove straight ahead through an intersection where I usually turn right, and continued along the road. There's one minor intersection before the shop I wanted to go to, and then it's on the left hand side of the road (the opposite side to where I was driving - Aussies we drive on the "right" side of the road in Cambodia rather than the "left"). As I approached the intersection I noticed a larger than expected presence of the local "boys in blue", and being uncertain as to what they were pulling people over decided it might not be a good day to make a left turn across double lines, and so decided to go with plan B!

Plan B (a cafe/dessert shop called "The Shop Too") took me further away from home, and offered many delicious temptations, but that was OK. Better temptations than an unscheduled meeting with the local boys in blue. Well, God knew all along what was going on. As I was walking in to the shop, I noticed some friends from Logos sitting inside, so I went to say "Hi!". Not having seen them for a while, it was good to see them, but then they also let me know that some other past colleagues would be joining them shortly, and they invited me to join them too! Bonus. Not only did I have a pleasant hour or so with friends, I got to see other friends who were visiting from Vietnam and to meet their gorgeous two month old baby. Then, just before I left, we were joined by yet another colleague from Logos, who had only recently returned to Cambodia. It was so good to see her!

God is so good. As I succumbed to the temptation of chocolate, He gave me the chance to catch up with several friends at once. Thank you Lord. An afternoon well spent.

The Power of Three (part 2)

If you had to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster, what three things would you take with you?

The recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, along with the floods and cyclones in Queensland make this topic somewhat close to home. What would I take if I could only take 3 things?

  1. My Bible
  2. My computer
  3. My mobile phone
Ouch that means I've got no money or way of getting it, and no ID. Hmmm. I think I'd better ditch the phone and take the handbag instead (which should contain a host of essentials including ID, cash, credit/debit cards and the phone).

Now if it was down to three actual objects, that would be really challenging. I think the Bible would still be there, living overseas I think I'd have to make sure I had my passport, and the phone could save my family a lot of heartache. God would provide all my needs, but I really hope I don't have to be tested on this one in the near future (although I suspect my friends in Japan are thinking that they are really glad they weren't tested in that way).

Definitely challenging.


29 March 2011

The Power of Three

A writers' blog that I follow put out the challenge to write on this prompt. There was a list of 9 "threes" to choose from, so this afternoon I'm choosing to write about three things I want in a relationship.

The first thing I want in a relationship is acceptance. It is important to me that I am accepted for who I am, without any expectations to change. Wow, I think that's huge, but it is also important. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there aren't things about myself that need changing, because there definitely are, and God's working with me on those, but I need to know I'm accepted anyway.

The second thing I want in a relationship is honesty. If people are not honest with me, it's very hard to trust them, and trust is the third thing I want in a relationship. Both these things need to go both ways. I need to be able to be honest with you, just as I want you to be honest with me; and the same applies to trust.

The best relationships are those where there is honesty and trust in an atmosphere of acceptance. God made me who I am, and He loves me that way. He's helping me grow to be the person He really planned for me to be, but I'm not there yet, so I need relationships that will help me get there.

What about you? What three things would you want in a relationship?

26 March 2011


I've just finished reading a truly inspiring book. Friends from Logos, returned to the USA in July last year, initially for six months furlough, but have been unable to return to their ministry here in Cambodia due to the special needs of their youngest son. I miss them, but am able to keep up to date with their little family through Facebook and her blog. The husband was able to return recently to finalise some things here, and also to see people. It was a time which also enabled him to have some real closure to his time in Cambodia. During that visit I enjoyed spending some time with him, and he left me with the wonderful gift of two new books to read, both missionary biographies (as well as some delicious sweets). It is one of those two books that I've just finished.

The title of the book is: The Woman with the Book: A Friend's Account of Gladys Aylward's Life. It has been translated into English (from German as far as I can tell), and is a compelling read. As I think back over this lady's story, I am encouraged to continue in service of God, and especially to His love with those around me. In these days of cut-price airfares, relatively easy travel, and ease of communication (Skype, e-mail, Facebook, mobile phones, etc), it is hard to imagine leaving home and not returning for 17 years. It is equally hard to imagine the lack of communication that was part of her life. I don't think I can thank God enough that I am a 21st century "missionary" rather than a 19th century or even 20th century one. What a privilege to serve and yet be in touch with what is going on at home, and even in other parts of the world.

The thing which came through most of all in this book, which has truly challenged me in my own life, is Gladys' total dependence on God for not only her own needs, but the needs of the children placed in her care. Each time she had a need, she turned to God. At times she did not understand why God was asking her to do certain things, but she did them anyway, and was later amazed and thrilled at the responses to His Word from the Chinese people. There are times when the story made me feel sad, as I read how she suffered at different times, but it was wonderful to see how God cared for her. There were times when this lady did not take adequate care of herself, and she suffered as a result, but it was usually because she sensed a greater need. There were times when, in the midst of war, God provided what she needed, much to the amazement of those around her. Through it all, God's love was shared.

What will I do with this challenge that God has placed before me? Will I pray more? Will I pray more fervently? Will I seek to forget know His Word more fully, so that I might, as Gladys did, share it easily with those around me? What am I willing to go without so that others might be fed and clothed? Will my dependence on Him grow deeper? Or will I just forget these lessons as I put the book on the bookshelf. We have a wonderful, powerful, awesome God, who has each step of our lives in the palm of His hand. He doesn't promise it will be easy, but He does promise to stick with us! Praise Him.

20 March 2011

Draw near

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. James 4:8a

This afternoon's sermon, focusing on some of the teaching contained in the book of Hebrews, was a great reminder that God longs for us to draw near to Him. He has made the way wide open for us to draw near to Him, though Jesus.

God doesn't want us hiding in the back row, but He longs for us to get up close to Him, not just at church, but in every aspect of our lives.

He wants me close to him as I ride my moto across town. He wants me close to Him as I work in my classroom. He wants me close to Him when I go to sleep, and still close to Him when I awake in the morning. He wants me close to Him, every minute of every day!

How much does He want this? So much that Jesus gave up everything, became a human being, and then, after going through the all the experiences of life from conception through to adult hood, gave up that life to pay the price that was needed so that I could be close to Him. Thankfully He was stronger than death and after 3 days, he rose again triumphantly.

Did He do it just for me? Well He would have, but no, I cannot keep this wonderful gift to myself. He did it for you too! He did it for all of us.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. James 4:8a

19 March 2011

Another busy school week

Did you ever say "Thank goodness we have a long weekend this weekend!"? I know I have said this many times, but this week, I'm thanking God for a full 5-day teaching week. Yes, you read me correctly, I'm saying thanks for a full five day week. Now why would I do that? Don't get me wrong. I enjoy holidays, and Cambodian Public Holidays, scattered through the year, truly do preserve my sanity, but full 5-day weeks are good too! There are a couple of reasons, but the main one is routine! Holidays disrupt the routine of a school week. They can also mean the children miss out on "specials", like art, library or computers. Sometimes they just mean there are not enough hours in the week to get the curriculum covered.

This week we had a full complement of teaching days. The children got all their specials, including PE and swimming (so I got my three 35-40 minute preparation periods). We had time for small group reading lessons for everyone. We got lots of work done on our Social Studies projects. We had fun in mathematics, making 3-D shapes and learning more about them, as well as thinking about how they occur in the real world. We also explored a heap of picture books! Last Friday I was thrilled to receive a shipment of new books from Scholastic Bookclubs. I'd had fun doing the order, mainly because of some vouchers I'd ordered earlier in the school year, and which I was now able to take advantage of, and so getting books I couldn't have afforded otherwise. Quite a number of the books in that shipment were picture books. You might be surprised that I'm buying picture books for 3rd graders, but you would also be surprised at the reading level of some picture books. This week we shared some as read alouds, and the children read and thought about some independently. Over the next week or so, my children will write and illustrate their own picture books. It will be interesting to see how their writing has progressed, and how much more we need to do. It was interesting to discover via Facebook that my very first class, now 7th graders, are also working on writing picture books at the moment.

I also spent quite a bit of time this week contemplating the situation in Japan, where friends are missionaries. Life is not easy in Japan at the best of times, but at the moment it is increasingly difficult. I praise God as I read my friend's blog entries, sharing how they are coping and what they are doing. This has also led to an opportunity for my children to think about the situation in the coming week. One of my friend's children has written a story about his experiences, and has very kindly allowed me to share it with my class. I'm looking forward to doing this on Monday. It will be interesting to see how 8-9 year olds in Cambodia respond to the experience of an 8 year old in Japan. Praying for Japan is very high on the agenda at the moment.

The coming week is another full week, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm even looking forward to our staff meeting on Thursday afternoon. Another five days of fun and learning coming up in Grade 3K!

13 March 2011

Thinking about disasters - "Don't be afraid!"

I don't know what you are thinking at the moment, but I know that my mind has been blown by all the disasters and wars that are going on in the world at the moment.

While I have been privileged not to have been directly affected by any of the recent disasters, they have affected my thoughts and emotions at times. In early January it was floods in South East Queensland, then there was Tropical Cyclone Yasi in North Queensland, then the Christchurch earthquake, and now the Japanese earthquake. Those are just the events that have struck close to home (the flash flooding was in my home town and surrounding areas that I travelled through often, I spent my late teens and early 20s in Brisbane and still have friends there, I grew up in Townsville, and I have missionary friends in Japan). I'm also aware of drought and civil unrest in Ethiopia (more missionary friends) and delayed rains in Uganda (another friend living there). On top of that, there's still war and civil unrest going on in many more places around the world that I won't mention, and finally there is the ongoing tension between Thailand and Cambodia over border issues.

As I consider all these matters, my heart and mind has been turning to Jesus words as recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. "When you hear about wars and stories of wars that are coming, don't be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. Nations will fight against other nations, and kingdoms against other kingdoms. There will be earthquakes in different places, and there will be times when there is no food for people to eat. These are like the first pains when something new is about to be born." Mark 13:7-8 & Matthew 24:6-8. Jesus said these things would happen. I'm not prophesying that the end of the world as we know it is coming, but rather I want to draw your attention to Jesus' words in the middle of these passages. He said "Don't be afraid". I can imagine that it would be pretty hard not to be afraid when you see a 10m wall of water coming directly towards you faster than you can run, or when you feel the earth moving substantially beneath you, and it would definitely be hard not to be at least somewhat afraid if you lived in many of those areas where there is war and civil unrest, but that's what Jesus tells us. "Don't be afraid".

As we pray for those directly affected by these events, let's pray that those who belong to Jesus will have that peace that passes understanding. Let's pray that as others see that peace in them, they will want to know how they are able to be so calm/peaceful. Let's pray that God will be glorified as His children reach out to those around them who are also hurting. Let's pray that opportunities to share God's love will be recognised.

The other thing I am reminded of here is the possibility that the time when we can freely share God's love is passing very quickly. I pray that God will give me a sense of urgency when I have opportunities to share God's love and good news with those around me. I pray that God will give me the right words to say, and that I will say them at the right time and in the right way.

Thank you to those amazing and special "ordinary" people who are working in the rescue and recovery tasks. I pray that you will know God's enabling as you face very difficult tasks. I'm sure many would say they are "just doing their job", but they truly are heroes in every way. Thank you for all you do.

12 March 2011

Would someone please slow the clock down?

I just realised that it's almost 3 weeks since I last wrote here, and if you asked me where that time went I'm not sure I could tell you. The weeks seem to be flying by in a flurry of daily activity. School take most of my time, but I do also try and make time for some personal reading, going to the gym, and other forms of relaxation, as well as helping out with worship at ICF.

The big excitement of the most recently completed week was receiving the Scholastic BookClub order I placed a week ago. I am happy to report that as well as some welcome additions to the classroom library I now have a selection of books which the children will choose from at the end of the year as their own special book. I was also able to order a couple of extra teaching resources using the bonus points I had built up, which I'm looking forward to using and learning from. Today I have finished placing a school-wide order, so we hope that is delivered as quickly as the one I placed. The children get so excited about their new books. It is wonderful to see.

I've been getting to the gym at least twice a week, and hope to increase that to 3 or 4 times next week. It's still a challenge fitting it in, but when I do go I usually enjoy it, so that is a good thing. I can now comfortably swim 1km (albeit with lots of lane turns).

School is full of joys and challenges. The joys far outweigh the challenges, but the challenges are there nonetheless. One of the challenges this week has been trying to find information about Cambodia in English that is at a suitable level for my students. This consumed many hours, with limited success, but hopefully I managed to find enough to allow them to write some brief reports that we can put into a book. I know there have been a few children's books published on Cambodia over the years, but they are usually hardback and rather expensive. We do have a few in the library, but it would be great to get some more. I found a brilliant website in Australia which has good information and support activities on many Asian countries, but Cambodia is not one of these. Life's like that.

Well, my list of jobs to do is not getting any shorter, so I'd better finish off now and think about what I can cross off it next.