The article made me do it

Have you seen the video of the doctor distracting a baby while he gives the kid a couple shots? It’s cute, right?

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day, and after watching it I left the comment: “So precious.”

In response, a total stranger commented: “Not precious at all – Please educate yourself for your children’s sake.” Attached to the statement was a link to an article on the horrors of vaccination and why people should never vaccinate their children.

Normally something like this wouldn’t bug me, but just a few days earlier I had received some links from a friend regarding various reasons why Ray and I shouldn’t circumcise our boy(s). Now, I have no ill feelings towards my friend, and I appreciate her concern for the wellbeing of our future children (I actually agree with the scriptural portions of her point), but these two occurrences really got me thinking about how mighty the article has become in American culture.

Make room for a new king

Next to Jesus, Google is king in our home, and I’m the one responsible for making it that way.

  • If I want to know how to edit videos better, I’ll google it.
  • If I need natural solutions to ward off malaria-ridden mosquitoes, I’ll google it.
  • If my gas is smelling especially putrid… hold on, just plug your nose for the 0.46 seconds it will take Google to give me a diagnosis, and we’ll be good to go.

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There are millions of articles and random folks out there in Cyberland ready and willing to tell me how to live my life, and I’m totally open to receive most of what they throw at me. Upon reading an article, well usually it’s more like skimming an article, I feel like I’ve become a semi-expert on the matter, so not only does it become a belief that I instantaneously hold personally, but anytime someone asks for help in that area, I’ve got the answer for them too. Just read this article and it will make you think like I do.

The problem is, sometimes I’m wrong.

How many times have you seen an article saying that some research institute has discovered that a certain food causes cancer causing you to promptly boycott the product until a few weeks later the “just kidding” response is released and we’re told that the food actually helps ward off cancer? (The soy controversy had me all kinds of confused.) How many people had you convinced before the “just kidding” article that they should also stop buying that particular item of food? Or how many times had you shared a video or article on Facebook about a certain event only to have someone comment, “Um, yeah, that’s fake” or “That never happened,” and then you felt salty for disseminating a lie?

Here’s a question for you: do you feel saltier for sharing it or saltier for believing it?

A quick detour from the information superhighway

Lest this rant get out of hand, let me get to my point. I have two:

Point 1: Sure, cruise the information superhighway, but remember that you have people in the car with you who have real life experiences as well.

I’ve seen many of my friends go through cycles where they get frustrated with how connected to technology people have become these days, and they get rid of Facebook for a week or a month (the hardcore ones do it for a year or more), all in the name of pressing in to be more relational. I wish that people would do the same when it came to the dissemination of information. Don’t send me an article and just tell me that what I believe is wrong, but walk with me, teach me, show me what you believe and let me come to my own conclusions. If you share an article with me, please share it within that context. I’m not going to do something just because your article told me to. As my friend Lisa once said, just as anyone can find any scripture to back up any belief they have, articles can serve the same purpose.

Ray and I went to visit our neighbors for dinner a while back, and the wife asked me where I learned to make chapati. I told her I googled it and found some videos on YouTube. She looked a bit bewildered and responded, “I’m right next door, why don’t you just come over and let me teach you?” That’s not the first time I’ve gotten that kind of response, which is one of the things I love about Kenyan culture. It’s all about relationship. Kenyans can share information with one another, but they do it within the context of relationship. Wouldn’t it be cool to teach kids more about the importance of primary sources so instead of doing a Google search on the Vietnam war, they actually talk to their veteran uncle? Articles are definitely important, but they shouldn’t take precedence over relationship.

Point 2: Maybe if we valued wisdom and knowledge over tidbits of information, we’d be smarter.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”

We are exposed to a wealth of information with the world literally at our fingertips, and that in and of itself isn’t bad, but we can be bombarded with so much information that we don’t actually know anything. I refer to this a lot, but the Hebrew word for “know” is yada. It actually has five dimensions, and the gist of them all is basically that if you claim to know something, you know it in complete detail because you’ve studied, analyzed, investigated, or personally encountered it. This is the root of knowledge. This is what we should be passing on, not information you’ve barely processed yourself but have been persuaded to believe in the two minutes you took to skim through an article or watch a YouTube video. There’s far too much information and not enough knowledge being passed around.

Please note that I’m talking to a specific group of people here. Some of you do have sufficient knowledge in the things that you share with others. As long as you’re following point one, more power to you.

There’s a reason we’re told to seek wisdom as for precious gold. It’s through our life experiences and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we gain the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. Knowledge can help guide the decisions that we make, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Wisdom is. There was a time I was asked to speak at an AGLOW meeting, and I shared on the Holy Spirit. I had spent the summer really sitting with God and asking some questions about how to live by the Spirit, so everything I shared in my message was the result of that extended conversation. After I spoke, an older gentleman approached me and said, “I just want to encourage you because God showed you in a few months what has taken me thirty years to learn.” I can’t and don’t say that to brag, because it’s been a long time since I’ve just sat before the Lord and asked His Spirit of wisdom to enlighten my eyes instead of going straight to the computer to find articles or commentary whenever I have a question. Again, I’m not saying commentary is bad, I love using it, but I am saying that there’s something to be said about the acceleration of true knowledge and wisdom that comes from seeking it directly from the source.

Knowledge unto itself is just knowledge

In the western world we tend to value our access to information and we take pride in our knowledge, but knowledge unto itself is just knowledge. There’s no real fruit to be gleaned from it unless it’s put into action. I know people who have studied the Sermon on the Mount forwards and backwards multiple times, yet they don’t live its teachings out nearly as well as some of the people I’ve found here in Kenya that have maybe a sixth grade education and couldn’t even tell you where the Sermon on the Mount is located. It’s not about how much you know, people, it’s about how well you live out what you know. When you stand before the Father one day, that’s all He’s going to care about. Can it be all that we care about too?

[Disclaimer] I must end this slight diatribe by acknowledging that I do realize the irony of writing a blog post about why we need to stop relying so much on articles. Just doing my part to challenge you in your search for understanding. 😉

The challenge of living in the moment: battling restlessness

Just last week I caught myself saying, “I can’t wait until it’s Thursday.”

Some friends had informed us of a conference in Kasarani and offered to pay for our hotel room. We were definitely in need of a break, so we decided to go for it.

No sooner had I flopped onto the bed in our hotel room, I sighed, “I can’t wait until the conference starts.”

Again, sitting in the bleachers at the the stadium, I whispered to Ray, “I can’t wait until we meet up with your family tonight.”

On and on the cycle of “I can’t wait” went, and though I’ve only recently become aware of its constant appearance in my speech, I suspect that it’s been around for quite some time now.

Created to be restless

There’s a restlessness inside of me that won’t allow me to be satisfied with anything. I’m always looking for something more, something better. In the purest sense, it’s really not a bad thing.

We were created with an eternal base, an eternal spirit, so naturally there is a desire to put off these mortal garments of skin that keep us chained to this temporal earth. (Tweet this)

Scripture meme

Given that this is a natural and pure desire, I can still keep my eyes fixed ahead, but the problem is that my desire for heaven has been turned from where it should be and placed on temporal things. Instead of hoping to be with Jesus where He is, I’m hoping that the next event in life will bring some sense of happiness, peace, or purpose. The one thing that is needed is to reset my focus to where it needs to be and to see each event in life as a means to the end instead of a means to an end.

There is purpose in every single moment lived, and the sum of them contribute towards my eternal purpose. (Tweet this)

If everything I do in life is building up to eternity and my hope is set in heavenly places, I’m going to engage in each moment as though it counts for something, which really frees me from looking at each situation as an end all, be all. Instead, being with Jesus is my end goal, and He is all I ever need.

I hope this challenges you today as it has challenged me. Much love and many prayers!

My culture, my crutch: it all comes down to love

If Ray was married to someone of his own culture, he would never have to have “intense discussions” with his wife about the dishes, but since he’s not… let the games begin!

My culture, my crutch

Ray and I were warned early on in marriage to be realistic about our shortcomings as individuals and to be careful of blaming everything on cultural differences. In intercultural marriages it’s very easy to blame your negative attitude or bad behavior on culture and completely disregard your responsibility to do something about it. Just because it’s a cultural belief that you’ve held since childhood doesn’t mean it’s right or that it should take precedence over doing what you know is right.

Because the premise for this entire blog site is to share how my husband and I deal with our cultural differences, it’s clear that culture has made a huge impact on our lives. What hasn’t been clear to me is how to transcend all the recurring issues that stem from holding too tightly to cultural expectations. There are times when culture can feel a lot like law, and it becomes difficult to keep from holding it in higher regard than we hold each other. Next to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and advice from spiritual leaders, culture is one of the more dominant factors in our decision making process as a couple, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that.

It all comes down to love

I’ve shared before about how I desire to adopt a heavenly culture instead of swearing an allegiance to my own or even to my husband’s culture… and that’s about as far as that went. I made the statement, felt it was profound enough to give myself a pat on the back, and walked away from the laptop without any plan of action to make that my reality. Seven months later I’ve come full circle, and this time I aim to finish it right.

When I speak of a heavenly culture, I’m talking about a culture where love is the norm. It is deeply embedded in every relationship, every action, and every motive of the heart both spoken and unspoken. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the best places to find an explicit list of what the manifestation of this culture looks like. People who are of a heavenly culture are patient, kind, they don’t envy or boast, they’re not proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered, they keep no record of wrongs, they don’t delight in evil but rejoice with truth, and they always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. Every culture has its stereotype, but this is the stereotype of those who belong to a heavenly race: they act justly, love mercy, and they walk humbly with their God.

If I really am an ambassador of heaven or an alien to this world, I should be living by the standards of my primary culture, my heavenly culture. To set this culture of love in our household means that I should serve my husband without expecting him to do a single thing in return for me. It means that I lose the right to nag about the dishes he leaves in the sink and he loses the right to complain if I don’t wash all the dishes before the ants come to do the job for me.

We’ve been doing it all wrong.

Removing the yoke of law from our marriage

In every conversation we’ve ever had about household responsibilities, we’ve relied totally on cultural expectations. I am supposed to wash the dishes because I’m the wife. It’s my job, as is everything else in the kitchen. Yes, that’s the norm for his culture, but sometimes knowing that it’s my job or my duty can cause me resent it, and honestly it can make me resent Ray when he reminds me that I’m slacking on my responsibilities. But if we operated under the norms of our heavenly culture, there would be no need for either of us to nag each other, because we’d naturally pick up the slack (without keeping record of anyone’s failures), and if we’re truly loving and serving each other to the fullest, there shouldn’t be much slack to pick up.

One of the love reminders I've put around the house to remind us of home.

One of the love postings I’ve put around the house to remind us of home.

Side note: I know I just posted a blog about serving with the knowledge that one day you will receive a return on your investment, and that’s still true, but I’m just saying that love can understand the reality of the “you reap what you sow” cycle and still say, “Even if I don’t receive a return, my time serving was well spent.”

Dishes may seem like sort of a trivial application for the love culture, but this principle applies to all areas of marriage. In this particular area we were trying to strategize about how to go about dealing with the dishes: I do them on the weekdays and he does them on the weekends, but we are responsible for doing our own dishes as we use them, unless you take the dishes for the other person into the kitchen, then you wash both, and blah, blah, bliggety, blah. Isn’t that gross? Coming to the realization of how love removes the “need” for law, shuts down the whole conversation. Forget all the guidelines and amendments, just love each other and it will naturally balance itself out. I’ll show honor to my husband and fulfill his expectations of me without having to beat myself up so much about my shortcomings as an American trying to fit into Kenyan culture.

Just as Jesus came to remove the yoke of law from our necks and offer himself as the purest demonstration of love, when we seek to love, the pressure of cultural law is lifted.

Love fulfills everything. Love covers all. Love never fails.

The green-eyed marriage: is your marriage monster-proof?

Maybe it’s because we’re still newlyweds (coming up on eight months now) or maybe we’re just really insecure, but our marriage seems to be the perfect dwelling place for that ugly little creature called the green-eyed monster (GEM).

“Who are you talking to?”

“Why are you looking at her Facebook profile?”

“Can we walk down this street instead of that one? There are too many good looking people over there.”

The insatiable desire to be THE ONE AND ONLY

As a single person, I used to have a particular fantasy about my future spouse. He would be on stage performing or preaching with a million beautiful women in the crowd dying to get his attention. These ladies would be some of the most beautiful women on the planet, and in comparison I would feel quite… less than. Suddenly, the man on stage would peer out into the audience and say, “You. I want you.” Like most women, I would look around and prepare myself to envy the lucky lady he referred to and maybe even trip her as she approached the stage, but then the crowds would part and it would become obviously apparent that he was speaking to yours truly.

Again, he would say to me, “You. You’re the one I want.”

I would have to be an idiot to not see how much of a catch Ray is. He has the cutest dimples, boyish charm, and he’s one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. He truly is the epitome of the guy I envisioned on stage. Even though he’s married, especially now that he’s married and people see what a wonderful husband he is, there are some women (I use other terms for them when it’s just Ray and I) that will flirt with him and try to get his attention.

Just last week a young girl that works at the shop by our house told my husband that if she cooked for him, he would never want to eat my food again. It took the almighty right hand of the dear, sweet Lord Jesus Christ to keep me from going downstairs and punching her in the esophagus when Ray told me what she said. Fortunately, Ray handled it by taking me with him to the shop and introducing me as his “lovely” wife and excessively commenting on my beauty. I could’ve kissed him right there, I was so pleased by the way he handled it, but I didn’t want to rub it in. The fact that I didn’t severely injure her was kindness enough.

That was an obvious example of how GEM typically surfaces in my heart, but I’ve found that he enjoys pushing my buttons when it comes to small things as well. When Ray scrolls through Instagram photos, I make him unfollow any girls that have that “come hither” look. When he’s chatting with friends or clients on Facebook, I read through the messages just to make sure he’s not flirting (he never is, but I still do it anyway). When he’s on the phone laughing, I come running from the other room to try and ascertain if it’s a male or female voice. I’d like to say that it matters if it’s male or female, but it doesn’t. Sometimes he can be talking to his best friend, and I can’t wait for him to hang up so I can have him to myself.

A quick bit of perspective from Ray’s end so you don’t think the monster is me in disguise

When my wife first came up with the idea for this blog, I was like, “Really? Jealousy? I’m not jealous of anything.” But I have come to realize that this has been, and to some extent still is, something I personally fight with. Early in our marriage (I know we are still in the early stages, but you know what I mean) I didn’t like it when my wife laughed at other guys’ jokes or when she shifted her attention from me to any other person, especially a guy, irrespective of age, profession, or even if they were family. Sometimes I would get mad at her when she constantly giggled while looking at the screen of her other ‘baby’ (her iPhone) at odd hours of the night, forgetting that in Kansas it was daytime.

One area where we can never be like God

At first we used to justify the presence of the GEM in our marriage by saying stuff like, “If we’re not jealous, it shows we don’t care”. There is an element of truth to that. I’d hate it if I was crossing the boundaries of flirtation and it didn’t bother my husband at all. Disinterest to that extent can be dangerous! Just as God is jealous for the affection of Israel, His betrothed, there should be an intense desire for the affection our spouses.

But we have to remember that we’re not God.

Jealousy is such a tricky emotion because when it is borne out of a heart that is in constant need of spiritual renewal, it can become the puppet to insecurity, control, anger, and all those other nasty things that lurk in our hearts waiting for a reason to be lured out of their dark hiding places. I think that’s why we’re told in the Bible to avoid jealousy and envy and all manifestations of selfish ambition. Our weak, feeble hearts just don’t know how to handle it. It’s like a chainsaw. In the hands of someone who knows how to use it, the largest trees can be conquered, but put it in the hands of someone who doesn’t, and that will be the last day you see them with all of their extremities intact.

The best way we know to handle this is to present our hearts and all that’s in them to God on a daily basis and to repent to each other and to God when things get out of hand, but we’d like to end this blog by opening the discussion up to you guys to see what else we can do to supplement that.

Do you experience jealousy in your marriage? How do you handle it?

Looking forward to hearing your comments and ideas!

How S’ambrosia is getting her groove back

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Just so you know, today’s topic won’t be incredibly novel to most of you, especially if you’re a married Christian woman. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve discussed this issue with your friends or read about it within the past few weeks. A friend of mine even added her perspective to the mix just last week (check it out).

As was typical of me, prior to actually being married, I believed that this could never happen to me.

But alas and alack, it did.

Now, I’m not saying folk music is the devil, but…

I should have known something was up when it came time for us to move and I had to reduce the amount of songs I had on my dad’s computer to fit into my flash drive. The anxiety-ridden task of choosing which songs to delete and which ones to keep was one I had to perform in a small amount of time, so rash decisions were made and inevitably, regret ensued.

My music library contained a combination of worship songs – like the intense kind of worship that makes you want to weep until assuming the fetal position or rocking back and forth incessantly is the only source of comfort you can find – and some rad folk music. I had just recorded an album and was looking to create more music that could hang with current trends, so I figured that listening to some popular stuff would help me make that happen; therefore, I ended up deleting most of the worship songs to make room for the folk songs. So ultimately I came to Kenya with very few worship songs in tow. Apparently I had completely forgotten how big of a role worship music plays in my devotional life.

Jesus is Lord over iTunes too

Whenever I’m doing chores around the house, it’s a given that music will be playing. Now that we have WiFi in the house, my iPhone has revoked its paperweight status and become a useful smartphone again… around the house at least. (It’s difficult to access WiFi elsewhere.) Anyway, because of the wonderful iCloud feature, any song that I’ve ever bought on iTunes is automatically available to stream on my iPhone, even if I deleted it in a temporary lapse of judgment.

As I was washing dishes the other day, a bunch of those intense worship songs that I thought I had lost forever began to play successively at the behest of the shuffle button on my phone, and as each song played, my face got uglier and uglier as I struggled to sing the lyrics through my tears. Songs about an intimate covenant with God played, reminding me of a time when I could hear such words and not feel like they were a foreign language. Songs of joy regarding the freedom we experience when the rivers of God rush into the lowest place came up next, opening my eyes to the drought my soul has been experiencing.

That night I could do nothing but whisper to God, “I miss You.” And there I was, back in the fetal position again.

Oh Lord, I don’t want to be one in this number when the saints go marching in

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I have fallen into the category of women who feel like marriage has cause their relationship with God to decline. Okay, maybe caused is strong verbiage, but I can at least say that marriage sometimes pits itself against God when it comes to my daily priorities and decision making abilities.

Now, like any other woman who’s talked about this issue, I’m not blaming my husband. As I’ve mentioned before, he does a great job of keeping us on track with our Bible discussions as a couple, which is key to our growth in God, but that does not take the place of my one-on-one time with the Lord. I mean, as much as we are one flesh, I still have to stand before God one day and give account of my actions as an individual. He still expects us to search Him out and to seek to commune with Him on a daily basis, regardless of what our marital status may be.

Ray is gone for most of the day, so I have plenty of time to saturate myself in the goodness of God.  What have I been doing instead, you wonder? Well, first thing in the morning, I pull out my iPhone. Then I get on the laptop and start working on transcriptions or writing. Transcriptions usually take hours to complete, sometimes even a full day, so before I know it, it’s late and  I have to hurry and clean the house before Ray gets home so I can pretend like I’m a responsible wife. We have Bible study before bed, and sometimes I get some cool revelation and sometimes I don’t, but it depends on my attitude and how open I am to receive it. There are days where I yawn through the whole thing and I just want to get back on the laptop. Honestly, the longer I spend neglecting my personal devotional time with the Lord, the more frequently those kinds of days occur.

Remembering the good ‘ole days

The height of intimacy in my relationship with God was definitely my college years. It was my joy to spend hours in worship exploring new ways to encounter the beauty of Christ or to read the Bible and get crazy revelations to journal or share with friends. In those moments my heart felt like it was thriving in the fullness of Christ. Even writing this now, my heart feels so crusty and cold in comparison. There was a time I could feel the weight of God’s presence when I would worship. Does being married mean I have to say goodbye to that? I should hope not.

My friends used to tell me about how marriage and family affect their devotional life with God, and I would think, “Well, duh, you have to make time.” It always seemed like such an easy fix to me when I was single. Now that I’m married, I can’t concede and say that they were right and it’s difficult; I just have to step in front of them so I’m the first one in line to receive the finger wagging from other single ladies.

I’m not as busy as I tend to proclaim I am. Yes, I have a lot of responsibilities between work and taking care of my husband and home, but those things don’t keep me busy every second of the day. When I wake up in the morning I can spend time with God, I just don’t feel like it. When I get online and hours go by with me just reading random schtuff that has no significant bearing on my life, I could be spending that time with God. When I refuse to stop playing Candy Crush until I’ve used all of the lives alloted to me, I could be spending that time chatting it up with God. Sometimes I even just lie in bed and do nothing. I could at least be living in an awareness of God’s nearness to me.

My contribution to the conversation

As I’ve been typing this blog, I quickly realized that I didn’t actually have a point. I even ended my first draft by typing, “I don’t know how to end this… is there an answer or am I just venting?” I had to walk away from the computer for a while to get what seems like too simple of a response from the Lord. It came in the form of a Scripture:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

All of those excuses we give for why we can neglect our time with the Lord seem valid at the time, or at least we can talk ourselves into believing that they’re valid, but what would happen if instead of choosing a nap, I chose to renew my strength by meeting with Christ in our secret place? Or what if I woke up in the morning and turned to gaze upon the fairest of ten thousand instead of turning on the television? I know we like to use television as a way to unwind or defragment, if you will, but I want to learn to defragment by pressing into Jesus.

Learning to implement these desires in this phase of my life has been and will be a challenge, but I’m tired of telling God how much I miss Him before I go on about my business and my plans for the day. It’s definitely about time this girl got her groove back.