Thursday, September 30, 2010

Little World

Do you ever sometimes feel like you are sinking under the weight of life? The weight can be good weight (i.e. spending lots of time with family, friends, and doing the things that you love – the “want tos”), or bad weight (i.e. working way too much, or getting stuck in the rut of “have tos” instead of “want tos"). But in the end, it is still weight, and it pushes down on you. It impacts your physical body, your mind and your spirit.

It seems that lately, a lot of people in my life, including myself, are carrying a lot of weight.
In fact, my weight tends to fluctuate on a daily basis. Regardless of the kind of weight that we are carrying, sometimes we just pack too much into our schedules and don’t spend enough time at home alone, with ourselves and with Jesus. Or with our cuddly fat cats!

I do a daily devotional each morning called Jesus Calling that has really changed my life. I cannot thank enough, the dear friend who got me turned on to this devotional. It really just rocks my world. I would buy one for every person that I know if they would promise to read it and appreciate it. And on one particular day, it did just that – it rocked my little world:

“Though you live in this temporal world, your innermost being is rooted and grounded in eternity. When you start to feel stressed, detach yourself from the disturbances around you. Instead of desperately striving to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch My peace” – Jesus Calling, August 26

People!! We live in a little world!! We really, really do!! Jesus says so. It really hit me on that particular Thursday morning. Our lives, the things that we control and feel that we have power over, are so small; so insignificant, when compared to God’s kingdom. We think that we have it all in line here, and we need to remember that what He has in store for us is so much better than we can imagine, and so much better than what we could ever do for ourselves. He promises us peace in Him, if only we can step back, relax, and receive it.

I did a little Google research on some populations in this world, see below:

Houston, Texas – 2.2 million
The State of Texas – 25 million
The USA – 307 million
The World – 6.7 billion

I will not argue that there are a lot of people in the world. It’s a big world from the perspective of land mass and people. That certainly is not up for debate. But why are we so consumed by petty things as we live out our daily lives here on earth? We get sucked into our comfort zones with our family, friends, co-workers, church family, even within our own state and certainly our own countries. And I believe that this so often causes us to be consumed with all of the wrong things. Why is it so hard for us sometimes to see the bigger picture? Because there certainly is a bigger picture out there! We just need a different perspective. And we need to remember that ultimately, we are not really in control.

Look at the populations above – Houston is the 4th largest city in the country, but that means there are three more cities with larger populations. Texas is one state, within one country with 49 other such states, within this world with hundreds of other such countries, here on earth, which is one of several planets. And it’s a great big world by any standard. If you have not been out in it lately, I encourage you to grab your passport and go. Open your eyes to what the world has to offer and you will be a changed person – forever. I promise.

But no matter how big this world seems, there IS something bigger. In the midst of us worrying and being consumed by things in our little world, God is busy preparing a place for His children, for the believers, in His kingdom. Nothing is bigger or greater than that.

I don’t say any of this as an excuse to quit caring about things of this life. And I don’t think that God intends us to do that either. There are many important elements to what we are doing here today on earth, including living out God’s purpose for our individual lives. But in the midst of living here in our little world, we need to more often remember the Kingdom that is yet to come. And try not to get consumed with the things in life that are weighing us down.

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?

You put us in charge of your handcrafted world.

- Psalm 8:3-4, 6 (MSG)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Globetrotting: India, Part II

If I could sum up India in two words, they would be something like chaos and curry. Or traffic and trees. Or perhaps even rickshaws and rain. I hope you get the idea.

I’ll begin by saying that I have nothing against India. The people were pleasant, the food was divine (could live on that garlic naan), and I didn’t have a single bad experience there. But it seems to be a society that just barely functions. Delhi has over 14.5 million people. I feel like I saw at least half of them out on the streets on any given day – walking, waiting for the bus, sleeping, working, riding bikes etc.

So how did my expectations compare with reality?

Business class air travel: Far exceeded my expectations. Two words: sky bed. That means that I got to lie flat. Totally flat. With a proper pillow and blanket too. And I got my five-course meal served on real dishes, my free wine, my individually created ice cream sundae, and more movies than I knew what to do with. Continental BusinessFirst gets an A+ in my book! This makes all of the traveling bearable.

Indian food: Again, far exceeded my expectations. We did not have a bad meal over there. Even our Western-style breakfasts at the hotel were delicious. One thing is for sure, they know how to cook in India. I had everything from butter chicken, to lamb curry, to tandoori chicken and prawns, to paneer tikka (marinated cheese cubes), daal (lentils w/cream), saag (spinach w/cream), plenty of garlic naan – and the list goes on. We ate such large and late lunches that I only ate dinner one night the whole time I was there. That was probably for the best. I would be the size of a house if I had eaten three meals a day.

Monsoon season: It was well and truly monsoon season. Apparently it has not rained this much in India in over 20 years. It was miserably soggy and steamy. It really put a damper on my mood for a large chunk of the week. When the sun finally came out, it was amazing how the city just sprung to life! And I was happy as a pea in a pod. Too bad it was the day that we were leaving….

Poverty: While the poverty was bad, it was not nearly as bad as I expected. I’m not sugar coating the situation, but from what I now hear, the poverty is much worse in Mumbai. I saw plenty of poor people, and people who were living out of tents. But they weren’t the type of people that you looked at and just cringed. They were happy. They were living their lives the best they knew how and adapting to their situation. People who lived near the river had to relocate due to all of the water, and they were living in tents along the side of the road. These tents housed their pots & pans, cots, clothes, all personal belongings, and their goats and kids. They are waiting for the water to recede so that they can move back home. They self-sustain because that’s the only option that they have.

God moments: I must say that I can’t remember a specific moment during my trip that just stuck out as a God moment with respect to India. And that disappoints me a little. But I also know that He was with me on that trip, teaching me things and making me realize things that I hadn’t realized before. And part of that was because I powered my way through the book Redeeming Love in just a few short days. So I guess I did have God moments, they just didn’t have to do with India. You know what? I’ll take it.

A rich culture: So I didn’t get to see the Taj Mahal. I’ll live. And the first day that we went out sightseeing, it was gloomy and wet. Not the best opportunity to see a city and experience its culture. But as the week progressed, I grew to love those people more and more. Their hospitality and their genuine kindness were so appreciated. We had a driver the entire time that we were there, and we became pretty close with him. I know his name and his age, his wife’s name, the names and ages of his three kids, where he grew up, what pets he has, what he does on his days off, etc. We were so lucky to have him and we legitimately bonded with him. We took him to lunch with us and learned so much from him. And the staff at the hotel, and the staff at the company that we were visiting – they were all so helpful and friendly. We had the same waiter at breakfast every morning. He knew our orders after the first day, and our names, and sat us at the same table each morning. He gave us some free food to send us off on our last day since we were leaving. So that’s what I left with thinking about their culture. Not monuments and tourist attractions, but the people and their ability to make me feel welcome and share a little of themselves with me.

Color: the color that sticks out the most to be is green. Delhi was a lot lusher than I expected. Sure there was a lot of pavement and dirt, but it was amongst trees, trees, and more trees. All the more for the resident howler monkeys to play in! We did take a drive through Old Delhi one day, through a local market, and it was a lot of what I pictured India to be like. We didn’t get out of the car, but I could tell the difference between the tourist market and the local market. Lots of color and fabric everywhere.

Bikes and cows: In India, cows are Gods. At least to the Hindu people. They are worshipped and taken care of. I think I would want to be a cow if I lived over there. Not that I want to be a God, but it would be nice to be secure knowing that I would live to see the next day. I saw cows tied up to things in the middle of the road and standing next to the tent homes that people were living in. And then there were the bikes. Normal bikes, pedi cab bikes with flatbeds attached, scooters, motorcycles, you name it, they had it. And the poor people have been riding around for over two months in monsoon season. They don’t sweat it, they just put on their ponchos and go. Or they get soaking wet. It’s their life. Many of them don’t have a choice. And I quickly realized that it was normal for an entire family of four to be on one bicycle: dad pedaling, mom sitting side saddle in the back, and two kids squashed in between. Can you imagine what would happen if someone did that in America?

So would I voluntarily go back to India anytime soon? Probably not. But I have nothing against India. As I mentioned before, they seem like a society that barely functions. And I often wondered when I was over there how exactly they do manage to operate day-to-day. I don’t understand it, and I probably never will.

Often times while I’m traveling overseas, I look back at America and wonder where we went wrong. I wonder why we have to be so critical of each other, why we have this sense of entitlement over so many things that we are NOT entitled to, and how religion and the church has become such a point of contention. But on this trip, my perspective changed a little. In India they worship cows. COWS. In India, they may be laid back and carefree, but that’s because it probably does them no good to stand up and fight. Maybe because nobody will listen. And in India, it seems that they have very little sense of entitlement, except for what they have worked for and own fair and square.

So, I will take my experience in India and tuck it away in the special globetrotting section of my brain, and look back at it on occasion as a point where I realized that America may not be all that bad after all. And neither is India.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Globetrotting: India, Part I

About this time last year, one of my very first posts was about my world travels. I wrote about some of my favorite places, and why they were my favorites. Traveling the world is a passion of mine, and one of my fears is that I will die without really experiencing all that I would like to. There are just too many places in the world that I want to see, and not enough time. And I worry about some day becoming desensitized to the excitement of experiencing a new culture. I hope that never happens to me, no matter how far or how often my globetrotting takes me away.

Luckily, my new job provides me with the opportunity to travel the world. Yes, I do have to work during these trips, but I still am hoping to get a glimpse of these various countries and their cultures, and actually have time to see some sights on the weekends. And then when and if I really want to dig deep, I can always go back on a personal trip.

That being said, I leave in a couple of days for my first destination: India. I thought that it would be a good idea to blog about some of my expectations before my trip, and then after my trip, I can blog about what it was really like over there and how my expectations measured up. I’ve never been to India. I’ve only heard stories about what it's like. But I want to see for myself.

So I am going to list some things that I am excited about and some things that I expect to see and experience. Then we’ll see how life, and international travel, really is when I get back!

Business class air travel: flat bed, yummy food on real plates with real silverware, the ice cream sundae cart, free wine, the “goodie bag”, feeling special. I won’t deny it. I’m very much looking forward to this. I love settling into my extra wide seat with comfy clothes on, a full belly, and a movie or a book, or both. On a 15 hour flight, I think I'll have time for a little of everything :-)

Indian food: I am always up for trying local food when I travel in a foreign country. It’s always so much more authentic than the westernized versions that we get over here in America. And I L-O-V-E curry. Yes, I realize that after a while curry will likely ooze out of the pores in my skin, but I'm hoping it’ll take longer than a week for that to happen :-)

Monsoon season: it is rainy season in India right now. I looked up the weather forecast on the internet and it shows rain showers every single day. Nice. So, I will tote my umbrella, a rain coat and a poncho with me to New Delhi. A girl has to be prepared! And don’t think this will stop me from getting out and about. I’ll just look like a drowned rat in all of my photos. And I won't have many, if any, photos in the sunshine. And this will NOT help my desire for a tan, or my Vitamin D deficiency.

Poverty: I am expecting to see the worst and most severe poverty that I have ever seen in my life. This is what people have told me is waiting for me over there. And while I think I’ve prepared myself for what my eyes will see, I don’t think I really have ANY idea of what reality is like over there; like poverty so prevalent that you literally cannot get away from it, no matter where you go. So stay tuned for this sad reality.

God moments: I am indescribably excited about the moments when I am over there and truly experience God. Something about being in a foreign city, in the midst of a foreign culture – God just seems to work in those moments and show His face. I cannot wait for that.

A rich culture: although we are not able to see the Taj Mahal during this trip (next trip, hopefully!), I am looking forward to seeing some of the sights within New Delhi. I’ve done a bit of research and it looks like there are some pretty amazing things to see (in the rain of course!). So I’m hoping that I can teach my blog readers a little about what New Delhi has to offer when I get back.

Color: so many of the pictures of India that I’ve seen are full of color. I don’t know if it’s really going to be like that, or just in the markets, but in my head I can see spices, and fabrics, and beads. I can’t wait to take it all in.

Bikes and cows: is it weird that I picture in my head bikes and cows when I think of India? I'm sure it's a result of television and movies, but if I don't see any, I think I'll be blown away, and maybe even slightly disappointed.

So off I go in a couple of days, with my DSLR in tow, so that I don’t have a single moment where I say “I wish I had brought the good camera”. And don’t think that I have not packed portable Clorox wipes and Wet Ones too. And that I didn’t go get a flu shot and malaria pills. I am ready to tackle India head on, and I cannot wait to get back and share my experiences with all of you loyal blog readers! :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Block

It's official. I have "the Block"- writer's block, that is. I have no less than three blogs started right now. But I just cannot seem to finish them. I'm not feelin' it. I get these brilliant ideas, jot down notes as I think of things to include in my blog, even start writing the blog, but then the door slams in my face. BAM! And I don't want to just babble incessantly.
And it's very frustrating for me because I love writing blogs and the words typically just flow.

So, this short post (which I realize is SO uncharacteristic of me) is simply to let all of you cyber-blog readers out there know that I have not crawled under a rock, I have not dropped off the face of the earth, I'm simply experiencing a serious case of writer's block. So bear with me, as I try to bear with myself, and get some of these blogs finished :-)

And then get ready, because you will likely get bombarded with more blog posts then you can handle!

Much love xox