Saturday, May 31, 2008


My day has been filled with little things like weeding and planting,
organizing (photo files) and watching (old movies). Now I'm on the
patio, watching the sun set, and reading a bit. Light breeze. I can
smell the jasmine which is just starting to bloom.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cats & Dogs

I would characterize myself more as a "dog person" than a "cat person" -- but I have had both in my life and enjoyed both. I had someone tell me that people who prefer dogs are "needier" than those who prefer cats -- because dogs are so dependable and loyal. They meet you at the door as if all they've done all day long is dream of the moment you'd return to them while cats only care if you come home because they want you to do something for them.

Interesting theory. At one point I think I bought the rhetoric and TRIED to like cats more. I was going through a phase when I was confusing needing people to NEEDING people. (Yeah, that's only clear if you've had this discussion before. Some of you have, I suspect.)  

I suppose one of the things that having these critters in my life taught me is that you can't expect a cat to BE a dog (or the other way around). 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Re-Entry Observation: DISTANCE

I've started a short list in my leather bound paper journal (I really do love the feel of paper and of taking pen or pencil to it) of "reentry observations."  That is, things I notice that I usually don't -- probably because I've been away or out of the culture for a while. After my 5 weeks out of the country, I have been noticing things. And, I think that occasionally I'll ramble about some of those things in this blog.

One of the first things on my list I described as DISTANCE and I noted that it is one of the curses of affluence. In a community or culture that is not as affluent, people live in relatively close proximity to all the other people they know and love (as well as the ones they know and don't like so much really). 

People share beds, rooms, houses, vehicles (bikes, tuk tuks, busses), desks. And while this means that they have more conflict, I think they might laugh more too. And rarely cry alone. 

Would that drive me crazy to live that way?  Yes, some of the time. But I also think I'd like it. 

I mean, the likelihood that one of my close friends will just happen by and join me some evening when I'm sitting out in the yard looking at my lights and garden like I was last night when I took the photo above is almost ZERO. But I'd love it. Instead, to bridge the distance a bit, I blog about it and take pictures of it to share. 

People also live closer to their sources of stuff (and have a smaller selection of stuff from which to choose). Do I really need 47 different kinds of shampoo to be happy?

Distance. Space between. One of the things I'm more aware of now that I'm back. 

Monday, May 26, 2008

fi yuo cna raed tihs...

...yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt.

Many of you, like me, have seen this before. I still find it fascinating. This also explains why we often read things incorrectly. Even more amazing is that someone typed this out and got all the right letters in there in the right "wrong"  order. 

Makes me want to try it:

Wilhe msot ppolee eojny hldoiay weeedkns, I fnid tehm olddy oagnre. 

(I'm just wondering how much easier it is to read this jumbled stuff when it's predictable?  Most writing is that way -- unpredictable words force us to alter our reading pace. Sometimes that is intentional and the thing we love about certain writers. But...I digress.)

Happily Ever After

Joel Hunter (pastor @ Northland) said something that has provoked a good bit of thinking in me for the past 24 hours or so. 

Technically he said "marriage" where I'm writing "relationships" -- and then talked about other relationships (within families and communities) where the same is I'm using all of that context to influence what I suggest is not a word for word quote but is accurate. :)  (Do I really think that you are going to go download the podcast of this sermon and check my accuracy?  No, it's not paranoia. It's training as a journalist more likely. Well...and paranoia.)


He suggests (and darn it, I'm pretty sure he's right) that God does not give us relationships to make us happy (or for us to make the other person happy) but to make us HOLY. Oh, sometimes happiness comes along for the ride like a big old slathering of frosting on the cake, sure. Anyhow, if you buy this thought -- if I buy it -- it has some interesting implications. 

What do you think?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Got Milk?

New Zealand's Scott Dixon celebrated his Indianapolis 500 win by pouring the traditional race winner's drink - milk - over himself. I watched it.

To say that I watched the race would be an exaggeration. I had the race on while I was backing up image files onto disks from my laptop and downloading mp3 files onto another disk from my Mac.

I did notice that the race had more yellow flags than usual. Every time I looked up, someone was running their car into the wall or, as in the case of Danica Patrick, getting run into by someone else. That is, until the last 20 laps when the flag went green and the leaders were as tight as at the beginning of the race (almost) and they were all fueled up and ready to go.

I wouldn't probably care at all about this race on my own -- but living for 25 years in Indy, it gets into your blood even if you don't try. Funny how things are like that.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What An African Woman Thinks

I have a new friend. Well, a blog-friend. I found her blog when another blog I read occasionally pointed to something she'd written about the price of gasoline. 

Once I started reading, I had a hard time stopping. In this odd cyber-world we are creating, a little boat can so easily get caught in a whirlpool that is a bit bigger and a bit stronger than the little boat imagined at first. 

I've already pointed my RSS feed at "What An African Woman Thinks" and I really won't be surprised if some of you do to. 

I've even already commented on one of her posts and probably could comment on all of them if I took the time and the risk. 

On May 5, under the title of Vanity Fair, she wrote:
"...I find writing in a particular direction in a sustained way so ... tedious. I tend instead to follow my goat as she grazes and sort of bump into things to write about. Or write about things that have bumped into me. I am very opportunistic that way.

And I find myself reading and...yeah, what she said. 

That's not to say that she only says stuff that I think -- some of her thinking that spills out into writing is not what I've thought ever before and I love how it challenges me to think around and beyond myself. Agree and don't agree, I'm moved to consider. I like it there, looking out her window with her -- sharing the view.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Balut Video...

I am finally posting my balut-eating video. Rather than embed it in the original posting from many weeks ago, I'm just posting it today. Thanks to Sandy for shooting video and then sharing it...and for her excellent narration. :) Enjoy.

(If you prefer, you can click on the TITLE above and it will serve as a link to the video on Google Video. Oh, unless you're reading this in a RSS feed, then you'll have to go to the original blog to use the link and maybe to watch the video. Or maybe not. Sorry to be so...high maintenance.)


At last year's Leadership Summit, Bill Hybles addressed the topic of motivation and inspiration -- asking (and answering, in part) questions like how important is it to be inspired and whose responsibility is it to inspire me? 

He suggested ways to live life in order to maintain motivation -- making it clear that "my motivation is my responsibility." Part of the point of his teaching was that as leaders we are in a place where inspiring others is essential and we cannot do that work unless we, ourselves, are inspired.  

I was reviewing this list, knowing that I'm having some motivational "sag" right now. Today I am going to share the list without comment (otherwise I'll be here all day listing the names of people and belittling myself for what I've clearly not been doing lately and examining the ways that I've both succeeded in this venture and failed in it). The action of typing this list is helping me remember...
  • Am I crystal clear about my calling from God?  Do I know why I am doing what I am doing and who I am doing it for? 
  • Am I leveraging my spiritual gifts the way God gave them to me to use?
  • Are the players on my teams inspiring people?  Have I surrounded myself with people who charge my batteries rather than drain my batteries?
  • Am I reading/listening to inspirational stories?
  • Do I make it a point of priority to rub shoulders with exceptionally inspiring people once in a while? 
  • Do I participate in events that are exceptionally inspiring to me?  
  • Am I paying attention to physical disciplines?
  • Am I paying attention to my work environment?  Have I included things on my laptop and in my office that should be there for me to work and think optimally?
  • Do I participate in inspiring recreation outside of my work world?
  • Am I practicing daily spiritual disciplines that keep my spirit fresh?  Is my soul saturated with God's Word, God's Spirit, God's love?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Relevant Quotes

Relevant online offers some wallpaper, including this image. If you've not explored Relevant (either the mag or the website) I recommend it. Enthusiastically. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Suzie!

Today is my friend's birthday. She's the one in the photo "kissing" the giant Shrek I painted for a party they were having when they lived in Iowa and their girls were wee ones. The photo has nothing to do with her birthday, really. But it has everything to do with it.

Today is one of only a few May 20ths since Suzie and I have been friends that I have worked.  I don't think she even knows that I still hold it as "tradition" to take her birthday off and play.

This brings back some great memories. Layers upon layers of them. 

It reminds me that she is one of the people who could get me to believe that I could do something like this giant Shrek painting and then I'd prove it to myself by doing it. 

She is the only person who could teach me to ski and have me enjoy falling on my back side all day long in the freezing cold. 

She the person who talked me into...hey, she talked me into a number of things that turned out to be my favorite things about teaching. Directing theater. Teaching 9th grade Bible. Hmmm. 

She introduced me to Fredrick Buechner's books and Nanci Griffth's songs. (I'm listening to Late Night Grande Hotel as I type, in fact.) 

So, we live a thousand miles apart and our lives are spinning in different directions these days -- but when I get the chance to slip through the back door and sit in Suzie's kitchen for a few hours on a Saturday, it's like it's MY birthday, but better. 

Happy birthday, friend! 

Finishing God's Sentences

I really don't know how many of you do this: you're talking with someone and, as they are describing something, your brain jumps to their conclusion for them and you prepare a response based on your assumption of what they've not yet said. You may even (like I too often do) interrupt them with your response. If you don't do this, you've maybe had it "done" to you and so you know what I'm talking about.

Let me say that I know it's bad (almost all of the time) to do this and I am working at doing this less and less. Those of you who know me well can keep helping me with that...please.

But here is what I realized last night at our final Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) gathering -- the one where we hear/share testimonies of the ways God has used BSF this year in our lives to glorify himself in and through us:

I've grown too comfortable in my relationship with God in some ways. I've gotten so I've been finishing his sentences for him, I think. As we've studied Matthew this year, it's happened a few times and only in retrospect am I really seeing it.  

I found myself skimming passages that I thought were familiar to me and then answering questions based on what I thought the Word would say -- only to be caught by a question that made no sense or by someone else's answer in our small group time that made no sense to me. I'd sometimes (I wish I could say always) go back to the Word and read it more carefully and POP, the light would go on to something I'd never realized about God before. 

I read the wine-wineskins passage and heard it preached even -- many times -- but something about God's character and this truth hit me a few months ago when I finally shut up and listened rather than overlaying my interpretation on the Word before I let the Holy Spirit do his work in me. 

And the passage that described Jesus cursing the fig tree...I've been frustrated with that passage for years. I've assumed that Jesus was hungry and therefore (like I am when I'm too hungry) a bit cranky and he took it out on a poor tree. 

And metaphorically I've felt guilty reading the story because I don't always bear fruit and maybe Jesus will curse me for that. (In that guilt there is a mixture, I think, of good and bad theology.) 

This year I shut up long enough to see that Jesus' righteous anger was against those religious leaders who looked godly on the outside but who were not doing the things God does (caring for the poor, the orphans and widows, helping those who need a hand, fighting for justice for those oppressed by unfair systems, etc.) He wouldn't have cursed the fruitless fig tree had the tree not had the leaves (a sign that the fruit should be ripe since the flower and then fruit comes first on that kind of tree). 

Anyhow, the point isn't really about what specific passages are teaching me about God's character or activity -- or my own, for that matter. (At least the point of this blog isn't that.) I'm not sure I've got these things "right" yet, actually. And that is the point. I'm returning to a place where I'm more okay with not knowing...and that is helping me to listen longer, both to the Word and to others as they express the things that God's Spirit is showing them. 

I have so much to learn. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Some artists creat images or expressions that speak to me in ways that other things don't connect. I can't explain it exactly.

I love Georgia O'Keffee's poppies. Red Poppy No. VI, 1928 is hanging in my family room. This image of hers of poppies is lovely too.

I love most of Vincent Van Gogh's works. And Monet's.

One artist I've been introduced to lately is Makoto Fujimura. I'm pretty sure I am only beginning to understand his work. Born in Boston, this artist has studied and worked in the USA and in Japan -- and his work reflects both of these cultures. This painting is titled THE TRINITY and was done in 1992. It is 70 x 152 inches -- painted with mineral pigment on Japanese screen.

In an essay the artist has written (and that is found on his website) inspired by the story recorded in all four Gospels of Mary's perfume offering poured on Christ's feet, Makoto offers this for our consideration:

"Is the expense justified in art? In order to answer this question, we must answer not with 'why', but 'to whom'. And it seems to me that we have only two answers to this question of 'to whom'; it's either to ourselves, or to God. We are either glorifying ourselves or God. And the extravagance can only be justified if the worth of the object of adoration is greater than the cost of extravagance. The glory of the substance poured out can only reflect the glory of the one to whom it is being poured upon. And if the object of glory is not worthy, then the act would be foolish and wasteful."

Long Day's Journey into Night

Long Day's Journey into Night is a dramatic play in four acts by Eugene O'Neill, widely considered to be his masterwork. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1957.

This morning, Joel Hunter didn't simply make reference to this dramatic work as an illustration for his sermon, we watched a scene from the play on Northland's stage. Very powerful stuff, live drama.

One of Joel's statement that really struck me (let's see if I get this right) is that "often our past is so horrid that it won't let go of us or so wonderful that we won't let go of it, but we have to in order to move into the future." That's close, anyhow. That was the main message of the morning -- that as we are a part of praying for "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth..." we are also to be a part of making it so. No, not by our own will or working, but as God works in and through us. And, for that to happen -- for the FUTURE KINDGOM to be realized in the PRESENT, we have to let go our of our PAST.

At one point Joel was talking about letting go of the baggage we carry around with us -- and that we all have it (we do...I do) -- and then he made it very clear that anyone who might be thinking that their spouse is that baggage is not thinking correctly at all. People laughed, but got his message loud and clear.

It was a great message. He'll preach it a couple more times this weekend and you could watch live -- or download the pod cast (audio or video) after Tuesday of this week if you want. All free. I recommend it.

In fact, Dad and I worshipped via the webstream this weekend. The image above is from the live streaming web during the play scene. You can see Sean, the pastor on duty for the web worshippers (over 300 on line for this service) to the right and a listing of those gathered at the bottom of the screen shot.

While I traveled this past couple of months, Dad chose to worship via the webstream rather than making the 25 mile (one way) journey alone.

I've written about this before, so I won't to into all the details again -- but I will give the URL in case this is something you'd like to check out for yourself:

That link will take you to Northland's homepage (seen in the image to the left). Click on this image if you want to see the link to webstream worship more clearly or to read service times.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gecko Invasion

Occasionally a gecko wanders (or is inadvertently carried) into the house. If they stay long, they usually dry up and die in a windsill or under some furniture and end up in the vacuum cleaner bag. Sometimes they are discovered and "escorted" out of the house again. I've carried these happy critters out on the ends of brooms and chased them calmly with junk mail.

Yesterday there was a little gecko in the family room. Dad slid the door open to the patio and I guided it out with a magazine. I thought it looked grateful.

This morning I found a gecko in the family room again. Looked like the one I helped out yesterday. Hmm. I opened the door and pursuaded it out again.

Later in the day, I saw the gecko come from the door (which was closed) and head across the floor. I cut it off and urged it back out, opening the door to make it's exit quick.

Then, only an hour after that (I've been sorting mail and receipts and email a good bit of the day today, all in the family room) I saw it scooting across the floor again. This time it got ahead of me and kept going to our fake ficus tree and jumped up onto the basked that holds this tree in our house. I decided it likes it there and was determined enough to come in 4 times, so I just let it be.

When I went out to get a soda from the patio fridge, I saw him out there again. At least I think it's the same one. Strange little critter. 

When People Get Mixed Up

Okay, I know that Sandy and I are both Caucasian females of approximately the same height , age 45-55, with short blond hair that is showing grey-- but really, I can tell us apart easily.

I can only speak English -- Sandy can speak English and at least two languages of wider communication used in Mainland Southeast Asia.

I was born in North Dakota -- Sandy was born in Arkansas (did I remember that right?).

I used to work for Heritage Christian School -- Sandy used to work for Pan American Airlines.

Here's the deal -- we were both in the Philippines and then in Thailand for a number of weeks at the same time and our Filipino and Thai hosts sometimes got us mixed up. Totally understandable.

It got really funny when people who know us got us mixed up. Really? Well, usually they only knew one of us and saw the other at a distance...but still. Too funny. We toyed with the idea of switching name tags for a day and going to each other's meetings. Could have been fun.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The American Cemetary in Manila

Guests for the 2008 Vision Trip arrived in Manila on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. On Wednesday morning we did registration and orientation. After lunch went on a tour of the city on a big, air conditioned bus. The purpose of the outing was to keep people engaged and awake -- and to see some sights while doing it. One of the places we stopped was the American Cemetery in Manila.

It isn't easy to write about such a place. There aren't words to express enough gratitude or enough sorrow either one.

I walked and looked and walked and thanked God for the freedom I am privileged to enjoy as an American. Unlike the other stops we made that day, for this time I separated myself from the crowd.

It wasn't a place to experience with people unless they were ones with whom silence was comfortable.

From the website:

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines occupies 152 acres on a prominent plateau, visible at a distance from the east, south and west. It contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of World War II, a total of 17,202, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines. The headstones are aligned in 11 plots forming a generally circular pattern, set among masses of a wide variety of tropical trees and shrubbery.

The chapel, a white masonry building enriched with sculpture and mosaic, stands near the center of the cemetery. In front of it on a wide terrace are two large hemicycles. Twenty-five mosaic maps recall the achievements of the American armed forces in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. On rectangular Trani limestone piers within the hemicycles are inscribed the Tablets of the Missing containing 36,285 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Carved in the floors are the seals of the American states and its territories. From the memorial and other points within the cemetery there are impressive views over the lowlands to Laguna de Bay and towards the distant mountains.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I can't believe all the SPRING I've been able to enjoy this year!

I love SPRING. Love the way it smells and love the way it looks. I love the way it feels and sounds and even the way it rains. 

Florida really doesn't have Spring - at least not the way I grew up loving it.

If you've been following this blog for more than a month, you know that I got to go to Amsterdam in early April when the bulbs were in full bloom and it was a wonderful SPRING deal.

Today I flew to Chicago (and back) for a meeting or two. Because I arrived early enough and took a risk and left just late enough (not a story for today), I drove through some areas where I was reminded of all my favorite things about Chicago Springtime, including an ABUNDANCE of my favorite favorite favorite: LILACS!  I took pictures. I walked and smelled -- sticking my face deep into the bush and breathing deeper still. 

I really didn't care what people thought. These were moments I had and I couldn't waste them wondering if I looked funny. I knew I did. 

It was absolutely delicious.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Geometric Theory, Sinus Drainage, and Jet Lag

NOTE: This not-very-interesting blog entry is much shorter if you skip the parenthetical ramblings which I have italicized for your skipping convenience. Also, the photo is of me having just arrived home but not yet showered myself back into humanity. This explains why people on my red-eye from LAX didn't talk to me so much. Ha.

Around 4 am I got up to use the CR (That's what the restroom is called in the Philippines -- "comfort room."  For at least a while I'll be using terms I learned while traveling this time to somehow linguistically stay connected to places and events. People. It's part of the "ritual.") for the third or fourth time in the night, but this time I knew I was awake.

It's a pretty normal "first night" awakening time for the 13 hour time difference. I can't complain about it, really. I  knew I was awake when I picked up a book and started reading about the theory of geometry and actually found it interesting -- which it is, but not usually at 4 am. Sleep is generally the only thing that interests me at that hour.

Yesterday I landed in Orlando at 5:30 am (give or take).  I had been "up" for about 36 hours at that point (minus the difficult-to-measure time I slept on airplanes -- time which was significantly more than usual because of the generosity of a colleague who gave me her "full row of 4" seats mid-flight for a few hours). 

I did nap in the afternoon (would have slept longer, but thankfully my Dad woke me up from my very deep sleep after a couple of hours) and then stayed up until just after 9 pm. Fought sleep that last hour or two, though. (This is truly riveting blogging.)

Somewhere between Thailand and Taiwan and LAX and Orlando I realized that my sinuses were beginning to drip, drip, drip, but it wasn't until I had been home for a few hours that it became apparent that it wasn't just a response to the dry air on planes.  I'm now becoming friends with generic sinus tabs I picked up at Target yesterday after church. 

I'll head into the office around 8 as usual. And I do plan on attending BSF tonight. Pushing myself to "normal" hours and drinking LOTS of fluids are key for my readjustment. 

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Night and it's Fish Tacos...

Sandy (our official "Where-to-Eat-in-Thailand Guru Extraordinaire") took us to another "Mexican" place -- this one with a fairly large selection of Jamaican and Cuban influences dishes as well.

I selected the fish tacos (again, I really do like these things) and was quite please. I would vote that the amount of fish and the sauce in the fish tacos at Miguels wins my loyalty to that establishement overall -- but these had a DELICIOUS salad and salsas with it and the atmosphere was more quaint.

I loved the painted tables and strings of lights in trees.

Sandy ordered tacos (Tammy had some sort of quesadilla -- which I tasted and it was yummy). Apparently Sandy wanted to be included in the "here's what I had for supper" photo.

I'm grateful that we had this last evening together before heading out on three different flights to three different destinations today.

The Pink-Shirt Girls

Just down the block from our hotel there are a number of combination massage/laundry facilities. The staff sit outside and chatter away and try to get business as tourists pass by. Now, let me assure you that what they are offering is exactly what is printed on the signs and no more. At the end of the block there is an establishment that is offering much more and it's obvious to anyone that it is so.

But I digress once again.

I've stopped here for a 1 hour foot massage a couple of times -- and had a manicure here once, too. The woman on the far left gave me my first hour-long foot massage and the woman on the far right my manicure. The girl in the middle gave me my second hour-long foot massage (last night -- Sandy and Maralee were there too for the same thing).

This is a wonderful bonus when meetings are in Asia -- the easily accessible and affordable foot massage. I can only being to describe how relaxing these can be.

Last week when I chose to skip supper one evening and go here for the foot-massage and manicure, it was pouring rain when I was through. One of the girls ran and got a huge umbrella and followed me back to the hotel so I would not get wet. I felt kind of funny at first, but then accepted this as part of gracious hospitality that seems to be so prevalent in Thailand.

Either that or I've been living in hotels for too long where people open doors and make beds every day and it's gone to my head. Yeah, it could be that.

Affinity Groups

Every large (and many small) organizations or communities develops their own way of self-expression. Insider lingo can be very helpful for those who are on the inside -- and often that's the whole point. However, this same helpful lingo can serve as a significant barrier to those once on the outside but now on the inside, but still unable to navigate the sea of acronymns and key terms.

So, if I tell you that this morning I had the privlige of sitting in on the meeting of the WMO's with 125+ Affinity Group, will you have any idea what I mean? Not likely.

So, I'll put it this way: I sat in a meeting of Directors of Wycliffe organizations that have more than 125 people who are currently serving from their organizations in the global Bible translation movement. Those present were from Korea, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, the U.K., Finland, Canada and the U.S. -- and the discussion was led by Kirk Franklin, Director of WBTI (defined in the last post, but this time with a link to the Int'l website).

I love when I get a chance to listen to leaders talk about their "stuff" in a context that is familiar enough to be safe. I always can learn from people who are willing to talk about their challenges and opportunities and failures and victories when I'm willing to listen. I listened today.

(Eddie Arthur is the guy in the red shirt in the middle of the goblet in the photo. He's the fairly new Wycliffe UK Director and his blog is one that I watch with regularity -- I've got an RSS feed onto my iGoogle front page so I don't miss anything unless I choose to. Anyhow, he linked to my blog today -- to the entry titled "If I could read minds" and snagged my photo from there for his site. I'm telling you all this for two reasons: so you can check out his blog and also because someone commented on the photo on his blog and said about me, "She’s so cheeky!" Can you imagine my delight!)

Americas Area - Thailand

Normally it would make NO sense at all to have a meeting of the Wycliffe and Wycliffe partners leadership from the Americas Area in Thailand -- but when you can piggyback that meeting on the end of a larger gathering that includes MANY of those same people, then it kind of does make sense.

Yesterday the Wycliffe International Americas Area leadershipmet and I was with tham as I have been in Panama and Jamaica (see those blogs for more).
I love the fact that the "first" language of wider communication in this set of meetings is Spanish, then English and then Portugese. This means that I have to pay more attention (or my mind wanders more easily when I don't) and that I spend most of the time with headphones on and the dial tuned to 88.3 for simultaneous translation.

Let me say here that these servants who do this translation work are my heros! I can't imagine all that they have to do intelectually to do this job so well. I'm grateful for their gifting and their willingness to stand in the gap.
I'm becoming more and more convinced that I should find a way to work on learning Spanish. I've said this with some regualrity ever since my first trip to Costa Rica with Faith Church (Indy). Many of my friends and colleagues would agree that this is a good thing for me to do.
On top of that, Kirk Franklin (the Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators International, not the singer) said in his very inspirational closing comments just a couple of days ago that we each should choose one of the 9 official languages of this organization and learn it between now and the next convention. It was convicting in a good way.

Having said that...and knowing myself all too well...I would be happy for you to pray that I will do what I intend to do about this.

At this gathering we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of ALEM (Brazillian organization which supports Vision 2025 and which is part of A Toda Lengua. To see more about them (and read more if you can read Portugese) go to their website. You can also follow the link in the text to the A Toda Lengua website to see about them. You can read much of that site in English or Spanish.
This photo is of four of the ALEM leaders as well as people from SIL in Brazil and one other Brazilian leader. After a recognition and hearing from them, we gathered around them an prayed for their ongoing ministry. I'd love to visit Brazil some day.

Thai One On

On our last day of the full conference/convention, the hotel staff treated us to a very special afternoon breaktime. Truely spectacular.

There were two aspects of the break I must address: dancing and eating. Both were more FUN than you might imagine late in the day of a long conference.

First, there was a special traditional Thai dance procession that involved a single woman in a costume that looks a bit like a peacock (to me) and more than a dozen women in traditional Thai costumes with those long metalic fingers -- graceful! They were eventually followed by tall banners and a parade of special foods which were set up at many stations around the large lobby area and we talked and laughed and ate and ate.

Before the dancing was over a number of folk joined the line of dancers. It was interesting to watch how people from some cultures seem more willing and ready to engage in such fun than others who are more...conservative? Self-conscious? Uncoordinated? Maybe all of the above?

The foods included a number of types of Asian fruit that were quite nice. One of the ones that I think looks the coolest we called "hairy eyeballs" -- in part becasue of how they served them here. I've actually had this delicious fruit in Indonesia and Panama and Costa Rica. Maybe I even blogged about it before. Yes, a couple of weeks ago when I was talking about the market.

Anyhow, another of the treats was a flour (deepfried, probably) cup filled with corn, coconut, honey, and black sesame seeds. This one was delicious. I hesitatantly admit that I went back for one of these a second and third time.

What a wonderful memory-maker this afternoon break turned out to be -- a time of gracious hospitality, delicious foods, laugheter, dancing, friends and a mixture of cultures that makes everything more interesting. I loved it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Happy Birthday Tammy

I like birthdays. I like my own birthday when it comes around – and I like other people’s birthdays too. Anyhow, it is slowly becoming my tradition to feature my friends on my blog on their birthdays. (Okay, I’ve done it one time before…maybe two times, and I’m going to do it again today. But really, traditions have to start somewhere and sometime.)

Today is Tammy Schutt’s birthday. I’m particularly motivated to blog about her on her birthday because she so very much likes to be on the “front page” of my blog. She said so.

Because we are both in the same city for another 36 hour or so, it’s been fun to have the opportunity to celebrate her just a little bit today face to face. Beyond that, Lloyd made a birthday greeting video for Tammy (his MacBook made that a fairly painless process – go Mac!) and I sang my greeting. (What was I thinking?)

Tammy and I “met” when she telephoned me over a year ago to initiate a discussion that eventually grew into the 2008 Vision Trip for the Kagayanen New Testament + Genesis Celebration. We began then to work together, communicating through email with increasing frequency as we neared the event or as various challenges surfaced in our planning.

My first impressions? This is a woman of vision who knows how to get things done, who values people deeply, and who sees things holistically. She is kind-hearted and gracious.

Tammy traveled to Orlando in March to teach at the Wycliffe School for Global Engagement and we met face-to-face for the first time. In those days and the weeks that followed, this respected and valued colleague has become a friend. My initial impressions have been confirmed. I’ve been greatly blessed by God through her.


Coffee or Tea?

I can't tell you how wonderful it has been that each day for our morning and evening breaks our coffee and tea is served in REAL cups with saucers and little spoons. I've had a bit of the coffee, but mostly tea (with milk and sugar) and I've loved it. I'm spoiled now and will have a hard time drinking from a paper cup the next time that's my only option. Hmmm.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

If you could read minds...

Disclaimer: I can't really read minds and therefore this is purely a work of fiction. In addition, I'd suggest that the nature of digital photography truly does intrude on our lives making all of us vulnerable, especially when there are people around with PhotoShop and a lap top and a wireless connection.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Insider Information

When we arrived back at the hotel from supper tonight, we stopped in the lobby for a conversation that happens dozens of times a night here:

"Where did you go for supper?"

"Was it good?"

"Oh, I've been there."

"We tried a new place."

Ken is the one who asked and when we told him Miguel's he shared some insider information about the owner. Apparently the owner used to own a place called Mike's which was reasonably successful and which he sold. When he did so, he promised he'd not open another place it the city with the name "Mike's" so he opened the Mexican place we went to and named it Miguel's.

When I thanked Ken for this information, he giggled like Ken giggles. (If you know him, you know what I mean.) When I told him I would blog about it, he giggled more. When I took out my camera to document the conversation and to post on this blog...well, enough said.

Boat + Meal + River + 41 Women in Leadership

On Sunday evening, 41 women in "senior" leadership roles from within the Bible translation movements enjoyed a meal together on a boat that carried them up and down the river that splits this Asian city in half. I was honored to be invited. The meal was very good -- the time of fellowship, even better.

This unofficial gathering (at a conference where there are myriad official and official meetings and meal and gatherings) was a chance to NOT talk business in the middle of lots and lots of business.

Clare's Clan

Monday, May 05, 2008

Flower Power

There are hundreds...thousands of flowers around our hotel. I don't mean planted around, I mean in arrangements that are placed all around the buildings. THe hotel and the conference center. They are gorgeous.

Last night after supper, Dawn and I went with Sandy to the night flower market just because we could. There were a few stalls that sold flowers arranged for funerals and a few that had them for various Buddist rituals/gifts.

Then there were stalls with wholesale flowers. Like these roses, lovely and inexpensive as they are not imported from anywhere -- just transported from a bit outside of town.

I like flowers.

Silly Video - Sunday afternoon

On Sunday afternoon Sandy, Tammy and Julie invited me to go with them to the Airport Mall (that is, the new mall near the airport) to see a movie. You know me. I was more interested in "who" than "what" and the "what" was appealing too. I said yes.

Well, we got a bit of a late start (life is complicated) and didn't get there in time to see a movie and get back in time for a thing that Sandy and I both had in the evening. Plan B transformed us into brief mall-crawlers before we ended up at Starbuck's for some great coffee and great conversations.

Boy, to I like these women and appreciate their example to me of life and service and commitment and all of that while living through the real stuff that is not easy about any of it. Smart women (no matter what this video might lead you to believe). Funny...interesting...gifted...called. Yeah, all of that. How am I so blessed?!

Anyhow, we took one of the two-seat red bus/truck deals and the driver wanted more than just 4 passengers, so while we waited briefly for others to join us for the trip back into the center of town, I got my camera out.

This is the totally purposless video I shot. No one really needs to watch it but me. I just like having this recording of these voices and faces.

(Okay, the video will be here after I get back to a faster internet connection for which I'm not paying by the minute. Sorry.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Translating for Translators

At this conference we have defaulted to using languages of wider communication. That means that most sessions are in English and are being simultaneously translated into French and Spanish.

Here is a friend and colleague doing some Spanish translation during one session on Saturday morning (or was it Friday is all becoming a blurrrrrrr). Maralee's journey has taken her from Orlando to Washington DC...soon to Paris (language study so she can learn French) and then on to Cameroon (I think I have that right).

I may be one of less than a dozen people in the room of 300+ who only speaks one language. Whew. What was I thinking when I skipped that track of study in high beyond? Maralee tells me that it's not too late.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Elephants, PART 2

...I was mistaken – not in my trust so much as in my evaluation of what was about to happen. When our elephant did not skirt around the left side of the one ahead but, rather, turned perpendicular to the path and aimed himself over the side of the path where the incline was no less than a 45 degree angle, this became significantly apparent.

Understand, I can only accurately share my own reflections here, but as they were somewhat influenced by Tammy’s words and actions, I’ll include some of that context as well. You’ll have to ask her yourself (those of you who know her) exactly what was going through her mind at this time. I do know that she suggested to me later than she had visions of us rolling down the mountainside together...Tammy, me, the driver and our elephant...and that this was not the way she wanted to die.

Tammy grabbed the front bar with both hands and shut her eyes -- the grabbing and the shutting could both be modified with "tightly." I suggested she keep them shut until I told her it was "safe" to look again. What I was seeing in front of us was a decline markedly steeper than it felt like an elephant should navigate with a wooden sofa and two American women on its back. Now, please don’t ask if I have any photos of this – asking only shows that you don’t yet understand how precarious a spot we were in. I was trying to not loose Tammy, an umbrella, or my bag while talking calmly so as to help convince Tammy’s subconscious brain that we were just fine. (The photo below was taken of the area off the path when we were not up high and the slop down was gentle.)

Our elephant decided to eat. No, not the grasses and leaves near the side of the trail – a big, green, juicy clump of tall grasses about 10 feet off the path. Off and down. And not just a trunk grab full – the whole salad. Not able to get a good hold the first time, it stepped further down the slope. I’m not sure if I might have felt more fear myself had Tammy not been expressing her own fear at our rather unpredictable situation. Mostly I was laughing -- but trying not to make Tammy think I was laughing at her, for I was not. I laugh on roller coasters and white water rafting trips. Somehow the rush of adrenaline mixed with a sense of security emerges as laugheter for me.

Our driver was holding on to our seat on the underneath side and kept giving commands to the elephant. We’ll never know how in or out of control he was – it felt like the elephant was a bit bullheaded at this point. It eventually turned sideways a bit and we could turn to see the path behind and above us – Tammy opened her eyes to that. I was afraid, however, that she was planning her escape – a jump to safety, perhaps.

Then, after finishing off the last bit of grass, the elephant began the turn all the way back around and then the climb up to the path so we could be on our way. Tammy’s eyes were shut again.

By this time I admit that I was laughing all the more at our adventure – and confessing to Tammy who may never do anything with me again after this that I seem often to get the rogue animal in these situations. I also admit that I felt a sense of relief myself. It was good to be back on the beaten path.

After we returned and dismounted our elephant and rejoiced at being on solid ground again,we did purchase our dung-framed photos as a mark of a journey that was more than we signed-up for. Our SAM host assured us that we were in no danger at any time – but she wasn’t actually there, was she? And when, especially in Asian culture, would anyone tell a guest that they had, indeed, been near death while under their care?

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Will Tammy? I’m quite sure not.

Does this make be “brave” or simply “stupid”? I’ll let you decide.

Personally, I don’t think it’s either. I think I just like elephants…


We arrived at the elephant camp in time to see a few of these really lovely creatures taking a Jacuzzi bath in the river. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the rushing waters of this small river. A few of them crouched down right in the middle and laid themselves out sideways, nearly fully immersed.

Vendors sold bunches of bananas and bundles of sugar cane to be fed to the elephants and that was quite fun to watch. Most of you will be quite surprised that I didn't toss down my 25 baht for one or the other of these treats. I buy the pellets from the vending machine for the fish at Dixie Crossroads and the buckets of fish from the hut for the dolphins at Sea World and just about anything else someone sells to feed to one critter or the other.

After a few photos at the entrance area and as we crossed the bridge, we headed up to the elephant show. The elephants – each with his or her own trainer – paraded, played harmonica, painted, played soccer and did a few other “tricks.” Elephants have been used as work animals in Thailand – particularly in teak harvesting – for many years. I enjoyed the fact that there was not a narrator on the loud speaker telling silly jokes and outrageous stories about what we were seeing. We just saw what we saw. The elephants painting was the wildest thing for me to watch -- knowing that this is learned behavior, but still -- how do you teach an elephant to paint?

From here, we moved to the main event.

Now, most of you know that before I left the States a month ago I wanted to do the elephant ride and show if I could on this trip, but for a variety of reasons that was look looking unlikely. Then, a couple of days ago – when Tammy asked me if I might be interested in the elephant ride on Saturday and when a more careful reading of the conference agenda suggested that I could be free in the afternoon on Saturday and a stop by the SAM table proved that they were offering a ½ day trip to the elephants – it became a part of the plan once again. Woo hoo.

The eleven of us from the conference who were on this adventure together climbed a flight of stairs onto a wooden platform from which we mounted our respective elephants. Tammy and I scoped out the elephants that were lined up and chose one with tusks deciding that this one would make for good photos. By this time I had found out that Tammy is not fond of heights and she was coming to grips with the reality that elephants are quite tall creatures. When you effectively mount a wooden sofa on top of one’s back…well, it’s high.

We climbed onto our elephant and the assistants locked the front bar over us like a roller coaster. Our driver handed us an umbrella as it had been raining all day because of a typhoon out to the west. While I was only sad that I had shoes on and wanted to feel the elephant’s rough skin against my feet, Tammy was coming to a quick conclusion that this was not her best idea. Before she could do anything about it, we were bobbing and swaying across the compound toward the first shelter where a photographer captured our souvenir photo which we could later purchase in an elephant dung frame for 200 baht (about $7 US).

As our elephant – fifth in a line of six – ambled along the muddy path strewn with elephant droppings which only proved that these critters had taken this pathway hundreds and maybe thousands of times before – I was having a delightful time and Tammy was calculating the risk of injury if she determined to jump from this elephant sofa onto what was soft earth below. She was planning her escape. By this time, riders on each elephant were snapping photos of one another with promises to swap them later thanks to thumb drives and email.

About half way up this train, riders began hopping off their elephants with OUR digital cameras in hand and taking photos of us. Our driver would run ahead, aim and shoot just seconds before our elephant caught up. Our elephant was not cooperatively pausing to pose as others were – heads tilted and legs crossed. Our elephant was on the move. An elephant with a mission: GET THIS OVER WITH. If Tammy looks relaxed in these photos (and she does) it’s greatly due to the fact that we were so amused at how hard our driver had to work to get away from our speeding elephant. We were at the “top” of this first hill by the time he climbed back on board and started “driving” again.

Downhill felt more precarious on this flat and slippery wooden sofa on top of a tusked elephant in the rain. It had some of the same sensation as doing down a steep incline on horseback – but we were far enough removed from the creature itself that we didn’t have anything in front of us exactly.

When we reached a fork in the road, three of the elephants in front of us and one behind went down and our elephant followed the one in front of us to higher heights. A seventh elephant with two guys we didn’t know was coming up behind and followed us. Our elephant seemed to decide that the faster it went, the sooner it could back to the feeding trough but the elephant in front of us did not have this same idea. Along a stretch of the path that wasn’t quite wide enough to pass, it began to tail gate the elephant ahead – nearly pushing with its head.

At this point, our driver gave a few commands with voice and feet and stick (I’ll never know what those commands were) and we made a move that I interpreted at first as an attempt to pass the lead elephant on the left which was also the outside of the path with a steep (steep) drop. Tammy wasn’t thrilled with this turn of events while I was still feeling great trust in this creature... (to be continued)

Friday, May 02, 2008


On Friday night I joined Bob & Dallas, Chuck and Doug for dinner. We took one of the red buses to a place Bob & Dallas knew about. It was raining or we might have walked. And, in fact, our intent had been to go to a small Jewish establishment but realized that this kosher restaraunt was also a house of worship and on Sabbath night they were closed for services and the Sabbath meal.

Now, our driver was not one familiar with the Lemongrass -- either that or he was a little fuzzy headed -- so we took the long way there. It made for a good laugh and time for some stories.

So, how funny is it to walk into a small Thai place on a side street near the night market and have the owner's brother greet you by name. Oh, not ME...Bob. Apparently Cresons are regulars there. :)

We had traditional Thai dishes -- all were well prepared and served beautifully in this indoor-outdoor place. I had a sweet sour chicken stirfry dish for my main course.

For dessert, we shared fried bananas with honey. Delicious.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Meals on Wheeles or Tuk Tuk Take-Out

In the Philippines there were tricycles. In Thailand, there are tuk tuks. I like them both, but am leaning toward the tuk tuks as a preferred mode of transportation for some reason. I'm not sure why. There is a photo of me and Tammy (taken by Sandy who was in the photo but she cropped herself out of it before emailing to me) in the back of a tuk tuk on the way to supper.

For about fifty cents each, we can put three of us into a tuk tuk and get a ride to any of the dozens of great places to eat in this rather engaging Asian city. I'm so glad that we have evenings "free" and are on our own for meals at this conference.

I admit that I'm in a bit of a rut that I'm enjoying -- two of the four nights I've been here so far, I've had dinner with two of the same women. But, I'm ahead of myself.

On Monday night I joined Dawn and Luci at the Riverside where we ate outside by the river as the sun was setting. I had some spring rolls, a shrimp toast thing with a name I can't remember and some green curry rice. There was enough heat in the curry and the dip for the toast that I was sweating even with the nice breeze. We took a tuk tuk there and walked back through the night market. It was a lovely evening catching up with two women who were both in the Comm department in Orlando when I first was there 6+ years ago and who have, at different times and in different places, provided me a place to stay when I was traveling.

On Tuesday night I went with Tammy and Sandy to a place that was so wonderfully eclectic i could hardly contain myself. I love beautiful things -- colors and textures and shapes. The atmosphere and the meal provided both in abundance. We had a morning glory tempura with tamarind dipping sauce, a curry soup, a green papaya salad and a sweet & sour chicken (and erase ANY idea you have in your head of what that looks or tastes like from a carry-out place in the States). It was spectacular.

On Wednesday night I ate with Bob & Dallas, Russ, Chuck and Doug at the hotel since some had evening meetings they needed to be back for. We enjoyed the buffet. One of my favorite things on it were the fried bananas at dessert and the fresh grilled fish. Also, at every meal in the hotel we are getting sweet, wonderful YELLOW watermelon. I'd never seen it that color before and boy is it yummy to the tongue and the eyes.

Tonight I was out, again, with Tammy and Sandy, and another of their friends whose name has just vanished into the abyss that used to be my brain (I'll remember once I post -- how embarrassing). We went to Duke's because Sandy was craving "American" food. She had nachos, I had lasagna, Tammy had a grilled veggie sandwich and ____ (oh, I thought for a moment I'd forget that I'd forgotten and her name would just come sliding out) had a Duke's Burger. The lights went out in the middle of the meal, but candles saw us through until that was fixed. No one seemed to mind.

I'm loving the variety of foods and places...and means of transport. Tonight we took a "red bus" which is kind of like a jeepnee, but not so flashy. This have a greater passanger capacity than the tuk tuks. (Sandy lived here for a bit, so we are spoiled to have a guide who has language and knows stuff about this culture and this city. Yeah, the other day the gals in the foot massage place were giggling at here because she was mixing her Thai with Vietnamese. Me, I mix up my English with my...English.)
ADDED FRIDAY MORNING: Her name is Pam. I ran into her this morning and the lights came back on in my brain. Maybe I'll remember better now that I've so publically forgotten.