Lessons on Worship

(start listening around 7 minutes in)

My Dad has taught me many things. How to ride my bike. How to tie my shoes.  How to check my oil.  But perhaps one of the most valuable lessons he ever taught me, without intentionally ever doing so, was how to worship.

When I say this, I don’t mean my father sat me down, told me the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of worship – what to sing, how to sing, why to sing.  I don’t mean my dad said there was a right way and a wrong way.  I never had a lesson.  I never read a book or sat in a classroom.

All I had to do was sit beside my father in church on Sunday.  All I had to do was listen. Watch.

My Dad has always had a boisterous voice when he sings.  A voice so loud your ears hurt.  A voice that makes the little children sitting ahead of us turn their heads in wonderment.  A voice that sings over all of the other voices.  He has always had the loudest voice in church.

Though one might think this is intentional, it is not.  My dad is not trying to gain attention.  He is not trying to outsing anyone. He simply is singing from his heart.

When I was younger, I was embarrassed.  Why does he sing so loud? Why isn’t he quieter? Doesn’t he notice people looking? My face would turn red.

Funny how things change.  The older I grew, the more I came to appreciate his voice. His beautiful, deep voice.  His attention to detail. His passion and “oomph”.  I began to realize that he truly sang from his heart.  He sang from his soul.

My father wasn’t just singing loudly. He was praising His Savior with everything in him.  From the depths of his belly, his lips poured out praise.  I began to admire my father for being so passionate and in tune with His God, not caring about the world around him.

So now, as I stand with my father in church, I sing loudly too.  I sing for love of my Father.  I sing for my love for my father who mirrors the Father’s love so fully.  Through my father’s love for his Father, I have learned what worship is.  Worship is uninhibited. It is passionate and boisterous. It is “loud”.

What I See

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What you see in the picture above is something I stumbled upon while at Target yesterday; I was on my way to the baby’s section and walked through the young girls’ clothing.  The clothes in this section were clearly catered to young girls, probably 5th grade and younger.

Then, I had to stop as I walked pass this display.
What you see is a young girl’s push up bra; yes, that’s right – a push-up bra.  There were different colors, laces, etc. But don’t worry, friends, you can remove the extra (extensive!)
So tell me what do you see?
What you see is society’s expectation for a girl’s body to be on display for others, rather than her thoughts, ideas and character.
What you see is fear of not fitting in.
What you see is a young girl’s self esteem plummet at the thoughts that she needs to be more curvy, more developed, more adult than she is.
What you see is a store selling out and buying into the idea that girls need to be sexy, adult, curvy, and for others – not herself.
What you see are years of body image struggles, self-hatred and loathing, and struggling to understand what true beauty is.
What is you see is value being put in a girl’s bra size, at the young age of 10, rather than her merit, her contribution to this world,
What you see is the heaviness of expectations from commercials, advertisements, music videos, movies, super models on young girls and young women and old women alike.
I know this is just one push-up bra. But, I am so troubled at what this represents.
I don’t want to see this. I don’t want young girls to see this and think that there bodies need to be developed too soon, displayed too readily. I don’t want mothers to see this and think this is a good idea. I don’t want my two year old niece to feel pressured to wear a push-up bra in eight years. I don’t want my female students to be burdened by this ridiculous expectation.
Let me tell you what I hope to see:
I hope to see young girls encouraged to understand that beauty is found in ideas, goodness, thoughtfulness, and kindness.
I hope to see girls of all ages not feel pressured to put their bodies on display for others.
I hope to see girls find empowerment not on being sexy to others but by using their minds, their thoughts, their actions, to make this world a better place!
I hope to find stores that will support these ideas and will fight against the pressures that society and media put on men and women alike.
I hope that change will continue to happen so Lillian, my little lovely niece, won’t have to be exposed to such ridiculous products.
Target, I am very disappointed. Do better.
Join me friends. What do you hope to see?

Your Glory In My Valley

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The Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
You have brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see you in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold your glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine;

Let me find your light in my darkness,
your life in my death,
your joy in my sorrow,
your grace in my sin,
your riches in my poverty,
your glory in my valley.

Amen

Thoughts on my immigration journey

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I have many thoughts swirling in my mind this morning. Yesterday I found out that the US Department of Labor has denied my initial application for a permanent visa which would allow me to live and work here permanently.  Though I was denied, I am very thankful that I have a school that is very supportive of me and willing and able to reapply but the reasoning for the denial of the request is really interesting to me and I think it sparks different conversations not only on immigration but the value we put on individuals and the skills they have.
The essential reason why the initial request was denied is that, based on my skill set and job requirements, it would appear that I have or should have about three degrees with all that is expected of a teacher.  However, the amount that I am being compensated, according to the US Department of Labor, is not enough to match the skills; their suggestion for compensation for my job, including my skill sets, is double what I currently make.  Essentially, what it looks like to the government is that my school may be employing an immigrant so that they will work for much cheaper wages.
So many thoughts!
1. First, I promise the school I am working at is not a “sweat shop” for teachers.  I do not make less than my coworkers. Rather, we all are committed to Christian education and have made a choice to work where we do.  I suggest that the government looks at the other salaries or our school budget before making that assumption.  Silly.
2.  Second, this is not a rant suggesting I should make double what I do; not at all. No teacher would be foolish enough to get into teaching for the money.  But, I do find it fascinating that the US Department of Labor, after carefully looking over an entry-level teacher’s list of job requirements, infers that 1) this looks like the job for a person with three degrees (I have two, not three… but still) 2) that this job requires double the salary to match the requirement and skill set and that the employees should be compensated as such.  Very few teachers anywhere(!!) are making double what I do.  How is it that this society is comfortable with paying athletes, celebrities, models so much but cannot see value in paying educators, social workers, people who work with PEOPLE! what their skill sets deserve?
3.  Third, I am annoyed that Justin Bieber can stay here because he is an entertainer.  I suppose that he, too, is working and shaping the youth of our future … but is he shaping them in ways we want?  I am annoyed that he can break the law, pee in public, be a nuisance to society, and be allowed to stay? How is that fair that a Canadian who has lived here for ten years and is trying to continue teaching in a small Christian school for little pay can’t but an annoying pop celebrity who contributes very little is allowed to stay, no problem?
4. Fourth, I truly understand why many people choose not to go through the legal process; I am not justifying that choice by any means but it is understandable.  I have lived in the US for ten years; I have filed paperwork correctly.  I have not committed any crimes.  I have followed the rule book.  I have taught for 6 years in MPLS.  And I am stuck right now. I am someone who technically has “everything going for me”… to make this process easy; I speak English, I am educated, I do not have a family to provide for, I am employed, I am not fleeing from danger, persecution, crime, etc.  It makes me sad for the people who truly want to be here, who have skills worth utilizing and celebrating, who want to contribute to the country… and can’t.  Immigrating is hard!
5. Fifth, I am hopeful and thankful.  I am thankful for employers who are doing all they can to help me and encourage me in this journey. I am thankful that my school is willing to adjust the application and try again. It’s a little silly because they have to make my job look more “simple”, less “skilled” to hope to try again; I am hopeful that I can stay but I am thankful that if I can’t, I am not being deported to an unsafe, unlivable place. I am thankful that I have two wonderful homes – Canada and MPLS and that I would love living either place.
So, those are my thoughts this early Tuesday morning; I couldn’t sleep so I wrote instead.  Here’s hoping my second application is a
pproved!  American immigration… here I come!

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

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Esther Joshua: I’ve forgotten you

Esther Joshua.

I must confess that I’ve forgotten about you.

In my busyness, in my comfort, and honestly, in my apathy, I’ve forgotten about you.

Over six months ago, I committed to praying for you, for your safety, for your swift return.  Over six months ago, I acknowledged the different worlds we experience on a daily basis.  I wondered many things. Are you alive? Can you feel my prayers? Are you safe? Were you forced to convert?

I still wonder these things. I still believe you are courageous, obedient, a risk-taker, strong. Brave.

But I must be honest. I’ve forgotten. I’ve broken my promise. I’ve let my own distractions take way.  I am sorry. And I wonder:

Have you lost hope?
Do you feel forgotten?
Are you safe?
Are you alive?
Have you given up?

Esther Joshua, do you know that I’ve forgotten you? Do you know that the world has forgotten? That the distractions of this world and the never-ending wars, crises, disasters draw our attention elsewhere?

I am sorry.  I hope you know that I believe in you and pray that you haven’t lost hope.

So, I will move forward in hope. I will remember you. I will pray.

Please, please, bring back Esther Joshua.
Please please #BringBackOurGirls

guard your hope with your life

Brother do you believe in an afterlife
Our souls’ll both collide
In some great Elysium
Way up in the sky
Free from our shackles, our chains, our mouths, our brains
We’ll open all the gates
We will walk careless, straight into the light

I’ve never felt so enlightened
Every page I turn
I only find myself
Feeling more alone
Posing questions to a silent universe
My very thoughts are cursed
They just seem to multiply
Forever in my mind
Brother don’t grow up
Brother please never grow up

Just hold out against the night
and guard your hope with your life
For the darkness, she will come
Oh and you have nowhere left to run
Oh but your eyes are wider than mine, but they’ll never see?
Just hope that age does not erase all that you’ve seen
Don’t let bitterness become you
Your only hopes are all within you

Just hold out against the night
And guard your hope with your life