God Is Not a White Man

While reading the news and thinking about this blog I have been constantly reminded of a classic Michael Gungor song.

I’m pretty sure I have posted this video in the past, but it seems due time for a good reminder. Click here to have a listen,

I’ve included the lyrics below the video.

God Is Not a White Man
by Micheal Gungor
God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion

but God is Love,
God is Love,
and He loves everyone
God is Love,
God is Love,
and He loves everyone

God is not a man
God is not an old man
and God does not belong to Republicans

God is not a flag
not even American
and God does not depend on a government

but God is good,
God is good,
and He loves everyone
God is good,
God is good,
and He loves everyone

oh, oh, duh, duh, duh, duh

athiests and charlatans,
and communists and lesbians,
and even ol’ Pat Robertson
Oh God, He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant,
terrorist or president,
everybody, everybody loved, loved, loved, oh

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

God is Love
God is Love
and He loves everyone

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

stop the hating, please just stop the hating now

’cause God is Love

oh, oh, oh

la la la la la
la la la la la
la la la

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Love Trumps Hate

I have a confession to make: I didn’t vote.

I know. I know. This is like the worst thing you can (not) do as an American citizen. It’s very irresponsible of me and according to Science Mike I deserve a pin stuck deep into my skin. :/ Oops.

I have a further confession to make… If I would have voted, I would have voted 3rd party. Which, in some people’s […Science Mike’s…] mind is almost as bad as not voting at all.

One last confession to make. This one, dear readers, is the most sinful* of them all: If I were forced to vote Trump or Clinton… I would have voted Clinton. (And here is where some readers *gasp*, while the others mumble *duh*.)

*Who you do/do not vote for is not/cannot be made a sin issue. It has nothing to do with sin and everything to do with conviction and preference. Lets stop making opinions a sin.

I hate politics.

I hate following the debates. I hate listening to the politicians. And I hate pretending to believe that anything being said is genuine or integral. I hate the idea of putting my hope in any one candidate.

But, despite my distaste for politics and my being located on the complete opposite side of the world, I was unable to completely escape the 2016 election. With every article I read and every podcast I listened to my heart was more and more saddened by the state of our nation.

I was watching the Thai news in a friends’  coffee shop when the election results were announced. I shed a few tears as the news began to sink in.

I was in shock. As the shock continued to materialize it changed forms. Disbelief became embarrassment and embarrassment became fear.  The fear started taking over and my imagination began to go rampant… until I called into remembrance who my hope is in. My hope is not in Trump nor was it ever in Hilary, my hope is in my God.

How faithful my God is.  As soon as I remembered who He is and focused my thoughts onto Him, my heart began to be at peace. I began to pray for Trump: for his heart, for him to encounter God, to meet Holy Spirit. As I started speaking blessings over Trump (as opposed to the insults I had slewed onto him for the last months…years..) my heart began to feel God’s love for him.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is not where America has rested. Not being on Facebook has shielded me from much of the nastiness going around, but not completely. I still read the articles and listen to the podcasts. And my heart breaks over and over again.

However, what has been the most heartbreaking about this election and the aftermath is the divisiveness and hatred seeping out of the church.

In a time where the world is so confused and scared the church has a golden opportunity to shine. An opportunity to comfort the brokenhearted and heal the hurt. How can we do this if we are too busy hurting and hating each other?

“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by one another.” Galatians 5:15.

Church, this is our time. This is our time to shine the light and love of Jesus. This is our time to quite literally trump hate with love. Let us show the world where are our hope lies–not in our president elect, but in our Faithful Father.

*My pastor in Omaha addressed this very issue last Sunday. He goes more in depth and is a bit more articulate than I am, so it’s worth a listen. You can listen to the sermon here.

 

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An Open Letter to the Lorensens

Dear Caleb and Tracy,

In light of recent events (ahem…) I have been thinking about you guys a lot–about who you guys are in general and who you guys are in relation to me.  So I decided to write it out (and publish it) and if I’m feeling extra sentimental, I may even read it aloud to you… (Enneagram 4 all the way!!)… but maybe not.

So here we go. Caleb first, because he is the man (eye roll).

Caleb,

Thank you for being a feminist. 🙂 Thank you for loving your wife the way you do, for supporting her, for standing behind/beside her, for encouraging her to be all that she can be and for believing that she can do anything.  Thank you for allowing her to have a voice and equal weight in the relationship.  Thank you for loving and investing in your children–spending quality time with them, taking them to work with you when schedules are crazy, etc. Thank you for not viewing ‘child-rearing’ as a woman thing.

In relation to me: thank you for being my friend. Thank you for not being scared of my single girl germs or raging hormones. Thank you for believing in me as a teacher, an academic, a colleague and as a missionary.  Thank you for allowing me to be in your family, and as I see it, adopting me as a little sister. Thank you for not talking down to me and sympathizing with me as I relate the numerous accounts of when married white christian men do. (They’re the worst). Thank you for being an example of what a husband/dad/missionary can look like and despite of our cynical ways–you give me hope against my cynicism. Hope that ‘good’ men do, in fact, exist.

Tracy,

Wow. Um… where do I start. Thank you for being a strong woman (#tracystrong). Thank you for having an opinion and sharing it.  Thank you for using your voice.  Thank you for being a wife in an equal relationship –but not overpowering your husband. Thank you for not manipulating him, but for being honest with your needs, opinions, desires, etc. Thank you for the ways you love and honor Caleb. You do it so well and are so obviously proud of him.  Thank you for being so in love with him without losing your identity and personality. Thank you for not finding your identity in your relationship with Caleb.

In regards to me: gosh… thank you for laughing with me and crying with me and listening to me and being angry with me and celebrating with me… thank you for not competing with me.  Thank you for calling me out when I need to be called out and thank you for loving me through all my (many) emotions [4].  Thank you for showing me that LOVE is not contingent on my being a certain way or performing perfectly. Thank you for trusting me to be friends with your husband… and for even, heaven forbid, being ok with me sitting alone with him in a car (gasp). Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to be my best self.  Thank you for pushing me when I want to quit or be lazy.

To both of you,

Thank you for letting me be in your family. Honestly, I don’t even think of you guys as friends anymore. If we need labels, I can say that you’re my best friends, but in my heart our relationship has surpassed that. In my heart you are my big sister and big brother.

Thank you for letting me love your children and be as present and involved with them as I get to be. They really are special kids and while I know they have LOTS of blood aunts and uncles… Auntie Samara loves them the most.

You guys are my role models. As cheesy and mushy as all this is… I look up to you. You set the bar exceedingly high when trying to find other friends… or looking for a spouse… but I am grateful for that high bar.

I truly believe that wherever I end up in the next five or ten years, I will be forever marked by these past four (plus) years in your family.

I love you guys a lot,

Samara

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the suffering missionary.

There are some groups of people that subscribe to the notion of the ‘suffering missionary’.  You know, the idea that being called overseas as a missionary is a death to your former life of joy and pleasure and a birthing of a life of misery and woe.  This ideology is held by missionaries and laymen alike.

I think the thought pattern is all somehow tangled up in support raising:  If you’re not suffering, then you’re not being used for the purposes of the gospel.. and so you can’t get any money and then you can’t eat… so now you are suffering…and so on…and so forth…

Maybe I’m wrong. Regardless. It should be no surprise, I do not subscribe to this notion.

But today, I am writing to tell you all that I am SUFFERING.

SUUUUFFFFEEERRIINNNG.

Yes.

I have this increasingly intolerable struggle with microscopic red ants.

The freaking things have decided that their new favorite place to live is inside my towel.  So this evening, after an impromptu and uncharacteristic evening shower, I wrapped my vulnerable, wet body into my nice, dry towel and was immediately molested by thousands of the little suckers.

They just go right for it.  I literally just picked 15 of their itty bitty bodies off of my body and am now full of red itchy welts.

WHAT’S MORE is, as I was transcribing this blog in my head and lathering myself with anti-inflammatory/anti-itch cream, I felt a tickle on my foot… I look down there was a HUGE freaking COCKROACH on it.  To which I reacted to by smashing its body several times with my journal. I didn’t even scream. This has become common place.

The struggle is real.

In conclusion, I am suffering, so please send me all of your money.

Thank you.

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small world.

Last month my university offered a one month intensive TESOL certification course.  Typically when this course is offered my four professors split the responsibility and teach the course together, however, while planning out who would teach what, my professors realized that two of the teaching days would fall on a government holiday and none of them wanted to loose those precious holiday hours.

So what’d they do?  They call me up and asked me to fill in and teach those two days–12 total hours–for them. I agreed and pretty much felt like this:

FullSizeRender

I prepared my lessons full of class discussions, authentic activities, practical teaching tips and tools and an assignment/presentation.  I was fully confident in my mad teacher training abilities and ready to teach this course.

Whelp. When expectations meet reality one is often met with disappointment and this was not exception.  I was quickly acquainted with the disappointing reality of my students and while they were all adults and many already English teachers…they were absolutely NOT excited to be in this (optional) course (that they paid to be part of), nor were they eager to participate in any of the ‘student centered’ activities I had prepared for them.

After my first six hour day, I looked more like this:

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It was like pulling teeth to get them to participate in any discussion (which was about 50% of my class plan for the first day), they were not at all interested in participated in the ‘learning activities’ I had prepared and the class time turned into me literally talking through my powerpoint and dismissing them an hour and a half early.

Lovely.

The second day wasn’t as shocking to me as I had already experienced my students innate awesomeness the day before and therefore tweaked my lesson plan accordingly; which included adding a new discussion question:

“What do you do when your student’s won’t participate in class?”

🙂

The first three hour section went fine, then we broke for lunch and came back with full bellies an hour later. This final section of our time together was devoted to their lesson plan demonstrations and should be fine.  Once all the presentations were finished, we were free. Smooth sailing, right? Right?

No.

Of course not.

Wrong.

As i was walking the attendance sheet around the classroom I came up to a student watching very graphic anime porn on his laptop.

In the classroom.

At 1:00pm.

FullSizeRender-4

I was in shock.

I knew I needed to do something, I was the professional in this situation, but I literally just froze.  I just stood there awkwardly running through all possible things to say to him.

Fortunately, just my loooong, awkward presence behind him was enough to make him uncomfortable and he shut it off.

OMG.

I am not trained for this.

We made it through the presentations and then they left.

That evening as I wrote each student an email with their presentation scores and personal feedback, I added a special addendum for that particular student.  I very professionally informed him that it’s not appropriate to be watching cartoons of that nature in the classroom and that it reflects poorly on him as a professional.

I went home that evening, again looking like this:

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the end.


Just kidding.

Of course it’s not the end.

I wish it was the end. That should  be the end. But it’s not the end.

Two days ago I was sitting in the office at the School of Promise waiting for Iris to be dropped off.  The office has a big window so you can watch the kids playing on the playground.  As I was looking out the window a parent I didn’t quite recognize came up and sat down directly outside that window.

As he was sitting down we, unfortunately, made eye contact. The eye contact was followed by a look of familiarity in both of our eyes, then realization and then shock… and then complete and utter disbelief

It was classroom porno man.

FullSizeRender-3

Lovely.

When the principle saw (by the look on my face) that I knew this man she asked me to go tell him to park and wait behind the school.

And as much as I wanted to pretend that he was a stranger and just ignore this chance occurrence… I couldn’t.  I had to go talk to him… so I did.

Samara: “Hi, uh… what are you doing here?’

Porno Guy: “…Uh… hi… my dad run’s New Life Children’s Home.  Are you a teacher here?”

Samara: “…Uh huh, yep.  A lot of those kids are in my class. Um, yea, will you park in the back and wait for them there?”

Porno Guy: “Yep.”

Samara: “Great.” (runs back into the office…)

Ok, so writing that conversation out makes it seem short and easy.

BUT you have to remember to add in all the flash backs and emotions tied to standing behind him as he’s watching the cartoon and my writing him the email actually addressing it.

Though the conversation was award winningly short, it was riddled with intense amounts of embarrassment and awkwardness.  If death via awkwardness was possible, this would have been the scenario.

and that, dear readers, is the end.

(I so earnestly hope.)

 

 

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The Fat Blog.

This blog is about four years in the making.  It’s been spinning around in my head forever… sentences and paragraphs have been written over and over in my head… so it feels kind of surreal to sit down and actually embark on writing this blog.  I only hope I can get my thoughts, feelings and perceptions out with satisfactory amounts of academic eloquence and appropriate amounts of humor.

So here it is, The Fat Blog.


I hate to admit it, but one of my biggest fears is being fat.

I know, I know… I’m not really allowed to say that.  All bodies are beautiful and wonderful and it’s incredibly vain and not politically correct for me to say that as my number one fear.  But there it is.

Fortunately, despite my genetic predisposition to low metabolism, unhealthy food choices and a sedimentary lifestyle, I’ve made it my (almost) thirty years without being ‘fat’.  At least not according to American standards.

I remember the first time the ‘fear’ of being fat crept into my mind.  I was around 8 years old and my mom was on a phone call with one of her cousins. I was supposed to be in my bed sound asleep, though instead, I was sitting on the floor by my bedroom door eavesdropping on the conversation, hoping to score some juicy family gossip.  Unfortunately, instead of hearing some drama about my great aunt’s live in boyfriend or my other cousin’s next money making scheme, I heard my mom say,

“Samara’s really starting to get fat.”

That’s it.  That one sentence.  Of course, my mom didn’t know I was listening… and probably still didn’t know I heard that until she read this blog.  But that one sentence entered my psyche and changed the way I viewed my little 8 year old body.

I don’t think I ever even thought about being fat before that.  I mean, yes, my family members were mostly plump people, but that never really mattered to me.. they were my world.  They were the coolest, funniest, most interesting people around me.  Sure, I knew they were fat, but what did that have to do with anything?  As far as I can remember, it was that one sentence.. that one sentence that I was never intended to hear, that turned ‘fat’ into fat. That turned being fat as something shameful, undesirable, ugly.

And at that point, I became ashamed.  I began to believe that I was fat and being fat was shameful.

This twisted body image stayed with my for the majority of my life.  I started dieting as early as I could and was always ashamed of the makeup of my Palestinian/Italian genes.

I have a distinct memory of weighing myself in the 8th grade and hitting 101 lbs for the first time.  I was in my soon-to-be stepdad’s apartment bathroom and I cried.

But, again, I was never actually overweight.  Looking back at pictures of myself from middle school and high school, I feel brokenhearted for that little girl, who was so petite, so perfectly beautiful and yet hated her body so much.

Freshman year of college, with it’s excessive drinking and drug use, pressures of school and social life and the death of my great grandma, ushered in the freshman 20.  You can imagine how I handled that…

not well.

Coming home for winter break my friends and family could tell I had put on that weight and without trying to be too obvious… made it clear that they could tell.  Soooo… when I went back for second semester I started a new diet. The slim fast shake and a nutrigrain bar a day diet and… successfully lost that twenty pounds.

My college friends praised me for how good I was looking as the weight came off and I vividly remember thinking that my friends were idiots because I was literally starving myself but all they noticed was how my jeans fit.

But hey… starving was better than being fat.. was it not?

Happily, I can say, that once I reached my goal weight I started eating in a more balanced way and have never drank another slim fast smoothie again. I was able to maintain a very normal, healthy weight throughout the rest of college.  (Though, I never stopped believing I was fat.)

Flash forward to the World Race.

In 2010 I embarked on the wonderful World Race experience.  The World Race, not to be confused with the Amazing Race, is an 11 month ‘missions trip’ around the world.  You spend about a month in 11 different countries doing various service projects with a random group of individuals just about as crazy as you.

One thing the World Race experts told us before we left was that if we’re not careful we will all gain weight (men excluded… the men, they said would lose all their weight… ).  They encouraged us to get in the habit of exercising and making our physical health a priority regardless of the country we were in or the circumstances we were living in.

Right.

Well, the experts were right and we ignored their advice.  The women on my squad, with very few exceptions, all gained at least 10 lbs over the year.  I came home a whopping 25 lbs heavier than I was before.

I attribute that weight gain to an unsteady diet of ever changing carbs, feeling entitled to ice cream or Western candy whenever it was available and then a bout of depression that only got harder to deal with every pound I put on.

Coming home after the World Race was no walk in the park for me.  I could and probably should devote a blog to telling that story, but that is for a different time.  Coming home from the World Race, I was fat.  Beginning at 8 years old, I had always felt fat, but in 2011, for the first time, my BMI actually told me that I was ‘obese’.

Fortunately I had a distaste for slim fast and therefore, instead of going back to my tried and true starvation diet, I turned to something much healthier to try to get the weight off. I miraculously trained for and ran my first half marathon.  and I lost not. a. single. pound.

Then I moved to Thailand.


I recently wrote a sort of ‘tongue and cheek’ blog about adapting to Thai culture.  The things I mentioned were all very surface level, superficial cultural things that make for easy reading and light chuckles.  The reality of cultural adaptation is a lot less funny.

Cultural adaptation is a bitch. (sorry).

While I have done, in my opinion, an extraordinary job adjusting to the new society that has become my home, there are certain things that I have yet to understand or be okay with.

One being the ‘news, weather, sports’ type talk about people’s appearances–to their face. Upon greeting a Thai person, you should expect to receive some sort of comment about your physical appearance.  Apparently these comments, regardless to how we, Americans, understand them, are completely matter of fact and are in no way personal.

That being said, a couple of the first words I learned in Thai were: อ้วน (fat) and ก้นไหญ่ (big butt).  I learned these words so quickly due to how often I was greeted with them.

Samara: Hello

Thai Person: Hi.  You are fat.

Samara: :(:(:( dies a little inside.

I also learned very early on that here, in the Land of Smiles, I am not สวย (beautiful), but rather น่ารัก (cute) because the word for beautiful is reserved for people who are not fat like me.

Welcome to Thailand.

Let’s just say that wasn’t easy for me.  A person with an already corrupted since of self worth and body image being called ‘fat’ to her face on a regular basis does not a merry person make.

By God’s good grace (and I mean that so sincerely) I realized that as much as I hated people talking to me in this way… I could not change the culture.  And if I didn’t stop being hurt every time someone called me fat or let me know about my big butt, I would quite literally die. I decided that I had to be the one who changed.

At first, I thought that I had to be the one who changed in the more physical light.

I needed to loose weight.

So I became much more active than I had ever been previously in my life.  I don’t know how many times I have completed Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred or how many of stupid Shawn T’s Insanity videos I’ve done… and I trained for an ran another half marathon…

Though try as I might, I could barely get the scale to move.  (I lost about 6 lbs amid all of this.)

No, loosing weight to appease Thai beauty standards was not the kind of change that needed to take place. I needed to, once and for all, get over my fear of being fat.  I needed, for the first time in my conscious life to be okay with my body.  I needed to be able to be called fat (everyday, to my face) and not be affected by it.

Well, how the hell does one do that? (sorry again).

I wish I had a straight forward answer to give you.  But, the reality is, that for the first time in my life I got really honest with God about my skewed body image.  I got honest about the hatred I felt towards my body and I asked Him for help.  I wrote down all my perverted belief systems about beauty standards and bodily ideals and asked God to show me what He thought. I asked Him to change my mind.

Within this process, I realized that I had corrupted the word ‘fat’ in my mind.  I changed the definition of ‘fat’ making it mean: ugly, worthless, unloveable, gross, lazy, pitiful, shameful.

I had to ask God to redefine this word that was constantly being used to describe me.

It was not a quick or painless process.  I cried. A lot.  I had to continuously take the words from my peers and give them to God.  I had to continuously pray to be washed from people’s comments about my appearance.  I had to continuously forgive and ask for help forgiving.

Eventually, though, through the combination of my new and active lifestyle and lots of vulnerability with the Lord, I began to accept myself.  I began to believe that not only was I not fat, even if I were, ‘fat’ does not mean I am those ugly words I used to associate with it. I slowly began to love my overweight self.


Despite about three years of trying to tell my Thai friends to not comment on my physical appearance, the comments have not stopped.

While I was still at my highest ever weight, I would try all sorts of tactics to explain how hurtful their comments were to me.  I would use vulnerability, sarcasm, humor and/or straight up bluntness… but the comments never subsided.  However, the pain that used to accompany the comments disappeared and I was able to just be annoyed with the culture that I didn’t understand rather than allow the comment to chip away at my self worth.

Over the last nine months the extra weight I had been carrying since the World Race has disappeared and I’m back to the weight and body shape that I had been before.

The funny thing is, the extra weight didn’t go away until it no longer matter to me if it did.  I finally became okay with my new shape and just accepted myself as I was.

Now that I’m back to what was my previous ‘normal’ I wish I could say that the comments about my body have stopped.

Unfortunately they have not.  They have just taken on a new form.  Instead of ‘you’re fat’ I am told, ‘wow, you are so much more beautiful now that you’ve lost weight’ or ‘you look hungry’ or, my personal favorite, ‘if you loose anymore weight, you won’t be beautiful anymore.’

Basically… I just can’t win.

I try to not get too annoyed when I hear these comments.  I typically reply with something corny along the lines of ‘thanks, but beauty has nothing to do with my weight’ or ‘thanks but I was always beautiful’ or ‘beauty is in the heart’.  Honestly, it’s almost become a game to me.


I am not able to change Thai culture.  Thank you Jesus, that that is not my responsibility. That’s a daunting task.  But… perhaps, just maybe, I am able to help people change the way they see themselves.

The reality is that we will never live up to the world’s beauty standards.  As soon as we achieve one standard, there is a new one that needs to be met.  As soon as your weight is acceptable your eyebrows won’t be… and if your eyebrows are fine… you better focus on your frizzy hair… it’s an endless cycle.

Being honest, I’m really happy to be back to my normal weight.  I like dressing up and putting on makeup, I like doing things that make me feel beautiful, but at the end of the day, as cheesy and corny and trite as it is, my beauty has absolutely nothing to do with any of that. The scale does not measure my self worth. (and if it did… shouldn’t it be the heavier you are the more worth you have?!?!?)

I am beautiful because God made me so. I was made in his image–big butt, thick calves, frizzy hair and all.

I’m not a mommy, but I am a teacher and a big sister.  I want to live in such a way that my fight to love myself may cover the young people in my life.  I want them to be able to glean from my victory.  I want them to see me love myself amid my imperfections and an ‘non-ideal’ figure. I want them to carry every ounce of self worth and self respect that I have had to battle for.

No, I can’t change Thai culture, but I can set an example for the young women and heck, even the young men, in my life and perhaps their battle won’t be as long or as hard.

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Confessions of a Cult Member

Six years ago, as I was preparing to leave the United States for my trip around the world (#worldrace, #11n11) my grandpa gave me a piece of solid advice:

Grandpa: “If they offer you KoolAid… don’t drink it.”

Samara: *eye roll* “Graaaampaaa… it’s not like that…”

And, I can happily report, that it wasn’t (entirely) like that.

However, after living with the Lorensen family for almost four years now, I realize that I may have ignored my grandpa’s advice and have accidentally (willingly) drunk the KoolAid  of the ‘Caleb Lorensen cult’.


I have recently become obsessed with Myers-Briggs personality types.  and I mean obsessed.  Like…I listen to podcasts about personality types on my motorcycle and in the shower.

Because I couldn’t keep my obsession quiet, little bits and pieces of Myers-Briggs wisdom would seep out of me and into our family dinners and conversations.  Eventually the Lorensen’s took the personality test themselves to subdue my curiosity.

The results are as follows:

Samara: ENFP: highly imaginative and free spirited individual that needs help remembering to do normal human things, like showering and putting on clean clothes.

Tracy: ESFJ: the ultimate hostess who is all about caring for and providing for the needs of those around her and can not understand how the ENFP has forgot, once again, where her car keys (cellphone, glasses, motorbike) are.

Caleb: ENFJ: the charming and persuasive cult leader.

Tracy wrote a blog about her life as the wife of a cult leader which includes topics such as: drinking the KoolAid (ie: green juice and smoothies); group think and community living.

So if Tracy is married to a cult leader… I suppose that means I am a full fledged cult member… or a cult leader follower.  This news, my being a member in a cult, was disturbing to me at first.. I mean.. valuing my independence and creativity so highly, but, upon reflection… it may not be all be so bad.

Tracy’s blog covers the most noticeable ways the ‘Caleb Lorensen cult’ has influenced my life.   From dietary habits and work-out regimes to educational pursuits and passions… I am a changed woman.  Her blog is hilarious and you should read it.  Here’s a link: link.

In this blog I will write about a few more subtleties I have noticed in my life since joining the cult.

-Taking on of life mantras:

The Lorensen’s live by a unique set of life values.  There are many and I will not cover them all here…but, the first that comes to mind is ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down’.  I hate this.  But over the years, it has been adopted into my lifestyle.  In fact, the Lorensens exude general lack of shyness about bodily functions—be they farts, burps, poops or periods… bodily functions are not to be ashamed of. Honestly, conforming to this belief system, was not a very difficult one for me and is actually very freeing.  I suggest you pick it up as well.

Another of the Lorensen mantras is that ‘children are assets and not liabilities’. The communal way in which we live our lives over here in Thailand, means I have been given the rare opportunity to actually witness the ins-and-outs of parenting, without actually being a parent, and have therefore, picked up some of their parenting techniques as my own.  The Lorensen’s are not held back by their children, nor do they hold their children back.  Their children are encouraged to explore, be curious, make messes and think for themselves.  This can lead to interesting situations…yes, but it also creates highly creative, confident individuals.  Community living and valuing children… again, ideas that perhaps you pick up with as well.

-Changes in Diet and Exercise:

Again, Tracy already wrote about this in her blog (link)… so I will be brief.  But I want to say, I have never exercised so consistently in my life than I have since living with the Lorensens.  I say this after having NOT exercised consistently since starting my MA program a year ago and the statement is STILL true. As for my diet.. I have been following a no sugar, no carb diet with Tracy for about 9 months now.

The impossible has been made possible via the Caleb Lorensen cult.

-General Boldness:

I used to pride myself with being a sweet, sunshiny girl.  And… I still am.  The difference, however, is since being part of the Caleb Lorensen cult, I have begun to actually take myself more seriously.  I think living under the influence of someone like Caleb… and having him take me seriously, has affected the way I view myself.  I have grown leaps in bounds in my self-confidence.  I have learned how to set effective boundaries and how to say no.  I have also learned how to use my super-power of ‘sweetness’ and ‘like-ability’ to speak hard truths and say hard things to people.  I have become a very bold speaker, standing up not only for the people in my life, but also standing up for myself.

This also comes out in my willingness to state my mind and share unpopular opinions and ideas.  I have found myself playing devil’s advocate in situations where I would have previously just sat quietly.  I have picked up the attitude of the Caleb Lorensen cult and it suits me well.


I could go on an on… from living by sayings like “stop that stinkin’ thinkin,’” “no pressure just opportunity” and “drink good coffee” to pursuing an actual career as an educator, I am a full fledged member or the Caleb Lorensen cult.

I drink the juice and I repeat the mantras  … and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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In Honor of Khruu Gung

We love you and miss you Khruu Gung!

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On Death and Dying part 2

I had recently written a blog to discuss some of my thoughts around death and dying and living as a missionary in a Buddhist culture.  I started the blog stating that I haven’t had much experience dealing with death.  Unfortunately, that statement is no longer true.

About a month ago my Thai teacher’s brother—Khruu (teacher) Gung, unexpectedly died.

Khruu Gung had been my Thai teacher for six months prior to my beginning to study with his sister Khruu Naamrin. Khruu Gung is the teacher who painstakingly taught me how to read and write Thai.  In those six months as Gung’s student we became dear friends.  [Dear friends here essentially means that I poked and teased him constantly regarding anything from his food choices to his singleness (shame on me) and that he quietly sat back as I adamantly professed that I knew more about the Thai alphabet than he…at his funeral his sister introduced me as ‘the student Gung loved’.] 

We just *got* each other.

After learning how to read and write with Gung I began studying with his sister Naamrin and have been her diligent student since.  While I was no longer studying with Gung, he was still a constant in my life.  He was there whenever I went to study and we would spend at least the first hour of my two hour class chatting and arguing about current affairs.

His passing away came as a complete shock.

I was in my last class of the semester getting ready to do my biggest presentation of the year when I got the news.  Honestly I thought it was a cruel joke.  I swiftly left class and began the process of clarifying information, informing Tracy and changing our plans for the next week.

I was sick to my stomach and felt so alone on the campus… far away from anyone who knew and loved Gung. I gave the worst presentation of my academic career and headed home.

Tracy gives a good description of what came next on her blog, which you can read here, but I want to spend the rest of this blog talking about Gung’s death amid christian theology.


Khruu Naamrin is a fairly new believer.  While she has told her students that she is a christian for nearly 10 years now, she just recently encountered God in a real way, was baptized and has really begun to understand the love of God and what being a christian really means.  Gung had not.

Though Gung had been evangelized countless times by his well meaning students, Gung never said the prayer or outwardly confessed allegiance to God.

Gung’s death was a double hit for Naamrin.  Not only did she lose her brother and best friend, but he is now, in her mind, spending eternity in hell.

Naamrin, looking for consolation, brought this up to many of the christian funeral attendees and she received plenty of the customary, ‘we just have to trust the Lord’ responses with looks of sadness that could be easily read as ‘he’s in hell’.

But, from me (and Tracy) she received something a bit more controversial.

I told Naamrin that I sincerely believe that Gung is with God.

And I do.

No, Gung did not outwardly identify as a christian.  If you would have asked him what religion he was—Gung would have said buddhist.  And I guess that is as cut and dry as some of us like eternal salvation to be.

Outward Confession of God = Heaven.    Any Other Option = Damnation.

I cannot accept this.

As Americans, growing up in a nation built upon christian morals and ethics with the separation of church and state fully in play, it is nearly impossible for us to understand how intertwined religion and culture are in other nations.  In Thailand, to be Thai is to be buddhist.  These two facts are not separable.  When Thai people take the brave step of outwardly professing Jesus, they are, at the same time, loosing status, reputation and relationship. This is a big deal. We Americans can so easily shrug that off and say, ‘it’s worth it for the sake of the gospel’ or ‘Jesus said we would be hated by the world’ and go back to our cushy lives and our religious freedom, but Thai people do not have that luxury.

For this reason, there are many people (not only in Thailand, but all over the world) who hear the gospel, accept the gospel and believe the gospel, but who do not—and may not ever— outwardly identify as christians.

I cannot accept the idea that the cross and all that it represents: Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, only covers salvation for those who say a prayer in the allotted amount of time.  And if we are to believe that Jesus wants all to be saved and desires that not one of his children perish—why does this free gift expire with our bodies?

The more conversations I have with Western Christians about death and the after life… and the more people I piss off with my ideas… the more I realize that Western salvation theology is really nice and neat… when it stays in the west, but it gets really convoluted when you believe that God wants the WHOLE world to know Him.

God made so many unique people with unique cultures and languages… God’s world is so much bigger than nice, neat, clean Western christianity… and yet, for some reason, we seem to want to make the whole world fit into our neat box.

I believe that Gung is with God.

I believe that when he died, he saw Jesus.  I know that Gung knew the gospel and I believe that when he saw Jesus face to face, that he fell to his knees and repented.

And I guess, from there… Jesus gets to decide whether or not Gung performed the scared ritual in time…

I’m sure this blog post has ruffled a few feathers.  I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about things like this.  You can write me off as a heretic or just assume that I’m not thinking straight because I’m grieving.

But in the end, what I desire to communicate, is that I can not be the judge of ones salvation.  And if I am asked to make that decision, I will always lean on grace and will always believe they are with God.

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cultural. adaptation.

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  1. The handling of bugs and other woodland creatures: 

While it is not appropriate to claim that I remain ‘cool’ or ‘calm’ in the presence of the creepy crawlies… I have come a loooong way.

For example: It’s rainy season.  This mean it’s the season of my all time favorite insect–the flying termite.  I hate these stupid and arguably harmless bug with every inch of my being and usually have to wrap my head in some sort of protective garb in order to keep them from burrowing into my hair and never coming back out.  Yes.  BUT… the other night, we had two friends over for dinner and when the assigned time came for these bugs to begin swarming around my head and… I DID NOT retreat into the house, nor did I wrap my hair in anything.  Perhaps this was a one time scenario, but it seemed momentous at the time.

Another example of my adaptation is in relation to those dang huntsman spiders (go here if you need to be reminded of what I used to be like…).  Just the other day I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom and I saw one peeping out from under my bed.  Instead of springing up in panic, I sat there and calmly told him that we could co-exist as long as he kept his distance.  I trust he has kept up his side of the promise… and what I don’t know, I want to keep that way.

There are other examples of this, but if I want you to read this entire post, I suppose I should get moving on.

2. My perception of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ weather:

We are coming off one of the hottest hot seasons Thailand has known in many years… like at 60 years.  (I want to say 100 years, but then someone might fact check me and I may be exaggerating…) It’s been hot.  We had week after week into months of weather hitting 110, 112, 114 fahrenheit with overnight lows of 85, 88, 90. Overnight. Lows.

I do not sleep in air conditioning.  This particular year I had three short stays in peoples’ homes where I was blessed with a climate controlled bedroom.. but those nights only made nights back in my bedroom nearly impossible.  At home, I would wake up in the middle of the night literally dripping in sweat.  It was hot.

Now that the rains have begun our highs are only 97…95 and this Tuesday it gets down to a HIGH of only 91.  With overnights lows as low as 75.  And guess what.  I get cold at night.  Instead of waking up in sweat… I wake up to add a blanket and/or turn off my fan.

This is adaptation.

3. Personal hygiene:

Over the course of my short life I have somehow gained the reputation of being… how should I say?.. dirty?  In Thailand they have a phrase ‘สกมก’ (sokmok) which roughly translates as ‘dirty homeless person’.  This is a word that has been used to describe me.  John Huffman likes to tell hyperbolized stories of my lack of feminitiy and seemingly displaced desire to shower.  It was not uncommon for me to go 2, 3…4 days without showering.  Looking back, this is slightly embarrassing… but, what can I say?

In Thailand, this is not acceptable.  Thai people shower at least twice a day, every day. Regardless of activity and sweat levels.  Twice a day.  I was a walking offense.  However, those days are behind me and I can proudly say that I shower–at least–once a day, but often two–even three times a day.

I have turned a page in my life.  So long สกมก. Hello being clean.

4. The use of the Thai language:

Thai has become such a normal part of my life that I often speak Thai without taking into account who I am talking to.  For example, I had a meeting with one of my professors at University and as she is Thai, I naturally just started talking to her in Thai.  However, this was not appropriate, as I am in an international program studying about teaching English. My professor does not talk to her Thai students in Thai… let alone her American student.

Another example happened today in my classroom.  If one of my students needs further explanation of something I have gone over repeatedly in English, I will revert to Thai to ensure that comprehension is there. I have two students from English speaking homes in my classroom and today one of them was asking for further explanation.  I knelt down beside him and started explaining the activity to him in Thai.  He does not speak Thai.

This also comes out when I am with other English speakers and drop Thai words into the conversation because I cannot think of a word to express the appropriate message in English. How did I ever thoroughly communicate before?

5. I find Asian men attractive: 

Before moving to Thailand I had no interest, whatsoever, in Asian men.  So often I would get asked, ‘do you think you will marry a Thai person‘ and I would almost get offended by the question.  No.  I had this misconception that all Thais (and therefore, all Asians) are super short, super skinny and have weird voices. I also thought that all Asian people look the same.

Well, guess what.  Asians (and Thais) come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of personalities and all have very diverse facial features. Asian women have long been praised for their beauty, but I am here to say that Asian men can be quite attractive as well.

Of course I am not attracted to every Thai man that walks past me… but that wasn’t the case in America either.

For me, the surest sign that I have adapted to Thailand is that I have crushes on at least four Thai guys.

 


So there you have it.  After a little over three and a half years, I can say with some amount of confidence, I have adapted to Thailand.

 

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