New Address

Blogger has gotten frustrating, so I moved my blog to wordpress:

First World Problems

[This is an article I recently wrote for]...................................... Can’t we all identify? We’re late for work because we can’t settle on an outfit from our jam-packed closet. We’ve already left the drive-thru before we realize they forgot the ketchup packets. Our wallets won’t close neatly because they’re too full of cash and cards. We have “nothing to eat” in our fridge........................................... “First world problems” are amusing — blogs, tumblrs, and even rap songs are wildly popular. I have to laugh when I catch myself complaining about those trivial annoyances that could only happen in the world’s wealthiest nation. But at the same time, I sense a nagging disappointment in myself—is that selfishness and entitlement really lurking beneath the surface?................................................... Those mountainous “first world problems” are reduced to molehills when I hear stories of “third world problems” from my immigrant and refugee friends. My Bible study recently welcomed a family of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their stories of what they’ve endured are horrific. A father killed in the violence, a mother separated from four of her children. Hiding in the wilderness, their survival depended on drinking urine and scavenging for food. In my ESL class, one of my Syrian students recently broke down in tears, telling me that she had lost her house back home to a bombing. Her brother was held hostage and tortured....................................... When I hear stories like these, I’m caught between conflicting desires. Part of me wants to bury my head in the sand: I don’t have to deal with those issues here in the U.S., so why should I worry about them? But deeper down, I know ignorance isn’t bliss; a heartfelt burden to help beckons me to do something............................................. Though I can’t fix the world’s problems, I’ve seen that simply getting to know the foreigners in our communities is a powerful way to experience God’s grace and redemption. Hearing a Congolese refugee praising the Lord for the way he brought her family through those horrors causes my heart to be thankful for God’s provision. In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote:............. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)................ Exchanging stories of God’s faithfulness in the midst of adversity is a beautiful thing. Paul later urges the Corinthians to “make room for us in your hearts” (2 Corinthians 7:2). As I read those words, my context is vastly different from Paul’s. In my life, “making room in my heart” means listening to and caring about those who have fled hardship in their countries to make a new home here. I pray that God will use the little things, like lending a compassionate ear to a Syrian woman grieving the violence in her country or a Mexican high schooler faced with his father’s impending deportation, to point people to himself, for he is an “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)................................. Though I still grumble about having to hunt for my camera charger in my drawerful of electronics or get upset when a visitor parks in my designated spot, I’m becoming more conscious of the heart underneath these “first world problems,” and through relationships with immigrants and refugees, God is working on my heart and correcting my perspective................................ -------------- [I don't know why blogger is removing all the spaces between lines. I'll look into it and reformat soon.]


The past few weeks have been a season of tiredness and anxiety for me. I don't fully understand the cause, but I've felt buried under work and ministry commitments. My joy has been lacking, and I feel burdened by a sense of duty. This song by Jenny & Tyler has helped me meditate on Truth. Abide
You strive, O man, and you strive again/ Your heart too proud to rest/ You labor on singing those songs/ To cover your weakness/ Do you fail to recall who you really are/ And Who caused you to be?/ Return, O man, return and rest/ To a burden light and yoke easy/ Abide in your Savior. Abide in His love/ The labor of God is to trust in the Son/ O you possess, do you forget?/ As if by your own strength/ You earned it? No./ He gave you all, everything you have/ Your righteousness/ Your light, your breath/ Your daily bread and wine/ His blood, His flesh/ His love, His death/ Your faith and endless life/ Abide in your Savior. Abide in His love/ The labor of God is to trust in the Son/


Maybe it’s cliché: the “why I’m thankful” blog entry during Thanksgiving week.

But the whole reason for the holiday is (turkey? Nope. Football? Uh-uh. Shopping? NO.) to intentionally stop and give thanks for all that we have to the One who gives it.

Elisabeth Elliot, one of my all-time favorite authors, has a fitting chapter in her book Keep A Quiet Heart:

Some people are substituting “Turkey Day” for Thanksgiving. I guess it must be because they are not aware that there’s anybody to thank, and they think that the most important thing about the holiday is food. Christians know there is Somebody to thank, but often when we make a list of things to thank Him for we include only things we like. A bride and groom can’t get away with that. They write a note t everybody, not only the rich uncle who gave the couple matching BMWs, but the poor aunt who gave them a crocheted toilet-paper cover. In other words, they have to express thanks for whatever they’ve received.

Wouldn’t that be a good thing for us to do with God? We are meant to give thanks “in everything” even if we’re like the little girl l who said she could think of a lot of things she’d rather have than eternal life. The mature Christian offers not just polite thanks but heartfelt thanks that springs from a far deeper source than his own pleasure. Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul. It takes us out of the stuffiness of ourselves into the fresh breeze and sunlight of the will of God. The simple act of thanking Him is for most of us an abrupt change of activity, a break from work and worry, a move toward re-creation.

And another thought on why we should give thanks even when God doesn’t give us what we ask:

“God never witholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.” -Elisabeth Elliot

Enseñando y Aprendiendo

“I’m reading a really interesting book and would like to share some of it with you in class today.” I hold up Just Like Us , which tells the story of four Mexican teenagers growing up in America. Faces show interest and curiosity, until the next words leave my mouth: “We’ll also be discussing the topic of illegal immigration and what kind of impact it has.” Now I notice hesitation, averted eyes.

Though all of the students in my adult ESL class are documented, I know this is a delicate subject. Some may have entered the country illegally themselves, but all certainly have loved ones who are living here under the radar. I didn’t plan this lesson to make anyone squirm, though. Just Like Us resonates deeply with me: it not only strikes a chord with my personal experience of having a foot in two cultures, but it brings to mind the numerous immigrants I’ve befriended—some with papers, some without. In her book, Helen Thorpe movingly chronicles the internal and external struggles of four young women as they face the obstacles and tensions brought on by the lack of a green card.

My students soon relax as they catch on that my intention is not to judge but to listen. I am floored by their candidness and soon forget that this is a foreign language class; their limited English is no hindrance as they poignantly voice their experiences:

Marta: “The thing is that we do everything for our children. We bring them here so they can have a better future. But then they get big and they ask us, “Why did you bring me here?” when they see how hard it is. They had no choice to come here, and they complain. But for us it hurts because we brought them so their lives could be better.”

Yesenia: “I tell my kids, “You are lucky! When you know another culture, your mind becomes open [her closed fists burst open to demonstrate]. Maybe other kids make fun of you for being different, but we wouldn’t have the rainbow without all the colors. We need everyone: white, black, brown, people with covered heads, everyone—they make life beautiful.”

Luisa: “You know, the quality of life is better there [in Dominican Republic, her native country]. There you have all your family close. And it’s your culture. But there are more opportunities here.”

Oscar: “Which one is wrong, the American government or the illegal immigrant? I can’t say that one is wrong. Do we have to blame someone? Everyone wants the same thing: a chance to work, a better life.”

In ESL class today, I became the student. My carefully crafted lesson plan took the back seat as I listened, engrossed, as these adults opened my eyes to their world, letting me in on some of the internal and external issues they and their children face.

American or Mexican, documented or not, teacher or student, we all agree with Thorpe’s statement in her introduction to Just Like Us: “In the end, though, this is what immigration is like: inherently messy. The issue bleeds. And we are all implicated.”

When being captive is a good thing:

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds...we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

I'm encouraged that winning over my thought life is possible. When those daydreams and distractions--or panic and worry--well up inside, God, teach me to wield these weapons of divine power. Through your strength, I can arrest, detain, and subjugate my wayward thoughts!
"Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners. Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever."

-from the Book of Common Prayer, emphasis added.