from Diane

We live in an intensely  interesting world. Everyday we  meet people who enrich our lives by our encounter. Thoughts get challenged. Emotions stir that were unexpected. Too many such moments are forgotten before we get the good out of them. This blog is my attempt to capture some of those moments and memorialize them and share them.

To preserve the privacy of those I meet, all names will be changed. Many of my posts will highlight my favorite encounters with people who have touched my life. Some will be about current events and others will be about things I’ve noticed that have intrigued me.

Be blessed and enriched as you share my encounters and surprises.

If you care to email me privately to share your stories or concerns, email Diane

Diane Beth


 

A Dad and His Daughter

In 2012 I wrote about my Dad and I. I’d like to post it here. It is still as true today as it was 5 years ago.While on a two month home visit, we flew to Oklahoma City to spend a week with my dad, step-mom, and extended family. On the weekend we had a family reunion. We gathered at two log cabins near a beautiful lake. It was a four hour drive for the closest ones, and flights from as far away as Arizona and Virginia for others. Family gatherings are sometimes bittersweet, like a chocolate bar. For all the sweetness, there’s always a few nuts; in all the sweetness just a tinge of the bitter as well.

Actually no reunion was planned for this year. But after my Dad had a small heart attack (if any heart attack can be called small) in August, plans were quickly made for this reunion.

Although Dad was dealing with dizzy spells, he thoroughly enjoyed seeing his children, grand-children and great-grand-children together. The almost constant smile on his face was worth all the work, travel, and expense involved.

Two days after the reunion, while I was sitting at the table talking to Dad and my step-mom, Judy, my Dad suddenly slumped forward. His color went gray, and he was not breathing. I helped him straighten up and shouted, “Breathe, Dad, breathe!” My husband called 911 and my step-mom prayed. He became alert enough to ask for his nitroglycerin. The EMTs arrived , stabilized him and transported him, siren blaring and lights flashing, to the hospital.

By the time we arrived at the ER, Dad was sitting up on the gurney with oxygen, IV, and numerous sensors taped to his body. But the most notable thing was his smile. My dear Dad was smiling! After multiple tests they decided to keep him overnight for observation. He was discharged the next evening.

The doctor had told us his heart was quite compromised and there really was not anything to do but learn to live with it. He gave him medicine for a bladder infection, promised physical therapy at home to help him regain strength, and made an appointment for follow-up with his cardiologist.

That night, as I said goodnight to Dad, we hugged and kissed. I told him I had been really frightened when he was not breathing and thought he might be on his way to heaven. I said I was not shouting to him to breathe because I had anything I needed to say to him or needed to hear from him. I just didn’t want to lose him. Wonderfully, I could look him in the eyes and see only love. I told him I felt no shame or remorse for anything that ever happened between us. Only love.

He answered that he loves me and knows I love him. He doesn’t have any unfinished business with me either. We just enjoyed a lingering hug and thankful hearts for God’s grace and mercy.

My Dad has such a big, generous heart. He was weakened by the earlier heart attack, is getting hard of hearing, has returning cataracts, and painful feet, but he never complains. He unselfishly helps my step-mom who deals with the effects of Parkinson’s. He only finds good and kind things to say. He never fails to give God the credit for everything. He trusts God and gently points everyone around him to his best Friend. What a treasure God has put in that clay jar.

The next day we had to fly back to Virginia. Almost the whole trip home, silent tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought that would be the last time I would see my dad alive in this life.

None of us know when will be the last time we see our loved ones. We pray for our unsaved loved ones, and truly pray that each time we see them won’t be our last. But for those who love Jesus, like my Dad, we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope. We will cry when our loved ones go home, but we don’t have to have hearts heavy with things unsaid.

I wonder if there is anyone in your family – a dad or mom, a son or daughter, anyone- who you might want to contact right now, wherever you are. Perhaps it has been too long. Perhaps there is something that needs a loving resolution. As a man said in one of my husband’s seminars, tell them you love them and appreciate them while you have them with you. The day will come when you wish you had, and they will be gone.

Am I a Dinosaur?

Do you ever feel like a dinosaur? People who buy the lies of the current moral confusion, with all its relativism, call themselves Progressives. That makes people like us- people who hold onto proven, established principles of truth- dinosaurs. Our day is over. Now it’s their day. Or, so they say.

We pursue many different avenues of service here in our adopted country. We love our work, this place, and especially the people. But recently, we’ve heard some of the most heart-rending stories. We’ve tried to help the innocent victims, and we’ve tried to help those who caused terrible pain to others. Sometimes, by the grace of God, we succeed. But, in truth, many times we don’t, and those situations grieve us.

In all this grief, I’ve seen a common thread. If people just stayed inside the boundaries God has set, they would never have to deal with these horrible consequences (See Psalm 16:5-6). But the spirit of this age, combined with their own distorted desires, constantly battles that idea.

Here’s an example. Like most of my readers, we teach abstinence before marriage. We teach fidelity in marriage. We teach thoughtfulness and appreciation for our spouse. We teach honor and respect. We teach financial accountability. These are not such extraordinary boundaries, are they? In our world, it seems they are.

I am not describing people outside the Christian community. These are people who have said they believe. Yet there was a disconnect between what they said they believe and what they did. That has always been a problem. But the idea that biblical teaching is outdated makes destructive behavior even more alluring.

So, when we say, “Read your Bible, pray, allow your life to be changed by what you have heard;” some make excuses. “I’m too busy.” “I don’t understand what I read.” “I don’t see how this applies to my life.”

Even if they do know what the Bible says, they make excuses for why they don’t do it. They use their culture as an excuse for behavior outside God’s boundaries. They use their human nature as an excuse. They say, “Everyone else does it, why won’t God let me have a little fun?” And when the bad consequences of their bad choices appear, they say, “I didn’t think it would happen to me.”

They don’t seem to realize that if you live God’s way, the ancient, proven way, He watches out for your good. He fills your life with peace and security. He makes even the bad things that happen help us grow and become better. As Tim Keller says, life always works best when you follow the Maker’s instruction manual.

It is not because I am old that I believe in following God’s rules. I’m not some aging joy thief, trying to take away other folks’ fun. I plead with them to do what He wants them to do, not because it is old (though it is), but because it is the best. I have practiced this and know my life is infinitely better than it would have been if I had gone my own way.  Millions would say the same.

But we live in the days of progressive ideology. Established morals and boundaries are regressive and oppressive, they seem to say. Any of us, whether we are 17 or 70, who hold to the old truths, are on the brink of extinction. But those old truths, the established ways of the Eternal God, are just as powerful today as they ever were.

God has very good reasons for wanting us to do things His way. But saying these things in the present moral climate opens us to the dreaded judgement that we are old and irrelevant. Like dinosaurs. What sounds like a voice from heaven to us may sound like the incoherent moans of an ancient beast to them.

Even so, it is hard to convince modern believers of the importance of the lessons we learn in God’s Word. If they think of His teachings as old-fashioned and out-of-date, they miss the point. He gives us these simple boundaries to keep us safe. He doesn’t give them to us to punish us or to make us miserable! Inside the boundaries is where life works best.

Distinction, not Extinction

We, my readers, must not live in fear of extinction. For we have the God-given distinction of offering Eternal truth, from the Eternal God, to wandering, confused people.

We must stay strong and focused as we share our faith and His Word. We must speak His truth and pray their hearts will be open and obedient to His calling. We must not lose heart that He will have his people in the next generation to pass along what we know will keep them safe and full of joy.

If you don’t remember the article I published a while ago, We Groan We Glory, you might like to read it now. It describes, among other things, the tensions that we experience when presenting Truth in an age of doubt.

“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. . .” –  Jeremiah 6:16, NIV

English Conversation

Q&A in English

I had a golden opportunity to spend a morning with Electrical Engineering students who wanted to practice conversational English.

We’ve talked to Mr. S and his wife several times when we eat breakfast at the same local coffee shop. Just after New Years, Mr. S told us he was going to a nearby university to help some students improve their spoken English. All of these students can read and write English, but they don’t have any one to practice with to hone their speaking. When he heard that I had taught ESL, he asked if I would go with him one morning and talk with his class. I was delighted to have this chance.

For four hours we talked. Before class, I talked briefly with each student and got to hear their names and what they are studying and why. It gave me a chance to assess their level of ability and for them to get used to my accent.

Mr. S asked me to start the class by giving them some of my background, work experience, and about our time in Malaysia. From that time on, they asked questions and I answered. I would ask them questions and they would answer.

How rich an experience!

It is not common for a foreigner, a Christian, and a woman old enough to be their grandma, to talk to Muslim, university students. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to, there just are very few opportunities.

They asked my opinions about Malaysia, its food, its culture, its progress as a nation. They wanted to know why I like Malaysia and what I don’t like. They wanted to know what I liked best about working as a NICU nurse. I was asked how would they know who to marry and what I thought was important to ensure a long lasting marriage. One girl asked what I do to stay healthy.

They told me about their families, what they want to do with the education they are receiving. They told me about their favorite music and movies.

There was such respect and interest on both sides of the discussion. I felt completely at ease and shared freely. I really stepped out of my box and out of my usual introvert personality. They took the chance to speak in English and realize a native English speaker could understand them and wanted to converse with them.

I will always treasure the memory of this day as one of my favorites in Malaysia.

Two Mint Plants

2 small mint plants

When I was a child my mother added a small spearmint plant to our garden. It was such a hardy plant and grew abundantly. It grew tall stalks. Its roots spread out and more stalks grew. If we let it, it would have taken over our whole garden.

All summer long we cut sprigs to flavor our iced tea and to give to friends and neighbors who also liked it. In the Fall is would shrivel and die and in the winter it would have snow piled deep on top of it. But when Spring came, it would always wake from its slumber and begin to send up bright green shoots.

Mint didn’t hide in our garden. Even when we were indoors and couldn’t see the plant, with a little breeze we could smell its lovely fragrance. I always loved our spearmint plant.

A few months ago, we found a small spearmint plant for sale. It reminded me of home, so I bought it. I don’t have a garden space, so I kept it in a pot on my back porch. It was growing such long spears that I kept cutting some every day. I couldn’t use it fast enough and I hated to throw away the long pieces I couldn’t use, so I put them in water. They grew tiny, fragile looking roots. When they were too big to keep in the little rooting jar, I planted them in another pot. I became quite attached to these two fragrant, green plants.

In my cool, rainy hometown, spearmint grew without a care. In pots, the hot tropical weather meant my spearmint needed to be watered every day. Sometimes rain comes from the right direction and my plants were watered by rain, but most days I needed to give them a cool drink.

When we were making a week long trip away from home I took my two spearmint plants down to my friend’s garden so they would get the nearly daily rain without anyone needing to tend to them.

Last night I got a message from my friend asking if I had come home early and collected my plants. No, I had not gotten my plants. Out of her whole garden there were only two plants missing. . .my two spearmint plants. I groaned. I was sad they were gone.

They weren’t valuable plants like old bonsai trees. They weren’t rare or unusual plants. Whoever took them, could have bought some from a garden shop inexpensively. But they had meaning to me and were worth more than their monetary value.

My first reaction was to be angry at the thief. Then I thought, their need must have been very great to steal a couple spearmint plants. Maybe they have never had anyone pray for them before. I pray that they will somehow meet Jesus through those plants.

God cares about us, even those of us who feel like we’re just garden-variety. The fragrance of His life in us can draw others to God. Be a loved fragrant herb and bring real joy to those around you today.

2Co 2:15-16 “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. “

Trapped!

This afternoon we stopped at a tea shop high in the Malaysian mountains. The shop was closed, but they had a lovely terrace overlooking a tea plantation and some greenhouse buildings. We took some pictures and were enjoying the cool breeze and sunshine.

I went to a far corner of the terrace and saw a mynah bird hanging upside down from a potted plant. I thought, ‘Ugh, what kind of weird decoration is this?’
Snared Bird
I called Mike over and he said, ‘It’s alive!’ When I looked again I could see it move. On closer inspection we saw that both its feet were wrapped with a string around a branch. How it must have struggled only to be more and more tied up!  He definitely needed help or he would die. We had no knife to cut the string. Mike tried using a key to slide the string over his claws. Nothing was working and the poor bird was screaming like a crow.

We found a gardener nearby and pointed out the bird’s predicament. He went immediately and gently held the bird with one hand as he carefully picked the string with a pen knife. The bird kept screaming, but the gardener held it securely until every bit of the string was removed from both feet. When no string remained, he held the bird up and opened his hand. That unfettered bird flew at top speed with not even the slightest backwards glance.

We went away with a warm glow knowing one of God’s creatures was now safe. Mike said, ‘What a tale he will have to tell his family tonight!’

Psalms 124:7 – “We have escaped like a bird  from the snare of the fowlers;  the snare is broken,  and we have escaped!”

How gently, but securely our Gardener holds us while he cuts us free of the fetters that kept us captive. We may yell and squirm, but He knows for our good He cannot let us go too soon.

He has a plan for good and not for evil, but we have to be set free from our snares first.

Have we seen someone caught in a snare, maybe even of their own doing? God may be asking us to help hold them, while He untangles them?

How gently and how securely we may hold that loved one or stranger in prayer and in friendship until God sets them free.

Some very special kids. . .

I had the privilege of spending a weekend with families who brought their one or two special needs kids (SNKs) for a retreat. My husband and I were there to speak to the parents a few times during the weekend. We wanted to encourage them and inspire them in their walk with God. But I think I got more from my time with them than they got from me.

One 6’2” young man, I’ll call him Asaph,  was especially thoughtful of us. He wanted to know why we were there. When we said, “To talk,” he then asked, “When?” We told him the time for the meeting  and how long before it would start. He drifted away for a few minutes and then returned to tell us we would talk at the time we had told him. We agreed and then he would go away for another few minutes. He repeated this every few minutes until the meeting.

Instead of getting frustrated with his constant questions and reminders, I found him so kind and thoughtful. He really wanted to hear what we had to say and he loved being able to remind us and make sure we knew where to go for the meetings.

Asaph is a real worshipper. Jesus said we must worship in spirit and in truth. This young man poured out his heart in worship every time we sang. He loved to sing at the top of his voice. Asaph could only remember the last word of each phrase, but he sang it with his whole being. How God must smile and love this young man’s fervor.

Many of the SNKs could not speak or had very limited vocabularies. When they had needs, someone must help them quickly so they wouldn’t get frustrated. Some of the children wandered away from their parents and then did not know how to find them again. Others would go toward something dangerous, totally oblivious to any threat. I saw all of the parents take responsibility for all of the children. This happened so much that I had difficulty pairing up the parents with their own SNKs.

Johns painting

I never heard any parent sound irritated or angry all weekend. I never once heard a comment like, “Why can’t they control that child?” There were no discouraging words spoken, only words of encouragement and blessing.

Not all the SNKs were likeable. One 15 year old girl had to be watched constantly. She began the weekend by reaching out for my husband’s hand as though to kiss it (in the Malay-style greeting) only to spit on his hand. She followed that with a slap. This all happened in about 5 seconds. Imagine having to care for her 24/7/365 for 15 years! Instead of judging her parents’ abilities to discipline, we had a great compassion for the burden they constantly carry to care for her.

During the second night there was a most terrific thunder and lightening storm. Everyone was roused at 2 am. No one could keep from gasping or crying out at the violence and brilliance of the storm. Some of the children cried the rest of the night from the fear. The rooms got quite hot as the electricity was knocked out, so no fans nor aircons could work.

The Sunday morning session needed to be a joint service with all the children and adults in an upper room chapel with benches. The SNKs were seated in the front rows and their parents behind. The battery-run P.A. popped, squealed, and either blared or didn’t work at all. The room was hot. Many had not slept most of the night. The conditions were ripe for total chaos.

To my amazement when I got up to speak, none of that bothered me. I had changed my message when I knew the children would be with us to something simpler and shorter. Some of the antics of a few of the children tickled my sense of humor and I found myself laughing. I did not have a drop of irritation or distraction. When I finished, I thought that no one could have heard what I said or would remember a word. But I was at peace. Whatever God wanted to teach through this, He would teach whether my words were right or heard or remembered.

Any of you who know me, know that public speaking is not my forte. I would not speak in groups for many years. Then when I would, it was only to small groups and with everything I was going to say written down on paper. In recent years I have spoken on Sunday morning in churches occasionally and in smaller meetings more frequently. But to change my message and to have so many distractions, was way, way beyond my comfort zone. But I came out of it feeling like God had helped me take a huge step into more freedom and usefulness. I don’t take any credit for what happened. It was all God’s grace.

I was given a painting John made when all the SNKs painted on Saturday. John offered to give his to me. We framed it this week and it is atop my file cabinet as a vivid reminder of all I learned and experienced among these special people!

There is not one thing in the world that I could have done last weekend I would have enjoyed as much as this retreat!

Not a Senior Moment

Our favorite restaurant in our area is Jaipur. It has been owned and operated by one man and his sons for about 20 years. He’s had the same wonderful cook from India for over 17 years. The food is south Indian cuisine and the atmosphere is crowded, happy, Malaysian coffee shop.

We went to Jaipur this afternoon for lunch as we often do on Fridays. Fridays are special at Jaipur. There are a greater number of vegetarian choices. Then after the meal, they serve delicious, sweet, payasam with cashew nuts and sultana raisins. Oh, how worth the calories it is!

We parked our car about a block away and approached Jaipur. We noticed one shop was completely gutted and they were installing tile and painting inside. We stood there for a minute trying to remember what had been in that shop before.  The hardware store was on one side and the Chinese medicine shop on the other. Now, we had passed this shop several times a week over our nine years eating at Jaipur.

When we couldn’t remember, we shrugged and went on for our yummy lunch. On the way back to our car, Mike stopped to answer a phone call. I wandered up to the new shop and looked in thinking I would see some clue to its former tenants. But no, no clues remained. When Mike continued to talk on his cell phone, I decided to ask the Chinese medicine shop keeper about their neighbor.

I laughed out loud and smacked my forehead when she said, “It was a bank.” Of course it was! That was our bank. We stopped there almost as often as we went to Jaipur. They had moved to a larger, newer lot a couple months ago, so we no longer linked our banking with that location.

How strange! When we see something out of place or so radically changed, we can forget it so quickly. Life goes on, changes occur all the time. Maybe this is an indication of how our minds cope with the fast pace of city life. It seems it only gets faster and faster.

Truth for 20 Somethings

I just read an article about Lies 20 Somethings believe. I thought I’d write some of the highlights of my 20s. I think they prove the author’s point that our twenties are a starting point, a process, not the climax of our hopes and dreams.

My Twenties
1. I finished my three year diploma nursing program, but couldn’t finish my degree.
2. I only managed half a year of Bible School.
3. I just managed to get married before my mythical expiry date of 23 years.
4. I only could work in neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic for 6 months.
5. I miscarried my first baby.
6. We spent 14 months learning we were not cut out to pioneer a church.
7. I went back to working in newborn nursery and was there while it turned into a NICU. I liked it but it was not my long-term calling.
8. My first son was born and I learned how much I still didn’t know about babies.
9. We pioneered another church. (We weren’t slow learners, we just had so much more to learn.)
10. Our second son was born shortly before I turned 30.

Now in the later half of my sixties I can tell you what happened with each of those early steps.
1. A degree in nursing was not going to be important to where I was going.
2. That half year of Bible School began my lifelong love of Bible study.
3. After 43+ years of loving, learning, and companionship, the date we married really was not important.
4. Neurosurgery was not my life’s calling and I’m glad.
5. Though I lost that baby, God had given me so many sons and daughters over the years.
6. That first church pioneering experience was our first classroom in the real world.
7. My NICU work was the end of my career as a nurse, but then I began using my medical knowledge for my family’s health and helping my friends. Because of that background many trust me with their concerns.
8. Our first son is married and they have given us two wonderful grandchildren. He is a very involved dad and valuable employee.
9. In our last church we built strong foundations and learned lessons we still teach today. This church launched us into our more than 30 years in the nations.
10. Our second son is also married and well respected in his field for his knowledge and skills.

I had no idea in my twenties where I would go, what I would love to do, or how important those trials and failures would be to me and all those I’ve shared with over these last 40+ years.

So here’s the lesson in case you missed it. Life will not be as you imagine it. There will be surprises, a few bad ones, but mostly good.

Dark to Brilliant

I woke up on Saturday grumpy. It was a dark day, not weather-wise, but internally. Unfortunately, my husband also seemed under a dark cloud that day. We bumbled into each other a few times throughout the day.

It was time to get ready for service at a Mandarin speaking church. Mike offered for me to stay home since I was so glum. But I decided to go, gloomy mood and all.

It is the custom at this church to share a turkey dinner along with many delicious Malaysian dishes on the Saturday after American Thanksgiving. The pastor leads her congregation in giving thanks on that day. We picked up a prepared turkey dinner they had ordered for the church.

The songs they sung, though in Mandarin, had English translation. I was so touched that in moments  tears rolled down my cheeks and just wouldn’t stop. I had to quietly move to the back  to keep from drawing too much attention to myself.

The pastor led the people in thanks to all who had helped through the year and to the Lord for His blessings to them collectively and individually. Then, before asking my husband to speak, she talked to the people in Mandarin for a long time. She interpreted for us occasionally. She talked about our long friendship with her and their church, about our family coming to Malaysia, our family life, and more.

After the meeting was over and before everyone went to eat the prepared feast, many of the folks gave us cards, small gifts, personal thanks, and a huge fruit basket. They came and asked us to cut a cake. It said, “Happy Anniversary,” on it. After they lit three candles, they sang, “Happy Anniversary,” to the tune of Happy Birthday to you.

Mandarin Church gifts

It was at about that point when we realized the pastor had turned their annual Thanksgiving service into a celebration of our 30 years in Malaysia! We were so blessed and so humbled.

It was almost too much to take in. These people were so kind and generous and thoughtful. We cannot even speak their language, yet they treated us so well!

We love Malaysia and the people. We are thankful we have been able to make Malaysia our Second Home. Malaysians have opened their homes and hearts to us. We could not have chosen any better place to live and serve even if we could have made the choice. We don’t feel like we are doing anything so special or unusual. We just do what we would do anywhere. Yet this place and this people have been planted in our hearts and we feel so privileged!

That dark day now stands out with a brilliant silver glow.