Toys are an interesting part of another culture, a window into someone else’s worldview. You can tell a lot about people based on their toys. This is true even here in Indonesia, however in this case it’s their lack of toys that is revealing.

I’m always amazed at how the kids from our neighborhood come over, gawk at, and admire Eli’s toys. These kids are much older than Eli but they find his small play area an area of wonder and fascination. We have scattered around the floor various things like blocks, balls, stuffed animals, little cars and people, puzzles, etc. We didn’t have much at first. Traveling across oceans has put a limit on what we’ve been able to bring with us. And what we can buy is limited too. But in the last several months since we’ve come back, Eli has inherited a few other things from Western families- bigger items we would’ve have been able to fit in a suitcase. These are the things our neighbors find most interesting. They come over to ‘play with Eli’ but they always go right to the mechanical plastic toys, the ones with the moving parts and batteries. It’s interesting to watch the kids. Even though the toys are probably intended for babies and toddlers, the older kids love em! They pick them up, turn them around, and age isn’t a factor at all.

My eyes are opened to a whole new world- a lifestyle I can admire even if I’ll never be able to imitate it.

When I see the kids get such a kick out of Eli’s baby toys it’s makes me realize all over again that I come from such a different culture. In their culture, having A TOY, one single toy, is about all they can expect. Toys are a privilege, something above and beyond what’s normal. Having more than one would mean you’re super rich, or excessive, or both. And then I look at the stuff around me- all the stuff we’ve been able to accumulate in our small house over the past three years, and it’s just remarkable. Even though we’ve been limited by what we can buy because a) it just doesn’t exist, or b) it won’t fit on our motorbike or in our suitcase, we still have a lot. By American standards I’d say we have less than most. But compared to those around us, our Indonesian friends and neighbors, we still have so much more. It just makes me realize how much we accumulate, and how fortunate we are to have so much stuff. And my eyes are opened to a whole new world- a lifestyle I can admire, even if I’ll never really be able to imitate it.

Indonesian children teach me that we really don’t need all this stuff to get by. It’s possible to live a much simpler life and be content. They make up for their lack of toys with creativity and ingenuity. It’s fun to watch them play in our front yard. The other day two neighbor boys made a game out of jumping and rolling on an old barrel that appeared in our yard one day. It occupied them for hours. And then another day a patch of leftover sand from a cement project became an impromptu sandbox. Other times I see them playing with sticks and string and paper kites. Some days they come over just to interact with Eli, even if it’s just to make him smile. It’s pretty amazing what they come up with to do, even though they start with nothing.

I’ve been blessed to see this side of life, and I’ve been challenged to do it their way. Eli at 11 months may have more toys than our 6 year old neighbor. I can’t help that. It’s our culture. But I can learn to give and share with those who don’t have as much as me. And by giving it away I’m the richer for it.

I really like that old REM song ‘Diminished’ off the album Up. It’s a mellow song off an equally mellow album. I don’t care much for the lyrics as a whole, but the refrain always seems to get stuck in my head:

I will give my best today
I will give myself away
I have never hurt anything
Is the jury wavering?
Do they know I sing?

The  line ‘I will give my best today. . . I will give myself away’ is the part that always gets stuck in my head- like a haunting reminder to make each day count, to not waste any opportunity. And how do we make each day count? The next line is equally as powerful. By giving ourselves away. By being selfless. By giving. By sharing. By making it not about me, but other people. In the end, that’s the important part. When it’s less about ME and more about others the day seems so much more purposeful and meaningful. The day gets a healthy injection of purpose when you give to others.

That’s why I don’t mind when old songs like this still have a way of getting stuck in my head. They contain little nuggets of wisdom. And when that wisdom is wrapped in a catchy tune, well, I’m singing good reminders to myself all day long.

 (Here’s a poem I wrote today. It’s not entirely descriptive of our bathroom, but comes pretty close!)


A Million Scary Things in my Bathroom

Spiders behind my towel
Leeches on the floor
Lizards in the rafters
Termites in the door

Ant nest on the wall
Water that is brown
Critters on the rooftop
Mosquitoes all around

A million scary things
In my bathroom all day long
It’s okay, don’t worry
It’s only different, not wrong

Lack of water pressure
Cold water from the tap
Lack of toilet paper
Moldy towels on the rack

Soap is hard to find
Dirty diapers in a pot
Toilet on the floor
Hanging smelly mop

New things to adjust to
In a foreign land
Time will help you through it
Patience is in demand

Cobwebs in the corners
Towels hung by nails
dust on the bathtub
creepy crawly snails

Mirror hung from rafters
Two year old shampoo
Dishes on the floor
Temperature one-o-two

A millions scary things
Yes it’s true, trust me
How does one survive like that?
Attitude is key

While I know it’s pretty crazy
To accommodate so much
You get used to it eventually
Later you do adjust

At first it’s pretty shocking
You’re confused, and scared and mad
But to live without the excess
Well, it’s really not so bad

You start to see the value
In your gifts from God above
Most important is your family
And friends and faith and love


I’ve been thinking and praying about darkness a lot lately. Now that Ramadan is just about over I’ve had a fresh look at what this looks like. Darkness isn’t so much the presence of something, but the lack of something else. All around me I see people who are lacking something. They go through their religious routine. They pay they respects to God in the form of scheduled prayer, attendance, and fasting. But it’s a lack of God’s spirit that keeps them from finding the Truth. The darkness is palpable here.

But my heart breaks for these people to be set free- to be free to see Jesus for who he really is- the savior, the redeemer, the Light of the world. The hard part about darkness is that is never moves. Darkness sits in one spot. It’s heavy. It can’t travel. Light though is different. Light can move. Light travels. Light enters a room and fills it. There’s a speed to light. So until Light penetrates a space the darkness will remain. Light must come from the outside to fill a darkness within.

I think one thing that is required for the Light to come in is a supple heart, a pliable heart. A heart that hasn’t closed all the windows, but rather is open and hopeful, waiting for the light to come in. John Piper said recently, “Whether you see what the Bible says about your salvation as good news depends in large measure on how hopelessly lost you think you are.” If you’re not aware that you’re lost, you won’t want to be saved. But for those who are aware, Christ is precious and valuable- a treasure to savor your whole life. We’re praying that people would be aware and put their faith in Him.

There are some other verses that talk about this darkness.

2 Cor 4:3-5 says
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
We’re asking that the veil would be removed from the eyes of the people around us- that they would no longer be blinded, but SEEING.

Also Acts 26:17-18
“I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
This was God’s message to Paul. It’s our appeal for our Cousin friends and neighbors.

Please Lord, let your light shine in dark places. Open the eyes of the people around us so that they may see you as beautiful and precious. Remove the veil Lord in front of their hearts. Give them the ability to treasure you as you deserve and our hearts desire. Amen!

Jesus says in John 6:44-45 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘They will all be taught be God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me.”

I heard this sermon from Pastor John Piper recently that really put in perspective just WHO and HOW a person comes to a saving relationship with God- not everyone, but only those who are DRAWN to him. And those who are drawn to Him have to be taught or told about Him first. This concept has tremendous implications all the way from the Sunday school classroom to the mission field. Only those who are being drawn and taught will come. I was really blessed by these insights.