Breaking Point

Through out SE Asia we’ve ridden our fair share of night buses. They are the cheapest and most efficient way to travel through the lands. And so it was, that we took a night bus from Bagan to Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Renting a car was out of the question because of the laws in the country prohibiting how tourist can travel. A flight would only take one and a half hours but was well out of our price range and so, the night bus it was. We booked the trip on JJ (Joyous Journeys) Bus line, one of the most reputable in Myanmar. The trip by bus would be approximately 10 hours and would drop us off at the Central Rail Station in Yangon.

These treks via plane, train or bus are all part of the journey and although we’d rather the transitions be more efficient, this particular trip allowed us to see a few things. One, we saw parts of local life on that overnight bus that we would not have experienced in any other way. And, secondly, on a personal note, it was on this particular night bus that I found my breaking point.

As we boarded the bus at 10pm, our seating was scattered throughout the bus and we noticed that we were definitely the minority. The hostess was kind and meek. She spoke enough english to communicate logistics but struggled to command authority from the other foreigners that were riding the bus. For instance, one of the bus riders insisted on taking the whole back seat of the bus, even though the seats were already assigned. The hostess was trying to explain to him in her broken words that the back was meant for the crew to take shifts sleeping in throughout the night. In the end, she didn’t argue but left the man to his own devices and resorted to using his single seat as their refuge during the ride.

We were all given a bottle of water and a wipe to clean our hands, as well as, a blanket and a small pillow. The bus fired up, the lights went down and people started to settle in for the long sleep. As I stared out the window, I noticed every now and then, activity along the roadsides. Even at the late hour, people made their way here and there, small burning fires, making street food, hoping for a sale from passers-by. And then all of a sudden, the night would go black again. No street lights or signs posted, just the ebony of night and the majestic stars dancing in the wide open sky.

At 3 am we eventually stopped at a “rest stop” which offered some western amenities (toilets and a cafe). The lights inside the bus went on abruptly and we were all told we had to exit the bus as this was to be a 30 min stop for our driver to eat his meal. We all stumbled off of the bus, while ladies with different food items on trays approached us aggressively trying to sell us their goods before we went into the cafe. Still getting our bearings, we took a quick look around the dark parking lot. There was a chill in the air as clouds blew in and shadows began to cover the sky like a thick blanket. There were small camp fires burning here and there. The locals were covered in traditional dress and scattered throughout the parking lot; some sitting or sleeping on mats and some cooking over open fires. We saw truck loads of migrants (men, women and children) and other trucks with loads of women and children, just silhouettes, being transported in the middle of the night, to who knows where, to do who knows what.

We all made our way across the parking lot to the toilet block but hadn’t discussed where to meet up after. However, assumptions had lead us all back into the cafe, all of us that is, but our son. My husband, daughter and I sat for a moment waiting on him but after an uncomfortable amount of time a wave of concern began to wash over us. We all split up and began to scour the area, checking the toilet blocks, wandering the faintly lit laneway, looking in other buses and trucks, checking the vendors and doing it all over again. Our hearts pounding, we were in a quandary. He was nowhere to be found. We had lost our son! I started to think the worst. He was taken. I mean why not? Our son is a handsome 14 yr old fella. And, after everything we saw and learned in Pattaya, Thailand, my mind started to wonder. Panic set in as the bus driver yelled for us all to get back on the bus.

We all moved towards the bus, Craig boarded first and announced that he was going to look on the bus, to see if our son had gone back before us. I was last to board, waiting with bated breath to hear from the back of the bus. Time seemed to stand still as I took my first steps onto the bus, darting my eyes back and forth over the grounds. This couldn’t be, we couldn’t just leave. Of course we couldn’t! I was about to alert the bus driver that we had a missing child. Language barrier or not, he should be able to hear the distress in a mother’s voice and take heed. Then, just before I could speak, Craig yelled from the back of the bus, he’s here! He’s here!!

He had been on the bus the whole time and had no idea that we had nearly lost our minds looking for him. He had gone directly from the toilet block back to the bus. He was just there, curled up like a baby, sleeping soundly in his seat.

As my rational mind returned I took note to breath, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. I gave him a big cuddle and went back to my seat. Sleep evaded me so I prayed. I could feel myself breaking. The episode at the bus stop had exacerbated what was already there, lying under the surface. All these years on the road, all these faces we had seen throughout the US, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and now Myanmar, all the divine appointments, all the stories, the sounds, the smells, they all took my breath away.  shutterstock_122158012_broken-heart1It was all becoming overwhelming and I was weary. Yes, we’ve had many amazing experiences but we’ve also felt the sting of injustice and tasted the bitterness of corruption. We had gladly allowed ourselves to be woven together with the saints, sitting and listening to story after story from those the “Empire” would deem unimportant. We had taken time to feel and understand, to help share the burdens of the afflicted, to offer prayer and share our gifts of encouragement. However, I had to admit that our battle wounds were deep and the load was becoming to heavy to bear. It was here in this moment that I realized that I had been shouldering some of these burdens on my own accord and finally surrendered them and laid them all down at the feet of the Almighty.

I wept, longing for “Thy Kingdom come,” asking for a new song, for a sort of prayer for restoration for those I had met along the way but, also for my own soul. A thirst for healing began to flow out of me and this poem is what followed.

~Here we are rolling along this same old road, ragged and worn, my heart is heavy, the hour is nigh and I’m still awake.
~Thinking about that river that flows, down the mountains into the fold of love and life and happiness, for all who seek.
~Child of Love, don’t you see, the trees that run down the river to the east where the water flows from salt to life and the healing is complete
~And, when those trouble come my way and pride has mounted, so I can not see, I ask the Lord to show me the way because my heart faileth me.
~Then His right hand lifted me up, brought me out of the pit that had trapped me, set my foot on the rock of life, now I’ve been set free
~Child of Love, don’t you see, the trees that run down the river to the east where the water flows from salt to life and the healing is complete
~Well I sat upon that rock, looking out over the canyon towards the west, as the sun it went down, my heart it filled up,
~Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of your book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God yea, I sing.
~Child of Love, don’t you see, the trees that run down the river to the east where the water flows from salt to life and the healing is complete
~…So I gave over myself and asked the Lord to teach me to pray, and he whispered in my ear, come down to the river with me.
~And he sang, Oh darling let’s go down, let’s go down won’t you come on down. Oh darling, let’s go down, down to the river to pray.
~And he sang, Oh darling let’s go down, let’s go down won’t you come on down. Oh darling, let’s go down, down to the river to pray.

Myanmar-river-small-mountain-river-Shan-State-Burma….And, this river of life, these healing waters, are all that make any sense to me right now. And, as each face, name or story comes to mind, I knew then, as I know now that I’m going to just need a little bit time to sit. Time to just rest at the water’s edge and pray. Time to allow the pieces of my heart to be woven back together.

More Than Meets The Eye

We are not blind to the chaos and injustice that we see all around us. We write about the hope that we see, we write about the delight that we experience in this life, but we see the ugly. We see it in the nooks and crannies of the city streets, we see it in the media, we see it when we sit at a table with others and hear their stories of betrayal and disconnect. We see it clearly and it breaks our hearts. There are times that the burden is so heavy I want to scream out. I want to cry to the heavens, Lord have mercy!!

I see an Empire system that builds armies and weapons of mass destruction, waging war in the name of peace, and bringing justice seems to fall short, offering mercy to some and the hand of death to others. I see a system that continues to oppress the down trodden, making it impossible for some to walk freely in their own skin. I see a world that is unprincipled, dog-eat-dog, a world that doesn’t fight fair. It’s not just “them or those people” either as this Empire system seeps into the everyday life. Heads held high as a sibling smites one another or a husband and wife who build a marriage based on lies or discord. This Empire wages war in the depth of our very own hearts.

What if by buying into this system, suggesting this is just the natural order of things, we are being duped? I hate being duped! What if there is another option? What if we we’re created to live a different way? What if there really is such a thing as “Thy Kingdom Come?” And, what if it is available in the here and now?

Scripture says that Jesus prayed those words. He prayed “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And, by praying this, He teaches us that the two aren’t so far apart, he prays it and then we see through out his life that he does just that. He brings heaven to earth. We see him heal the lame, give sight to the blind, freeing those oppressed by the bondage of addiction, self-centeredness and/or evil spirits. And, then we see him fulfill his covenant to humanity by laying down his life so we might live this kingdom life as well. In the beginning was the word, and the word was God. Everything was created through him, nothing – not one thing came into being without him. It is what the new convent of his blood on the cross was all about, a focused center: One man dies for everyone. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. A resurrection life, a Kingdom life, a far better life than people lived on their own.

Empire suggests that only a select few have this option, and that man will judge who comes and goes. But, Thy kingdom come, says that no one who trusts God, heart and soul, will ever regret it.

IMG_9391As we move towards a Kingdom mindset, we find freedom from the fear and pride that keeps us locked into making sure we are on top and not on the bottom; for to be on the bottom would surely mean death, and if not death then isolation and rejection. This freedom results in a confidence in God’s love and empowers us to pray and live out “Thy Kingdom Come” as we wait for the final frontier.  The ancient text says that Jesus will return and when he does he will rule the world with peace, a peace that passes all understanding, peace without the sword. The ancient text says that living water will flow from the city center bringing life to all, and the lion will lay with the lamb. It says that his rule will once and for all set the captives free.

I realize I’m probably part of a minority, but I’m holding on, not because I think I’m going to get something out of it, but because I’m convinced that the God of all gods is who he says he his and his purposes shall stand. I’m convinced that God’s grace is real and nothing can separate me from his love.

And, so although we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. Instead, we expose this empire, this Government of Condemnation, by smashing it’s warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulses into the structure of life shaped by Christ. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt system by “living out” thy kingdom come, loosing the bonds, healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free, bringing peace and love, resurrection power and the ministry of reconciliation to all we meet.

Yes, these are hard times, but we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

As the encouraging words from James, Jesus’ younger brother say, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.”