Thursday, March 31, 2005

Check it out...

Our Sharps Abroad blog now has our Thailand trip on it as well as some information on supporting us this summer or coming out yourself. Please check this blog out as you have time.

The Yin and Yang of the Gospel

I was thinking about how I want to get a tattoo on my left ankle to offset the tattoo on my right. The one of my right says, "broken" and I want to get one on the other to say "Shalom" or wholeness/completeness/peace on the other. Shalom seems the simplest way to put it.

This got me to thinking about the dual nature of the gospel (it's probably way more multifaceted than that, but let's start here) and how it must be in balance.

In Eastern thought, there is the understanding of the yin-yang. While "yin" would be dark, passive, downward, cold, contracting, and weak, "yang" would be bright, active, upward, hot, expanding, and strong. The shape of the yin and yang sections of the symbol, actually gives you a sense of the continual movement of these two energies, yin to yang and yang to yin, causing everything to happen: just as things expand and contract, and temperature changes from hot to cold.

I was thinking about this in regards to the gospel and my life. It seems similar. There is the yin: the recognition that we are broken, in some ways helpless, in need of something greater than ourselves, sinful, however you say it. This is a key piece of the understanding of gospel and living in rhythm with God. It is a denouncing of pride and arrogance and simply saying, "The same potential for evil that is in say 'terrorists' is the same potential for evil in me."

The yang is a kind of idealism, a kind of "holiness" you might say, a kind of "upward movement". This is also important. It is important to be forming and growing in a good direction. To be dying to self, to be putting others' needs before our own, to be a help in healing the world.

The first without the latter is a sort of narcissistic negativism, but the latter without the former is just simply self-righteousness. I have seen (in my life and in other's) a desire to stay on one side or the other... instead of living in the balance and tension of the in-between.

We are fooling ourselves to think we are one or the other; we are both.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Some Thoughts on Idols...

So, when we were laid over in Bangkok, we had some good conversation with our friends about religions and understandings of the world. One of the girls is a sort of post-Christian, Hindu/Buddhist seeker. We had some great conversation about finding truth in other places than we previously expected it.

One key word that has defined the church in the Western world (at least) is control. The church has controlled they way so many people think, feel, and live. Now, on the surface (and to many Christians or churchpeople) that might sound good, but to the rest of the waking world, it is an awful thing. It can be suffocating and dangerous. But that's another topic for another blog entry...

What I wanted to talk about was the notion of idols, particularly in respect to Christian idols.

Before I began to understand (and I am really just barely beginning) the differences and similarities in other religions, their histories, their failures and successes, their motives, their stories, their worldviews, I figured things much differently. When I would read passages in the Old Testament, I would see a God angered by the worship of idols... a God furious about that.

Because I didn't really know of idols in my tradition; I just knew of the "other religious idols" like little trinkets of other gods.

Here's my point (cause I could ramble all day on this topic): I still think that God hates idols. But I think many people miss a great many things: First, when they see a Buddha as an idol, they forget that Sidartha Guatama himself would not have wanted golden idols made of himself. I am saying it does not discredit the entire religion/philosophy. What he taught was/is very synonomous to the Christian gospel. A sort of death to self. In fact, Mahayana Buddhism is a very dying-to-self-for-the-good-of-all kind of tradition.

Hinduism, which boasts 330 million gods is often misunderstood as well. The ultimate force is Brahman. This is very similar to the Tao (which was one way to translate Logos from Greek into Chinese language) in that it is the ultimate reality that holds all together and is the good in all things.

Well, in Hinduism, this Brahman was represented by these gods (think metaphors for the Ultimate) because no one could fully describe the ultimate, so they settled for these smaller understandings of him/her/whatever. Can you see where I am going? That the idols and smaller gods were not the point! Of course there are still idols worshipped, but that wasn't the point in Hinduism: the point was God.

Well, I now turn my eyes towards Christianity... a religion free of idols, right? Not so fast. I think of how many people see Jesus on the cross as the ultimate expression of God. Well, it's just not true. God cannot be summed up in that man hanging on the cross. What about God as Creator? What about God as judge? What about Jesus who lived a simple life? Taught love? Lived it out? Certainly some of these things are there in the cross, but not all.

So, perhaps the crosses in our houses of worship are just as much idols as the little gods of Hinduism? I think the point about idols is it stops short of seeing the big picture. It is a worship of the metaphor of God or a specific story of God and not the whole of God. Does this make sense? And I don't mean to take away the hugeness of the Cross of Christ, but I don't think that is the entire point... especially when you consider how little of the Scriptures are devoted to it, you know?

Perhaps some hold to the picture of Jesus with the children, all lovey-dovey... oh Jesus, the representation of God that asks nothing of me, except just to be with him. He really didn't really want me to die to self or whatnot. Can you see how we can miss the boat when we honor idols?

So, to sum up: Yes, of course there are idols which miss the point, but they are in all religions (especially folk religions) and the gospel is to awaken people to the greater God who is behind all that... or perhaps it's even greater than that...

My ears are still ringing... seriously...

So, these first few days back from Thailand have been/are going to be a whirlwind.

Got in Sunday. Yesterday, we woke at the crack of dawn for Holly to go back to work and for me to get to work here at home. Did some school. Then, at 2pm, I left our house to pick Holly up. We had floor tickets to the opening U2 show. Sweet.

We arrived at the San Diego Sports Arena around 3.30pm or so. Stood in line. Doors were supposed to open at 6pm, but it didn't happen until 6.40pm or so. Ouch! It was so cold outside! Stood with some cool people and some crazies (as my mom would call them). This one guy behind me said he was getting so pissed becase it was so cold, and they were not letting us in. He said the only f-ing person he would f-ing wait in this kind of f-ing line for was Jesus... for his resurrection... he said he would camp out for days for that. Interesting stuff.

Finally the start letting people in. Oh, I should tell you that our dear friends Damien and Jen O'Farrell brought us some dinner from Rubio's. Thanks guys! They head to Ireland next week. Sweet.

So, they start letting people in. They tell us that you will get one wrist band which means you are on the floor. But they are doing a 'lottery' to select who will be in the "egg"... kinda like the Elevation tour's "heart". We convinced ourselves that we would not be getting in the "egg" and went on about our way... but when my ticket was scanned, boom! we were in the "egg"... Wow.

We entered the "egg" and it felt like I could probably touch The Edge's equiptment. We headed to the back of the "egg" because we were told that is the best place for being near Bono and usually the band comes out to the edge there to play. That was good advice. We were near everyone except Adam, who never made his way out. No big.

Let me recap: I was 5 feet from Bono, The Edge, and Larry Mullin, Jr. Seriously.

They show was great. Many old tunes. Staging and lighting were fantastic. We didn't take a camera, but some of the folks we befriended in line did and promised to email them (fingers crossed)...

Oh, another thing. Since we were standing in the back of the "egg" (probably 30 feet from the stage which made it feel like a small venue really), we were near the press cameras. They took several pictures of Holly and I. One photo they took of us holding hands with our dual-wristbands on each arm, signifying that we had made it into the "egg". Wow. Must have been half a dozen of them took pictures of our arms. Hope to see the picture somewhere.

If and when I get photos of the show, I will post them up... promise.

Today, after a 7am backpacking class, I came back and slept and skipped school. Shouldn't have done that, but seriously, I am more tired than I thought... and my ears are still ringing... and I have a show to play myself this evening...

Monday, March 28, 2005

New Blog

Hey there, Holly and I are starting a new blog that will contain our stories from abroad and our preparation and whatnot. It is

We will move most of our Thailand correspondance about this last trip and future trips over there. I will still post from time to time on this blog about updates on the other blog. Make sense? So you don't have to subscribe to the other blog... but you can if you want...

Earthquake. Possible Tsunami.

From US Geological Service: "A great earthquake occurred at 16:09:36 (UTC) on Monday, March 28, 2005. The magnitude 8.7 event has been located in NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)"

Please be in prayer about this.


Tonight: U2 in San Diego.

Big deal though, because tomorrow is CLOVER... live in concert...

That's right folks, for one night only, in Fullerton, CA, CLOVER is doing a little diddy...

The details: 8pm, this Tuesday, March 29, 2005, at Plush Design Lab with none other than Mike Barnet... You heard it right, Mike Barnet. And there is no cover. And it is all ages. Wow.

This should be a great show. Would you miss that? I do hope not.

Okay, I'm still jetlagging from Thailand... see you Tuesday night!

For a map, check out or use the info below...

Plush Design Lab
207 N. Harbor Blvd
Fullerton, Ca. 92832

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Laid-over in HK

Hey there. Our flight from Bangkok was delayed, causing us to miss our connection to LAX. We were put up in a nice hotel in Hong Kong with 4 others... cool people... stories galore of God at work...

Eating a comped lunch of Indian, Malaysian, and Chinese food and then hopping on the next flight out of here.

This will be the longest Easter I have ever been a part of. It is now 2pm in the afternoon on Easter, and we will arrive into LAX around 2pm on Easter... long Easter.

Love to you all. Your prayers are deeply appreciated.

Day 9

Well, here we are, in the airport, awaiting our little plane to take us to big ole Bangkok. In some ways, it will be nice to be back home in our own bed, but it is hard to believe this trip is over. We are really ready to be back this summer.

So, that much is pretty much solidified: We are coming out this summer for a tentative 4-6 weeks (4 weeks in Phuket, 2 in Phi Phi). Holly has to make some arrangements with work and we need to get some people to help manage our affairs at home (like we just went into the negative because we couldn't transfer monies properly), but other than details, we are set.

Want to come out to help us? We figure it will cost about $1000/person to come out for a week with airfare, food, and lodging. We are planning on renting a house for our month out here, so you would stay with us. You won't need a car because we will be renting one for a month. All you need is that $1000 or so and an attitude of service. Interested? Please let us know. We are asking people to consider coming out for a week or so...

This morning we had a final meeting with Pastor Sujit and his wife. They prayed for us; we prayed for them. Good stuff. Then we packed... oh the arduous task! Next time we will travel lighter. We used less than half the clothes we packed. After meeting with them, we treated ourselves to reflexology massages... I know what you are thinking (if you have been following the blog): Two massages each on a relief trip? What's with that? You're probably right, but they cost less than $20 for the both of us to get a one-hour reflexology massage!!! And our traditional Thai massage we got our first day in Bangkok was even less!!! Wow. Perhaps I am more of a tourist that I'd like to think...

Anyway, we got the massages and then grabbed a quick lunch of chicken, rice, and chili sauce... mmm. And now we await our flight to Bangkok.

Thanks for all your prayers and thanks to those of you who have decided to help get us here and who have helped sponsor some of the projects we have been a part off out here. We will continue to make information available as more projects come up.

Our hope is to set up a blog that is dedicated to our ventures in SE Asia (just what Ryan needs: another blog...) so that you can keep updated and even make donations right there. You will also be able to track stories and whatnot.

Okay, we are about to board. Hope you are well. Looking forward to sharing our stories with you soon. Sawahdeekrap laa lahgohnkrap.

Day 8

[Listening to Ben Harper's "With My Own Two Hands"]

Didn't sleep too well, but oh well. Grabbed a breakfast at the hotel and then headed down the volunteer center. Today we would be laying bricks and building a wall. We didn't bring extra clothes since we thought this was going to be a day trip, so I washed our clothes in our outdoor shower.

After the tsunami, there was only 1 business that stayed open. Now there are almost 100 businesses that are re-opened. Things are happening. We bought some clothes and stuff here. This area really needs the cash. So few tourists right now, but it is an incredible place.

We didn't know exactly what we were doing, but we did an okay job I think.

Met a Canadian couple who are on a 6 month trek from Indonesia through Malaysia up to Thailand and then they will head north east to Laos, Vietnam and on into China (I think that's the intinerary they told me). Cool people... got to talk about a new kind of Christian that is out here in Thailand. Good stuff.

Took a look at some of the other beach. The tsunami hit hardest there on this island. It literally knocked the top off some of the palm trees.

After lunch, we helped wash dishes for a restaurant owner who was trying to open tomorrow. Much work had been done to her place by volunteers, so it was about ready to re-open. Here is Holly in hyperspeed-wash-mode.

Caught the 2.40pm ferry back to Phuket. Beautiful weather. Rained just before we left, so it was nice and overcast. Ahh...

Had some coffee on the boat and chatted with some of the workers on the boat. I tried out my Thai, they tried their (much better) English (Ang-grit).

Bye Bye to Phi Phi...

Once back on Phuket, we picked up Chris and Vicki and family and headed up to take them to the airport. On the way, we met up with Suvit and Dok for dinner. Mmm. Then Nong and Mr. X joined. After dinner (which was really very good) we headed to the airport.

Suvit and Dok...

Some pics of Chris and Vicki's kids...

Suvit owns a massage chair company and they have several of their chairs in the Phuket Intl Airport so he comped us some free minutes on the chairs... yah...

Our friends here... just a few really...

We then went home and got our clothes washed from the week... Tomorrow we leave the kingdom of Thailand... sad.

Day 7

Wow. We had no idea what was going on out here on Ko Phi Phi Don (the larger of the two or so islands), but when we arrived, we found out.

We took Peter with us to snorkel. That was an experience. I don't think he had ever swam before! But he was a good sport, trying it out. It was a beautiful time snorkeling near "The Beach" in the same bay. But sad, too. So many boats and so much pollution in the water and in the air. But hey, I was playing tourist that morning, so I can't complain...

On the way there, Holly and I met some Swedish fellas who we shared some common music likes with. Cool people. I got to talk with Marcus (left) for most of the trip there (about 2 hours). We talked about American politics and how in the world George Bush could call himself a follower of a man that 2000 years ago said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God". It was an great conversation. It was good for me to articulate the story of God as I see it and experience it with him. He was turned off to religion (as most young people in Sweden are, he said). I don't blame him. So many wars, so much hate, so much competition. It's ridiculous. Good talk. He gave me a CD of some of his music (he plays guitar in an acoustic pop band... good stuff, too...) and I'll post his website sometime soon...

Finally got on the island and wow... I have a whole slew of photos from this part of the trip that we can share with you if you would like. Really tragic stuff. But a great deal of hope there... there are so many volunteers helping rebuild.

We planned to come over for the day, but we found out that they needed volunteers, so we extended our stay. Very organized for day or week volunteers. You just come over and help out. Dee-mah. Very good.

We asked Peter if he wouldn't mind going back without us so that we could stay. He was cool so we stayed. He helped us for the few hours he was there. We cleared out an old Kodak shop where a family lived upstairs. In retrospect, we should have taken before and after pics, but we didn't have time. We hit the ground running. So sad how much of these people's lives were just destroyed. Wow.

Here's Holly working hard...

After work (just a few hours really), we headed to the beach and grabbed a beer and some food, like this Thai pancake. Mmm. Think thick crepe with bananas and peanut butter... mmm.

At 7pm, there was a meeting about the volunteer work for tomorrow. We decided to lay brick. Never done it, but what the heck...

This is a cool place. Many international travelers that are just here to help. Mostly Europeans and Canadians, some Americans, too. Thinking about coming back here on our summer trip out here.

Went to our hotel after some bbq chicken and rice. Need to sleep to be prepped for work tomorrow.

Day 6 Revised...

Today we had plans to meet Chris and family at 11am down on the south part of the island. Chris has been a very unexpected blessing on this trip. I think I mentioned before that Chris is kind of a consultant who travels between Thailand, China (where he now lives), Tibet, and other such places aiding and inspiring leaders. He's an aussie, so he has a certain sensitivity to Western involvement that only a citizen of a British commonwealth state could. What I mean is that he is really into empowering the indigenous peoples as opposed to colonizing them with Western Christianity. That's the last thing that is needed here... I'd like to think that we have been at least somewhat as sensitive.

So, since we had until 11am, Holly and I drove to the east side of the island to hike to a waterfall. Not much water, but found a little friend along the way. We were pretty much the only people around...

Beautiful drive there and back...

Afterwards we headed down to Chris and Vicki's hotel. And we had lunch and talked about what God is doing in this part of the world... good lunch... good stuff...

After we finished with lunch late in the day, we drove up to Thalang to meet Pastor Sujit and Peter (our friend from China who was visiting with Chris) to head up to the Thai Mai fishing village. We decided that it would be better for the gypsies to find a technician on their own and then pay for it. This way, the Thai Mai men are performing their duty and not just having everything done for them. This is a huge thing in attempting to help, but not Westernize: Help them do it themselves. If we had more time, we would find a boat builder and rebuild the boat with them... but we are leaving soon.

After we spent some time in the village (which we found out has a couple hundred people), we headed to dinner with Peter and Sujit. It was cool talking with Peter about the history of China and their religions. We both recognized that God has been at work there for a long time. It's interesting that I had heard in my world religions that in early (before common era) Chinese thought, they worshipped God (shen)... in fact, many Chinese still call China Shen Zhou or God's Land... but later on, they worshipped heaven (T'ien) and now (Peter says) they worship man. That is his critique of communism (and many a person's critique). I guess in America you would say that we have gone even a step further and begun to worship "stuff". At any rate, good conversation.

After dinner, Peter and Holly and I journeyed to a cell group and worshipped with them.

Then we headed back down to Chris' hotel to stay the night and catch the morning boat to the Phi-Phi Islands. This is where the movie "The Beach" was shot. It was also destroyed badly by the tsunami. We plan to be there for the day and come back in the evening. So long for now. Lah-gorn-krap.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Leaving Thailand Tomorrow

Forgive my lack of posting the last couple days, but the last 48 hours have been a bit of a whirlwind... Holly and I ventured down to Phi-Phi Don and ended up staying there because they needed extra volunteers...

After clearing out someone's home that was soiled by the tsunami, laying brick to build a wall for a laundrymat and cleaning dishes for a small restaurant owner, we are beat... oh, and add to that several hours of travel time with great discussions along the way. I have been more vocal and articulate about my faith in God's good work in the world than I have been ever before in my life. And it has come in such a natural way... something is going on out here.

It's funny also because my critique of America's policies and understandings of Christianity have won me great encouragement from people... people saying things like, "Oh thank you that you showed me that there are other kinds of Americas... or Christians..." Wow. God be praised.

So, more tomorrow when I have time. Now some rest. Good night (and good morning to you)...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Day 6 coming. We had a great day, but must head down to south part of the island tonight without laptop. Going to Phi-Phi Islands tomorrow. Will blog tomorrow night. Please pray for me as I am not feeling 100% and we are both very sunburned!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Day 5

Day 5 and we are not wanting to go home. It was a heavy day. It was a hopeful day.

Grabbed breakfast on the beach. Amazing fresh fruit and awful instant coffee. Yes, Lent is officially over on the Sharp calendar.

Pastors Suchit, Chat, and Port picked us up at 9am so that we could all head to the resettlement camps and see where rebuilding was taking place and find, again, those who had slipped through the cracks and figure out how to help them. All the places we visited today are north of Phuket Island on the mainland.

We first visited this area of remembrance and body storage. This was the central place where the Thai government, assisted in large part by Norway, brought all the bodies of the dead for people to pick them up for proper burial.

Kind of morbid, but these are the refrigerators they store the bodies in.

We left there and headed further north. The church that we are working with in Thalang, Phuket is assisting building two houses north of Phuket. Why so far away? Because someone called and said they had a need so the church met it.

It is an amazing way of doing things in a time such as this: When a need arises, see if you can meet it. It is better than just getting overwhelmed with how much destruction and hopelessness there is. Of course you cannot help every person, but help those who come to you. That is what we are trying to learn to do.

A car that was crushed by the tsunami. Many cars like this.

We met Jen, an internet cafe owner who lost all her computers and who's home was partially destroyed and the back fence obliterated. She lives alone so a fence is a big deal. She came to us for help. We are helping her. We need to raise $1250 to build the fence. I have promised the money, so if it is on your heart to help, please let us know.

After we promised her help, we left to Nom Kem, where the worst damage was. Of the 10,000 people who were in Thailand that died, over 1,000 of them died in Nom Kem. Tragic area. Hopeful though.
Here is a boat that was pushed in 100 meters or so from the ocean. This was not uncommon. Huge boats pushed several hundred meters in are everywhere where the tsunami was in this region.

Pastors Suchit and Chat knew some folks in the area, so we grabbed lunch with them. I was practicing my Thai all day. Poot dai neet noy. I speak a little. Good thai lunch.

Lunch turned into an impromptu church service with singing and preaching and people wanting to hear more about Jesus. I shared about how following Jesus or knowing God is not just about going to heaven after you die. It is about bringing goodness into the world now. God did not save us for later, but for now.

Holly shared as well...

Holly's new friend and a new Christian...

Destruction in Nom Kem... these photos just do not convey fully...

Dropped Chat off at his church. He is also a 28-year-old pastor...

We finally made it to the art tent at one of the resettlement camps... It was a hopeful place, but needs were already met, so we gave all the art supplies we brought to the church to use with the sea gypsy children.

Tonight, Holly and I were a part of the church staff planning meeting and one of the ladies who works with the gypsy kids shared how grateful she was for the art supplies. She was praying because she did not know what she was going to do next week with so many children... perfect. We worshipped together and had one of the more moving spiritual experiences of my life. Just a dozen or so of us.

We have family here now. Pastor Suchit is very supportive of us coming out for 4-6 weeks this summer. He is also very supportive of us moving here.

Everything is up in the air, but we are thinking about moving out here indefinitely in late fall of this year. I just throw that out there to ask you to pray for us wisdom and consider how you might be a part of this with us: visiting to join in assistance, helping financially (there will be a great many needs and projects), moving out here with us, or even something else.

Tomorrow we meet with Chris which should be good. Also finding the technician tomorrow since we didn't have time today. Thank you again for your prayers.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Day 4

Good day. Finally got a chance to see Phuket City and venture along the west side of the island. That is where the greatest tsunami damage was. It was a day of exploration more than anything really.

After driving past Phuket City, we saw this tower on a hill, so we drove to it. You can see all around the south parts of Phuket from the top.

We found a little hole in the wall place to eat. Really, most places here are little hole in the walls so you can feel good about the money that you give to people because it goes immediately to support their families.

The Thai make a beer called Singha, so I had to try some.

Mmm. We also had some chicken, fish and rice. Then for desert: papaya. Mmm.

We met a couple at lunch who told us about several key places to see about the tsunami's effects: Patong Beach (think Waikiki), Bang Thao, and a small village north of Surin Beach. So we went to all three places.

Most of Patong was already built back up. I guess that is the nature of a place that derives so much of its revenue from tourism. Grabbed some fruit for an afternoon snack. We have eaten so much fresh fruit. This time, we ate a yellow-colored watermelon.

We then headed up further north and saw some disturbing stuff. I plan to post a video once we are home. But for now, just some photos...

A small memorial on top of a sunken palm tree on Bang Thao Beach...

The foundation remains, but the rest was swept away...

Remnants of boat stuff high in the trees...

It's so sad how much the post-tsunami lack of tourism is affecting the area...

A hut that was sandwiched between the ocean and a cliff...

For an afternoon snack, we stopped at a little cafe on the beach. No one was there. It was also pouring down rain. Beautiful. We had a chance to talk to our sever(s). They looked bored to tears. We got to hear some stories about the tsunami in broken English. Half of the Sheraton Hotel staff on this beach were killed apparently. Wow.

Holly and I talked alot today. We talked about how we felt guilty that we weren't like building a house today or something else that was amazing. Truth be told, we were on our own today, and the best we could think to do was survey the damage, see the island. We talked at great length about moving out here. We are really considering a longer term trip this summer if we would prove helpful. I think we have found some connection with the sea gypsies, but we shall see.

I am also seeing the dire need to channel monies back into the economy by tourism. We have been trying to tip ridiculous amounts since most servers out here must be hurting... most of those in the tourist industry must be... So those whom I critiqued earlier before we left are perhaps more saintly than I gave them credit. Tourism is a tricky thing, but I guess any service-oriented industry can be. All that to say, if you were wanting to come to an amazingly beautiful place that is very tropical and friendly, please consider Phuket. It is so inexpensive once you get here. Housing for like $10-30/night and food for like $10-15/day.

Please continue to pray for us as we go tomorrow to the resettlement camps and then to find a technician to help rebuild the boat of the gypsies.