Green is the color of life and today is full of it.
This Saturday morning I ride my motorbike up Doi Kham mountain, through some of the greenest foliage I have ever seen in my life to one of my favorite spots in Chiang Mai, Doi Kham Horseback Riding.
We ride through the thick green landscape, rich, rich, rich in all its greenness where two months ago it was a dry dusty brown. The green feeds my soul, my dry dusty soul.
Afterwards we sip coffee in a little cafe surrounded by rice fields in a small valley. Mountains rise on the side and light glints off the top of a temple spire built on the tip of the mountain. My coffee is perfect, not too strong with lots of milk. The sky has cleared from its early morning storminess, and color like I have not seen in a long time splashes the world with its life-giving vibrance. I savor the gift of friendship, the gift of coffee, the gift of being able to speak a language that 2 years ago was foreign, the gift of resting my mind from the daily challenges of work.
The day passes and the gifts keep coming. Sunflowers- yellow, brown and green- from a friend, cookies, summer sounds, tall, tall thunderheads towering in a brilliantly blue sky. Green grass in the shadow of palm trees with light shafting and glinting and dancing. I long for a camera since words cannot do justice. It seems like every waking moment is full of color. Why? Was it not there before? Or has God simply allowed my soul to see again? All through these sights and all through the day, two words keep on running through my mind.
Later rain torrents down from the thunderheads that now pour out their fury on the world. I am on my bike heading to the airport to meet a friend when it comes, and it is the worst rain I have ever driven in on a motorbike. But it brings a glory of its own— the challenge of driving in the rain with wind lashing and water coming up to mid tire at times. I feel at one with the rain at times like this. It seems to embody the human spirit— a lashing out at the sadness and evil of the world.
But the one most precious gift of the day keeps on coming back to me as I drive home late at night from a friend’s house. It is words that I keep on puzzling on, over and over again. This morning as we sat on the balcony of the cafe after our ride, drinking coffee, my Thai Buddhist friend says of his 14 year old son, “Chawin ok gab Pra Jao laao.” Literally translated he says, “Chawin is ok with God.”
I keep on mulling over these words, wishing I knew exactly what he meant. Chawin goes to a Christian school, and as I look back at memories of conversations about religion when he was present, I remember the look of understanding and empathy in his bright eyes as we talked about Jesus and Christianity. But does he mean that he believes in God? Does he mean that he has found peace with God?
I wish I knew. I wish I had asked.
But for now I am grateful at least this. Chawin is ok with God, whatever it means. And perhaps one day his father will be too.
Tonight I stand at the doorway of my home and watch thousands of people walking past, most of them holding small boats made of folded banana leaves with incense and candles on the top, heading to the river. They walk, some laughing and dancing, some singing, some with no expression, some sad. Interspersed with the people are trucks carrying large floats, some beautiful, some hideous, and in the middle of the floats are small images and idols of gods. At the river, they will light the candles and incense, attach some money to the boat and send it off down the river as a thank offering and sin offering to the river god. To some, it is a serious thing, yet others scarcely know what they are doing. It is beautiful and empty ritual, useless. It’s called Loi Kratong.
Tonight I hear a young man speak about his fear while living as a monk in a temple for one month. He talks of his fear of evil spirits in the temple at night, as well as dogs howling when they sense evil.
Tonight I see a face on the street. It is sad, lined with worry and fear.
Tonight I hear a story of superstition and fear, the fear of bad luck, and the belief that if a lizard cries more than nine times it brings good luck, and if less than nine times, it brings bad luck.
Today I see a little girl, moved with compassion at her father’s need for money for his farm, donate several hundred baht to her hero.
Last night I heard a seeking heart give voice to questions: How do you know if you have done something wrong? What if you have sinned and you don’t recognize it?
Today I listen to the heart of a woman, full of love for her children, seeking to give them the best she can, even when she doesn’t always know how.
Today I hear children praying for money for financial needs for kingdom work.
I am watching the fight of good and evil. Sometimes I forget this. Living in another country takes energy. Sometimes it seems all my energy is used up just in the process of living, and I feel like I am living only on the surface, floating along without making a difference in life, wrapped up in my own world. Then come glimpses, reminders. And for a little bit I can see and remember- there is more to this than I realize. At first glance it is hidden. But if you take a closer look, you can see that beneath the jewels and lights laughter and smiles and beauty of this country lies a heart of fear. Fear that can be catching and suffocating and compelling and controlling.
If only they could see with the eyes of God the army behind us.
God give me words to speak that they might know! And the courage to speak that they might be saved!
And a heart that is passionate enough to die to its own desires.