GREETINGS FROM PENANG, MALAYSIA!!!

2 10 2012

I am writing this week’s edition of rambling with  Pastor Rudy from Penang, Malaysia at the Dalat International School.  I had been given the honor to come clear across to the other side of the world to be the keynote speaker at their annual Spiritual Emphasis Week Conference.  Several times during every day in various settings and with ages that range all the way from elementary school through adult, I have been sweating up a storm in a good way as I have been speaking from my heart to these precious individuals.  Many of you who know me know that I love and definitely prefer colder climates and this isn’t it.

It is hot, humid and very rainy in Malaysia at this time of the year but in spite of working in the midst of weather conditions that I would never intentionally seek, it has been so cool where it counts the most as I have challenged and rallied the faculty, staff, student body and their families to get aggressive in their going and growing forwarding in matter of their faith.

I have encouraged them to go after God’s story for themselves and to dive totally into their relationship with the living God. Our theme has been “Soul Food” and we are not talking about the latest food recipes for the kind of spicy sustenance that can potentially give everybody who eats it heartburn. I am enthusiastically exhorting my audience to join me as we gather together around the banqueting table from above where the banner over all of us is God’s love and I am serving up fresh piping hot out of the oven heavenly bread and refreshingly cool and thirst- quenching living water that can ignite in all those who have ears to hear and wills to apply a burning heart.

I can honestly say that I had nothing close to a dull moment as I endured the 36-hour journey from Cape May County to arriving here. Being a big guy of 6-foot-four inches tall, you have to be very creative and extremely persistent when it comes to trying to sleep and relax in a seat that was ideally designed for somebody only 5-foot-2.  And no matter what flight I got on, the little dude who ends up assigned to the row in front of me seems to always have to put his seat back which of course forces my long legs into my mouth.

If I don’t keep my sense of humor in tact and on alert, I would lose my sanity.  One of the ways that I kept my mind off of my body being contorted like a pretzel was my fascination with the whole time zone deal. You see, somewhere along the way I actually jumped a day. I am presently functioning 12 hours ahead of all of you that are still stuck back home in the States. I marveled at the fact that I experienced true time travel because as I write this article today, you are still abiding in yesterday.  I pulled off this colossal feat of going back to the future without even the aid of a flux capacitor, 1.21 jiggawatts of power or a Delorean! Through the miracle of modern technology, I actually just wished Katie Risko who lives in Middle Township a Happy Birthday on Facebook and shared with her that I am enjoying some sweet Roti Babi- a local treat- on her behalf.  But for her, the clock has not yet struck midnight. By the time she gets to her special day, it will already be so yesterday for me as I will have moved on to tomorrow.

I can’t believe that I almost backed out of this adventure.  I get quite homesick these days when I have to be away from my wife, my children and my church for any length of time. I often search for excuses to get out of what I am not even giving myself a real chance to enter into. I am not a world traveler as much as I am a homebody. We can get so comfortable when we become too dependent on the regular rhythms and routines of our every day life.

Often to step out of our habitual agendas is scary and uneasy because we like life when it is manageable and controllable.  But one thing that I know about walking with God is that he will purposely shake us up a bit so that we won’t forget how much we need Him. When I finally listen and obey his directions, I also know that there will be no way that I will be able to finish a particular race that he has entered me in without my total surrender and submission to him.  I confess with embarrassment that I have missed out on way too many God stories for me because I did allow my anxious spirit to keep me from getting on track with the path that God has called me to follow him upon.

I am so glad that I followed the Lord back to Penang.  I was here last in October of 1999.  This place is amazing but so is every place that I go when I know God is initiating the itinerary. Our world is so much bigger than what we can see, taste, touch, smell and hear only in America. And every now and then, I wish that everybody could get an opportunity to go beyond their own comfort zone and exit beyond their backyard and see what God is doing in the big wide wonderful world that we live in.  God is so awe inspiring in his creation.

Some day Heaven will be filled with humans that make up every race, color, tribe, language and cultural background and it is fun to get a head start on meeting those that I will have the privilege of spending forever with.  The kids here have been such a gift to me.  I have enjoyed their questions, their company, their talents, their attentiveness and their tastes. They have embraced me in spite of the fact that I am not cool in any way shape or form, I don’t have spiky hair and my clothes definitely will not get me in any of the latest magazines! But they have adopted the old guy into their young lives and we have made an eternal connection.

Speaking of tastes, I love to try the new delicious cultural dishes along the way. I feel bad for people who only eat from a very small menu of items and won’t explore unfamiliar food because they can’t pronounce it or recognize it and they declare it off limits without even taking a chance. During my pit stop in Hong Kong, I had to try the barbecue goose that hung from a vendor’s cart in the airport.

At the McDonald’s there was something that was called the Shogun Burger, which included a meat pattie drenched in teriyaki sauce and topped with a fried egg.  Here in Penang, the senior class just took me out to lunch with them and I was treated to a bean curd plate that resembled tapioca pudding and was a sweet delight.  I drank down my first ever glass of soybean milk. Last night I ate an oyster dish that was out of this world. And believe it or not, I am presently crunching on anchovy chips as I am creating this masterpiece.

The Bible says “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and I strongly urge you all to be willing to broaden the boundaries of your appetite base when it comes to breaking bread with others that might be different than you, but still very much the same. There is nothing like sharing a meal that leads to the connecting of hearts, souls, minds and spirits. Make time to open the door to a potential new relationship.

I close with a sad reality of my return engagement to Malaysia. When I was here back in 1999, a 14- year-old Kaitlyn Anzelone and her mother Connie accompanied us.  There are many memories of her everywhere that I turn here.  I remember her being a little ticked at me when I made her share her story with the other students. Little did we know back then that she would be taken from us only six short years later.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Kait has inspired me so much on this trip.  I think of the need to unwrap every day as the gift that it is and to not wait until later to do what must be done right now just because we can.  We often get so bogged down by our yesterdays and so overwhelmed by our tomorrows that we lose the gift of the present.  Not this time Kaitlyn.  I have done everything here with the same reckless abandonment that you would have.  I have dedicated my mission to her memory and Kait, I think we have had ourselves quite the time. Thanks kiddo for still making a difference in my life.

So I hope to see you all soon when we get back together again in the same time zone.  I have many more stories of the trail to share with you. Until then, to infinity and beyond because that is just the way God does everything and if taking it over the limits is his style, then I want the same approach in my own life.


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