Saturday, July 30, 2011

God's Masterpiece, His Temple

One day this week, we visited a Hindu temple. Apparently, this particular temple is renowned as a masterpiece and epic creation... The stone was cut in Italy and handcarved in India, shipped to the US and put together with no metal framing, like a puzzle, by 1700 volunteers in a matter of 16 months. Inside, it has 75 ceilings of 39 unique designs, pure white and highlighted with fiber optic effects. And of course, many idols in their own rooms, which must have naps, and be bathed, fed, and dressed regularly. The temple was built to withstand the test of time and harsh weather, predicted to stand for thousands of years. We watched a video about it, and prominant community figures such as the mayor and the head of the school board sang its praises.

We couldn't take pictures inside, but if you are interested in seeing what it's like, you can go to the official webpage: It was actually quite detailed and breathtaking to look at. Here are a couple of my pictures from the outside:

The doorway into the common area

The actual temple, or "Mundir"

When we entered the temple, it was so silent and reverent. The tour guide told us that we came at a good time - the idols had just woken from their nap. I stared at the carvings in the stones, and gazed straight up at those intricate ceilings, and asked God if there was anything he could speak to my heart in such a place.

He replayed in my mind parts of the video we watched, and I realized that all the boasting the Hindu worshipers could do was about the actual building, the stone and wood and craftsmanship designed by human hands. Very little was said or shown about the people who served and worshipped there. And as beautiful as it looked, it felt like a mausoleum - empty and dead. Then God put into my heart the glorious truth of His Word:

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." - Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

"And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: 'I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" - 2 Corinthians 6:16 (NLT)

We are God's masterpiece and His temple. He has designed and created us with his own two hands and divine imagination. He is the Great Artist and Architect, and He fashioned us to the praise of his glory. As beautiful as carved stone ceilings and columns are, they are only rock, and they will one day fade away. But God's temple is everlasting, and his kingdom will never end, because it is made up of his children - whom He loves deeply and knows intimately - the souls of those who call upon his name.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventure, exploration, discovery

I realized I've not written in two weeks. I've been at a training school in Illinois and have learned a lot about cultures and teamwork and leadership and personality and finances, and God's heart in all of that. I've made several attempts at writing about what I'm learning - I have several incomplete drafts just waiting to be completed and posted - but I haven't been able to process things fully while in the thick of it. I need time and space to really reflect and look at patterns and implications and big picture themes... What part of my personality profile does that reflect?? Come on, fellow training students, you know! ;)

Anyway, today is our last day at training, and tomorrow morning I will be heading back to my dear friends and family in Indiana. So in the next week, I am hoping to do some good processing and debriefing, and some of that will show up here. But if you are curious to know more, I'd be happy to share with you over a cup of tea or a bowl of ice cream....

One day last week, my friend Hannah and I were feeling particularly adventurous during our afternoon break, and decided to seize the beautiful day with all its sunshine and mystery. We started down a paved path that wound around and under a bridge and through a park and over another bridge. It was delightful but rather anticlimactic, as it ended in a parking lot. So we backpedaled to a fork in the path, which took us up a hill, around a bend, under some trees and down another hill... only to end up at another parking lot. Slightly unnerved at the lack of true adventure in this small suburbia, we backpedaled once more, until we spotted a not-so-paved path that veered into bushes and trees, the end of which we could not see. Acknowledging the risk that this could be just another way to a parking lot, we took the "road less traveled."

The first three paths meandered through semi-forest and somewhat-thicket for a few minutes, and just as we were getting excited about the possibility of discovering a lamppost, or a home with the name "Sanders" over the door, or a rope swing over a creek... we just found a rediculously steep hill that fell into oblivion... most likely to a parking lot. The last path we took led us to an atrociously large spider web that Hannah discovered once it was all over her, and being the courageous expeditioners of the wilderness that we are, we turned around and ran - RAN - back to the parking lot, squealing and shuttering all the way. As we shuffled defeatedly back down the road, we noticed that the grass path where we had our spider encounter simply led right back to the road we were now on.

My big question is, what's the point of making paths that lead to no where?

While at training, we had to do this thing called a "Life Map," on which we illustrate major life experiences that have shaped us, our personality profile and what it looks like, our strengths and spiritual gifts, and any other points - quotes, verses, pictures, etc - that are a part of our life in a key way. The purpose of the map is to help us see how God has created and developed us in a unique way to bring us to this point in our lives for this time and purpose, and see how he has revealed his heart to us through it all. It's exciting to see at least some of the intentional ways He has guided me and taught me over the years, and realize that every step, every experience and opportunity, was a gift from him to lead me deeper into his plan. He doesn't make mistakes, and he doesn't randomly throw things together; He always has a purpose, and his ways are always good.

I am so thankful God is a better planner than the suburban trailblazers of Illinois. Not only does he have a great plan, but He loves to make it exciting, too. I'm glad He is a God of adventure, exploration, and discovery!