Monday, March 24, 2008

He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

How do I even begin to explain what this weekend means to me, as a Christian? The sermon we had at our church last weekend by Jeff Bucknam puts it best. Unfortunately, to type it all out would be quite long. I'll try to summarize as best as I can.

Jeff talked about what the Resurrection means to Christianity and to Christians. First, he said that the resurrection means EVERYTHING to Christianity and then he gave some amazing facts. He told us to pretend that we are a jury and we are to decide after he's given us the facts whether or not Jesus rising from the dead ever happened. Things like:
1) a man named Jesus actually lived (there's more evidence that Jesus lived than Caesar Augustus)
2) the tomb was empty 3 days after Jesus' death and the body was never found
3) people claimed to have seen Jesus alive after His death (none of these people EVER changed their stories - even after being threatened with death and some of them were killed because of it). There were many other things that I had never heard before and I had never thought to investigate because of what I will sometimes call my blind faith. Very compelling things that I don't know how anyone could argue against.

After Jeff gave us the facts, he told us the theories that have come about to try to explain Jesus' body being gone.
1) The Swoon Theory - Jesus didn't die, he just fainted (Roman soldiers had been doing this for years and were threatened with death themselves if a criminal didn't die, so you'd think they'd make pretty sure about that).

2) The Conspiracy Theory - The disciples stole His body and made up the story (again, none of them ever changed their stories and usually people only do something like that to gain something from it and they definitely didn't gain anything by it).

3) The Hallucination Theory - the disciples were so sad that they wanted Jesus to be alive so they started hallucinating (hallucinations are usually private and 500 people don't "see" the same thing at the same time as well as hallucinations usually only happen once unless you are insane, but many people saw him over and over, plus there's still no body in the tomb).

4) The Myth Theory - the story grew over time (myths are quite general, but the Bible is very specific - Jeff also had some amazing time lines compared to other historical documentation to back this up).

Pretty much what Jeff said at the end is that if you can disprove the Resurrection, you can disprove Christianity. He talked about a man named Antony Flew who was in a debate with a Christian (being an atheist at the time) and every point the Christian would make, Antony would say, "You're right. You're right." The Christian said to him afterwards, "What happened? That wasn't a debate," to which Antony said, "Because I think I believe everything you said." He's now written a book called There Is a God (How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). Our whole reason behind Christianity is the Resurrection. If there was no Resurrection, there is no hope. If there was no Resurrection, there is nothing after death, but if you go where the evidence leads, Jesus DID rise from the dead.

Of course Jeff puts this all way more eloquently than I ever could, so if you want to hear his whole sermon, click here.

This first part was all very important and directed at your mind, but then Jeff said, "Now let me talk to your heart for awhile." He then said that the Resurrection also means EVERYTHING to Christians. He said that because Jesus rose from the dead, one day so will I! That is VERY exciting and the whole reason to be a Christian is to one day live in Heaven with Him. Death is NOT the end! As a Christian, if I really believe that:
1) it would make me a pretty dangerous person because death cannot hold me. Life should not scare me because that's not all there is for me. Jeff says an amazing quote by N.T. Wright at the end of his sermon that you'll have to go listen to his sermon if you want to hear (sorry, I'm not trying to dupe you, but it's a really long quote). It talks about us as Christians being Easter people and that death has no hold over us.

2) it would change the way I see my present circumstances. How I live now is completely dependant on my belief in the future. There's a story from the 1700s of a man who was going to inherit a million dollars (which of course in that day and age would be about 10 million dollars now). On his way to pick up that inheritance, his carriage broke down. He had just been travelling with a smile on his face thinking about this inheritance and when he got out and saw that the wheel was broken and he would have to walk the last 5 miles into town, he cursed the heavens. The whole walk into town he complained, "My carriage is broken. My carriage is broken." A man mad at God and angry about his suffering is like a man on his way to the city to collect his inheritance while muttering, "My carriage is broken. My carriage is broken." Wow! What an amazing analogy. I DO NOT want to be that complainer. Yes, I'm still single at 35 and yes, I've been having troubles at my job lately and maybe someone cut me off in traffic yesterday, but you know what? I have an amazing inheritance waiting for me that FAR outweighs anything that can happen to me on earth. Why do I have this amazing inheritance? Because Jesus DIED for my sins and HE ROSE AGAIN to go and prepare a place for ME in Heaven. ME! Little old me. Now that's love and that's the God I believe in.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Final Days ... for real this time

We got home from Phi Phi Island pretty late, so Charlie didn't get picked up until the next morning. Everyone was very happy to see him.

The day before I left, I went and got my hair washed and straightened. It's super cheap (as are most things there) and of course the head massage feels wonderful. Can you guess what he's doing in the picture below?

He's washing my hair! As I'm sitting in the chair in front of the mirror. The thing he's holding above my head is like a little vinegar jar but it's full of water and he puts little bits of shampoo in one hand and pours little bits of water on with the other and then starts massaging it in ... and somehow, it doesn't drip. Not one little bit. In the picture below he's about to scoop off the excess suds and he goes to dump it in the sink and then comes back and keeps massaging. It's very strange but very fun.

In the end, you do go to the sink to rinse it out, but it's just so different that I had to take a picture.

Here we are having our last supper at Chili's.

This picture of Charlie and I would look a lot funnier if he had his tongue sticking out like he did about a second previously and a second later. I had just put on a wonderful smelling lotion on my legs, arms and face and all of a sudden Charlie was my best friend. He was following me around and every time I would stop he would all of a sudden be licking my leg. I didn't clue in right away that it was because of the lotion, but when I would pick him up (he is always VERY calm and sits like a child when you hold him) he would stare straight ahead and then slowly turn his head and start licking my neck. Ok, I know this will gross some of you out, but it actually was making us all laugh really hard. I think it might be one of those things where you had to be there.

The next morning was my departure date. I said goodbye to the kids in the evening before and luckily I know I'll see them again this summer, so it wasn't a teary goodbye. As we drive to the airport we pass the 13 km bridge that connects their island to the mainland.

Then we arrived at the airport. Jode and I said our goodbyes and were on our way. I'll actually get to see her again in a few weeks as she has to come to a city near me to take a course, so I'm looking forward to that. Goodbye Malaysia. Who knows if I'll ever see you again, but thanks for hosting me not once, but twice. You are a beautiful country.

I had the awesome privilege of stopping over again in Singapore to see my Bible School friends and this time I got to go to their place and see where they live. Almost all apartment complexes that I visited in Malaysia and Singapore have a pool and a workout room. Nice!

This was the Christmas tree that Lisa made for them. I thought it was so cute.

Roommates reunited. I'm so glad that we've stayed in touch and stayed friends over all these years, Lise. I'm praying for your health, work and school situations over there. Thank you for taking the time out to show me around and for letting me see your world. You are doing wonderful things over there. Love you guys!

I had a wonderful trip and it was extremely hard to come back ... especially when you wake up to this the next morning. I couldn't believe how many times it snowed here this year. Anyways, that was back in January and much has happened since then. Thank you for taking this tour of Southeast Asia with me. Back to the real world ... until my next trip! :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Last days ... on Phi Phi Island (you thought I was finishing my posts of my trip? No, I'm not done my tour quite yet!)

Please bare with me for this post and one more and THEN I will be done my posts about my trip. Thank you for your patience. :)

So, after a long day of snorkeling, we went and showered and chilled in our rooms for awhile. This was a common scene in our room. Ashtyn really did sit like that quite often. Whatever's comfortable, right? And I just love her hat. She's so cute. Yesterday was Syd's 15th birthday! Happy Birthday, Syd. You have turned into SUCH a great kid. Thank you for not being too cool to hang out with your old Aunt. :)

Just a few pics of our last day on the island. We walked the alley below MANY times to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, shopping, snorkeling, 7-11 trip or just to people watch if we'd had too much sun that day. :) I miss this alley and hope I will see it again someday.

Here are some pictures to prove that we went for Thai food and I ate it! Ok, maybe the look on my face says it all, but I really don't see what all the fuss is about. Craig said the Pad Thai wasn't very good, so maybe I need to give it another try ... maybe. Do you notice that my plate is empty? I ate it all (but also notice that my drink is pretty much gone, too. Always need something to wash it down. haha No, it wasn't THAT bad.)

I can't believe my sis has been married for 17 and a half years! Wow! Good on you guys.

Almost every day we went for a massage. My first day I just had the sunburn massage because, well, I was a tad sunburned, but after that I had a Thai massage every time. Have you ever had a Thai massage? Amazing. Seriously, pretty much the best massage I've EVER had. Ok, the hot stone massage at Spa at Pac.ific was really nice, but can't compare when it comes to prices. This Thai massage was $10 for an hour!

They work you good! Even little Jack got massages and loved them. He didn't get the Thai massage because it's a bit harsh for little bodies, but he would fall asleep almost instantly anyways, so it's a good thing they were cheap.

This little guy was the only cockroach I saw in Thailand. For those of you who say you don't want to go to Asia because there are so many bugs, sometimes that can be true, but we were there for 6 days and this was the only one we saw. While in Malaysia there was one in my sister's car and the girls had a little squealing, freak out session, but Auntie to the rescue and it was all taken care of.

December 31, 2007 on Phi Phi Island. We saw these weird lights floating through the air and wondered what they were, so we took a walk down to a different part of the island. The picture on the top, right is of the lantern being lit and let go. It works kind of like a hot air balloon in that the heat from the fire makes the lantern fill up and float. It looked absolutely beautiful filling the sky with these floating lanterns, however, apparently it's been banned in some cities due to not knowing which way the wind would blow and it could crash and start a fire and also because they float quite high and could intercept with planes. Oops!

We hung out on the beach waiting for the fireworks to start, but at about 11:10 pm we started getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, so we moved the party indoors. Jackson really wanted to play charades, so that's what we did until the fireworks started.

Happy New Year! Bring on 2008. Although New Year's is fun, it was also a reminder to me that my trip was coming to an end. We only had one more day on Phi Phi Island and then only another few days after that and I'd be heading back to Canada. :(

On New Year's Day we all did our own thing. The girls stayed in the room and watched TV for awhile while Jode, Craig and Jack went kayaking. I hung out on the beach reading the last Harry Potter book and just vegged. I was really into my book and didn't even realize that there was music playing at a restaurant down the beach until ... I hear ... "All is quiet, on New Year's Day ..." I had to put down my book and stop and listen to my favorite band in the world. What could be better than sitting on a quiet, beautiful beach in Thailand listening to U2. Aaahh, good times.

Our last supper together on Phi Phi Island and the only picture of all 6 of us together (although you can barely see Jackson).

Yet another sister picture. :) Although my sister and I had a pretty good relationship while growing up, I was always the pesty little sister and was always jealous of my cool, older sister. Being 2 years apart means we were into the same things (mostly) and there were a few fights over the years. As we've grown into adults, we have learned the importance of a good relationship and I value that we are now friends as well as sisters. I am very thankful to have you for a sister, Jode. I love you very much and love that we can be honest and upfront with each other and that we can also almost pee ourselves laughing sometimes.

Jackson wanted to have a drinking contest. These were milkshakes and all of a sudden I realized I was going to get a brain freeze if I drank too fast and plus I wanted to savour my drink throughout the meal (although they're so cheap you can buy 3 or 4 for the price of 1 back home), so I stopped drinking. He kept sipping away and we all said, "Jack, you're going to get a brain freeze!"

He threw up his hands and said, "I win! No brain freeze, but I do have a little bit of a headache." Funny kid.

The girls and I decided to get henna tattoos on our last night there so they would last longer when we got home (they were supposed to last 2 weeks, but had pretty much faded out after 1 week). I want to get my next (for real) tattoo on my wrist, so I thought it would be a good idea to get a fake one there first to see if I like it. Ashtyn wanted hers on her neck (like I have) and Syd wanted hers on her wrist the same as me. We all wanted something similar so we picked out the suns. I actually really liked mine so I know for sure that's where my next one will be (sorry, to those who don't like tattoos - I hope you don't think any less of me). I've told my Mom that she gets to design my next tattoo. I wonder how she's coming along with that (hint, hint, Mom).

The next morning it was time to head back to Malaysia. Here's my sister again in her jeans. :P

The 4 of us took our spots out on deck and Jode and Ashtyn went below again.

As we were pushing off, I took one last look around. Goodbye Phi Phi Island. I hope to come back and visit again some day.
About 2 minutes after we set sail, a huge swell came over the boat and we were soaked. I moved up to higher ground, but still got sprayed little bits here and there throughout the hour and a half ride. I thought as I was sitting there soaked to the bone that if I was on a ferry to Vancouver Island right then, I would've been upset and wet, but here I am on a ferry in the middle of the Andaman Sea in Thailand and it's so warm out that I'll be dry in a couple of minutes. Aaaah, this is the life.

When we landed in Krabi, Craig's brother and his girlfriend were there to greet us. They actually live on Vancouver Island and have a Thai food restaurant there, but she's from Krabi and they happened to be there visiting, so it was perfect timing for us to connect, the kids to see their Uncle again and for Craig to spend a few hours with his brother.

After we had lunch with them, we started our 7 hour drive home.

We saw some interesting things on the way home (who needs to MOW the middle of the freeways when you have cows to do that for you?) ...

we made a few minor pit stops on our way ....

and of course saw some pigs being transported.

It was a very fun trip within my trip. Thanks to Jode and her family for taking the time out of their schedules to go away with me and take me to this beautiful place. I will always remember my first trip to Phi Phi Island.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My favorite day on the island

Let me give you a bit of background here. I have a fear of water. Drowning is one of my biggest fears. Yes, I've heard it's a peaceful way to die, but really, how do "they" know that? I'm not buying it. I've been on a cruise and I did quite well, actually, but it was to Alaska and when we got close to icebergs and were inching along and I'd hear a big clump of ice go "bang" against the side of the ship ... it sent chills through my body. I've been on many a ferry and am alright until I look over the side and start thinking about how deep and dark it is down there. Ugh. I shudder even thinking about it right now. Now, you may ask if something happened to me when I was younger that put this fear into me, but no, there's nothing I can think of. Both my sisters seem to have the same fear. We weren't waterskiiers growing up and we didn't have a pool, so I'm not a great swimmer, so that doesn't help.

Anyways, my past snorkeling experiences have consisted of: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - I'd never really put my fears to the test so I jumped off the boat into the deep, dark water and immediately started hyperventilating and sucking in the salt water causing me to gag. I back paddled to the shore and sat there until the bell rang on the boat to leave and my friend Darrin had to pretty much piggy back me to shore (I wish I could find the picture of me with my fingernails dug into the poor guys shoulders). Great Barrier Reef, Australia - yeah, didn't happen. I had some good beach time while my friend Greg went and saw one of the wonders of the world - I'm such an idiot. Cancun, Mexico - Brenda finally got me out there. It was in a waterpark called Xel-Ha that's pretty much a bay that had a gate that really large outside fish couldn't get through (which was fine by me). I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I could see the bottom and that's what mattered.

Fast forward to present time on Phi Phi Island. My sister's whole family was talking about going snorkeling and I just sat there quietly until, I believe it was Ashtyn, asked me, "You're going to come, too, right Auntie Fiona?" I said, "Well, Ash, I'll come, but I can't promise that I'll snorkel." She didn't seem too pleased with that, but my sister talked to them about the fact that we all have fears and that this was mine and they would have to leave me alone and let me decide for myself. My bro-in-law took me out the day before with their snorkel gear and helped me practice. Walking in from the beach and slowly lowering yourself in is a lot different than jumping off the side of a boat into the deep water, but it was good practice to swim out farther and farther. My b-i-l was trying to teach me how to breathe with the snorkel and that sometimes it can be hard because it seems so un-natural. I said, "Dude, it's not the breathing I have a hard time with. I'm scared of the fish touching me!" Why? I don't know. What can they really do to me. They're the size of my hand and smaller ... most of them. Anyways, it was good to practice and see what I'd be missing out on.

Here we are getting on the boat. My palms are already clammy.

Remember Ashtyn asking me if I'd go snorkeling? Well, she didn't want to take a small boat and the large boat was too expensive for us all to go on, so I made her a deal. I said that if she put her fears aside for us to take the small boat, then I promised I would get out there and snorkel. Poor girl. Here she is on the small boat hiding her face. Her and I have opposite fears. I'm afraid to be IN the water and she's afraid to be ON the water. Thanks Ashtyn!

We had some amazingly beautiful scenery along the way to our first stop.

Do you remember when I took you on my aerial view of the Island? Off in the distance was Ko Phi Phi Leh where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed the movie The Beach. This is us coming up to that beach.
If you've seen the movie, this is where that guy gets attacked by the shark. Isn't that a nice image to have in my head?

It cost money to get out and step onto the beach (I can't remember how much, but I think it was something like $6 Cdn). Everyone else had already done it before, so they stayed in the boat and let me indulge myself. I HAD to say I'd set foot on the same beach as Leo, didn't I? :)

We asked our "captain" where was a good place to snorkel. He pointed just off to the right side of the bay and said, "You see Nemo here." So cute.

You want to see what Jackson's looking at? Scroll down.

SOOOOO many fish just off the side of our boat. Wow! Who needs to really get IN with them when you can see them right from your boat? Ok, ok. I'll go in. I made Ashtyn a promise. Here's my journey. Snorkel and mask firmly on ... One leg over the side ...

Two legs over the side ... but still hanging on for dear life ...

Ok, I've let go, but need to assess the situation a bit more ... Can I see the bottom? Check! Can I see lots of fish already that might touch me? Check! Oooooh, what am I doing?

One, two, three!!!! Here I goooooooo........
Ok, so far, so good. No hyperventilating yet ...

Holy Cow!!! It's beautiful under here. Did you guys know there were so many fish down here? Why didn't anyone tell me? :) About 2 seconds after the above picture was taken, Sydney threw some bread right next to my head .. which draws all the fish. I had a few seconds of freak out time, but at least my hair was in a ponytail so they didn't get caught up in it. Ok, shuddering again just thinking about it.
THUMBS UP!!! I REALLY like this kind of snorkeling. When my Dad saw this picture (without seeing all the others), he asked who's pool I was in. Isn't the water amazing? So warm and it didn't smell like ... well, you know ... ocean/fishy water. It was so awesome.

Don't I look like a pro, here? Like I've been doing it all my life. :)

Floating on top of the life jacket makes it a lot easier. Not as tiring.

Here's the lovely couple. Isn't snorkel gear so attractive? ha ha

I just love this picture of Jackson. He wasn't even posing. We stopped her for our second snorkel spot and I think he just stayed in the boat and "suntanned." No worries. He had sun screen slathered all over him. We saw more of the same fish here and yes, we did see Nemo and we also saw Dori ...

and we also saw Gill. Gill was my favorite. He's an Angelfish.
I didn't realize they'd be in cartoon under the water as well. :) No, unfortunately, I didn't buy one of those disposable underwater cameras, but somehow I don't think they would've quite captured the brilliant colours we saw. There were so many fish that I literally felt like I was one of those little scuba guys you see in people aquariums. Amazing. I loved swimming away a bit and turning around and seeing my family's floating legs with all the fish around them.

We went into another inlet where we didn't snorkel, but the kids had fun jumping off the boat. Aren't these fun pictures? I hope these kids realize how lucky they are.

The little posers.

We did stop at one more spot where I wasn't going to get out. It was called Shark Point. Do you see why I might want to skip that spot? I think I pointed it out when I first introduced you to the Island and we saw that amazing sailboat. It was the least sheltered of all the spots we stopped at. Craig and one of the kids got out and said the reef was really cool colours there, so we eventually all got out to take a look. The water was still clear here, but if I pulled my head up out of the water, all I saw was open ocean, so that place was a little more scary for me. I had to try hard NOT to think about how deep and dark it got and if I got swept away how utterly scary that would be. Luckily we didn't see any sharks at Shark Point, but we did see a lion fish. Apparently they are rare, so it as cool to see it (see below).

As I was looking on Wik.i.ped.ia to find this picture, I learned a little more about the lion fish ...
A Lionfish is any of several species of venomous marine fish. The lionfish are voracious predators. When they are hunting, they corner prey using their large fins and then use their lightning quick reflexes to swallow the prey whole. The venom of the spines is extremely painful, and lionfish are recommended for only the careful aquarist.

Nice. I'm glad I didn't know that while I was enamored and thinking, "Ooooh, aren't you a pretty fish!"
Here we are on our way home after a wonderful day of snorkeling. My fear has largely been put to rest and Ashtyn is crawled up at the bottom of the boat. Thanks again, Ash!

Now THAT was a great day!