Wednesday

God is Fun

I really like God. I mean, I love Him, though not very well most days, but I like Him.

I think He's - cool.

Here's the deal. We are moving into a new house and we are just really excited. We also have lots of things to buy. Look at it this way. It's a house that has sinks and toilets and closets - and that's it. And we sold 90% of our stuff before we came down here. Trashcans, dish dryers - everything you can think of including furniture etc - we have to buy. And we're missionaries so there is a very real sense that our money is not ours. We're just stewards of other's generosity and we want to be GOOD stewards - we want to spend that money well.

So, yesterday I asked the Lord to help us do that. No specifics or anything, just asking my Father for help.

Well, across the street fro our language school is a guest house and the folks who own it are moving to Switzerland and selling everything. And we bought most of it. For really cheap. And it's this amazing wooden stuff like this:















That's a stool (the huggies we bought at the store :-)
And a bedside table.



Anyway, it's this amazing stuff and we got a table a 4 chairs, an armoire, mirrors, another table, a double bed for a guest room (come visit!) all for less than what we would have paid a carpenter to make 1 or 2 things. I mean, wow!

And this morning I just needed the Lord to show Me his glory. Ever feel like that, when you just sort want to me awed? Well, I read Psalm 24:

1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Selah

WOW! I mean, how awesome.

So God is Fun and being his child is fun. I think that's about all I have to say about that.

Sunday

Markets

When you see that word, what do you think of?

The NYSE?

401k?

In Guatemala, it means only one thing















We went to this market yesterday to look for a few things for the house. We got an earthen pot I think to put towels in. Ask Jenny. The Guatemalans use these to cook in. You should have seen the food.















And a big galvanized tub for Deacon's toys. Some great mugs for chocolate or coffee and I think a basket. Oh. And we got this:

Not the boy, the table and chairs! How cute is that!












But we experienced the smells and sounds of the market. They sell everything. Kitchen gadgets, salted fish, pots and pans, posters, beds, tables, machetes - I mean everything you could think of. DVD's (pirated of course), candy, FOOD oh man, the food. It's just amazing to see all these people put up tarps and little booths and hock their wares. And I'm way too tall to walk under the tarps. Lots of ducking.

We brought two friends of ours from Guatemala and they haggled prices for us because, honestly, white = wealthy here and we can't get a good price unless there's a tag on it. And for course, for Guatemala, we are wealthy. But man, I wish you could have seen it with us. Just imagine:



You smell body odor mixed with cooking corn tortillas and fried chicken. Your body is constantly bumped and moving. The air, thick with cooking fire smoke, fills with shouted Spanish and whispered Kiche as a Mayan woman in her traditional dress, colorful as the 4th of July, haggles the price of an enormous cooking pot. The heavy odor of salted fish slap your nose as you handle hand-made mugs, trying to find 4 matches. A price, a haggle, another price, and whispers up the volume. Hands wave in the air and heads shake the dust from their hair. It's settled. Carefully, very carefully, you count out money. Let no one see what you have. Fold the bills stained as a tea bag and trade them for your mugs. And hold your items close. It's been a good purchase.



It's so much fun and it made me think of markets in Bible times and how it really hasn't changed that much here. The stuff is different, but just the feel of the think - a real market economy and it's all in cash. Don't whip out your Visa here unless you want it pick-pocketed.

It made me love where we are and so that's a really good thing. Because I do not love this place everyday. But the Lord's working on a equilibrium. Roller coasters are only so long.

Thanks for looking.

Thursday

Apology accepted

Well, apologies ain't easy in Spanish either.

We live in a guest house that is on a pretty busy street. Sometimes there are cars blocking the entrance and I can't get the truck in and it's a pretty good-sized truck with the topper and all.

Well, we had to run some errands the other day and when we got back home there was no way I could get the truck in. So I left it on the street until later.

Well, later came and went and at about 8:45 I was getting ready to go play football (soccer) with some nationals. I was nervous and excited because I'm 30 and not exactly at my peak athletically but really wanted to build those relationships. Anyway - I had to pull the truck in first. And there was a big red bus just in the way. So I tried for 10 minutes backing in and out until I thought I had it - I didn't.

I scratched the door and fender panels pretty good. And my ego got scuffed up a bit too.

Well, I was pretty upset. I had damaged the truck, held up traffic for 10 minutes, missed playing soccer and was in a pretty foul mood. The woman who owns the guest house (a very understanding and patient lady, by the way) told me that if I had just been keeping a better watch I would have known that there was no bus there 2 hours before.

I basically threw my hands up and said thanks and walked away. Not too gracious.

The next day I told her I owed her an apology and she wouldn't even let me get it out. Apparently (according to a Guatemalan friend of ours) apologies, especially for sort of minor things, are not common at all - but really good. She was really understanding. So I ate a little crow and learned how to offer an apology in Spanish. And I learned that people, even those who don't know the Lord, can show more grace that I do.

Some days it's funny being human.

Monday

Happy monday!

Man. We had a great weekend. Deacon is getting fewer bites. They're not all gone, but there are less of them. We went to our new house and started really planning how we're going to manage moving in. Jenny and I put Deacon to bed early and watched Fun with Dick and Jane and split a pint of Hagen-Dazs. Not a bad time.

I mean, I got a little sick and Jenny's fighting Deacon's cold, but that's just the way of things. We also visited a new church, Agua Vida (Living Water) on Sunday. It's a pentecostal church. Now all you stuffies getting that worried feeling in your stomach, quit it. We aren't changing doctrines. But the worship was great. Too loud for poor Deacon, but at least folks there were free to worship how they pleased. And we understood some of the words! There was a testimony about God providing you with a closet full of clothes and new shoes just before the offertory. That irked me pretty bad. But what we heard of the sermon was decent. But it felt like that church had seen churches on TV in America and just copied what they did and that made me really sad. Because churches in the US don't always get it right and, I don't know, I like it when Guatemalan churches look different even if only a little.

So we're still in the church hunt. Please pray we find one close to our new home so that we can be close to the people in our church. We're dying for Guatemalan community to start and, honestly, we want to make church friends here. Because we miss all of you at CBC quite a lot. A whole lot, really. So thank you for loving us.

Now onto more Spanish verbs!

Saturday

I can see my breath

Its cold and beautiful this morning. It's 40 out here ( I have to check e-mail outside) and 58 in the house. Not cold for the states but cold for a place where no one has heat.

Birds sing in the morning although I don't ever see them. Oh wait. There's one now. I guess I've just never looked. Cool.

We like it here. Most of the time anyway. Thursday, there was all this haze in the air and my car looked like it was covered in gray flour. I asked what it was and was told that Santiagito was crazy today.















That's Santiagito - the little one in front. The big one is Santa Maria. We live in the valley on the other side, but when the wind is wrong, we get ashed. Not sure if that's good or bad but it is what it is. Probably we will try to stay indoors like on a red level ozone day in Dallas.

The town we live in is called Quetzaltenango but the Mayan name for it is Xelaju Noch (Xela -'shaylah' for short). It means "between 10 volcanoes". Since most of them are inactive it's pretty cool. Although a bit ashy.

You know what else is cool? My brother. Check out this great list on his blog.
He is such a great example of the grace of God. Those of you who think that's not the highest compliment don't understand God. I am more proud of Ian than any other person. Way to go God!

Ok. Happy saturday! No school today. Woo! We can learn Spanish sin escuela.


Thursday

The way of things

Deacon is still getting a few bites.

No one knows what is biting him.

And that's pretty much how it is.

The reality is that life doesn't give a lot of answers. Hardly ever really. We have people dear to us suffering after strokes, enduring cancer treatments and grinding through financial difficulty with no explanation.

So we keep on living through mysteries and other such things because, honestly, we're left with very few choices. God is not in the business of answering our every "Why?" He's in the business of being God. And if that includes an answer, then wonderful. But honestly, the answers aren't really all that important. We think they are, but they're not.

I was reminded this morning to study the Bible not to get something but to know who God is. You'd think I would never need that reminder, right? Hardly. So I read John 4 and I was just awed by how Jesus dealt with the Samaritan woman. I mean, and please pardon the vernacular here, but she was to the Jews a mongrel slut. And that's probably being kind. And I'm being really harsh.

But Jesus initiated a conversation with her, not to answer her questions but to reveal Himself to her. And in revealing Himself He revealed salvation to this broken, sinful woman who had been used by many men but never loved by one. Until Jesus shows up at the well.

The text says that Jesus "had to go through Samaria" because it's much better to go around the people you hate then near them. Because proximity always leaves the door open for contact and contact could lead to a relationship with mongrel sluts which, as everyone knows is a no-no for Good American Christians just as it was for Good Jewish Disciples. But Jesus isn't really all that concerned with the rules of men because He knows what's within us.

And I think that's why He's not all that interested in answering our questions or making our life easy. Because He knows what is within us and, honestly, it ain't that pretty. Be Jesus wants to make it pretty and good and whole and right. He just doesn't want to do it our way. And some days I wish He would.

What does all this have to do with Deacon's Mystery Bites? I have no idea. That's why I named this the Ramble Zone. But I know that in seeing my Lord intentionally minister to the rejects I realize how little I do it and how much more I need to. I have no idea what that will look like, but I know it will look different.

And Jesus cares about Deacon's bug bites. Know how I know? Because He cares about everyone. That's why He came in the first place. And so I take comfort, great big down-filled comfort in that.

And the bug bites will most likely stop. Someday.

Monday

Victory?

We have not signed a treaty aboard an aircraft carrier, but we are getting a LOT less bug bites.

Deacon and I marked our bites with a sharpie so we could tell when we had new ones and we're 2 days now with only 1 or 2 new bites each night. So we think that there are pockets of resistance which we will nuke as soon as we can. I figure the turnaround for bug-revolutions is pretty quick so best strike while the iron's hot.

Thanks, and I really mean thanks, for all your advice and support. I know it's just life on the mission field, but it sure is nice to have folks who care. Community is uber-cool. Thanks.

SO.

Now I can start blogging about things a little less, ah, infestationish.

And God has really been teaching us alot...can't wait to tell you.

Saturday

And who knows...

So.

In Guatemala everyone is absolutely positive they are right and everyone disagrees.

We still are not certain what is biting us other than it happens at night and itches enough to make a person cuss. Oh, but the itching is very much relieved by something called Caladrina that I bought in a pink bottle for Q 24.75 (that's about $3). It has benedryl and a few other things I can't figure out. But it works.

Anyway, we took Deacon to the pediatrician yesterday because he had so many bites and it's only about $15. He saw Deacon and immediately said he had chicken pocks - from across the room without even examining him. Sigh. He said it in Spanish, but Varicella sounds pretty much the same in any language I guess. Deacon has no fever or anything else - he doesn't have chicken pox and I sure don't have it because it almost killed me when I was 6. Anyway. So He then said that he has Acrara, which is Scabes (Sarcoptes scabiei) - scary name, huh? So we bought some bars of soap and are supposed to wash everyone with it and wash all our clothes etc. with this soap.

Then we showed Deacon to a bunch of people and they said it's fleas. Which makes sense because Lola-the-resident-Chihuahua has a lot of them and she sleeps all over, including near our door. So maybe its fleas.

We've also been told that it has to be an food allergy. Sigh. Now we're not doctors, but we're pretty sure it's not a food allergy. Who knows.

The best one is that it might be an allergic reaction to volcanic ash that lands on our clothes. This is my favorite for its exoticness, but it's not too likely. Why? I don't know. Because its Guatemala and everyone is in passionate disagreement with one another so I figured I'd side with the minority.

So, our plan?

We took all our bedclothes, undergarments, and everything of Deacon's that is near him when he sleeps and took them to a professional launderer. You can't go to a regular one because only high-end places use hot water to wash the clothes. We need hot water to kill whatever is in the blankets etc. and then they are to be dried on high. Cost us about $18. Not bad for what would have been about 4 loads of laundry. Folded and everything.

And we are spraying the place down again. Maybe Monday. We'll see if we get more bites.

And we're bathing with the soap. We have to lather Deacon up and then hold him still for 1 whole minute then rinse the dickens out of him. Hold a 13 month old soapy boy still for 60 seconds. Whew. We'll see how that goes.

And we're praying. Seriously. We're praying that the Lord remove this little mini-scourge.

And we think He will. One way or another.

Friday

Chinches

I have learned a new word:

Chinche.

It's Spanish for Bed Bug.

And we have them.

You know, I hate bugs. I'm allergic to wasps and grew up in Texas where Fire Ants are the dominant foreign invaders. I don't like june bugs or roaches (especially roaches) or, well, I don't hate all bugs. Ladybugs eat aphids, Praying Mantises are cool and butterflys. But that's about it.

Bed bugs. They bite Deacon, you know. Sweet baby Deacon so full of happy and life. 36 bites we counted. And we are angry.

So we did what the Guatemalans told us. We soaked his bedclothes in boiling water. We sprayed our whole house with bug spray and let it air out for a day.

And this morning I think he has new bites. Sigh.

So we're taking him to the doctor to see what he thinks. I have probably close to 100 bites. I'm bigger. They itch for 10 days. Jenny has, thankfully, only a few.

Pinche Chinches. I learned that's a sort-of bad word in Guatemala, a curse of sorts. Don't go saying it in church, but it's ok for the bugs.

We'll see what to do next.

6 weeks more and we get a new bed. A fresh, bug free bed. And a clean house with no bed bugs. Yet. But I can prevent them. There are ways the Guatemalans know. And they are skilled at fighting their enemies. We shall be victors.

Go ahead and say it: "Pinche Chinches". (Peen-che Cheen-che's). Say it with venom. Feels good huh? Yeah. It does.

Wednesday

A little lighter

Because Zippo's are too heavy....


Just kidding.

I was listening to some music yesterday and U2's "Walk On" came on. What a great song.
We have thing thing, faith, and it's a little odd because we have to believe in a place to go there but the place is real. Interesting. But the really cool part is that we WILL go there someday and the whole family of faith will be there together. Even cooler.

So for those of you who are having a crummy, awful or even just a blah day, remember where we're headed, even if it seems a really long way off: we're still headed there. And we're headed there together.





Saturday

Today

I'm reading Blue Like Jazz.

Its an earthy book, a memoirs on the Christian life. I love it. It's not uber-theological although there is deep theology in it. Those of you who have read it know what I mean. If you haven't, it's a really refreshing read.

Like any good book, it has made me think while I'm not actually reading it. Like tasting a peppermint long after its dissolved in your mouth. It's made me think, rather caused me to think about the reality of the Christian life. And its a pretty messy deal. But messy doesn't mean bad. I hope I'm not being too honest here, but life, my own Christian life, does not play like a movie. Well, I guess that depends on the movie. Some days feel a lot like the first 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Brutal and unrelenting. Others though are more like Sleepless in Seattle where everything turns out just fine. And then there are days like 12 Monkeys where I have no idea whats going on but it's fun anyway. I reckon most days are a little of each.

That's kind of my point. Each day has what it has. I can't fix tomorrow. When Jesus says that today has enough trouble of its own, He wasn't speaking in a parable. But the reality of the Christian life is that each day brings a whole new series of experiences, challenges and decisions - all of which come down to this one question: "Do you love Me?"

I trust the Lord because I love Him, not the other way around. That would be ridiculous. Trusting is risky. But not with the Lord. Trusting Him is surety. It's a guarantee of His presence, His help. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding", the Proverbs say. "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight."

That's a pretty good promise. But here's the kicker:

The straight path does not equal easy.

And that's where I get in the most trouble. You see, I'm selfish. I really am. I can serve people, but I like serving me better. I think about me most of the time. And it's frustrating. Because I want things easy. But easy is overrated. It's a farce, a shell game. We strive endlessly to make life easy instead of striving to love the Lord when only one of those things is important. Life would be easy I think if there were no sin. But that's not reality. Not yet. One day, one day Oh come Lord Jesus, there will be no sin. But today. Today there is and responding to God's love by loving Him in return and then trusting Him - that makes days OK.

We travel a lot. In Deacon's first 13 months we lived for more than a month in 7 different places. That's a lot of moving. A lot of being unable to put down roots; like treading water and only every couple of minutes being able to tippy-toe touch the bottom. It's exhausting. But Jenny and I were talking the other day and she said, "Think how much Jesus moved around." I mean, He walked everywhere. He had no place to lay His head, no 'home', no address. No permanence in location. Except one. He was constantly in communion with the Father. Not communication, communion - intimate rapport. And that made all the difference. That was His home: Communion with the Father. Something that is always the same, never changing yet experienced afresh each time. Because God made me for it I feel at home there.

Tomorrow we drive back to Xela (Shay-luh); back home. But really, that's a facade too. Because I'm a alien, and extranjero, a foreigner. I'm a white guy in Guatemala and I forever stick out. But there is a place where my Savior sits on a throne at the right hand of the Father. Where death has no sting and sin no foothold. Where I'm never late or forgetful; where I'll finally be home. Where I won't have to have faith anymore - where only love remains.

The thought of that makes for a pretty good day - even here.