And yes, God is still good

On the way to San Jose...Actually Comitancillo, we went through a town called San Marcos.

We don't care too much for this town because it's really difficult to find our way through. The streets are narrow, crowded and steep. Every time we drive through it we take a different route because we can't remember how we got through the maze last time.

Enrique was pulled up at a light. I was behind him pointed at about 2 O'clock because I was going around a parked taxi on my left. The light turned and so did Enrique. To our right a chicken bus was trying to wedge his way past me. The only problem with that is I was actually IN his way. So I honked and honked and screamed in spanish but, like always, he didn't hear and continued to scrape by me. Most of the paint washed off the dent due to the rain but it was a really pretty red and green.

So as we (Jenny, Deacon and I) are getting pushed into the taxi and the fender scratched by the bus, I remember thinking, "Hm. Not much I can do here."

After the bus had 'passed' I got out, locked the doors and calmly, thanks to Jenny's prayers, looked the damage over and watched in disbelief as the bus drove off. The taxi driver wasn't that upset and thankfully the traffic cop who witnessed the whole think seemed to think I was not at fault.

Enrique and I then went with the cop to the bus company owners house (weird, I know, but it's Guatemala) and talked to him. Then we went to see the actual bus owner while Enrique called the insurance company. We have bang up insurance. No pun intended. Well, maybe a little. Oh, Jenny, Chrissie, Deacon and Marissa were safely locked up in the trucks waiting for our return.

So the guy who owns the bus company talked just slightly more mumbly than Mush-Mouth from Fat Albert.
I was trying really hard to understand him but there was just no way. I got about 40% of what he was saying and I figured that he just wanted to pay us for the accident instead of going through the insurance. Why? Because that's what people do in the states. But we're not in the states so I brought Enrique in to help. The guy just wanted to make sure we knew he was available in case we had any problems. That's all. I have a lot to learn.

After that we loaded up and went to Comi. The pastor's seminar was just fantastic. The Lord really brought it together. Well received, no one fell asleep. A wonderful time of ministry. Thank you for your prayers. Praise God for His faithfulness. Wreck and all, He proves He is still good.

I do have some sort of bug - trying to figure out if I should wait it out or blast it with something. Es la vida.



Tomorrow I get the really, really wonderful opportunity to teach a pastor's seminar here. Well, not here, in another town called Comitancillo, and I'm really excited about it. It's the first time I have gotten to teach and well, I love doing that.

I'm also, of course, really nervous. I've never taught Guatemalans, much less Mayan pastors before - I've never even taught pastor's before, and there are all these cultural things that I just don't know. In the states, I know what is funny, what is serious, what is taboo. Here. Not so much. I will have a translator because my spanish is not quite where it needs to be for such an occasion and he will help a lot with that.

But the reality is that when a person teaches the Bible they have a huge responsibility. They are responsible for getting out of the way. And there is a part of me that doesn't want to get out of the way because I want all that praise and glory. I think, though, that there is another who doesn't want to get out of the way. Satan wants the praise and the glory and I'd really rather not emulate him. But Jesus - oh, well, He deserves the glory and yet He put His glory aside for a time in order to show us who God is. And that's the topic of the seminar: Who God Is. Wouldn't make a lot of sense for me to get in His way, now would it? I figure He's a lot better at teaching people who He is than I am.

Now I still have to talk and stand up there and read the Bible and ask good questions and all that stuff. But I don't have to do it on my own. I don't have to tell people how much I know about God because compared to how much He knows about Himself I don't think I'd have much to say. There's something really cool about being a vessel. Vessels have one responsibility, to hold something until the master of the vessel wants to pour it out. Then they get filled up and poured out. But a vessel that holds something really strong and good like wine or juice soaks up the properties of whatever it is they are holding. And when God calls you a vessel and fills you with His Spirit, well, that's an amazing fragrance to carry around.

So, fellow vessels, let's get poured out today.

I'll let you know on Wednesday what the Lord did.


What do you do when it rains?

Rainy season has begun.

See, in Guatemala there is a dry season (Oct-May) and a rainy season (May-Oct). There are not four seasons although the temps do fluctuate colder in the winter months and warmer in the summer.

Rainy season apparently means it rains every day. Not too hard and not for days on end. Storms begin to roll in over the mountains into the valley(check out Quetzaltenango on google earth) and rain comes with 'em. We have these windows on our 3rd floor porch that act like skylights into the house. They are just panes of glass set in metal frames. And they have not been caulked with silicone like I had asked our landlord. I know this because when rainy season started last night water poured down into our kitchen, on the fridge, etc. So I ran upstairs and did the best I could with a tarp, some cardboard and a roll of duct tape. I just love that stuff.

So today, Sunday, we had planned to go to church at 10 but Deacon threw up at about 7 - we think simply because he gagged coughing; he never did it again and by lunch time was good for 2 bananas and a bunch of crackers - and so we took care of him and did not get out of our PJ's for some time (like 4:00).

It's raining today and it's chilly and Jenny wanted Malt-o-Meal and I had some chili and we watched an episode of house and law and order and did laundry. I worked for a couple of hours on the pastor seminar I get to do Wednesday and I don't think I ever even put socks on. The dog doesn't want to go out so she's just hanging around inside.

It's been a nice day. I'm not sure what we will do here when it rains but it's going to rain a lot so I guess we'll find out.

When I was a kid I used to run down to the creek across the street and float home made boats in the rapids. I loved to see where the water went and how it all drained downhill and what parts of our yard did what when it rained. I love to go play in the rain and get all muddy in the creek. Nothing beats creek mud. The trampoline boinged (<--- spell check doesn't think that's a word - silly spell check) like a tympani drum when it was wet and if you could keep from slipping off you could have a lot of fun. Then after the rain ended everything was all clean and rinsed like dishes dripping dry.

We just love the rain.

What do you do when it rains?


Just thinking

So one of my dear friends had a great blog today and it got me thinking.

I have two kinds of righteousness. One is imputed to me, it's laid on me just because I have faith in Christ. I have the privilege of being a child of God, of having a position of righteousness, of having the righteousness even of Christ because He has given it to me. I take no credit because all I did was say, "I believe" and boom - I am righteous in the eyes of God.

But there is another righteousness that flows from the first one. See, I can make a choice to demonstrate the righteousness that's already present or I can cover it up and live my own life. The reality is that I AM righteous. Whether I want to demonstrate that, well, I apparently have some say in. I still have a responsibility to be the man that God made me, to demonstrate the reality He created. And I don't always make good choices in that regard.

Am I still a child of God? Of course. Does God still love me? Yes. But when I choose to live according to my desires and not the righteousness of God I am choosing to cover up the light that's supposed to shine in the darkness and in doing so I make a terrible mistake. See, I'm more like a bulb than the actual light. I was created so that God could shine the light of the gospel through me and light up a really dark world. But the Lord has given me the choice to cover the end of the end of the flashlight or let Him shine. Now, He could shine light without the bulb if He wanted but that's not how He has designed things. What does a bulb do in a flashlight? He snuggles into the socket, gets hooked up to the power, and shines! And I want to do THAT, not tell the Lord that He has things wired wrong or that I don't like the direction He's pointing me. That's not the point. The point is that if I submit to God, do what He wants instead of what I want and snuggle into that socket, then He will shine through me and I will get to participate in the very work of God. Which is a heck of a lot better than telling Him how to do things.

Anyway. Does that even make sense?


Higher reading

I found this in a great little book we read to Deacon:

It's a kid's poem, so make sure you read the rhythm. And if you really want a little fun, try it out-loud. It's better that way!

Dear God, today I moped around,
I almost sulked and acted blue;
I sighed and puttered, fussed and frowned,
And couldn't find a thing to do.

My eyes were blind, and didn't see
A hundred happy things, just meant,
To occupy a child like me,
And stop my selfish discontent.

O God, please help my heart to find
The happy things that come each day.
Please give just the sort of mind
That thinks in just the wisest way.

O help me every day I live
To see the blessings You have sent.
But, best of all, dear God, please give
My heart the blessing of content.

I LIKE it.

Have a contented day!


My son

I know that parents dote over their kids and I'm no different. But man, I really love our son. He's wonderful. It's cool to have a person who lets you love and love and love them and they never get tired of it. He's our little earthquake and he rumbles around our house and screams and laughs and falls and runs some more. When he's up he's moving and he's moving deeper into our hearts.

He also has really stinky diapers and gets mad (I wonder where he gets that?) and brings out my lack of patience when he whips his arms across his dinner tray like an umpire bringing a runner in safe. He cries when his teeth hurt and sleeps a lot when he's sick. But he's our son and half of him is me so when I see him I love him and I can't seem to get enough of him. And the other half of him is half of my best friend and lover, my bride my other half. So the math doesn't add up with all the halves but that doesn't really matter either because when he runs and screams "daddy" I'm not exactly crunching numbers.

He has a blankie and sucks his thumb just like I did and just like I did he will make terrible mistakes and get hurt and hurt other people. It's not our job to make him perfect but to love him and teach how to love the Lord. And I can't imagine understanding God's loved for me had He never given us a child because I never understood how much my parents loved me until I had a child to love of my own. How could I? And through this little 23 1/2 pound earthquake God has taught me what it means to love without return. But He's also taught me what it means to finally have that love reciprocated after waiting so long. And when my son cries out 'daddy' I listen and come and run and grab and hold and sing and love and I can only just imagine how deep my Father listens when I cry out 'abba' to Him and how He runs and grabs and holds and sings to my soul when I hurt and cry and my blankie and thumb just won't cut it anymore.

But He does come when we cry and maybe by doing that we can teach our son to do the same because the blankie won't be there forever - and neither will we.


The mysterious Who

So, some of my recent blogs may not have been too uplifting. But not every day is sunny so....

I've been wrestling with the tension that God is mysterious and yet knowable.

See, it says in Psalm 77

verse 13 Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?


verse 19 Your way was in the sea
And Your paths in the mighty waters,
And Your footprints may not be known.

I know God's way is holy but that doesn't mean I know how He works. He makes His way and I can't see His footprints. He's a mystery to me.

And yet Jesus says this in response to Thomas:

John 14:5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

So Thomas (doubting Thomas, no less) has the same question. He saw the Lord's path on the water but what he wanted was to walk in His footsteps. But Jesus didn't leave footprints in the water! The feet of faith leave no footprints. And So Jesus says, "You want to know the way? I am the way. Don't follow footprints. Follow Me."

And so that's kind of where I am. Not where I want to be, but hey. Of all the Bible characters I want to be associated with, Thomas is not tops for me. But I guess that doesn't really matter. I wish I could say that I just believed and followed and never questioned what in the world the Lord was up to. But I do question. He's always brought me around so I figure He'll keep doing what He's always done.

This may not be very 'righteous' coming from a missionary but it's where I am so I'm not sure what else to say. Come to think about it, I guess all those Bible characters asked the same question. And the Lord called them to Himself anyway. So take courage! The Lord is a friend to those who don't understand Him but keep seeking after Him anyway.


Culture slap

Ever get that feeling like you've been a jerk but you didn't know it at the time?

Well, yesterday we we told in the most gracious of manners that we had committed several cultural injuries to some folks here in Guatemala. The folks we had injured told the Coreanos what we had done and the Coreanos told them that they needed to approach us. They didn't. that's just not how most people do things here in Guatemala.

In order to help us out, the Coreanos told us (maintaining anonymity, of course) what we had done so that we would know and not repeat it. Same goes for us if they commit similar offenses. So it's a good thing. And it won't be the last time.

And we knew it was coming. They told us in training at MTI that we would, in the process of acculturation, hurt a lot of feelings. I mean, we knew that, but when you find out you have done it, well, it's a kick in the stomach. Because we don't WANT to act in such a way as to hurt folks but in ignorance we do just that.

Two of the things we did made it look like we think Guatemala is second-class. We talked about homeschooling our kids (a decision we haven't made yet) and it made them feel like we thought Guatemalan schools weren't good enough. We can afford the best private schools in Xela, and yet we want to teach our kids at home? Nobody does that here. Now, I know that our reasons for wanting to maybe homeschool have nothing to do with the quality of schools here. We'd be having the same discussion in the states. But that's not how it made the Guatemalan feel. Also, when Deacon was having his bug bites we took him to 3 different doctors; the best in Xela, and they didn't know what was wrong. And we got frustrated and voiced that. What that made the Guatemalan's feel like was that we can afford the best doctors, the best schools - more than 90% of Guatemalans - and yet we complained about the doctors and don't want to send our kids to their schools. And that made us look like arrogant jerks.

The reality is that we aren't free to express frustrations like we are in the states. We can't complain or gripe or express displeasure to many people here because it causes us to look uppity and demonstrates a better-than-you attitude. I know that's not our heart but that doesn't matter. What matters is what people think and we have to take that into account to such a degree that we are willing to silence ourselves, our reactions, expressions, in order to build relationships. Once we have deeper relationships we'll be able to express ourselves in culturally appropriate ways. But until that time comes we don't have that freedom.

And that's ok. Because that's what Jesus did. He gave up, put aside freedom so that we could have it. Because He considered us and loved us and His culture, well, He never made mistakes, but they didn't treat Him all that well anyway. So that's just how it is. The Lord tells us that it is "God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure...Do all things without grumbling or disputing so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent,children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." So I guess we do have a choice, a freedom. We can just 'be American' here. But that doesn't seem like a very good option when we can be 'lights in the world'.

I hope this didn't seem like grumbling. Just rambling a little.


Were you there?

At the end of Job, God asks if Job was there when He created everything:

Job 38
4"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,

10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,

11 when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?

16 "Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?

There was an exploration to the Weddell sea off Antarctica where they took a peek deep into the sea at a place that had previously been covered with sea ice. And they found all kinds of new things down there. "There are less species in the Arctic than around the equator," said one of the scientists behind the study, Brigitte Ebbe, a taxonomist at the German Center for Marine Biodiversity Research. "People assumed that it would be the same if you went from the equator south, but it didn't prove to be true at all."

I think we as humans think we know too much. I'm not getting into a creation debate here and I think science and Christianity can work together just fine, but we've lost our sense of wonder because we think we have things figured out. Somehow we turn assumptions into hypothesis into reality without ever asking God what He thinks.

It makes me wonder what assumptions I have that have turned into reality. Assumptions about people here in Guatemala. People in the states. Assumptions about how God works or how things work in general. It boggles me that scientists completely remove God from the equation and when they find a new species they just chalk it up to evolution and ignore the one who created it. Instead of worshiping God they worship themselves and their own assumptions and theories.

And yet do not I do the same thing? How many times have I come up with something creative and thought, "Wow. I'm really creative" instead of thanking God for leaving in me a whisper of His own creative voice? And shouldn't I know better?

So join me, if you will, in echoing Job:

Job 42
1 Then Job replied to the LORD :

2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

I'm not going to put dust and ashes on myself, but it's still a good place to start my day.


My keys don't work there

And neither does my phone.

We were back in Texas for about a week and returned to Guatemala Monday night. Back home in Xela yesterday. Wonderful to see those of you we could see. Mostly family and CBC folks. We miss you all so terribly much.

We were back because my aunt Martha went home to Jesus and the family asked me to preach a little sermon at her funeral. It was a great service and a great time of healing for the family after a very, very long time of suffering.

But it wasn't like before. It was just, well, different.

I have keys that do lots of things here. Open doors (lots of doors), start a truck. They keep me from getting locked out and let me go where I need to go. But in Flower Mound they did me no good. I had to use borrowed keys. And that reminded me that the Lord doesn't have us in Texas. He has us in Guatemala for now and hopefully for a long time. My keys work here because here is where the Lord has us. I hope that's not an oversimplification of God's divine will, but it makes sense to me. I can't explain how God works but only that He's present and real and very much with us. And I'm not sure exactly how He led us here but I know this is, for now, where He wants us.

So I'm back where my keys work.

I hope your keys work where you are.


For Martha

27 years ago they told us you weren't going to make it.

I guess they don't know much.

So you fought braver than anyone I have ever known. You fought and 27 years later the Lord gave you true victory.

Along the way you taught us what it means to share in the suffering of the Lord. You taught us what it means to love through pain instead of bowing to it.

I heard someone say that when you arrived in heaven there was a standing ovation. That what you heard was, "Well done."

So we stand with the hosts of heaven and cheer for you, your victory won, your crowns upon your head. Your life was not perfect. And that is why your crowns will be laid at the feet of the one who loved us all through you. You were the consummate vessel and oh, how you displayed the life of your Savior.

We'll see you soon, Martha Jean.

Then we can really see what woship looks like.


A little time together

Two good friends of ours are visiting us right now. John and Anna were on a mission trip down here and stayed an extra week to help us clean the guest house (it was a terrible mess) and spend a little time with us. Tonight they are hanging out at the house and sending Jenny and I on a date. I think it's the first time we've been out since Valentine's. We're still in the process of getting sitters to work - it's a little different here.

But we have enjoyed so deeply the time we have spent with them - just being together. It's amazing how much we miss that, how difficult it is to form these kinds of relationships when you lack the language to do so, when culture and economics and skin color form barriers that come down none too easy. And so we are soaking in the time. They leave Friday and we will miss them. Hopefully they have been blessed a tenth as much as we have.