Today I am watching them be beaten like a rented donkey. I must say that it's a little sad to see. I must also say that I am so very glad no one is paying me a million dollars a year and expecting me to actually earn my money. I know that guys like Tony Romo get paid bucket fulls of money to play a game that has no eternal value. I know that I get paid slightly less to do something of eternal value.
But I don't have angry fans. Or media folk. Or the hopes of millions upon my shoulders. And I mean, they are imploding today for all to see. Whew. I know it's these guys jobs and they take it very seriously. And I will watch the entire game because I won't see them play for a lone time. But today I am glad I'm just a guy that is not famous. And does not have to answer questions like, "How can you make that many mistakes?"
I hope I don't write a similar post during the Cotton Bowl.
Cultural discovery is a splendid thing.
Here in Guatemala, very clearly I know understand, at Midnight on Christmas the ENTIRE COUNTRY shoots off fireworks. I mean it was shock and awe. We've never seen anything like it. It's pretty well died down but our whole valley is smoky and we smell gunpowder thick in the air. It was like we were London or Berlin or Tokyo during WWII. Utterly relentless bombardment. What looks like the inside of a super nova, sounds like inside thunder, and smells like the bowels of a canon? A Guatemalan Christmas! Boomingly, blazingly, blastastic.
So, Happy Birthday, Jesus! Guatemala just blew off enough ordinance level the Rockies.
Thank you Lord for keeping our kids asleep through that. Utterly amazing.
So I'm sitting here with my family in our PJ's watching A Christmas Carol (the one with Mickey Mouse) and Gladys just came in and told us that today is called "Good Night" (buena noche) instead of Christmas Eve. And since I've been thinking about what in the world Christmas Spirit is all about I thought I'd use that as an intro. Subtlety is an art.
I'm certain that the reason most people want to have Christmas Spirit is because it makes us feel good. It makes other people feel good. As far as I can tell, it is good. It has something to do with giving being better than receiving, with kindness, with joy. Good things. The opposite of Christmas Spirit is Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Grinch. Green, petty, selfish.
But what is it? People tell me to have this nebulous thing and since it is a good thing I'd like to have it.
And yesterday I read this article (a brief, beautiful read) about two high school football teams near Dallas playing a game. One of the teams a well off private school. A Christian one, given their name (Grapevine Faith) but more due to their behavior. Novel concept that, demonstrating faith in Christ through our behavior. Anyway, the other team was the Gainesville State School. They were 0-9, having scored 2 touchdowns all year. Those from the DFW area may recognize another institution in Gainesville - a maximum security correctional facility, formerly known as prison. The coach from Faith set the game up. Had the parents and cheerleaders cheer for the opposing team, made them goody bags, a banner to run through. Gave them a football game.
Because delinquents don't have fans.
Want to know his reason? The coach wanted to tell those kids , ""You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."
So the delinquents lost the game. But before they were handcuffed and lead away to their bus, both teams gathered on the field to pray. Isaiah (what a name for a kid criminal!) asked if he could pray. He said, "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
I would have never known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.
Is it novel that people need to know they are cared for? That they matter? If anything, the impossible mystery of the Incarnation - God in Flesh - Immanuel - God With Us - is that God knows we are here and that we are completely overwhelmed by our own sin and He cares enough to do something about it. The Bible calls that love.
And this Christmas Spirit, as much as it has been marketed and movieized (I get to make up a word every Christmas) has as its kernel the very love of the Very God who came to us who were in darkness and showed us His great light. It is no less than to value people because they are. God did not create us by accident. We are not a cosmic mistake, an evolutionary anomaly. We are, every human, created by God in His image and we are each one devastated by our own sin and in desperate need of someone to crash through the wall and redeem us from ourselves.
God did that through an impossible birth. Christ became a baby, which is impossible, to save those He loved. Only God fixes the impossible. For nothing is impossible with God. It cannot be that God became one of us. And yet He did! And IS one of us today! For that baby became a man who died so that we could live. Just because He loves us. Impossible!
It is that very thing - impossible love - which God desires us to demonstrate. And O, woe my soul, I do it poorly. And yet it is this which is the Christmas Spirit. To love an impossible love. To look at another person and simply due to their being, love them and treat them as if they are indeed far greater than we.
Amazing. Wonderful. Impossible.
Happy Good Night! And enjoy, no, demonstrate, the impossible love which saved us from ourselves.
BoyD's birthday party was a hoot. Jenny will post some pics. A dinosaur pinata bigger than him. What a hoot. We took yesterday to get a little shopping and resting in. Sunday's are great.
Ok. This is our first opportunity to do Christmas shopping without the kiddos so we're off. It's surprisingly similar here - crowed malls, too much stuff, Santa and even Christmas music in English. It's amazing to see what the USA exports unintentionally.
I love you my Little Man! You can't read this yet, but you make me laugh every day. You are so smart and wonderful and fun and tough. Thank you for telling me you love me and for jumping on me whenever I lay down. Thank you for asking people if they are hungry or thirsty. I love you more than you will ever know. Until you have kids. Then you'll get it.
Jenny - how could God have given me a better helper? I love you and I am so happy you were born. I though I was alive before I knew you but now I feel I was just wandering until the Lord brought me you. Thank you for living so much grace in my direction. You are the person who enables me to do what God wants me to do. You will always be my better half.
I'm a huge fan of hymns - those oft deep wells of poetry sung from country churches to concert halls. They are a wonderful form of worship. I have this old hymn book, "Hymns of the Spirit" that I keep nearby from which I sing hymns sometimes. I don't have the best voice so I try to do it while the washer is running - my office is right by the laundry room. But I love to sing those old hymns.
I sang, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day this morning and saw the author is Henry Longfellow. I did a little research about the history behind it. A poem he wrote during the Civil War is the basis for the song. He penned it after hearing his eldest son had been shot and crippled. This grief was heaped upon him but 2 years after the horrible death of his wife, Fanny, who had caught fire in his home. He, unable to extinguish her, suffered severe burns to his face and lost her the next day.
A website stated, "The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year later after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace."
Not all of you have joy this Christmas. Many of you have lost people you love or are fighting terrible circumstances. Many of you are suffering financial collapse or battling unending illness or agonizing through watching a loved one battle all too wearily.
Read for me (or sing if you know the tune) Longfellow's poem, "Christmas Bells", by a man who suffered the losses of this age. If they look unfamiliar, the 4th and 5th stanzas are not in the song and refer to the Civil War.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
Jenny's mom is coming for 2 weeks this Wednesday. She'll be here for BoyD and Jenny's birthdays, Christmas and our anniversary. We're so excited to have her here in Guatemala with our family. It will just be fun.
But I'm taking that time off which means the days before are crammed. I need to do a weeks worth of work on Monday and Tuesday. That doesn't count the honey-do list (which I have neglected to my doom!)
But it's fun and life is busy so I either roll with it or get buried.
Vacations are always sort of strange. I know we need to take them, but it always seems like they are sandwiched between times of frantic work. Before, you have to get ready to be gone. After you get back, you have to catch up. This is a little different because I'll actually be home so I can do some things.
Then there are the heroes of our work force - small business owners like my brother Ian. Who work 70-80 hours every week just to pay taxes and payroll. My dad, uncle, Jenny's mom, Jenny's brother, half the elders at CBC and many of the people I hold in highest regard all owned small businesses at one time and I have seen how much work you people put in.
So here's to you who own a small business! You are what makes our economy run. Thank you for all the hard work you put in. Do you get vacations? HA! Sometimes. Maybe. At least I hope you get a few days off for Christmas. You of all folks deserve it.
One of the things they asked was, "who will teach the courses?" and we told them, "Well, we'll start, but YOU will teach them. There's only 5 of us. We need you to do it." They were surprised and I think excited about that.
But, wheew, there are a lot of problems. I'll get into that later.
For now, I have to go to the doctor. I ate some sausage and tortillas the ladies made for us and was sick last night so it's off to the gastrointestinologist for some prodding and uncomfortable questions and hopefully some relief!
Please pray for safety for those traveling and that the Holy Spirit would help us enjoy a time of fellowship. And that the pastors would he honest and transparent in their answers. And for Jenny and the kids.
I'm really excited! God is so much fun.
Pollo Campero (Guatemala's fried chicken king) hosts a festival of lights every Christmas with a big fireworks show. They set up a stage, block off the main street and shoot off a bunch of fireworks way too close to large groups of people. It was great. And free.
I mean, they really did a show. I don't know if fireworks are cheaper here but they used a bunch of 'em. And probably not far enough away. While we were just outside of the fall out zone there had to have been some singed Guatemalans. In the states some one would have written letters to the newspaper or yelled at someone ala July 4th in Flower Mound this year. Here folks just roll with things a little better. They also can't believe we spayed our dog when there are hundreds of rogue dogs running around. Shrug.
Anyway, it was a hoot.
And if you would like to try a taste of Guatemalan's finest export, click the link above or head to:
POLLO CAMPERO 121 & GLADE
2830 State Highway 121
Euless, TX 76034
Ph: (817) 283-4454
And order the traditional, not extra crispy. If they have the green sauce, try it!
We had a pee-pee poopy party day yesterday. Rugs rolled up. Heaters on. NO PANTS! We had some amazing victories. BoyD twice went in his little mini john without needing help. Just went! He also had a few accidents. How we deal with those is huge.
See, I could say, "Oh, no! What did you do? You were playing with your train and just pooped on the floor? Who cares if you ran in saying, "daddy I need to poop in the potty?" You pooped on the floor. Idiot! Now you have poop on you. Poop on your blanket. Poop on the floor. Stupid kid. Who's going to clean you up? Grow up you little..."
If I heard someone saying that to my son I would kick his...well, I'd be very angry.
Or I could say, "Oops! Quick, let's sit on the potty. It's ok. Accidents happen. Remember the song? Don't worry baby. I love you. I'll clean it all up. I love you."
The Bible tells me "let no unwholesome words proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification, accourding to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear."
I can give grace to people by what I say. Or I can take it. I can give mercilessness to people.
I don't want to do that.
Remember the phrase, "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me"? I'm thinking I'd rather have somebody smack me around a little. Or a lot. Flesh wounds are easy to fix.
But I utterly hate seeing hurting people. Or people who have been crapped on by life again and again. And sometimes again. Certainly some people are victims of their own stupidity and arrogance. But some people just have harder lives than others. My language teacher, for instance, Edna, has had a much harder life than me. Most Guatemalans have had a much harder life than me. Most people in the world. Actually, if I added in the populace of history I would be in the most wealthy, well educated, healthy and peace guarded group. Top .01% for sure. Take the bed I sleep in every night - just a normal bed - is more luxurious than what anyone slept in up until a few decades ago.
And yet I cannot fix things.
I cannot take hurt away. I cannot look at people I love and make everything ok. I can point them to Jesus who makes everything ok. And, of course, that's far better than anything I could do. I can point but I can't make them go. And so I remain frustrated in my impotence. I'm not sure if I would be less frustrated were I potent nor am I even sure what that means. Maybe impotence is the wrong word. Limited is better. Bounded, finite, restricted.
Can you imagine what Christ felt like? Fully God and Fully Man. Self-limited to demonstrate His love for us. And yet I dont' think He was frustrated. God is never impotent. Does He get frustrated? Surely not like I do. I get frustrted because I cannot do something. God would never get frustrated like that. My limitations are not self-imposed. They are God imposed. One of the chief tenants of life is that I am not God. It's like saying, "this is water" to a fish. It's my environment.
And I'm not saying I want to be God or like God either. I really don't. I would do a crappy job. My frustration lies on longing for what should be and what will be but not resting in what is. Jesus said, "behold I will be with you, even to the end of the age." That means now. In what is. In frustration and discouragement. Even though I cannot fix hurting people. Christ has enabled me to love them. I reckon that will have to do for now.
If not, you can sit down and in less time than it takes to sit through the commercials in a sitcom you can read the longest chapter in the Bible.
I know they're all good, but some of the Psalms are like seeing an old friend every time I revisit them. 119 is an acrostic (like SPCA or SEALS) and it's the product of hours upon hours of loving labor at the hands of a poet who loves God deeply and out of that love flows a love for God's word. And when I come to it again, there is always a comfort, a familiarity. Like with an old friend, you just pick up the relationship where it left off.
Something I started doing, oh, I don't know, a few years back, is praying through the psalm. Not at once, I just take it in 24 verse hunks (3 groups of 8 verses, once for each letter of the acrostic) and I read it and talk to the Lord according to what's in the verses.
See, it's a Psalm about God's word, about His commandments and statutes and ordinances. All stuffy, lifeless words. But God doesn't do anything with me outside of the context of His relationship with me. And so as I love the Author I love His words. Only He can take stuffy and make it life giving and refreshing. And I need refreshing! Good grief, I need it. Every day.
God's word is so. . .well it's incredible. I can't think of a word with enough emotion that isn't a cuss word, but it's so fantastic that He has given us His word and I have it in English where there are WAY more translations than we need. Other people in the world don't even have one translation of the Bible in their language. Most only have a few. And yet we have more than we could ever need and still don't read it! How silly for us to have to much of everything and still find ourselves bored.
Anyway, my favorite verse remains 68,
"You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees."
I love this because I hang my hat on the fact that God is good. If he's not good, we're screwed. In a really bad way. But He IS good. No matter what. And He wants to teach us about Himself. Whew. What a wonderful way to be.
Pretty cool. And scary.
It seems that missionaries are supposed to be good at transition. We move a lot, learn other languages and get the runs more than most. So I'm supposed to have this transition thing down pat.
Of course I don't. It seems like every time I have to go and do something new it's a little different and a little harder than the last time. When the Lord asks me to trust Him I don't think it matters too much if it's hard or not. I don't think trusting Him with the same thing over and over again is easy, mind you. We have 2 kids. But I am, finally, after a very strange road, getting to begin what that Lord called me here to do over 4 years ago.
And after all those years and all that has happened, I'm nervous. Good grief.
It's a little like hiking in the mountains and working your way through creeks and valleys and forest scrub to finally find yourself in a clearing at the crest of the peak and the panorama which should inspire awe, sort of makes you wobbly kneed. I know what I'd like to do and I know what some of the needs are ( at least I think I do) and I know the desires the Lord has put in my heart. But when it comes time to step out of the clearing reality gets pretty big and I look very much more like my 3 year old son nervous in a crowded room than a man who knows what he's doing.
And I have to wrestle again with the reality that what I do is less important than who I am. And who I am is less important than Who's I am. I don't think being a missionary is any more spiritual than being a mechanic. We both have to trust the Lord. Sure I live in a cool country and can see an active volcano from my bedroom but we both pay bills and struggle with temptation and love our wife and kids. We both have money only because God is good and people are unspeakably gracious and generous. We both get up every morning and commit what we do to the Lord. We read the same Bible, are filled with the same Spirit and tell people about the same Jesus.
The thing is - God has only called me to be faithful. To love Him. To love other people. To be His child. For absolute certain He guides me and has things for me to do. Different things than other people because, well, nobody's the same. I may be able to teach the book of James while the mechanic can replace the CV joint on a Honda, but neither of those things has less value than the other as long as both of us are living dependent lives on Christ.
I don't know. I'm rambling. And I just felt a little earthquake. That's still weird. So, I finish Spanish school Friday. And transition. Again. Into something I've waited 4 years to do. The older I get the more I feel like a little child holding my daddy's hand. A hand which gets bigger and stronger and surer each new day.
At least I know He knows where were going. That's enough for today.
Many of you know he had prostate cancer several years ago and has been in remission since. His PSA levels were up and it looked like things had returned. After a battery of tests, he's all clear. Just needs injections every few months.
I love good news. It's fun. It's. . .good.
And we prayed that he would be ok. That his cancer would not have returned. We asked the Lord for this and He granted it.
But God is not required to tell me "yes." He is not a yes man. He is God. And yet I have to tell you, bad news is still . . .bad. We prayed for years that the Lord would make Robert, Jenny's dad, walk again. He never did. Robert went home to glory last November. And he's walking now. But the Lord wasn't tricking us. He wasn't telling us, "Aha! I was going to make Rob walk in heaven but you wanted him to walk now. See who's bigger? See who's God? I answered your prayer. Just not how you wanted it."
God is not like that. Simply, though asked through tears of petition, He told us, "No, my child." and He did it over and over. I mean we begged Him to heal Robert here in this life. And God told us no.
How do I react when I ask God to take my father's cancer away and He doesn't? Is that news still fun? No. Of course not. How horrid to enjoy the suffering of the fall. But God is not simply the Lord of good news. He is the Author of the Good News. And that Good News makes all the difference. When the Lord took Rob home, the grief was bearable because we will indeed see him again. He had passed from life to eternal life. From agony to glory.
See, God's goodness is not dependent upon my perception of reality. He is good and He does good. My ability to understand Him is irrelevant to His being. He has invited me to walk with Him, to love Him and be loved by Him forever. He has invited me to join Him in His redemptive work. But that includes suffering. It includes pain and heartache and doubts.
Though impenetrable the mystery of the Incarnation, I have in it a picture of a man fully dependent upon God. I am to walk with Christ as He walked with His Father. His time here on earth was not an easy one. How silly that I expect mine to be. How evil of me to think that God would make life hard for me to tickle some perversion. Or to think that He wants merely to dominate me and make me small. If He wanted to do that I could not combat Him. If He desired slaves, slaves He would have.
But He created children in His image, not to rule but to love. Truly He rules us, but He does so in love. And in the context of a relationship. He is at once King and Shepherd. Warrior and Lover. Servant and Lord of all. And He has invited me - invited us all- to join Him in the journey he has for us. A journey filled with joy and sorrow, battle and peace, exhaustion and rest. He has invited us to share this journey. Oh, that I continue in it, no matter what news comes on the phone.
Here's a few pics. BoyD in his usual stance - in the arms of a Guatemalan girl. And the before and after of the kitchen. Look at all that food! It was more food that most of them had ever seen. No exaggeration. How fun that they all got to eat it! They made short work of a 25 lb turkey. We did hide a piece of pecan pie, though. Cost us close to $20 to cook that thing, we were getting a slice!
May the Lord be glorified and praised at our home today. A tradition we have is to read Psalm 100 as the prayer before the meal. Enjoy this day!
A Thanksgiving Psalm1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.
4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Anyway, some friends of ours asked me if I would be interested in helping this particular Christian school out. Maybe teach a Bible class every 2 weeks or so. Sounded great. She wanted to know my credentials, sheep skins, etc.
So we go to visit and I talk to some of the administration folks. Turns out they don't really want someone to teach a class every 2 weeks. See, the kids, at least many of them, don't' have 2 parents at home because one of them is working in the US and sending money back home. So their home lives are pretty dysfunctional and several of the older kids (18-20) work during the week to pay for school and have no one to, well, just to talk to about their life.
They want me to be the school psychologist. A counselor.
Yes, I have a B.A. in Psychology but anyone who has that degree will tell you it does NOT qualify you to be a counselor. Now I also know that I have more education than...well, than most folks here. A Masters in the states is not that abnormal. Here, it's pretty big. But to be a counselor in the states I need a lot more training. Like a few more years.
They want me to come Fridays and Saturdays but I don't know for how long. I can't give them even a full day - it's not why I'm here. You get warned a lot not to do everything that people want you to do because when you're a missionary folks think you can and should do everything that helps somebody else.
I bet that sounds pretty snooty.
What do you think? Can I do it all? Should I? I'm here to train pastors. That's not all I'll do - but how much do you add? How often do you say, "no" and get that horrible look from people who actually need help and dont' have anyone else to give it?
It's not an easy answer. On one hand I have the opportunity to influence and help high school and college age kids who don't have anyone else guiding them. On the other hand, the work I came here to do will very soon become all consuming. It will very soon become very, very busy.
I can tell you one thing for certain. The Lord will help me. He doesn't call Himself a shepherd on accident.
I want to tell the folks why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the States. The history, the story. I'll get to use all my newfangled verb tenses. But somehow I sense very deeply that the message of the gospel - the real gospel - must be presented to people who all claim to know it.
But I refuse to bait-and-switch. I refuse to invite folks over and then preach at them. I refuse to ignore the opportunity.
And so today I'll write something out and spend tomorrow making sure what I want to say is actually being communicated. And I'll pray a lot and ask the Lord to help me say what He wants me to say - even if it doesn't involve turkeys and pilgrims. And then we'll see.
We also bought a 25 lb turkey today for Thanksgiving or Dia de la accion de gracia. Too many words in Spanish. We might have close to 40 folks over so I hope it's enough turkey. We couldn't find a bigger one. Oh, and it's a Butterball. They're all imported. And frozen.
Here's 5 uses for a frozen turkey:
1. Kenetic energy weapon. And a cool one at that.
2. Replacement curling stone. But a poor one.
3. Um, thaw it and cook it and eat it?
4. Plug for seal breathing holes.
5. Very bad hockey goalie. Unless you had a bunch of them.
And with that I'm leaving to review object, reflexive, impersonal and reciprocal pronouns.
I'm not, but, anyway.
Just wanted you DFW area folks to know that your current weather is what the weather is like in Xela every day. Even in August. Of course it's in Guatemala so, there's always that.
Also I thought I was going rather well in Spanish until I tried to read the Op-Ed page of the paper and realized I have so far...so very far to go.
Since yesterday, I have read most of The Shack and I must say my attitude is greatly improved. I'm not all the way through it, but my initial reaction is: WOW. What a wonderful book (thus far - I'm told it remains wonderful). It's a Big God book and I like those kind of books. Not a book where our job is to figure God out and explain Him to inquiring minds but a book where our job is to love and be loved by God. I like that.
I rekon I'll give a little review on it when I'm done but for now I'd say read it. Unless you already have. Then...read your Bible.
I got news that our home church, CBC, has to let 2 folks go from staff because they just didn't have the support to keep them. Two of my favorite people on the planet. People with whom I share history, ministry and life. People because of whom the world is better and the Body more effective at being what we are. People that I love.
We also found out that BabyM is underweight and the doctor wants us to run tests to see if she has an infection of some sort. We got the results back but they mean nothing to us and all we can do until we see the Dr. again is worry ourselves by looking stuff up online. Even when we do go to the doctor he'll explain everything to us in Spanish and we'll only get 90% of it or so if we're really on the ball.
Much of the news I hear from back home is discouraging because people I love are struggling. They suffer loss. Heartache. Disappointment. Financial trouble. They are depressed and worried. They hurt and cry and ask God what is going on and I cannot answer them more than to say that God loves them and that I do too.
I have a lot of training. I have a masters degree from Dallas Seminary. I am an ordained minister of the Gospel. And I am not God. I'm just Brandon and the only answers I have that do any good whatsoever are just answers I have learned from walking with God and with those who love Him.
I live in a country where 95% of the people I love and care about aren't. I cannot go have coffee with a friend who got laid off or bring a meal to someone or hug one of those people who are struggling. I cannot because I have chosen not to live there and I have chosen not to live there because The Lord, who is my Shepherd, has led me somewhere else for a time. He has led me away form the flock I knew into another flock that is unfamiliar to me. A flock which does not speak my language. Whose customs I do not know. And yet He has led me here indeed.
But I am one of the Strugglers. I am not above the fray and I never will be. Jesus did not tell me, "Make everything perfect in your own life, fix all your problems, then love and serve and help people" Paul says with good reason that we carry about the treasure of the gospel in jars of clay. I am a human, redeemed but still walking by faith. Still walking by hope. See, there will be a day when I see my Lord face to face and my faith and hope will be fulfilled. But that day has not yet come. And so I wait and worry and struggle with the rest of you because that's how some days are. The Lord would not have told us not to worry if it was something we wouldn't struggle with. He told us not to worry because He knew we would. He told us do not be afraid because we fear. He told us to abide in Him because we often won't. He told us to love one another because we tend not to.
He told us to love Him because He is the source of all those other things which make being a Christian any different from anything else. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life, not something else, and when the day is done the reality is that we have no other option but to follow the One who made us. I have the option not to follow, not to believe, but that leaves me in the same predicament minus the power and love of Christ. If I have to struggle, I might as well do it in the hand of my loving God.
Probably doesn't sound very holy for a missionary. Well, I'm a missionary and that's what's going on today, holy or not.
We went to the retreat but left early because BabyM has decided to quit nursing and so we went home. But it was a beautiful camp...I'll get pics up later...and a good time. Although it stretched my Spanish a LOT, it was good to meet some folks and begin a few friendships. But the reality of it is that this is a season of our life during which couples retreats are not a feasible reality.
Tomorrow we are going to help some friends harvest their corn. We asked if they needed help and their grandfather told us no, that we were missionaries and therefore special people and harvesting corn is very hot, hard, dirty work. But we asked again and they relented. We don't want to be 'special' because we're all the same folks and sort of want to break down the Great White Missionary myth a little. We'll see how it goes. I doubt we'll be much help but maybe we'll learn something.
Ok. I'm exhausted. So exhausted that I'm going to bed before the Cowboys game is over. That's tired for me.
Anyway, it's an ABC news story about a man, who has female parts, is married to a woman, got pregnant (artificially) and had a baby girl. He is pregnant again. Not a typo, there, either.
Here's the article: Man has Baby
I am to love everyone human and this guy is human. So I'm not hating on the guy or calling him a freak or any of that. Just curious if any of you could help me think what to think.
Some interesting questions come up:
1. If the guy becomes a believer (or already is) what gender does he have in eternity?
2. How is a person with female reproductive parts a man?
That's about all I've got for now. Have fun being confused. It's a strange world out there.
Here's a few from me:
- Beans and cornbread. Cost $.75 and man, we really like it in our house. Simple.
- Sleeping through the night. A seemingly simple thing but when you don't' get it for awhile, whew.
- BabyM's chipmunk smile. She got huge teeth now.
- Hot showers. If you don't get this one imagine them not hot.
- Kisses from a toddler.
- A fire. Outside. At night. When its crisp.
- Toast. It's amazing the difference it makes when compared to just plain bread.
- Cat's purring. It's a mystery but it's cool.
- Diapers that work. Just read the previous blog to see why that one's in here.
- Singing. hymns, U2, whatever. It''s good.
- Cold milk. I know this is like the toast example, but wetter. And dairy.
- Children's laughter. We lived off of it here in the Scott house.
But all these things are simple. And we live in a world that seems to be getting more and more complicated. With a few exceptions these things have been available for us humans for a very long time. And I don't have to go into debt to enjoy them. Enjoy. That's a word we seem to have too little of. And life is frustrating enough without enjoying something - good. And simple. Anyway.
What are some things that you enjoy? Take some of mine. They're free! I'd love to hear a few of yours. Unless they're not fun. Then please don't put them. Weird is good, but not not-fun.
I trundled up the stairs and waltzed into her room expecting to be greeted by my beautiful doe eyed girl. I was. Except she was covered in poop. Her poop. Lots of her poop.
She decided to take her diaper off. And poop. In the crib. And play with it. It was on her legs. Arms. Hands. Face. Pacifier. Yeah. It was horrible. And the stink. Wow.
But it's all cleaned up. Go to Jenny's Blog for video evidence of the crime scene. Even CSI might have cringed. Although I've heard worse stories.
Some days are poopy.
The fact that I myself need other people mainly hurts my pride. But to think that other people need me around just seems silly. But it's not.
There have been books (and good ones, too) written about all the 'one another' commands in the New Testament.
Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
Honor one another (Rom 12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16)
Stop passing judgment on one another (Rom. 14:13)
I appeal to you...all of you agree with one another (1 Cor 1:10)
Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Eph 4:2)
Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
Teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16)
Spur one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)
Do not slander one another (James 4:11)
Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)
Love one another (1 John 3:11 and all of 1 John)
Please go back and read those again. Because as I read them I have been, well, convicted, by how I am in my relationships. With Jenny, with others. Especially those I disagree with. Do those words describe you? They very rarely describe me.
But what is most important is that it is impossible to follow a single one of those commands alone. And I need you people to follow them. I need you because I need someone to love and encourage and serve and admonish. And I need you to love and serve and admonish and spurn and teach me.
We need one another to be Christians. I didn't say we need one another for salvation. I said we need one another to be Christians. We need one another to be followers of Christ - to be a Body. A dismembered body is called a Crime Scene. They have people who know how to solve those crimes. How to look at body parts and figure out what happened and how the body was taken apart. And maybe even catch the person who did it.
I don't want to live in a crime scene. It's. . .horrible. I want to live in a healthy body. And healthy bodies are, literally, together.
I need the people in my church here in Guatemala. We're going on a retreat this weekend. Its 4 hours from our house. Not expensive, but a bit of a hassle because we have 2 little kids. It will be great but it would be easier to just stay home and do the usual thing.
But if we don't' go we miss the opportunity to do what where commanded to do with people outside our family. What a shame to miss that!
So, even you anonymous people our there, I need you and I want you around. Of course none of those commands can be accomplished anonymously but that's up to you to accomplish. I'm just glad to have you around - though I'd rather know your name. Because when you remain not you (because you are not really anonymous - you are a person with a name) you rob me of the opportunity to love another person and to grow to love someone I disagree with.
One another. It's messy.
Now I have to rant a little.
And it doesn't have anything to do with politics.
I like blogs. The blogisphere is truly an amazing thing - a place where people share thoughts, ideas, concerns. Though a sad substitute for actually being with people, it's nice to share encouragement and pictures and life with people I otherwise wouldn't' be able to see because, well, I live in Guatemala.
And we can each have our own little patch of blog to do with as we please. Like coloring your own place mat and laminating it - its yours and its out there for everyone to see.
And we can even comment on each others blogs. We can encourage and challenge and help one another figure things out. Which brings me to my rant.
Stop it with the anonymous postings already.
I lost count of how many blogs have 'anonymous' comments. You can just put your name in there or create a profile or even put a
- brandon (or your name)
at the bottom of your comment if you don't want to go to the other trouble.
But don't say mean or snippy or crass or hurtful things and then hide behind anonymous. It's cowardly. Shame on you who do that. Stop it.
If you are too embarrassed to have your name associated with what you said than don't say it. Just keep it to yourself. You are embarrassed for a reason, don't hide behind a facade. All our mothers told us, "If you can't say something nice..." We know how to finish that, don't we? So let's apply that to our little place mats here.
We live in an increasingly disconnected world where we text and IM and e-mail and Skype and Facebook but we don't get together and sit and talk and eat and do the things humans do. If you are not close enough to someone to smell their halitosis on a regular basis, may I suggest finding somewhere or something where you are close enough not to hide behind the cowardice of anonymity.
Authenticity is more important than our comfort. If you disagree with something on someone else's blog, figure out a way to say it that isn't mean or don't say it at all. People say things that are personal to them. Don't stamp out their thoughts.
Don't scribble all over their place mat.
We've got enough meanness out there already. Now - go find something kind to say.
Today the citizens of the United States of America have the incredible opportunity to do something unique. You get to vote.
For as much as Americans complain about politics and government and the media and ______, we have the opportunity, the right and the power to enter that voting booth and say, "I want this person to govern me."
Please realize that the whole world does not have that freedom. And most of history has not. Guatemalan elections are quite a bit different. The government impossibly corrupt. The people often uneducated and and desperate. And yet they get out there and vote. You ladies out there have only had the right to vote since 1919 and that right was hard fought. Can you imagine not having the right to enter that voting booth?
We live in a land of historically unimaginable freedom. We live in a land of unparalleled equality. We live in a land of remarkably un-corrupted government. And it is the responsibility of the governed, the vote caster, the person that collectively makes up "we the people" to either speak their piece or hold it forever.
So go vote! I don't even care which candidate you vote for. Sure, I have my choice, my reasons, my piece to speak, but you do too! Use that brain of yours, think of who you want to govern you, and then exercise your very wonderful and sought after right to vote.
At least by tomorrow (hopefully) we'll be done with the campaigns!
We saw it. We heard it. On an ESPN Latin American feed and an online radio station out of Midland. And we enjoyed it.
Clad in plastic armor and bearing their bovine and double consonant standards, our Red Raiders battled a valiant Texas football team to the last second. And in that last second sealed a victory for the ages on the South Plains.
Tomorrow, it's back to work, back to Spanish, to futbol and frijoles and the tasks before us. But today we take the advise of the teacher of Ecclesiastes, "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad."
Way to go, Red Raiders. Thanks for that. It was a heck of a lot of fun.
If you want to read a great piece of sports writing (or writing in general) click HERE for a Matt Zemek article that ought to win him a prize or some sort.
- They grow me. A lot. I need to be challenged to grow and Lord knows our 2 kids do that. Especially the Boy.
- They make me laugh. Every day. If you're not laughing, well, let me know. I'll tell you a funny something.
- They make me love Jenny more. I thought my wife was amazing. And then we had children. She is...well...slack jawed awe is a good start.
- They give our parents joy. I cannot imagine how much I will love my children's children. But our parents give me a glimpse of the depth and richness love can have.
- They teach me how to love. Loving people is hard. Loving toddlers is...emptying. The Lord has a special place for children and having 2 helps me realize how much He loves me. And how poorly I love most days, how conditional I make my love.
- They force me to order my life. Having 2 tiny people that have their own will and spirit and life - all of which you are responsible for cultivating and training and loving - forces you to either get together and make sense of things and give a child some form of ordered world in which to grow or be conquered by a 30 pound tyrant.
- They teach me who God is. The fact that God has a special place, a particular affection for children helps me know a little more about Him, gives me a glimpse into His mystery. And He desires me to have that same affection.
Oh, and they make life . . . better. Fuller. Deeper. Richer. Like the difference between black and white and color. Of regular and HD for you youngins.
Better. Either way.
Normally when we return to the States for a time we're eager to get back home to Guatemala. Seeing our parents, being in their homes, being able to touch our family, going to CBC, seeing needs and ways we could serve - pulled. Hard.
The reality is that we have been called by the Lord to Guatemala. But He didn't force us to go. We went because He put it in our hearts to go and we live here because we agree with Him that this is where He wants us to be. For now.
I have no idea how many days or years I have before the Lord returns or brings me home. But I know that some of those days are supposed to be here in Guatemala. And I know that Christ is here with me and that wherever He is I can be obedient and fruitful. That may not seem very certain to many of you but I am finding certainty more and more overrated. I have certainty in only a very few things. God loves me. God created me. Christ saved me. The Holy Spirit indwells me. There's more to that list, but most of it folds out from those things.
There's a reason we walk with God. We don't live in a walking culture. At least not in the States. We drive or bike or fly but we only walk to exercise or get through the fair or the mall. We don't walk to travel because we have found a faster way. But when you walk you interact with what's around you. You notice more. Notice people, smells, sounds.
We walked just a little in Texas last week and we noticed we missed a lot of things. We missed our our parents kissing our children. We missed our children being influenced by our parents. Jenny and I have the rare joy of having two sets of amazing people for parents and we miss their presence. We visited (how weird to say that) CBC and we missed fellowship with people whom we love. We missed the sky of West Texas and the people who dwell beneath it. And we were reminded that the Lord does nothing by accident. We are not in Guatemala by a fluke. And that He is much more concerned with who we are than where we are today.
And that's good. Because it ain't easy to stay some days. But it would be almost impossible to leave. How's that for living in the tension? The Lord wants us to be His disciples here for a time and when He wants us to be His children somewhere else, He'll let us know. That's not very certain, I know. But some things sneak up on you like that.
And that's for certain.
That's much more exciting than the truth. We've been traveling. Went to the states for 2 weddings. My brother married his best friend, Toni Beth and I was incredibly honored to share the ceremony with my JP uncle J. We're SO EXCITED that she's offically part of the family and our kids now have an aunt Toni. A few hours later two of our former college kids (no longer kids), Clayton and Rebekah were married. I was humbled and honored to preform that ceremony as well. It was just a hoot. It was a busy and wonderful time. We got time with our family, visited Lubbock, ate a calzone from One Guy's (only a few will understand the beauty of that) and even squeezed in a morning at the State Fair.
We are thankfully back home.
Now, some things are clear because the Lord has made them clear in the Bible. Adultery is wrong. Stealing is wrong. They are morally wrong. Now, PETA is consistent when it comes to eating critters. They don't like it. And I give them credit for that. I'm sure they'd protest Tail Gaiting before a football game if they could.
But in Peru, at least in this part of Peru, cats = food. Every year in Sweetwater Texas they have a Rattlesnake Roundup where they catch and cook and eat snakes. Fried snake, snake souvenirs, even a pageant. Never been - heard it's cool. I wonder if PETA protests that? They probably do. But the point is that different cultures are different and what is wrong in one place, except what the Bible makes clear, may not be wrong in another.
You'd never have a Kitty Cat Roundup in Texas. Because we like cats. They're cute. But we don't get warm and fuzzy at the thought of a rattlesnake curled up in our lap as we read a book in front of a warming fire.
It's really hard not to pick and choose what we say is wrong. And the list the Lord gives us is shorter than we'd like - as long at we're not applying it to ourselves.
Oh well...if you're looking for a cat taco, now you know where to go.
The fam at El Baul (a park). That's Xela in the background.
Walking to the hot springs. It's really hot in the water there - like soup hot.
And a familiar picture at the Lake where we stopped on our way back to the airport. Yeah Grammy and Grandpa! We had such a great time. A freakishly busy week ahead with language school and a part at the orphanage and we're flying to Dallas the 13th. Anyway...that's about it. Oh, and how about those Red Raiders? We'll see how good they are in the next few weeks.
It is no secret that I have a job because people give to us out of their profound generosity. We are able to work and minister here only because God moves in the hearts of His people and they respond to His grace by being gracious and unselfish in return. I fall to my knees in thankfulness to those people and the people who pray for us. If we are the light bulb, you are the lamp and the cord and the building and the power lines and the generator.
And I understand that people cannot give money they do not have. And that I could, if I chose, become very afraid at what is going on right now with the US economy. And I have no idea what tomorrow will bring much less next week, next year.
But the Lord tells me not to be afraid, not to worry. Psalm 29 says,
"The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace."
Read that again. Whose voice is that? The LORD - "I AM". He who is self-existent. He who has no beginning. He who created with His voice. He is not surprised or worried. His is the voice which levels a forest of oak. Why do we cry "Glory" when confronted with His awesome power? Because it is the only right response.
How bad was it during the flood? For all but 8, it was indeed the end of all things. It was death and horror and judgment. It was, may I say, a lot worse than things are now.
And yet the Lord was not taken aback. He was king. And He is King. And He will be King. Forever. Look at that last verse. What does the Lord give to His people? Fear and worry? No. He gives them strength and peace.
Strength and peace.
Not a joke. Not a pithy phrase. Not a piece of legislation.
Peace. Strength. What we need to make it through today. This day. And let tomorrow worry about itself.
I thought I was doing good to have a blog and a website I never update. Apparently I've been missing out. Jenny and I have reconnected with a ton of old friends. It's pretty cool, really.
But it got me thinking. It's pretty addictive. You can sit for - a long time - and reconnect. And I was wondering what it is that makes it so addictive because I'm apparently not the only person who likes this. I don't know how many people are on facebook (anyone know?), but it's a lot. And it's not just a fad. People want (may even find themselves needing) to communicate to each other on a silly web-forum.
But what is it that makes us want to do this?
Community. Connectedness. We were made to be in a group of people. In relationships. The church is the perfect picture of this. Not that the church is perfect - that's another post - but that it's a perfect picture of what we are supposed to look like. A glimpse into how we were designed to work. A very broken picture in some cases.
But the Bible calls those who believe in Jesus part of a body. Not an organization or a club or even a forum. A body. Connected. And we were designed to work like this. We were created to be in relationships with people, connected to them. Sharing our lives with them.
Facebook is just another glimpse of what eternity will be like. Without the internet connection. Or the distance. Or the sin. Or any of the other things that keep people apart. It will be the ultimate community full of those who love the Lord and one another. I can't wait.
Until then - facebook ain't too bad.
PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's To Use Human MilkPETA is insane. Click HERE to read the article. I don't like to get political or too controversial here, but this is the Ramble Zone so, here it goes.
Human beings are the only creatures made in the image of God. We are, by our very being, more important than animals. The worst human being (and I mean Hitler bad) is immeasurably more valuable than the greatest (I'm talking Old Yeller good) animal. I admit that I would choose my favorite pet over the life of a child molester. But I would be wrong to do so. The Lord Jesus did not die for the sins of critters.
PETA does some things that are beneficial. And animals fall under the stewardship of human beings. PETA has, however, placed humans and animals on a level of equality. A concept which can only be justified by the most puerile of world views. Puerile is too lenient. It borders on insanity (part of whose definition is, "extreme folly or unreasonableness b: something utterly foolish or unreasonable").
Why, I wonder, do we drink cows milk? The Lord created the cow with the ability to produce a LOT of milk in a day. Much more than a woman. We have two children - both of whom were nursed. I'm a huge fan of breastfeeding - I think it a wonderful way to feed your baby. Ask a woman who has nursed twins how exhausting it is? Ask a woman who has tried to produce more milk how difficult it can be? And they want an ICE CREAM manufacturer to change to human milk. Ice Cream. Not ice breast milk. Do you have any idea how many gallons (gallons, people, think about that, anyone who has seen how much milk a mommy can produce in a day) of milk would be needed?
What does this make women into?
PETA, mired in insanity has made women equal to cows. Mooooove over, Elsy. Here comes Sally, and Tina and Meredith. Insanity! God did not make women to produce enough milk to feed the populace. Or make Chunky Monkey. He gave women the ability to feed babies. The concept that women should become factories so what cows could have an easier life is as rediculous as giving a cat the same rights as a mother. Oh wait! PETA thinks this! It is, at best, insanity.
At least Ben and Jerry kindly declined.
The boats around lake Atitlan ain't real fancy. They're fiberglass with Suzuki motors and a little roof. Mornings are calm. Glassy, no, but not yet choppy. Some lakes are stranger than others and Atitlan lives on the stranger end. Mysterious eddies, myths, mists and Xocomil - the Mayan water god who gives name to the Galilean storms whipped up in this volcano rimmed caldera lake.
Our ride was choppy. We sat in front. Planned what to do if the boat capsized. Who gets which kid. Normal stuff. BabyM missed her nap. Jenny had BoyD who wanted to look out the side. And we chopped along. The bow slapping and blocking our view. Every down-stroke of it nearly knocking us free of breath. A kidney jarring trip. And BabyM did something amazing. As I held her tight in my arms, warming her against the wind, my bicep her pillow...she slept.
Our boat bounced so hard that my rear end caught air.
We laughed at the force and noise.
Where was she? On a boat? On a lake? In a storm? None of those matter. Where was she?
In her father's arms. Safe. Shielded. Warm. I would use all the power that is within me to protect, comfort and carry her. My comfort? Irrelevant. My safety? Unimportant.
And it was not lost on us. A child sleeping in her father's arms while all around her were noise and violence. She was being slammed around just like us. Her ride no less jarring. One thing differed. Her proximity to her father.
How rough does the journey get? How tired do we get? How much more is our Heavenly Father able to carry of through? If I use all of my power - how much greater is the Father's power? How strong are the arms which carry the children of God? How well do we sleep when the journey gets rough?
I know how well my daughter slept. In my arms. And how deeply I loved her then. And I saw in the tiniest way how deep the Father's love for us.
The kids have a cold and Jenny and I are wading through the crud and we're just too wiped to study and do it all today so we took the day off to catch up on laundry and rest and get well. Traveling on back-to-back weekends is a beating with two kids under 3 in cloth diapers.
All that to say, we had a wonderful, wonderful time this weekend. We got to meet a bunch of missionaries and hear their stories and see their faces and connect with people. We feel a lot less isolated and alone knowing that there are folks here who know and love us. Oh, and Jenny found out that our field director's wife is a Pi Phi. Which is a sorority. Anyway, when they discovered this fact they both jumped up and squealed and clapped their hands and cried and hugged. It was the girliest thing I have ever witnessed. But it was fun.
We leave Friday or Saturday for Guatemala city to attend another meeting and pick my parents up! They will be here for 2 weeks and everybody is just so excited.
Hopefully I will be able to blog about something with a little more content later. I know this, though, that God is good and He makes no mistakes. How wonderful to trust and depend on He who knows all things. Oh, here's a few pictures of our weekend. Us in a boat about to cross the lake, the view from Las Buenas Nuevas, and that's us again. Not a bad spot.
Maybe the politicians will stop slinging.
Maybe the news will report something happy.
Maybe folks in the US will pause (even stop?).
Maybe the terrorists will rejoice.
Maybe our soldiers will feel their reason.
Maybe the world will think, "It can be any of us."
Maybe brothers will hug their sisters.
Maybe parents will hold their children.
Maybe Christians will love people well today.
Sorry again faithful blog readers. Life has been busy and, well, anyway...
This weekend we are going to a retreat center located on Lake Atitlan about 3 hours or so from our home. CAM in Guatemala is currently in ministry teams and two of those teams are meeting to have a sort of fellowship retreat. It should be a wonderful time of fellowship and relaxing and talking and praying about what the Lord wants us to do. There's a CAM retreat center there where we can stay for $7 a night. Which makes it pretty budget friendly. We'll let you know how it went. Oh, and that's what the lake looks like.
The following weekend we need to go to the City to have another meeting with CAM and pick up my parents! BoyD will finally get to see his Grammy and Grampa again.
This week is also independence day week (Sept. 15 is the actual day) and there are parades with all the kids in town. We're going to try and go to the 3-7 year old parade tomorrow. Next week is the fair (like the State Fair - only smaller) and we may try to go to that and get a parasite or two. The food's just SO good. And we probably won't get a parasite - depending on how smart we are.
Ok. Hopefully I'll have time (and energy) to write something I've been thinking about later tonight. I'm reading a book that makes me feel a little better about being so tired while learning a language and adjusting here. Apparently that's normal. Using lots of "emotional energy" which I wasn't all that aware of having so little of before. That's not what the book is about - it's called Cross Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer and it is fantastic. But anyway.
Now, there are a lot of things that a 2.5 year old understands. And a lot he does not. So I was getting him in his PJs last night and he said,
"Daddy, is PaPa in heaven?"
"Yes. He is."
"Daddy, can PaPa hug me?"
"Yes, baby, one day, in heaven, he can give you a hug"
"Daddy, is God in heaven?"
"Is God here in my room?"
"Yes, BoyD, He is."
"Daddy, when God is in my room, can He hug me?"
"Yes. God can hug you, baby."
"Yes, little man."
"Can YOU hug me?"
There are things I could never have learned but for having children. Theologically, it doesn't always have to make sense. Most times, it's better if it doesn't.
But these things are HUGE! The two of them combined would cover the entire state of Texas, if not more.
The Bible talks so much about our position as unique creatures, created in the image of God. And yet reminds us constantly that we're like dust, grass and flowers that bloom and fade away, often to be remembered no more.
Storms come and we try to build levees to keep the water out. We build cities below sea level. We do this because we were created to rule this planet. To dwell here and worship the Lord, to steward His creation. When the Lord was caught in a storm on a tiny boat with His disciples freaking out all around Him - He slept. He was awakened and rebuked the wind and waves - put them in their place - and they settled down. Because He was the maker of these things.
But we are very much beneath such storms. They can kill us if we're silly and stand in their way. But they, for all their power and majesty, are not the Lord. He alone is the King Eternal, the calmer of storms. And He sits on His throne as Lord over all these things, yet fully involved in the lives and hearts of people. In calming their storms. More often though, we must endure them though they come one after the other; we endure them because He who made them dwelt among us and is with us still. He dwells among the grass and the dust and the flowers that fade because He loves us. And such things are more powerful than any storm.
As excited as I am to witness the political proceedings over the next 60-some odd days, November will come and go and we will have, Lord willing, another peacefully elected president who will hopefully do more good that harm to the country of my birth.
And then life will go on. I admit that things will change depending on who gets elected. And the results will say a lot about where the US is at. But this is not the first big election in the world. And the Lord is not waiting with baited breath saying, "Oh, who will win?" He is not surprised. And He has things to do that exceed even the borders of the US. Really. I'm not kidding. God really does care about things outside the States. He cares about people. A lot, actually.
I've been reading a book, Postmodern Pilgrim by Leonard Sweet, as part of some reading I'm doing for CAM. I read a Sweet book or two in seminary and liked them. Made me think, which is good. It's not new (2000) but looks at what our culture (mostly US/Western culture) is doing and how the church should be changing how it relates to the culture. Not the message. Not the Bible. Those things are timeless. The confession of a disciple of Christ has not changed since those who witnessed the resurrected Lord ascend to heaven went to work. But the culture sure has changed. The creeds are the same but how we communicate and experience (yes, that word is OK) our belief in those things has changed.
The point of the book (thus far) is that as we leave the modern era (that where reason was king, where the mind was most valued) and enter the post modern era (where experience and feeling combine with thinking, where the heart and the mind are valued together) that we must look to the culture and say, "what language are they speaking and can they understand what I am saying?" It's much like adjusting a lesson plan depending on the audience. I would teach Philippians 2 differently to 5th graders than to a group of graduate students. The point of my teaching a passage of the Bible is not that I get to be heard or that reason is followed or that people feel something. The point is that I teach in such a way that people understand and that they evaluate their lives and allow the Holy Spirit to transform them through whatever God teaches. I can't use American Football illustrations in Guatemala. They won't get it. I have to teach the same idea in a different way so that the hearer receives the information. Other wise I'm just, as Paul said, a "clanging cymbal" a bull horn, a megaphone. Making noise but accomplishing nothing.
And so I am and will continue to think about how to teach in a way that Guatemalans understand just like pastors in the States have to look at not only their congregation but their community and ask, "what language are they speaking". Because a culture speaks a language. And that means a lot more than grammar and vocab. Please pray for me as a figure that out. I sure would like to limit the casualties in the mistakes I will make.
"El que madruga, Dios lo ayuda."
"God helps those who get up early"
Sounds a little like the oft misquoted, "God helps those who help themselves." which, of course, occurs nowhere in the Bible. But I like these phrases less for what they teach me than what they teach me about the culture. Each little proverb is like a glimpse through a microscope into the culture. From this little sentence we can see that getting up early is valued, they believe in God, and that God helps people. But not all people. And that sleeping in is frowned upon. That God wants me to hold up my end of things and be responsible. And that if I do what I'm supposed to, God will be good to me.
Wow! Some good, some bad things in there, but that's why I love these little proverbs. They're like Jolly Ranchers. Little but they give a lot. Or something. Actually, they are nothing like Jolly Ranchers. Maybe I didn't get up early enough. :-)
Most things are cultural. Habits, lifestyle choices, things like that. Family, loved ones, memories, a few precious objects. These remain. Two pieces of my identity, however, have remained.
I am a Texan.
I love college football.
I guess if you view life as a quilt that the Lord is weaving, those are two of my squares. On Friday, I wear my Red Raider shirt and on Saturday I do the same. Saturday, coffee is enjoyed via my Red Raider mug. I can't watch the games, but I've found that's not really the point. We have a Texas flag in our home. We cook chili.
We also cook pepian, cuchutos, and corn tortillas. I get pumped when the Super Chivos of Xela play the Rojos of the Capital. They're like the Yankees. Sort of. The Rojos.
I can't change who I was, but I can allow the Lord to make me into a new person. To knit that quilt. And He must if I am to minister effectively here. My quilt must look more like a Guatemalan's quilt or I'll never be able to relate to or learn from or love them well.
But that's another blog.
Kickoff is at 5:00. I can't wait.
Quien con lobos anda, aprende a ahullar
"He who runs with wolves learns to howl"
For you Spanish speakers: I know that andar means to walk but we don't say, "walk with wolves" so, anyway.
I like this one a lot. It's not that running with wolves is bad, just as long as you want to learn to howl. Although if howling is a bad thing, well, best stay away from the wolves. We are, in large part, defined by our circle of friends. I hope I have a big circle full of lots of different kinds of people. But I so often see lambs running with the wolves. And lambs have to fake it pretty hard to howl. Anyway - I'm sure I'll tell this to my kids when they're older. Hopefully not in a scowling father sort of way.
Traveling with a 2.5 year old and a7 month old is always interesting. I can't imagine what it would be like with older kids.
So, the olympics are over. I reckon they went about like everyone thought they would. A lot of great athletes amidst clouds of controversery and drama doing their thing. I hear NBC did a bad job. But Telemundo rocked so, there's that.
Alright. Oh, my stomach is better. I'm drinking less coffee and not much on an empty stomach but the medecines are working I guess. And I'm AMOEBA FREE for the first time in, I guess, awhile. It's like being debt free. Except with unicellular microorganisms instead of money.
One of the ladies with whom we ate is Helen Ekstrom. Her and David, her hubby, have translated the Bible into 5 Mayan languages. They are in their 80's and - get this - she was clasmates with Jim Elliot. She was just talking about something and it came up. She just said, "Oh, yes, Jim was our class president". WOW. The Ekstroms are from THAT generation of missionaries. What an honor to get to talk and learn from them - but they want to know about us - so it's hard to ask them enough questions. Very, very cool.
I have a wife who loves me. She found a good doctor and made arrangements and off I went. You don't make appointments here. You just go and get in line. I was 4th. I waited about an hour and a half. The receptionist desk had 3 ladies, 1 of whom was working really hard. She was getting patients where they needed to go, answering the phone, you know, working. There was a young lady who sat there and ate something from what looked like a margarine tub and tried not to answer the phone when it rang. The 3rd lady managed to paint her nails, make some tea, and at least put an envelope in the typewriter, although she never typed anything on it.
I spoke with the doctor. He was very nice and, well, a doctor who knew what the was talking about. He even has a radio show. Anyway, he asked me a bunch of questions and examined me and I have inflammation in my stomach lining probably caused by amoebas and too much coffee and fatty food. We don't eat much fatty food but I'm guilty on the coffee. So I marched over to the pharmacy and bought my prescriptions which totaled out to about 80% of what we pay Gladys to work at our house every month.
But it was less than it would be in the states. I take a medicine to reduce gastric acid, an anti-amoeba/parasite med, and something else that I'm not sure what it does because it did not come in a box - they just put blister packs in a bag for me and I received no pharmaceutical info.
The doctor told me no fat, no coffee. No fat is easier - no coffee?? I think I'd rather die. Jenny said that's fine, but I can't complain if it hurts when I drink it.
And that's why men hate going to the doctor. Because they know they are going to have to pay a lot of money to have someone tell them they can't do the things they like to do anymore. Even if they are what's best.
But last night, felling crummy, our friends Rene and Nellie called as we were giving the kids a bath and asked if we were busy. They were in the area and wanted to drop by. I was sort of grumpy to Jenny (wanting just to go to bed) but of course we said we'd love to see them. There will be a time when we know when and how to say "no thank you" in that situation, but we're not there yet. So, since I only felt crummy and not full blown sick, they dropped by. With cookies.
And we talked until about 10:00. And it was an amazing time. First, we could understand them and communicate so much better than we could when we first met them. But secondly, they spoke such encouragement and blessing into our lives. And that's not fluffy language. Their words blessed us because they spoke of what God has done and what they sense He may be calling us to do. We have asked them and a bunch of other people to pray for us as we learn the language and wait for the Lord to give us direction in ministry here. And Rene said that he thinks our work my be more urban (meaning that the bulk of our work would be here in Xela and the surrounding areas) and that he is so excited for what the Lord has for us. That the Lord has a good work for us to do here. And that this time of learning the language is great because he can see that the Lord is going to use me to speak in really profound Spanish into the lives of people. And that our family possess something that is lacking here: a true love for Christ and a humility and desire to serve and love people where they are and for the glory of the Lord.
How cool is that! I mean, WOW.
2 verses came to mind:
Heb 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Isn't THAT what happened last night? And I almost let crummy get in the way.
1 Cor 14:3 "But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort."
You can argue about whether or not there is prophecy now and what that means, but certainly the result last night was strengthening, encouragement and comfort. If any definition of 'prophecy' fits it seems to be what happened last night. Speaking God's truth into the lives of people.
Do a quick search on "encouragement" in the NT at this handy site: Bible Gateway
It will make you want to be an encourager! Or even a prophet, maybe. ;-) Minus any new revelation, of course.