New friends

We had dinner last night with a couple we met at church. They have two little kids (a boy and a girl) just like us. He's a doctor and she's a nurse.

What's amazing is how much we have in common. I mean, put language and culture and occupation aside, we're very much alike. Many of you may be saying, "Wait a minute...those are the very things that I have in common with my friends" I think that's great! But I bet if you dug a little deeper, you would find that you have much more in common than that.

See, they are believers. We have the same Spirit, the same Lord. And they are people. Just being human gives us a whole lot in common. We ate pizza and brownies and our kids played together while we told our stories of how we met and got married. They were so patient with our Spanish and the husband speaks English so if we got stuck he would help. But we sat in their little kitchen and were just people together. Parents, spouses, Christ-followers.

They are, of course, getting ready to move to Germany for 3 years. He will study gastrointestinal medicine. Very handy here in Guatemala. And they have this amazing God story about how it all happened. Our other friends (the ones we went with to visit that church a few weeks ago) are moving in January. So it seems that all the friends we make and hit it off with are moving. Which just means we have to keep making more friends.

To those of you who are our friends back in the US - we miss you deeply. Our need for one another is never more evident than when we are forced to be apart. It is in the context of those friendships that we learn to love and serve and forgive. It is there that our faith puts its shoes on and goes to work. It is there that what we believe is tested against how we behave. We need each other and I'm so glad we have been able to love and serve and be forgiven by so many. May that group grow ever larger.


stinky sometimes

Ever look at your attitude and say, "Wow. What a stinky attitude."?

That happened to me this morning. BoyD has been sick and not sleeping well and consequently whining. All the time. I mean, he's 2. So all you rod of discipline folks back off. Ask his grandparents - we're pretty strict. But he's having a hard time dealing with life right now. He's tired and getting over tonsillitis and he's not the only one it wears on.

So I was trying to make something he'd like for breakfast and that had nutritional value. I asked him what he wanted and was going to make him anything within reason. He wanted a PB&J in the shape of a dinosaur. Brilliant. So I get him that and some chocolate milk and cinnamon-sugar apples. Look - he hasn't eaten much lately so I was trying just to get something in his belly.

I put it on his favorite frog plate and set it down in front of him. He doesn't hurl it to the floor, but pretty close. Hurling food to the floor is a spankable offense, but he pretty well lets me know he wants something different. And I got grumpy. Jenny came down and tagged in and, as it was 8:00 I went in to study Spanish.

And I sat and huffed and grumped for awhile and told the Lord he needed to help me deal with life. And He directed me back to my attitude. That if I wasn't so focused on myself I might deal with things a little better.


So I decided to do what I usually do when the stinky-attitude meter red lines: read the Bible.

And I turned to Psalm 98.

It starts like this:

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things;

and ends like this:

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy; 9 let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

And I thought, MAN, if the mountains and rivers can praise the Lord, how about a little from me? Hasn't He done marvelous things? I mean, just in my own life I can't even count them...and that doesn't' include all the lives of all the people I love. He's given us salvation! Because of Him my children do not have to bear the wages of their sin or wither beneath the consuming fire of His terrible wrath. Because of Him my sins have been judged and no longer rule over me. Because of Him I have a life full of hope and joy and peace and grace. Because of Him...

So some days things start off pretty stinky in BrandonLand. But they don't have to stay that way. Because of Him.


car alarms

I was going to write about some cultural things in Guatemala...


The neighbors car alarm won't stop going off and BabyM has been awakened. I guess that's a cross-cultural annoyance. BoyD is already up. He's been under the weather - strep or something. All we know is he had a bad fever and his throat was red with some spots...

There's the alarm again.

Anyway, so they didn't do a strep test at the pediatrician here. They just give a broad spectrum antibiotic (Augmentin, for those who are are interested) and charge us $20. That's a lot for a Guatemalan.

Tomorrow (or tonight) I might get some more time. BoyD is feeling much better already and crawling on me saying, "Que estas haciendo?" - "What are you doing?". And I'd rather have that than a little free time.


I'm sorry

I just saw the forecast for the DFW area for the next few days. Wow. I'm really sorry. It was 49 here this morning. Even people who like hot weather don't like it that hot. If that forecast was your body temp, you would all need an ice bath. Actually, that's not a bad idea. Here's something to help keep you cool and to remind you it won't be like this forever.

Last time I was in Texas it looked like this:

Just imagine yourself crunching through the snow. The cold air on your face. Snow falling against your cheeks. You reach up and grab a hunk of snow from a branch and take a bite. COLD against your lips.

Eating snow. Outside. In Texas! It's possible!

So, all you DFW people - go eat a really big sno-cone. I recommend Bahama Bucks. You can even order a yellow one.


time for a little namesake

I have a lot I'd like to write about but couldn't put much of it together today so I'm just going to ramble for a bit.

Anybody know why our diesel minivan gets bad city mileage? Is it normal to get really bad mileage in the city with a diesel?

I just love our children. BoyD may be a genius. We're pretty sure. He memorized a 46 page book on sharks. We think it was the in-utero Mozart. Or he just takes after his mother. Either way it won't be long until he can outsmart me so I have to be thinking ahead. Thankfully his mommy is smarter than me. :-) She hates it when I say that. BabyM is now mobile. She's only 6 months old but she barrel rolls, then flips to change direction. We found her under her rocking chair after 3 minutes alone in her room. That's the end of leaving her playing on her little baby gym.

I cannot wait for Red Raider football to start. I know I won't see a single game...but I can listen on internet radio. How incredible is that?

We saw the X-Files movie last night. In English! It was really special. And it was, well, like a 90 minute X-files episode so we liked it. Jenny's a nut for the X-files.

Did I mentions Jenny is attending a women's conference today? At our church? I'm so proud of her! So her and a friend and BabyM are going to do whatever women do at a Guatemalan womens conference. Me and BoyD are having ManDay. Should be lots of fun.

We have a eucalyptus tree in our yard. I planted it when we moved here. It's not very big yet, 4ft or so. But when it gets bigger I want to try to find a koala to live in it. Actually, that's probably not a very good idea. I've heard they are mean. But I do want to get some timbers and make a garden area. Just a 2x10 foot area for a few veggies. Our whole back yard is I 10x30 or a little smaller but it's a yard so we're pumped. And I think I can grow tomatoes year round here...something unthinkable to my North Texas mind.

I hope anyone who reads this and still gets summer breaks is enjoying it. Most of life does not have a summer break so, take it and enjoy it. The 'real world' (whatever that means) will wait for you.

Well that's about it for now. BoyD and I are going to try to build something today together. Not sure what yet but it will probably include cardboard and a lot of fun. Enjoy your Saturday!


Two weeks

Putting aside the fact that they are being held smack dab in the middle of a country known for egregious human rights violations and persecutions against the Church, I'm really pumped about the Olympics.

I love the Olympic games. Yes they have bizarre mascots and sure, they use it as a feel good, see look how well we can all get along show, but when push comes to shove, it's pure competition out there. It's a chance for athletes to go out there and do there thing on the biggest stage around.

I'm actually partial to the winter Olympics, but now that they alternate, the summer will have to do. I know the US has been pretty dominant lately and I hope that contries. But I love it when you get some tiny little country winning a gold medal. It's fantastic. Even if they do beat the US of A.

This year will be interesting because of the venue. The massive China machine is in full swing to prove to the world they are a global power. Anyone that doubts that needs to look at how many things in your house have "Made in China" on them. I think really they are trying to prove that they are not guilty of crushing dissidents and that a lot has changed since Tiananmen square. That too is doubtful. People release power reluctantly, especially in an Eastern culture. It will be crushing if China is shamed on the world stage by some mishap or rouge protester. We'll see what happens. People who have been desperate to be heard may get pretty loud.

And it is on that stage that some really great sport will occur. Crazy sports like the hammer throw and the steeplechase. I love that stuff. I have no idea if I'll be able to watch a single event, like the US basketball team getting squashed, but I can at least read it online.

Can't wait to see what all goes down.


a needed boost

A view of the Xela valley where we live.

Nellie helping BabyM get a little drink

BoyD with his Blankie and a rock. Man he loves rocks.

I'd be lying if I told you that every day I jump up out of bed and run to study Spanish. Most days I'm pretty pumped. But some days I have to dig deep to fight off the waning desire and a few days I don't find much when I dig. Last week I was reminded of why we're doing all this.

We have made some dear friends here. Rene and Nellie live nearby in a town called Salcaja and they are moving in January to be nearer the people they are ministering to. They asked us if we would like to visit a CAM church near here that needs some help. So before language school one day we headed out to a town called San Francisco al Alto which is also home to the 2nd largest market in central America. Sorry for the random information...anyway, it was only a 45 or so minute drive. Nellie watched the kids while Jenny and I chatted for maybe 10 minutes with the pastor, and elder, and their wives.

And they wanted help. Money? No. A way to the U.S.? No. They wanted to know how to grow their church and how to teach children and youth, how to draw youth from their community into the church. Stuff you learn in school. School they cannot attend. Stuff that they are desperate to know.

And I realized how deeply I want to help the church here, the Church, the body of Christ, be effective in whatever ministry the Lord has for them. And I realized that I must know Spanish very, very well to do that. And I got a little kick in the pants. A gentle reminder of why it's important that I understand grammar and vocabulary and the meaning behind the words that make up the language people speak.

I sure need those little boosts. Off for another 5 hours of language fun!

Oh, and yes, the water for BabyM is purified. :-)


silly shows

I'm watching a show on the History Chanel. Yes, we're in Guatemala. It's in Spanish. Anyway, it's a show about what the earth will be like without people. I guess it's interesting to ponder, but it has no relevance to reality. The earth will always have at least some people on it and eventually there will be a New Earth with people on it forever.

I think what bothers me about it (well, bother is too strong - it's just a TV show) is that they have no consideration for what God has planned or how important people are in His plans. But I guess people have been going about life for a long time not considering God or what He's doing. And I guess I go about doing the same thing some days too.

So, I guess I'll just enjoy the show. At least it's good for learning a little Spanish.


Things I am happy about

- Hot showers. Wow. It was 53 this morning and our house has no heat...except for the hot water in the shower! Think of all the technological advances that proceeded the hot shower. Truly a modern marvel

- Coffee. Thank you Arab world for cultivating that magical bean. Or thank you African goat herder who discovered it. Either way I now buy it at a store and I really enjoy it.

- The kids sleeping in. This makes 2 days in a row that the kids have slept past 7. Woohoo! I mean, WE don't sleep anymore but, well, those of you who have kids understand. It's just nice.

- Guatemalan food. Pepian (what the CBC team had when they were here - chicken, sauce, rice, etc), black beans, crema...I'm learning how to make Guatemalans food. Every Friday we learn something new. It's GREAT. I'll make you some if you come visit.

- Candles. So the lights go out here once a week or so. But candles - wow. Not fancy but pretty darn reliable. And cheap. And romantic. Maybe cheap and romantic aren't supposed to go together, but this is my list. ;-)

- Good books. I just finished one and I am starting another that looks like it will be great. How cool that we can benefit from another person's ideas like that.

- Not living in the US right now. Man, I love the States, but every four years between July and November it gets pretty brutal. Although, we should be thankful that no one kills the candidates family members to prevent their election. That's pretty par-for-the-course here in Latin America.

- My wife. She MADE diapers for our kids. How awesome is that? She's just incredible.

- My children are up. I love their little faces in the morning.

Enjoy this day!


little pieces

We use our crock pot a lot. You put food in it at night or in the morning and you go about your business. Then, magically, 8 hours later, wonderful food. We do soup, beans, roast. It's really great for the tough little roasts we get here.

I was putting the thing back in the cupboard and the glass lid fell off and just shattered. Little pieces of tempered glass went everywhere. Only the metal ring on the outside of the lid held pieces bigger than an M&M. I was in bare feet and just looked around at the broken little pieces like ice strewn on a restaurant floor. And cursed.

Jenny was in the next room (wearing shoes) and went and got the broom and me some shoes and we commenced with the careful task of getting out of trouble. We had to brush my feet off before I put shoes on and then sweep and sweep and inspect and sweep some more - all those little pieces. And after all the little pieces were up I found other even littler pieces in the grout and against the wall - little shards hardly visible.

As I was sweeping the Lord reminded me that lives can do that too. One day you are just going along, putting up the silly crock pot, and one thing happens and shatter - your life is broken and strewn across the kitchen floor. And we need help to put the pieces back together. We can buy a new lid - or some kind of lid at least - but a life is not so simple. The Lord, though, knows how to put things back together. He knows where all the little pieces are. And He knows that we need other people to go and get our shoes.

But it's not a quick process, gathering shattered glass. It's careful work. And what we want to do is tell everyone to get away, don't come near the glass. But in reality, our need for one another is never greater than when we have a life in little pieces.

So to all of you out there sweeping things up - I'm really proud of you. Just getting over the shock of the lid breaking is enormous, but you have and now you are, with the Lord and other people, putting things back together again. Don't lose heart! Just keep letting the Lord put back one piece at a time.

One day you can use that crock pot again.


Happy Anniversary!

40 years ago today a beautiful stewardess from Mississippi and a brilliant narcotics agent from Oklahoma married on a bright summer day in Dallas. Little did they know what those 40 years would bring.

But no matter what; it brought them through together. They have weathered the storms of life: cancer, Haiti, teenagers; and here, 40 years later, they stand again at the threshold of another adventure.

Thank you, mom and dad, for getting married. For staying married. For loving my brother and I, my wife, and for loving our children. And for all the many people you have loved together.

May the Lord continue to bear the fruit of your labor and may you enjoy the next 40 years - together!



Something worth seeing

Jenny and I saw this while at training in North Carolina. I don't know the whole story behind it other than what you see - a father running the Ironman Triathlon with his disabled son. Please take a few minutes, let it load, and just watch and consider. I put a few Scripture verses below just for a minute of reflection. It's pretty awesome. Oh, that I would both so rest in the love of my Heavenly Father and love my children in such a way.

2 Cor 13:2,4 "He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you."

1 Cor. 10:8 "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

1 Thes 3:12 "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you."

1 John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."


Something in common

I just realized my blog post times are a hour ahead of my actual time. My whole world is in a tizzy now. :-)

I was listening to a Jennifer Knapp song yesterday and part of the chorus goes like this:

"I want to know You, better than I do;
O, relieve me from myself,
Bring me into You."

So she's talking about knowing God better. And I realized, as many people do when the listen to music, "Hey - I have the same problem!" I want to know the Lord better but I keep getting in my own way. The list of how that happens would be very long but I'm sure we'd find other things in common there too. I let silly things like presuppositions and a love for doctrine instead of people get in the way. Hey, wait a minute.

I thought doctrine was important? Oh, it is. But if I'm reading the Bible right, the Lord says to love Him and people. I love Him with my soul, heart, mind and strength and so loving Him with my mind includes studying theology and doctrine. But I don't love those things - I love the Lord. And that's where I (and maybe we as people) get off track. We love the wrong things. I love myself instead of the Lord. I love my (fill in the ______) instead of the Lord.

Maybe I should make that blank bigger. I have a lot of things that go in there!

Add into yesterday that I was very molasses-minded (also known as tired and grumpy) and reading through Philippians chapter 2 and you get a little battle going on for what I'm supposed to be. God has made us to be lovers - lovers of Him, lovers of people. He's also made us to be thinkers, servers, teachers, and sufferers among a score of other things. But it is the primary (being a lover) which often gets eclipsed by the secondary (other things) and that can cause me confusion and trouble. I'm not supposed to serve the Lord and not love Him. See, those secondary things are all demonstrations of the inner reality of a love for Christ. I love my wife because I love the Lord. I teach my children because I love the Lord. I think and serve and suffer (though very, very little suffering) because I love the Lord.

See, I found myself saying, "God, help me not be grumpy. Help me serve and think of others like you tell me to in this chapter (Phil 2)." But what I really needed to do was ask the Lord to help me love Him and in loving Him, love others. And in loving others, serve them and consider them (as Christ did) as more important than myself. Not that it's bad to ask the Lord to help serve - but it's not the best. And I'm trying to learn not to ignore what is best for what is good.

I have a lot - a very, very lot - to learn.


reboot needed

Ugh. My brain is mushy today. Like a computer that needs to be rebooted. We've changed schedules so we study from 2-7 M-F instead of 8-1 and it messes me up. I'm not good in the afternoon - always hit a slump. And we've been without sun for a few days. Man, I'm sorry for all you Portland folks! At least a little.

So, on a day like today, it's difficult to apply things from a book about ordering your private world and bringing discipline into your life. But I guess that's sort of the point. Discipline is, well, not meant to be fun. It's meant to grow us. But today, I think it might grow me a little less. Boy, if I could pay for a nap today I'd do it!


Holy Smokes, Romans is a good book

I read through Romans 9-13 in language school today. Yesterday was 5-8. We'll finish it tomorrow. How incredible! The Lord is transforming my language teacher, Edna, right before my eyes. She understands grace! She really is getting it! When reading ch 3, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (...just read the whole thing for yourself - I mean the BOOK - go for it!) she said, "What does redemption mean?" I about stood up and shouted, "Glory!" So I spent awhile explaining things to her. If she is not a sister in Christ, she's gonna get there soon.

It's amazing how awesome God is. And I'm not doing anything you need a Seminary degree for. I'm just reading the Bible in stumbling Spanish and God is changing a life. 2 lives, really, because one cannot spend time in the Word in humility and not be changed.

And this is just the beginning. Oh, how awesome is the Lord that we can be a part of His transforming power. It's like being swept up in a tidal wave, except it's a good thing. So thank you for those of you praying for Edna - they are effective.

Goodness, I'm excited. Excited at the future, the present, because of the Lord and what He will do. I know that difficulties are ahead, but so is great joy and peace and hope and love. And according to Romans 8, such greater things than can be imagined are in store for those who have faith in Christ. Have you read that chapter? Yes? No? Good! Let's read it again. Get that Bible, turn off the tube, and spend 15 minutes reading and thinking about that passage. I dare you to do it! :-)

Wow. Ok. Off to study past and present participles. Woohoo!


A good book

This is not a new book to many of you. It says there are a million copies out there so this is not some old gem I dug up. But I am in the process of reading it and it couples closely with what I was talking about in the previous post. We have an inner world that, when the outer world becomes tumultuous, will either gird us up or collapse beneath the burden of life here on planet earth.

I really recommend it to anyone who desires to have or maintain integrity in your life. A good, good book. I look forward to putting what it says into practice. Or else I've wasted my time!

I hope you all have a marvelous day. I'm about to jump into 5 hours of language school. We stared Romans yesterday! WOW that book is complicated in Spanish.