I've been thinking

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.

Phrase of the Week

This may sound familiar. Well, not the Spanish.

"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. :-)


Let the games begin

Today, the Texas Tech Red Raiders begin their football season. There are lots of things you give up, leave behind, sell, give away or forget about when you move to another country. And there are somethings that you bring with you to integrate into your new life.

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.


Phrase of the week

Did not get to this last week. Traveling, etc. Feel free to put your thoughts, as always.

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.

A little ketchup. Or is it catsup.

We traveled to Guatemala City (about 4 hours away) on Friday to attend a Peacemakers seminar with CAM. Great time finally meeting all the other CAM missionaries. They all know us as "the ones who live in Xela" because most all of them live in or around the City. We went to Sam's Club (or something like it) and stocked up on things. "Going broke saving money" my father-in-law always said.

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.


brief but worth it

We drove Monday to a town 2 hours from here called Huehuetenango. It was a beautiful drive. We drove out to have lunch with a missionary couple that JUST moved here. They have 2 little kids too and it was great to meet them and encourage them. I remember very well the stress of that move. How wonderful to be able to give back a little. We couldn't stay long because Jenny had to get back for a meeting. But how great to drive and share a meal with a group of believers. It is sweet time indeed. Anyway - as Jenny says, the camera just does not do it justice.

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.


Why men hate going to the dcotor

I have not had good luck, gastronomically speaking, here in Guatemala. I get sick more often than I used to. Well, normally I get symptoms every few weeks and it goes away. I had some throat crud the other day but that seems to be going away. But this morning, when I took my first sip of steaming hot Guatemalan brew, it felt like someone stabbed me with an ice pick. So, as usual, I told myself to suck it up and ate breakfast. Each bite causing more pain.

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.


zicam day

I'm feeling crummy. Don't you hate that? It's not bad enough to lie in bed all day but I still feel, yucky, I guess is the word. Sore throat crummy.

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.

and this:

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.



For you folks in Dallas- that number is not the high temp forecast for the day.

It's Psalm 103. Maybe the best Psalm. I mean, how do you have a favorite, but every time I read this one it's my favorite all over again. It's about God. Do you want to know who He is, what He is like? How does He act toward us? If I'm hurting, will He listen to me? I wasn't going to do this, but I've got to put the whole thing here. I think you can read it in just a few minutes, a little longer if you want to mull over it. I was short on time yesterday and just read it aloud. Psalms are good aloud. They're sort of made for it. Like roasted peanuts are better at a ball park.

So , I'm not sure what you are doing, but I dare you to read this out loud. Especially if you're in a Starbucks somewhere. I chose an older version, more lyrical. I just like it better and the first verse matches that great old hymn.

Psalm 103

A Psalm of David.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.[a]
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

19 The LORD has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the LORD, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
22 Bless the LORD, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!


THAT'S why I love the olympics

"BEIJING – Jason Lezak churned like an unstoppable nuclear submarine, redlining to complete an impossible mission.

He pummeled the last 50 meters of water, dilating fans’ pupils and scorching their veins with adrenaline and sucking their torsos forward in their seats. He churned straight for Garrett Weber-Gale, who was cursing and howling and pounding on the starting blocks. He charged toward Cullen Jones, who jumped so frantically that he almost slipped and fell into the pool. And he roared past U.S. coach Eddie Reese, who was being squeezed nearly to death by one of his assistants.

And in the last meter of the greatest relay race in the history of the Olympics, Lezak grazed his outstretched fingertip on the wall just ahead of France’s Alain Bernard, who last week boasted of “smashing” the Americans in this event. When Reese tried to capture the moment later, he thought for a second and shook his head."

Read the rest here at Yahoo: click here


Phrase of the Week

Last weeks was kind of fun but this one's a little more profound. I've been ruminating over it for several days now. I got this during a discussion stemming from 1 Corinthians 5 that turned into a talk about US politics. Not sure how that happened. Anyway... Ok - here it is. Enjoy!

"No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver"

"There is no worse blind man than he who does not want to see"

Whew. I love that.

2 Firsts!

So this is fantastic for two reasons. It's Jenny's acceptance letter to Dallas Theological Seminary! She (as those who read her blog already know) will be getting a certificate of graduate studies to fulfill 30 hours of study required by CAM. She has 5 or so years to do it - but we're so pumped! It's not a surprise she was accepted. Anyone who knows Jenny is not surprised (Suma Cum Laude - I always have to give her props) but we're just excited! We have many of the books that she will need already. Unless they changed those a lot. Anyway...

Also, it is our FIRST TIME to receive a piece of mail here in Guatemala! How cool is that?? It's probably too little to see, but that's mailed (Like at the post office) from Dallas, TX to our address in Guatemala. You have no idea how excited we were to get that. It's fantastic. I'm not sure what all can be sent but the fact that we received a letter - well - it's just incredible.


what lies ahead

I get a lot of cultural insight into what the health of the church is here in Guatemala while reading the Bible with Edna, my language teacher. In 2 week we will have read all of the New testament minus the gospels and Revelation so there are a lot of topics covered and a lot of questions to ask.

Edna is a believer but she is just starting to walk with the Lord and she's just starting to work through what it means to be a Christian.

Here in Guatemala there are Catholics and Protestants/Evangelicals. But they hate each other. I mean, its like its Europe mid-1500's. Not a lot of love lost there. And I certainly have enormous doctrinal problems with the Catholics. But where is it written we're supposed to hate them?

There are many wonderful, mature, growing Evangelical churches here. And what a blessing to see the Lord moving and working in them. We attend a great church here.

And then there are the others. Imagine if you has sextuplets and they were all 2 1/2 and they all wanted the same toy and had missed their nap and lunch and had a really poopy diaper - imagine that interaction and that's about what the churches look like here.

People scream at each other because they think it is sinful to clap in church. They point fingers and judge and blame and hiss and spit and crucify one another. They make minutiae into dogma and Satan laughs at the carnage. He laughs because they have, by there own arrogance, castrated themselves from the Great Commission. Harsh language? I'm holding back.

I know several people who refuse to attend church because it is not a place of worship but a checklist of rightness. People feel they must measure up to enter the doors. And they make the church into a fortress which is never what was intended.

And I am here. Not by accident. And my passionate response is no farce. I cannot wait to see what the Lord wants to do. Paul says we can be "noble vessels" for the Lord. Like a chalice (or a coffee mug) in the hand of a king. What marvelous things can the Lord accomplish through His people? And there are brothers and sisters who have a true heart for the Lord and lack only the training to effect their world for Christ. Who desire something as wonderful as how to study the Bible. How to read it. To apply it. How amazing.

But for now, I need to keep learning the language. Whew.
It's hard to stay bridled for what lies ahead.


And now for something completely different

Hopefully I'm not the only one who still remembers Monty Python....


Here's some little things that make me happy:

- BabyM laughing. It's, well, wonderful

- hand made tortillas by Gladys. Also wonderful, but in a different way

- Movies. the escape can be pretty nice.

- popcorn. Not microwave or at the movies but popcorn made the real way at home. (I realize this makes two corn based foods which make me happy - but I live in Guatemala so, ah, there's lots of corn)

- Grammar. I know this is weird, but grammar is sort of like math for words - clean and orderly. It helps me make sense of what I need to say and how to say it.

- A good, not too heavy fiction book. It's like a movie, I guess, minus the soundtrack.

- A new razor. Wow.

- new socks. Also wow.

- not new jeans. There magic there.

- BoyD wanting to read the same book 11 times in one afternoon.

- Really good classical music that speaks without needing words.

- Sermons in Spanish. Though they make me a lot happier now that I can understand them.


I'm not a literary snob - really!

So my beautiful and talented bride accused me of BlogSnobbery with my last post. I couldn't see her over my copy of Ulysses, so I had to lower that to see that she was only a little serious.

Just kidding. About Ulysses. I haven't read it and never will. Sorry James Joyce fans.

In college I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, (written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn) a story about a guy sentenced to serve in a prison camp (a Goulag) in Siberia during Communism in Russia. That book, along with other books, sort of got the word out about what was going on in the USSR at the time. I don't know that much abut the guy other than he was brave to write what he did. Our world has been made better by brave people writing brave things. The Bible being chief among these. The majority of the authors of the New Testament were killed for their proclamations.

And 10 years ago I was really struck by how brave people can be to write the truth. That same semester I read a bunch of books of a similar vein and have an abiding respect for the men and women who endured evil in this world and were brave enough to write about it.

So, that's the reason for that last post. Didn't have the time to get into all this the other day. Although I would suggest reading a book of his or two!

Here's the Wiki article about his life if you are for some reason interested.


favorite phrase

Languages are cool. I only know one and am learning another, but it's still cool. I'm going to start putting down my favorite phrase of the week. Normally it will be a colloquialism or some kind of idiomatic phrase that makes me laugh or makes me think. And hopefully they will be funny or thought provoking to you too. I mean, they always make me think because I have to translate it but, anyway. Here's the first installment.

No te ahogues en un vaso de agua

"Don't drown in a glass of water"

I love that! And I need to hear that. How funny that I can take something so small and turn it into something so huge. I do that when I forget who God is and how I fit into things. And I make a big deal of what is, in reality, nothing. The Lord keeps my perspective where it needs to be - on Him - and not on the size of the glass. I love that phrase. I just need to make sure to apply it.

same but different

Last night Jenny and I had a friend and her 14 year old daughter over for dinner. We had hamburgers. Afterwards, we put the kids down and then Jenny and I went to see a movie, leaving our friend and her daughter to watch the kids. They watched a few DVD's while we were gone.

Sound pretty normal, doesn't it?

Here's what was different:

The friend is also the same lady who helps us keep our house in order by working here half the week. She was orphaned at 10 and helped raise her siblings. She lives in the mountains an hour and a half bus ride from our home. They stayed the night over here because it was too late for me to drive them home and too late for a bus. When I went to bed at 10:30 they were just starting The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and when I got up at 6:30 they were already gone - needing to get back home to be somewhere at 10.

And that's a little what things are like here: a few shades off of what we're used to. For us to go to a movie here it cost us Q50 for the tickets and Q25 for popcorn and a bottle of water. The Q = quetzal, Guatemala's currency. That makes Q75, or about $10. Which is GREAT for us! But the funny thing is that a normal wage here for a person working half a week at a home is about Q700-750. That would be like one of us paying 10% of our monthly income to go see a movie. So if you make $2K a month, it's like you paying $200 for a movie and popcorn.

Which is more than I would pay for a movie. Even The Mummy 3.