Wednesday

one happy day

Today, nine years ago, at 2:00 pm in the afternoon, I became the happiest man in history.

Jennifer Robyn Moore became Jennifer Robyn Scott by becoming my wife. She was resplendent in her beauty. I could hardly keep from bolting up the aisle to meet her when the doors opened into the sanctuary. I was, and remain, engulfed by her her beauty. She is my best friend, the person with whom I want to spend every moment, share every secret, live every breath.

I love you, my angel. I love you, Jenny. Solomon said it way better than I can:

"All beautiful you are, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions' dens
and the mountain haunts of the leopards.

9 You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.

10 How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice!

11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon."


W O W.

Thank you, Lord. THANK YOU LORD!

And thank you, Jenny. I love you.

Tuesday

upside down

Yesterday we went to see Jenny's OB. Things seem to be fine but the Dr. wanted us to go in for a sonogram just to check things out, given that she hadn't seen Jenny since July. All Keegan's parts seem to be working just fine. We saw his sweet, mushed little face. He just happens to be in the wrong position.

At this point he ought to he head down, ready to meet us. Instead he is folded with his feet in front of his face and his tush headed down. He's breech. Given that Jenny has birthed our first two naturally and without complication we were assuming the same with Keegan. Ah, assumptions. So now we are praying that the Lord will turn that little fella around so Jenny can give birth as she was designed. Would you join us in asking the Lord to help us? There are apparently techniques to get the baby in the right position and we'll be talking with the OB but it's really up to the Lord.

We're dealing with a little frustration and trying to prepare ourselves mentally for either a natural or Cesarean birth. I'm not sure if that's a lack of faith or simply acknowledging that the Lord is not obligated to do things our way, but we are certainly believing He will help us, knowing He will be with us either way.

Monday

hello, Monday

Well I figured that if I want to blog (for whatever reason) that I just need to do it, even if it's just to have some form of discipline in typing out some thoughts. Goodness. That was an awkward sentence. Anyway..so the point is that I need to come up with some sort of short term goal or project. Your ideas are welcome because I don't think I have any good ones. Today I am just blogging to do it and get into a habit of doing it.

Alright then. Tomorrow then.

Tuesday

And a month goes by

Well. Anyone who who reads this may have noticed my lack of posts for...a MONTH. Wow. That's a long time.

We were getting ready to leave for the US and I just didn't have the time. Once we got to Texas we were busy for what seemed like every waking moment (and some moments when we should have been sleeping) and when we weren't busy, I would rather have talked with my family than blog.

Well, now we are in Lubbock and have eased up a little and I have time again.

Anyway, to those folks who read this, I'm back. It's 7:48 and my whole family is still asleep. A true Christmas miracle!

Monday

predicando

Goodness, it's been awhile. Last week was some what odd and exceedingly busy so I just never posted anything. This week is somewhat busy and a little odd because we leave for 3 months on Monday and there are an insane amount of things to do.

I got to preach on Sunday at our home church and that was a lot of fun. Some of you said that you wanted to see it and Jenny recorded a short video so, here it is.

Saturday

toons

This morning I woke up. Normal day. Went into the oldest boy's room. He was the reason I awoke. I noticed it was 6:30 and I wondered why we forgot to set the alarm. It was late. And then it hit me: It's Saturday. Woohoo!

I have only lived in two cultures and both of them set Saturday aside as a special day. Even the word - Saturday - looks fun. Here Saturday is often a half work day but by noon everyone's off and they go to the market or to a hot spring or a bath house to soak and warm up. They eat out or shop and have birthday parties. It's a good day for laundry or cleaning or taking a day trip. It's Saturday and we like it.

I'm sure there are roots to it, Saturday being the Sabbath, but for me it all starts with cartoons.

When I was a kid, Saturday was the one day of the week where I was allowed to wake up and just watch TV for a few hours. By about 10 the cartoons had thinned out and it was time to go do something else, but those were good days for cartoons.

See, we didn't have cable and there was no cartoon network. We had CBS, NBC and ABC and if you wanted cartoons, that's where you got 'em. Well, PBS was in the ring and they competed heavily with Marty Stouffers Wild America (still a favorite) but mostly it was cartoons.

And they were 80's Cartoons - with a few late 70's thrown in.

He-Man
Smurfs
Snorks (strange)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
G.I. Joe
Scoobie Doo
Thundercats
Schoolhouse Rock
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Teddy Ruxpin (a brief foray)
Dangermouse
Underdog
Starblazers (my brother just loved this...mainly because it's awesome)
Dungeons and Dragons (and no, I'm not an evil warlock)
The Ghostbusters
The Real Ghostbusters (never discerned the difference)
The Jetsons
The Incredible Hulk
M.A.S.K. (short lived, but VERY cool toys)
Transformers
Voltron (never owned any toys from that - too much like Transformers I guess)
The Super Friends Hour

Of course, separate from all those and standing as a legitimate art form and cultural influence is Looney Tunes. Fritz Freeling and Tex Avery are pure genius. The Rabbit of Seville, Duck Amuck. Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc, Carl Stalling - Leon Schlesinger knew what he was doing. There was no competitor to those guys. Just look at this and tell me what you hear, think, feel, remember:




I mean, you can HEAR the music! It was genius. Cartoon genius. And somewhere my brother has a set of 12 VHS tapes of this. Wow.

So...enjoy your Saturday. If you can catch a cartoon or two (especially from the above list) go for it. A bowl of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs would accompany nicely.

Wednesday

help, please

Those who know me understand that my God given gifts do not include organization. I'm not disorganized in the classical sense; I don't wear shirts backwards or have messy hair. But I am forgetful and I get distracted easily. I just do. I'd rather sit and talk with someone about life and God than plan out how to make that meeting more efficient. My brain is not that linear - that's why I named this blog Ramble Zone - because that's what I do. Anything coherent and sensible is typically the product of re-writing more than writing.

Well, we leave for the Greatest State on Earth (that would be T E X A S ) in about 2.5 weeks. And while that makes our kid's Grammy and Mimi hum with happiness, it's enough to make me start drinking. That's a joke by the way. I already drink. I'd just drink more. More water. More milk. More juice. You mix disorganization with dehydration and we're talking trouble.

Anyway, we have a lot to do. So I made a list several weeks ago. Yesterday I looked at that list and then re-made another list adding all the other things I thought of that need doing and then combined the two lists and then freaked out a little and called in reinforcements in the form of my beautiful and talented bride.

About 10 years ago, God looked at me and said, "It is not good for Brandon to be alone" and he sent me my Jenny. While in the throws of romantic rapture I knew only that I loved her and that I wanted to spend my life pursuing her and loving her more. And honestly, that's about as far as I went. All my energy was turned to romance - and that's good.

Yesterday, however, I didn't need a hallmark card. I needed help. And the Lord has given me a helper who is, without argument, par excellence. She sat me down and helped me turn my list which contains enough work for 2 months into something that I could flesh out and finish in 2 weeks. 2 weeks of non-stop insanity, but 2 weeks. And for that, Baby, I love you. I need you. And I thank the Lord for you.

And now I need to get to work.

Monday

just go already

Friday I went to visit our friends the Ekstroms to get more of their story. I got their timeline filled in from '51 to '80 or so. When you've walked on earth for that long you have a lot of stories. Most of theirs are just too interesting to pass up.

I had a really hard time leaving on Friday morning. Late night. A sleepy, disorganized morning, couldn't find the key to open my gas tank - I was frustrated. But Jenny convinced me to go and I went. I only got about 2 hours talking with them becasue a Brazilian missionary came for an un-expected visit to meet Helen, whose brother teaches at a seminary in Brazil. But while I was chatting with Helen in the kitchen she started talking about college students and how difficult a time they are having here in Guatemala. No one is preparing them for walking with the Lord in college. They have never been taught about the many world views or humanism and how those things are contrary to what they have grown up believing and many, many of them are falling away.

Xela has more than a dozen colleges and a few larger universities. Don't think University like in the US. Think more the size of a community college - well, smaller - but still a university. Anyway, we live here. And there are lots of college students. And we have a lot of experience with college students and pastors here are often scared to talk to college kids because there is a huge education gap and they feel they don't know enough. And Helen put those things together while we stood in her kitchen.

So now we are looking at how we can serve all those college kids and help the pastors learn how to prepare their kids for the philosophical battle they will face in college; how they can help them remain faithful in a place where their faith will indeed be tested and ridiculed.

I thought I was just getting a story on Friday but the Lord is always working, even when we're grumpy. Meeting with two people who love Jesus as much as the Ekstroms and talking about how God has used them and brought them through almost 6 decades of ministry tends to stir things up a little. This time it gave us a new vision for minsitry. Which is pretty cool when you consider I almost didn't go.

Friday

It's Friday, right?

Man, I need to go on furlough so I can have more time to blog.

Ha. While we will have more 'time' I am going to spend it mostly talking with people but maybe I can squeeze in a few more blogs.

Today I get to drive to a town called Huehuetenango and visit with the Ekstroms, the missionary couple in their 80's. I'll be talking with them about their story and trying to fill in details of 160+ years of combined life. I am planning to write their story and I admit that I am terrified to begin in earnest. I honestly have no idea what I am doing. That's not a reason to avoid doing something, of course, but it makes it scarier.

I hope to be able to begin writing when we are in Texas so maybe more blogs are out of the picture. See, the thing with writing a blog for me is that if I don't get it done in the morning before the kids get up it just won't get done. I feel weird blogging when I have work to do and after the kids get down Jenny and I are often in zombie mode and go to bed at 9:30. But I am trying to at least get more than one a week done. We'll see. The fact that 'blog' is not in the blogger auto-dictionary is just silly.

Last night we had a Canadian couple and their 3 kids over for dinner. It was just a ton of fun. We really, really enjoy just sitting and talking with them. The got here at 6 and left at 10:30 and the time flew by. Their kids are a little older and played with our kids for hours. And to date I have never met a mean Canadian. I'm sure they exist, I just haven't met one I didn't like.

And with that, I need to get ready to leave. It's always fun hanging out with the Ekstroms - they are truly an amazing duo.

Saturday

biscuits and eternity

Well I've been trying to write this blog on being a dad and it's just not really very good. So instead of not posting or posting something that needs to stew, I'll just come on here and ramble.

Today we're going to a town about an hour from here so Jenny can teach at the anniversary of a church's women's ministry. She has been working like a madwoman this whole week because she also will teach on Sunday and life here goes on. She is my proverbs 31 wife and while many daughters are noble, I sure think that she exceeds them all. I've been trying to take up the slack during off work hours so that she can prepare. It's been fun to serve her like she serves me all the time. Not that I don't ever do anything around the house, I'm just doing a little more than usual.

We met some new friends here yesterday. Jenny and I took a date to the grocery store (as busy as we have been, we take what we can get - kid free time is a date!) and met this nice fella from Canada. He and his wife (they are a little bit older than us) came over last night for what was supposed to be 5 minutes and turned into 2 1/2 hours. They just moved here a few days ago and are in that entry phase of utter chaos and had a lot of questions. It was really fun to be able to be helpful to someone and to hopefully make their transition a little less stressful. The Body of Christ is simply amazing.

When I finish here I am going to go make biscuits, a recipe I have finally mastered. The secret to incredible biscuits? Butter and sour cream. And you gotta treat 'em easy. Biscuits are fickle. But man o man, in a country where biscuits simply don't exist, it has been worth the effort. I'm not going to say they are Crackle Barrel yet (they put cocaine in theirs I am certain) but they are good enough to make a southern boy happy, which is about all we need around here.

You know, the Christian walk is anything but static. Anything but boring. God is simply not boring and when He says, "Follow Me" and you actually follow Him, your life will be interesting - no matter what country you life in. If you get arrogant, He will humble you. If you get stagnant, temptation comes to test you. If you are tired, He lets you rest in Him. If you are bored, there is so much to do that every fiber of your being (physical, emotional, spiritual) can be worked to exhaustion. The Word of God is living and active because GOD is living and active and following Him is just that- living and active. It's fantastic! And I'm not even very good at it. I'm inconsistent and selfish and immature and it drives me crazy some days. But the Lord is not surprised by me. He's not freaking out of saying, "What am I going to do with you!" like some exasperated parent of a fit throwing toddler. For crying out loud, He's the God of all creation. All Authority is His. All Power. All Knowledge. All Glory. All everything. And He, at least in part because He loves us, has given us this great adventure of a life lived by faith here on planet earth before we enter eternity where faith and hope will pass away and only love will remain.

So, I'm off to make biscuits. And drive and take care of our kids so my amazing wife can teach some women how to walk with God a little better. And I'm looking forward to spending today with the God who is with me - even to the end of the age. Which certainly includes today.

review

Man, I really need to blog more than weekly. I have no imperative for doing so other than once a week seems too far between posts.

Anyway, the week in review. Weeks go really fast, don't they? Some faster than others, some a weird mix. I was supposed to teach a group of pastors this week at a prayer meeting. The pastors here meet in varying locals to pray for and encourage one another. Normally it goes something like this:

9:00 - sing hymns and songs and pray
10:30 - drink some kind of atol (a hot drink normally made from rice or corn) and eat some kind of bread
11:00 - pray more
11:30 - Someone preaches
12:30 - sing more songs
1:00 - eat lunch
2:00 - drive home

So, when I go out, that's what I normally do. It's usually somewhere within 2 hours of the house so I leave at 7 and get back around 4. Not too bad.

This last Tuesday I went out to a great little place of which I forgot to take a picture (again) and met with the pastors. I was excited because I finally brought the camera and remembered to ask one of the pastors to take a picture of me preaching so all you folks will actually believe I do it. But when it came time to go up front, another guy was teaching! Basilo, a good friend of mine, said, "Oh, you had something ready?!" and I told him not to worry about it. So I spent about 8 hours getting something ready that I didn't' use...but I have a great little sermon with cool handouts ready for next time! All printed up and ready to roll.

I also went to a breakfast meeting yesterday at 8:00 (for which the guy did not show) and wasted an hour after that standing in line at the bank.

I was very busy accomplishing nothing. Sigh. That's life sometimes. I did get a good deal of time in preparing a sermon over Matt 28:16-20 which has been a ridiculous amount of fun.

So, add in normal filling out of forms and errands and planning and whatnot and you have a week done and gone.

I want to talk about being a dad and the shoeshine boys and how someone stole our neighbor's dog. Man. It's a bad world out there.

not a scholar

I must admit that part of my job is to study the Bible. That may be part of the reason I do what I do. I am no Bible Scholar. Not that Bible Scholars are bad, they are actually very helpful, I am just not one of them as anyone who knows me and also knows a Bible Scholar can clearly see. I'm not actually certain what is required to have the title, "Brandon Scott, Bible Scholar", but I am certain I do not meet the requirement.

Anyway, so I've been looking at Proverbs 9 where Wisdom and the Woman of Folly or Foolishness are personified and contrasted. I really recommend you take just 5 minutes and read it. It's only 18 verses. And it's really fascinating because, well, we all hear both voices in our life. One calling us to wisdom and a life lived in awe of God, the other to a life of foolishness and perceived pleasure. One leads to a life of, well, life and meaning. Tho other leads to death.

What's fascinating is that both sound the same at the outset. Both say, "Are you confused about life, don't know what's going on? Come with me." So how are we supposed to know which one to follow? Verse 10 says this:

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Ah! Even the structure of the proverb points to this verse as the center, the key. Fearing God is not like fearing an angry bear. It is a reverent awe, not so much an acute terror. Now, people faced with God's wrath, they ought to be afraid, ought to feel abject terror. But we are called to be awed into silence, to kneel and understand that God is the Lord of all and we, we are not. He is utterly other than we. He is not like us. We make a grievous error when we believe God is like us. When we make the Creator like the created. He made us in His image - not like Him. Not anymore than a picture of a tree is a tree. And yet...we can know Him. "Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding", says the proverb. Jesus says, in praying to the Father, "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the one true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." That we can know God, being utterly unworthy of such knowledge just blows me away. That we can live a life of wisdom and understanding by having an attitude of humility and awe and by knowing God is just so amazing to me.

The call of God is an invitation to life. It always is. A life of understanding, of wisdom, of peace and hope and joy. A life lived not by sight but by faith. A life lived by the power of another world. A life...lived.

A life really lived.

Thursday

a good talk

We had a meeting yesterday with about 15 pastors where we discussed the role of women in ministry or the role of women in the church. In a machismo culture it was a truly great discussion where we talked about what the Bible says and where we are at fault and how the culture tries to press us into its mold. I was really proud of the pastors for accepting the responsibility of being men who place themselves beneath the authority of the Bible and then try to figure out how to do minsitry within that reality. It's not an easy thing to do when there are a lot of voices (very loud, sometimes passionate voices) telling you a variety of things, most of which are contrary to what you believe.

It was a good time. It's amazing how much you can have in common with people who believe in the same Lord.

Saturday

While it lasts



Saturday mornings are a time when we allow our children to rot their brains by watching cartoons and eating cereal so unnaturally colored and devoid of nutrition and that the cereal people are forced to add in vitamins just to avoid prosecution. But they like it. Of course it tastes good and is crunchy. I just ate a little blue ring that tasted like stale blueberry syrup. My daughter is giving them to me one by one. Surely nothing given to me by so beautiful a courier could be bad? The chewing surfaces of my teeth are now smooth, filled to the brim with a rainbow of fruit flavored pseudo grain. A swig of room temperature coffee and all is well.

Our tiny backyard has been overrun by black woolly bear caterpillars. They are an appropriately named creature. Our son enjoys collecting them and storing them in a liter yogurt container with holes punched in the lid. It's a sub-standard prison, but the alternative is death by garden shears or being flung over the razor wire wall into the neighboring corn field so all together it's not a bad deal. He plays with them in the sand box: gritty, fuzzy pre-metamorphosed worms spilling from his hands. He piles them in his dump truck and buries them in the sand and shrieks with delight when they wriggle to freedom, tiny Shai-Hulud ruled by their blue eyed master in a green plastic turtle. It's fun. And boys who can play with dirt and bugs make better men. Of this I am certain.

And so our Saturday is. It will change. As our children grow and sleep until 11, these mornings will pass away and I will have to rouse them from sleep to go and do whatever teenagers will do in a dozen years from now on a Saturday morning in a place I do not yet know. So I will enjoy it now. While it remains. For I am sure I will miss it when it's gone.

Sunday

hungry people

Sundays are wonderful days. For believers we either get to go to church on Sunday or, if we're one of the 'professionals' (a truly silly and misleading title), we get to teach and preach and serve on this first day of the week.

God is so good to give us this day to meet together. To remember that on this day the greatest news ever spoken was uttered to a small group of broken, defeated women who had come to execute their duty to their fallen Teacher.

"He is not here. He is risen"

I let out a whoop every time I read that in the gospels. It's more exciting than last second touchdowns or triple plays or clearance sales at Gymboree. And this coming from a man who truly loves the game of College football and is married to the greatest woman in the history of forever who truly loves shopping with her momma - I think maybe even more than I like football.

I guess to even compare the defeat of death and sin by the resurrection of Jesus to football or shopping just shows how very little I understand it and how tiny I am in my thoughts when compared against the glory of God and His plan and love for His children.

And that's why I love Sundays. It is the day when we all come together to remember. To worship together. It's not the only day we are to worship, mind you. We must do that every day. Intentionally. Consistently. But often we limit our walk with Christ to Sunday. Could you imagine if your child only ate once a week? Only grew on Sunday? How tragic would that be? To what lengths would you go to get them to eat every day. To grow a little everyday.

See, Sunday is not the day we go to 'get fed' as I hear so very often. It is the day we go to be together. And get fed together. Far too many people tell me that they are not, "being fed" at church and while this is problematic, the greatest and deepest problem is with the person telling me that very thing. If you feel you are not being fed at church it is most likely because you have starved yourself all week and expect to gorge on Sunday, hopefully enough to allow you to fast the rest of the week. This is not how things are designed to work. And it turns us into takers instead of givers on Sunday and robs all the rest of the body of your spiritual service and worship. We are a one another body, but starving people are only intent on satisfying their hunger. They have energy for little else.

The solution is to take your walk with Christ seriously and to walk with Him a little every day so that on Sunday you can be dedicated to the body instead of distracted by your hunger. I wonder how different our churches would be were this the case. Were our members waking up and putting on their nice clothes and going to church not to be served, but to serve. To worship together by serving one another as a filled people.

I daresay it would be better than football.

Thursday

Not by might, sister.

I just had to share this, though many of you may have seen it. Don't you ever tell me you are too old to be used by God!


thoughts on a thursday

Last night our 3.5 year old son decided that it would be a good idea to pee in his toy box. So he unzipped, did the deed, then kept on playing with his toys. Took me a few minutes to notice.

I was rather upset.

I'm not anymore, but I admit I was a little shocked. He's our first, so I guess he gets the brunt of our inexperience and has the unique job of breaking us in to parenthood.

There are things that I need to learn about God that are only possible once I became a father. I don't think that being a dad is necessary to spiritual growth. But it sure puts things in focus. I understand a little better how much God loves us as his children. My love for just our 2 sweet kids is just the faintest reflection of God's love - if even that. A fleck of sea spray compared to his ocean. A molecule, a proton in his universe. I don't know how to go larger in the difference, but you get the point. I don't have to work to love my kids. I just do. Because they are.

I discipline them because I know they need it if they are to survive and thrive in the world in which we live. I teach them what is dangerous or useless or beneficial. I get disappointed in them but never stop loving them. I mean, both our children have a combined age of less than 6, so I'm not so much disappointed as I am flabbergasted momentarily at the creativity with which they demonstrate their sinful natures.

When Jesus wept over Jerusalem and expressed his desire to put them under his wing as a mother hen - I get that now like never before. Every day, however, is a new test as a parent. A new...something to keep us on our toes. Marriage and parenthood are the primary crucibles in which the Lord makes me more like Him. They are the testing ground, the examination, the weight room where no bombs explode, no Scan-trons are bubbled in and no bar bells clang but growth happens. And I can't really explain how other than that the Lord uses my wife and kids to grow me up. A lot. Every day.

While, were we not to have children, I would have more time to meditate and read and study, I would not be very grown up in my faith. I just wouldn't. I don't think that's axiomatic; it doesn't apply to everyone. But it sure applies to me. And I am so thankful that the Lord, in his marvelous wisdom and grace chose to bless me with such beautiful and brilliant and sometimes belligerent tutors.

And so begins another day to grow a little more. Of course the bonus of toddler snuggles and kisses and giggles helps soften the blow. At least a little. Or maybe more than that.

Saturday

Good times in the OT

There is a book of the Old Testament that mentions sin more than any other. One that contains more of God actually speaking than any other book of the Bible. One whose theme is holiness and worship.

Can you guess?

It's Leviticus. And along with Numbers and most of the prophets are among the most unread books of the Bible. Which may be why so many misunderstand what God teaches us in the New Testament. A college student once asked me why he was having such a hard time understanding Revelation. I asked him if he had read the other 65 books before it. He said no. Then I asked him how well he would understand any book if he just read the last chapter. But we do that all the time. Heck, I do it all the time.

So here's a look at just 3 verses:

Leviticus 1: 3 " 'If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. 4 He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5 He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting"

INCREDIBLE!

Goodness there is a lot of theology packed in there. One of the themes of Leviticus is God's holiness and how we are to relate to him as a sinful people. Sin causes problems. Big problems. It even defiles the place where it occurs! In order to have a relationship with God, something has to happen. And when sin is the problem, something has to die.

This is a model of what the Tabernacle could have looked like. We're just going to use it to see where things were placed:



Here are God's instructions to the Israelites for how to worship him. If you have cattle, this is what you are supposed to do. Take the best, a perfect male from the herd. You go into the front gate where priests stand to help in the sacrifice. In front of you is the Tent where the presence of God sits in a cloud. You cannot enter that tent, unless you want to die. Only the priests can enter. And into the presence of God? Not you. Because inside that tent is a room called the Holy of Holies where the Ark sits, atop of which is the mercy seat, where God chose to be present. And only the High Priest can go in. Once a year.

So look at that model. What's in between you and God?

An altar. Blood. A big basin to wash. Priests. A veil. The fire on the altar never went out. Heady incense is burning all the time. The smell of roasting meat and burning fat and burning grain mixes with the incense and the wood smoke and the sweet stench of freshly spilled blood. You hear the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep and goats. The swishing of robes and the muffled voices of the congregation. You feel the heat of the animal beneath your hands. It is full sensory experience.

You take your bull (if you are a man) and you walk into that gate. You place your hand upon the animal and you slit it's throat, the blood pouring onto your hand. The priest sprinkles the altar with blood. You are to skin the bull and cut it up into pieces. The priest places the animal on the altar and the fire consumes it.

In laying your hands on the bull you performed something called imputation, a transference of guilt. You transferred the guilt of your sin to that bull and you took it's life in place of your own. The priest then atoned for or satisfied God's holy demands on your behalf. It is an act of propitiation. A death occurs because one must occur to pay the ransom for your sin. It's you or the bull. You then leave the courtyard where the altar burns your bull but you cannot approach the LORD in his Holy Place. You have merely paid your debt to Him.

You have worshiped your God.

Christians don't have to do this. Do you do this? PETA would sue you into poverty if you tried.

Long after Leviticus was written, God sent the perfect Male. From our herd. He was acceptable to the Lord. He was the Lord. We (as a race) laid our hands upon him and we slaughtered him by nailing him to a cross. He looked down on those who killed him and said, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do."

They were sacrificing. For all of us. But they didn't know that. They imputed, transferred sin to the perfect Lamb who was slain. His blood made it so that we needed no more bulls. No more goats or sheep or doves. At the death of the Lord of all creation the veil in the temple tore in two from top to bottom. It was finished.

We simply cannot understand what happened to Jesus and all that is taught in the New Testament without understanding what happened in the Old. Look at that model of the tabernacle. Christ has accomplished all that the tabernacle and the sacrificial system had to offer and we receive it all through faith in what he has done. For those who believe, there is no more altar of burnt offering. No more wash basin. No need to be made clean. No more priesthood. We have been made the priesthood, the Lord Jesus our high priest. No more need for atonement, imputation, propitiation. The temple, the tabernacle is no longer needed. We are the temple, filled with the Holy Spirit, the presence of God. Christ Jesus came and tabernacled among us. It's huge. The hugest thing that has ever happened. And it is finished. Once for all. No more veil between God and his people. We can approach the throne of grace, the mercy seat, the presence of God.


Now read this and think about how awesome, how wonderful, how marvelous is this truth:

Hebrews 4:14 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Let's approach together. With confidence. Let us hold firm the faith we profess. We need help. And we will receive it.

Friday

fri-day

I started Leviticus yesterday and I must say that for the first time I am excited to read it. But I doubt you want to hear about that.

This has been a fairly pedestrian last 10 days or so. Just not much exciting has happened. I mean, there are problems with kids and laughs and issues. Life. But not anything terribly exciting. Sometimes life just plods along. I'm not complaining either. It's sort of nice.

Jenny has just 16 weeks left in her pregnancy. 16 weeks and we 4 become 5. Wow! We're already 5, but the 5th needs a bit more baking before he or she is ready. This will be the 3rd time we've done this but you don't get any less excited about having a baby. It is truly one of the more miraculous things that happens every day. The main difference is how exhausted we are. Taking care of a 3 1/2 and a 1 1/2 year old is...tiring.

Ok. Well, I doubt this blog will incite much debate. I guess, of course, one could always get upset about something.

Tuesday

good books make you think

I recently (yesterday) re-read Every Man's Battle. It's really a very good book. But I wanted to steal a quote which they cited from a Leonard Ravenhill book entitled, Revival Praying,

"This present day is like an arena whose terraces are filled with the militant godless, the brilliant and belligerent skeptics, plus the blank-faced heathen millions, all looking into the empty ring to see what the Church of the living God can do. How I burn at this point! What are we Christians doing? To use a very tattered phrase, are we just "playing church?'"


I once had a college student quit volunteering with middle school kids because he said he couldn't' stand the fishbowl. I asked him what was wrong with the fishbowl and he said he couldn't live like he wanted to with everybody watching him. I asked him if had listened to what he just said. He didn't see a problem with it.

I'm not trying to point fingers. I'm really not. Nor sling mud. We all just get muddy then. But I am wondering at what point will people take seriously the call to walk with Christ.

I am not talking legalism here. Legalism is faked righteousness through outward behavior to make ourselves good enough for God to love us. It's outward appearances without inward transformation. I'm talking about our outward actions matching our inner belief. I'm talking about transformation that manifests itself in a changed life, not merely a personal, inward change that only I can see. That's part of the deal, but a little like rebuilding the motor in a car but never putting it back into the engine compartment and connecting it to the transmission. Sure you have a good motor, but what's the point of a motor if it isn't motoring something along?

The first verb of the Great Commission is go. There are a lot of verbs in the New Testament regarding how believers are to act, what we are to do, how we are to live. Be holy. Do the work of a evangelist. Be men of courage. Love your neighbor. Be on the alert.

We are a people who do because we are. We have been transformed and are being transformed, but the church in general (at least the church in the US and here in Guatemala) often has little outward impact on the world in which it is found.

The Great Commission commands us to Go. Make. Baptize. Teach. We are commanded to not have a hint of sexual immorality; flee from it. To consider others more important than ourselves. To love the Lord with every facet of our being. To not show partiality. To not embitter our children. We are not to get drunk or stay angry. We are to be a people who reflect the very holiness of God.

Alas, we are poor mirrors.

I certainly do not live a perfect life. I truly do not. But I want people to examine my life, evaluate it, and point out where my behavior is inconsistent with my belief. Why?

Because the world is watching. The militant godless, the brilliant and belligerent skeptics, the blank-faced heathen millions are watching to see what the people who call them to salvation really do. How they really live. If it's really worth it. If it really works. If God is real, then so should be our transformation.

A terrible thought, that last one. But see, God is real. And His reality is not based upon my faithfulness or my belief. My failure does not impact His deity. He is not made less or more by our belief. He is God, has always been God, and will remain God even if not one single person believes in Him. He is wholly other than we and will remain so for eternity.

But I do believe. And so do a whole bunch of other people. And I want the God in whom I believe, the Savior in whom I trust, the Spirit who fills me and guides me; I want them to rule me. I want them to change me. And I want them to change the world around me for God's glory. I want us to stop playing church and start living Christ. And I want to start today.

Friday

please get a new plate

I really ought to stop saying I have things I want to blog about and just blog about them. So here's a little Random Buffet.

- I've been keeping up with the UN and G20 events over the past few days. I find politics and world leaders generally interesting. But the UN is like a mish-mash therapy group that never does anything but talk. They just let people say whatever they want to say and then ask for money. How do you give a man (Ahmadinejad - president of Iran) who denies the Holocaust a platform for discussion? Can you imagine what people would do if he said that Dr. King was never murdered or that 9/11 was faked? It is almost as ludicrous as saying there is no moon and kittens are evil. The idiocy of my fellow man baffles me.

- People need to stop getting divorced. Quit using the Bible as an excuse while you blame the other person. If your spouse leaves you, that's different. You can't control other people. But if you aren't going to stay married don't get married. Just live together - if your going to sin you might as well be blatant about it. Or don't be in relationships. Didn't we learn a long time ago that lying is bad? Unless you said something different on your wedding day than all the rest of us, you can't stop being married until one of you dies. I know it's hard. Life is hard. Things that are difficult grow us up. And if you want a divorce that's clear evidence that you need to grow up.

- Being a parent is really hard. For me, being married is just fantastic. "A wife of noble character is the crown of her husband" says the Proverbs, and man is that true. I guess that applies to husbands of noble character as well. Anyway, being a parent is really, really hard. It just is. I guess if we didn't give a hoot about out kids it would be easier, but since we love them and want them to love the Lord and understand who He is and to live lives that honor and please Him, we have our work cut out for us. They aren't born knowing how to behave. We have to teach them. The lie. They scream. They press their little (but powerful) wills against our own to see who will win. They make messes and break things and disappoint us. They eat gross things and get body fluids everywhere. They climb on us and poke us in the eye and spread toothpaste all over the bathroom. They track in grit and beetles and smear yogurt on their Sunday hair. And our two children have a combined age of about 5. What will the next decade bring?

And yet we love them. Just. Because. They. Are. That's the answer I give my 3 year old when he asks my why I love him. Just because you are. And all the messes and breakage and punches to the groin and stabs in the heart change none of that. I learned that from God. Because He so loved us that he gave us his only son and the Great Lie is that somewhere, somehow, someone told us that God doesn't love us and we lived our lives according to that lie. But we, if we do nothing else, will have children who never doubt their parent's love. We have and will make mistakes as parents, but the one mistake will will never make is letting our children think we don't love them. And that's what makes being a parent so hard.

That went longer than expected. I was going to talk about my Quest for the Perfect Biscuit but that will wait for another time.

Sunday

Hello, Sunday

Well it is now Sunday afternoon. What a wonderful thing, Sunday afternoons.

We had a busy week being hospitable and enjoying lots of company. We had the Foote family (6 total) stay with us for 2 nights and fed them lots of food. Starting Wednesday at dinner we fed 12, then 14 for breakfast (homemade biscuits and gravy) then 24 for lunch on Thursday. It was a lot of fun. Like a family reunion.

I thought I would get time to blog a little more last week but proved myself wrong. I am quite good at that.

There are probably too many things to type up so I'll have to put things on the back burner and just blog as I have time.

After church today we tried a restraunt down the street for lunch. Q79, with a tip. That's $9.63 for the whole family. Not bad. We'll see if any of us gets sick. That's always the kicker.

We now get an ABC feed (channel 7 out of L.A.) and were happy to see Texas Tech vs. Texas last night. What a hoot. I think the Cowboys play tonight and if we get that, I am going to watch it. Unless the power is off again in which case...I won't.

One of the things I have been thinking about is how important it is to teach people how to think. If anything is an obstacle to work in the church here it is that people have not been taught how to think for themselves. To look at an issue (pick your poison) and distill it down to the actual problem, then evaluate it according to what the Bible teaches and make decisions accordingly.

Most leaders here repeat what someone else taught them without evaluating what was taught, using Scripture as the base for understanding.

I have noticed that people say that the Bible can mean so many different things that it's impossible to be sure what you believe. The Bible means something different to everybody. But that just isn't true. The Scripture is God's revelation to us - not to confuse us - but to teach us who He is and how to live and act and love here on planet earth.

Certainly there are passages that are obscure and very difficult to understand - but the main things are the clear things and the clear things the main things. I confess I grow weary of the Bible being used as a collection of proof texts instead of the living and active Word of God. We are under the Bible's authority, not the other way around. And the body of Christ has spent so much more time arguing the minutiae instead of obeying the obvious that I wonder some days how we are functioning at all.

I'd better get off my soap box before I upset someone. Not that many people read my blog (at least I don't' think they do) but I'll save that last point for a post in itself...I'm off to take a nap.

Monday

Country Cousins are go

This week ought to be fun. We're on a team with 5 other missionary couples who are spread out over a good chunk of Guatemala. We call ourselves the Country Cousins because only one of the couples lives in Guatemala City. Including the kids there are 4 generations spreading from 21 months to 84 years. It's wonderful. But this month they are all coming to our house! We're so pumped. As strange as it seems, we just love having adult Americans stay with us overnight. We love Guatemalans, of course, but it's fun to sit and have conversations in English and play a board game without explaining everything.

We get to plan meals for people with dietary restrictions and think about what people would like to eat that we can make a lot of for not much money...and we're truly enjoying it quite a bit. We need to go to the Market today and buy all our fruits and vegetables because Gladys has tomorrow off for Guatemalan independence day and without her it takes us about 4 times as long to clean and bleach all the produce. She's a machine.

It will be a lot of normal life with all the preparations thrown in. But it's fun. It's practicing hospitality and for us it is simply a joy. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as we do.

Hopefully I'll have some time to blog about something more substantiative tomorrow.

Friday

Never Forget

To the nearly 200 terrified people who jumped to your death - I remember.

To the 411 firefighters, cops, paramedics and port authorities who perished - I remember.

To the people of flight 11, 175, 77 and 93 - I remember

To the 327 foreign nationals who died on our soil - I remember.

To the 125 who died at the Pentagon - I remember.

To the 19 who murdered them all - I remember.

Wednesday

hoot

We're on this team called a Transformation Team or T2 for short. Aside from the fact that it reminds me of the best Terminator movie (hands down), I think it's a pretty good name. And a marvelous idea. The actually comes from the phrase, "transformed to transform" and is basically how our mission is being run. A bunch of disciples fulfilling the great commission.

Our team meets once a month and we're called the Country Cousins mainly because we're sort of spread out over Guatemala. One couple from the City, us 4 hours away, another couple 2 hours from us, and 3 couple more or less living near Lake Atitlan (a really cool lake that is behind us in my profile pic). So we most often meet in the middle at the lake.

But this month everyone is headed out to our house. 6 couples. We could not be more pumped. Jenny and I have discovered the delight of hospitality. We both come by it genetically through our most hospitable moms. Learning how to host people and practice hospitality as a couple has been such a delight. We love it. We love feeding people and planning meals and eating and even cleaning up afterwards because we love people and that's part of how you do it. They'll be about 20 of us crammed into our house and we hope it's a hoot. If you don't know what I mean by, "It's a hoot" you have also probably never had really good sweet tea or butter roll and need to visit your Southern friends and let them teach you what it means.

We won't meet for a week. Can't wait.

Saturday

the art of living

Normally I get all excited about a Psalm and then blog about it. I still love the Psalms, but there is a well known book right next door that may contain the most well known (if not least applied) verses in the Bible.

It's been said that Psalms is for the heart and Proverbs for the head. All those little verses were designed to stick in our brain. Like "Got Milk?" and "Where's the Beef?" and "Just do it.", we remember them. They are axiomatic, aphoristic. They click with us. We get them. They make sense. When we read one we say, "oh yeah, that's so true."

Like these:

25:20: " Singing light songs to the heavyhearted
is like pouring salt in their wounds."

25:11: " The right word at the right time
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry."

What did you think when you read those? They are so true. They make sense. They are true to life. What's worse than someone being cheery when you are sad? And how precious is it when someone speaks just the right words to you at just the right time? Worth more than gold. They make sense because that's how life is. It doesn't matter that they were written 2,700 years ago.

I have heard the Bible called "God's Instruction Manual". To be honest I find that description pretty awful. It puts the word of God on par with books that tell us how to clean a waffle iron or set the time on our DVD player. But I understand the sentiment. If you want to know how to do life, go to the Bible. The beef I have with the phrase is that the purpose of the Bible is not only to instruct but to transform. God wants us to study His word so that we will be changed, not just instructed. Maybe we can change the phrase to "God's Transformation Manual" but that's just awkward so I'll drop that altogether and get back to what I was talking about.

The thing about Proverbs is that they ought to be savored, mulled over and thought about. They are easy to memorize. You probably have a few memorized even if you don't know chapter and verse. Just about every aspect of life is talked about in the Proverbs from sex to money to marriage to how to be a friend. It is a book about the art of living. And it's one that is best read slowly and thoughtfully and repeatedly. With 31 chapters you can just pick the date and read that chapter.

But the kicker with Proverbs is application. Think what a difference it woudl make it we applied just these few:

21:23 Watch your words and hold your tongue;
you'll save yourself a lot of grief.

16:18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Just those two. Wow. If I actually applied those to my life...wow. Want to avoid destruction? Want to avoid causing yourself a lot of grief? Hold your tongue. Don't be prideful. Amazing. True. Simple. Proverbial. There is, literally, a lifetime of instruction in those 31 chapters, all of it meant to change our behavior. All of it meant to help us be people of wisdom. To be people who live life well. To be artists at life and thus reflect our Creator.

So let's see...today is the 5th. Chapter 5 starts off with this, from The Message (fantastic for Proverbs)

Dear friend, pay close attention to this, my wisdom; listen very closely to the way I see it.
Then you'll acquire a taste for good sense; what I tell you will keep you out of trouble.

That sounds like a good start to me.

Thursday

in passing

Someone once told me to always remember the phrase, "This too shall pass." It sounds like something my mom would say but I can't remember if it was her or another sage so it shall remain in the general wisdom compartment of my brain.

It sure is a handy phrase.

Today I think I'm basically over whatever it was that made me sick. That makes 5 days of it. The kids are just about better, minus a cough. It passed. I know several of you have been praying for us. Thank you.

Last night when our son awoke at 1 something because he wanted me to adjust his covers? This too shall pass. Not that I wasn't upset, mind you. I was. But that simple little phrase helped me kiss him and tell him not to get up anymore and go back to bed without yelling or getting all rilled up.

I don't have time to write all the things that have passed but next time you're in the foxhole (even if in reality it's more like a pot hole) remember, "This too shall pass". It certainly helps me.

Tuesday

a bit better.

Thanks for your prayers while I'm sick. The kids are on dr. prescribed meds and are doing better. I'm over-the-countering it and improving slowly. I haven't had a cold/flu like this in a couple of years. It's not much fun.

I am thankful that we live in a time where medicines are available and mostly affordable to treat the symptoms of such an illness. For most of history people just suffered more. Of course, they had treatments of some kind, but not like we do today.

Anyway. I had to cancel going out to a pastor's prayer meeting today. I waited until this morning to see if I could go, but there was just no way. I'm bummed but that's life.

On a bright note - Jenny made home-made Pop Tarts and they are basically one of the best things I have ever eaten. Goodness. And I can't even really taste them. I can't wait to eat one when I'm not sick. Head to her blog to see about how she did it.

Monday

bleah

Wow. I don't know if this is the Flu or what, but we are worn out. Jenny's the only one who hasn't come down with it but given that our daughter woke up every hour last night she may not be that far behind.

I hope medicines can make today somewhat productive. My sinuses a throbbing so much that my teeth hurt. About another 15 min until the Tylenol kicks in.

I have nothing profound to say. Even if I did it would come out rather nasally.

Saturday

fever and Exodus

3 of 4 of us are down with some sort of fever. Bleah. My poor wife is having to take care of everyone. Of course she's amazing so the kids could not have better care and I'm able to get better. Maddie's had it for 3 days so hopefully we'll be over it quicker.

We're sitting watching Annie and trying not to feel too awful. Listening to Annie, Daddy Warbucks, FDR and Elenore sing Tomorrow certainly helps.

College Football season begins next week. 1 week until my Red Raiders begin to play again. As unimportant as it really is, I do enjoy that sport a whole heck of a lot. It's just fantastic.

I've been reading through Exodus. It is such an amazing story of God's power and sovereignty. The phrase "That they [or pharaoh or Israel, etc.] may know that I am the LORD" is repeated all over the book. I haven't yet counted how many times it occurs (maybe one of you know) but it is an amazing theme of the book: knowing the LORD.

God had not yet revealed Himself as Yahweh (often rendered LORD) until He revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. The name means, I AM WHO I AM or simply I AM. The quintessential title of being. God is the one who always was, who is, and who always will be. Of course, He has always been the LORD, we just did not know it until the burning bush. He has not changed and will not change. When He wants us to know that "He is the LORD" it is an invitation open to every person to know God and to submit to his authority and be transformed through His salvation. It is to be taken from slavery (Egypt) and into freedom (the Promised Land). It is to trust and obey, to walk with Him, even if that means 40 years in the desert for Moses herding sheep, then 40 more years in the desert leading a rebellious people. It is to know the One True God and never be the same. And it is open to everyone who will believe, who will say to God, "Your way is the only way and it is the way I will go".

It's they way I hope will mark my whole life: the way of obedience to the Lord I love. Whom I love only because He first loved me. But who has changed me forever. Even on days when I feel really cruddy and my kids are sick - I know that the God who opened the Red Sea and gave food and water in the desert and clothes that never tore for 40 years is with me. He loves me. He loves you. And will lead you into a life you never imagined. If only we will follow.

Wednesday

the right kind of tolerance

Well, yesterday I was supposed to drive 3 hours on paved roads to a pastors prayer meeting to teach and then drive back home. I ended up driving 4.5 hours partly on not-even-sort-of-paved roads, crossed 3 rivers (I think the same river 3 times) without a bridge (sorry Justin..I forgot my camera...argh!), and taught. On the way back my pastor friend Rosaniel told me of a shortcut on even worse roads that ended up being blocked by a semi trailer that ended up being an hour longer because we had to drive through a forest on a road not much wider than a sidewalk.

Sometimes things turn out differently than you planned. Even in Australia.

I've heard it called a "Contingency Tolerance" - how well you adjust when things don't go as planned. I know some people with a really high Contingency Tolerance. I am not one of those people. By sort of de-facto training I am growing in this regard. Yesterday is an example. Either run with it or get all freaked out. People often say, "Be careful what you pray for" because if you pray for God to help you become more patient you may have a day where He actually helps you develop that characteristic. I now think that is a silly thing to say. I know it's most often said in jest, but I have heard some folks (even myself to myself at times) seriously tell other people to NOT pray and ask God to help make them more patient/kind/generous/forgiving/gracious/humble/faithful/loving for the somewhat puerile reason that it could lead to them have a bad day.

Heaven forbid we ever do anything difficult, right? Heaven forbid I sacrifice the great god Comfort for a little maturity. To quote a favorite theologian of mine, "Good grief."

I've said before that comfort is overrated. But I think it may be worshiped instead. We gear our lives for comfort. Ease of use. Remote controls. Laptop computers. Drive through. Phones that surf the internet, take pictures, play games and plan your day. We trust technology more than the God of creation. More even than our own brains. The spell-check on Blogger wants me to capitalize internet and yet doesn't even have Blogger in it's lexicon. Spiritually, I wonder how far we are from the fatty floating-lounger people of WALL-e. Just floating to church. Floating to work. Spiritually doing almost nothing and becoming quite fat and lethargic in the process.

Yesterday I was tired. Really tired. I woke up at 4 after the kids had gotten up at 11 and 1:30. Before I got up to teach we had a 15 minute private prayer time where we all knelt on the floor next to benches. I prayed for 5 minutes and then fell asleep. Just like the disciples in the garden. And I'm human. We all are. Which means I'm weak and get sleepy. I snoozed for maybe a minute or two, but woke up refreshed and really excited to teach where before I was not all that excited because I was just...tired. God uses our weakness. Teaching energizes me. I mean really it does. In 3 minutes I went from being asleep with my head bowed on a bench to feeling so alive I wanted to hop around.

I think hard days can be a little like that - energizing. Now, when they are over, we're often beat. But we have learned from it. We've grown. Maybe we've been grown is a better way to say it, but we've been...uncomfortable. And we're better for it. And when our Contingency Tolerance is stretched, we're able to run with things a little better and in our flexibility and maturity find a little more joy. When we get stretched, we find we have a little more breathing room, a little more...space.

At least that's how it is with me.

Friday

oh man

It has been a good week. Started out terribly busy with a 3:30 and 4:30 wakeup two days in a row and too much driving but finally evened out to a pretty normal week.

On Tuesday I met with a group of 20 pastors (and 2 of their wives) for what I thought was a pastors' conference. Turned out to be this little meeting outside which, had I known, I would have brought a better hat. Anyway, we went through a passage in Philippians 2, part of which says this,

"3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

Well, we talked about it and challenged each other and then played soccer for 2 hours. It was great.

But I have been haunted this whole week. I mean, go back and read that verse again. In the context of the letter Paul wrote, he's not telling this to some group of baby Christians but an incredible church fellowship whom he loves deeply. If the life of Christ in you matters at all, if being a Christian has made any difference to you whatsoever, then do this thing. Have the attitude that Christ had when he became a baby and remained obedient to the point of death by crucifixion.

Have humility in regard to other people! Look at them and tell them, "You are better than me." "You are more important than I am." "I am less important than you and I will demonstrate that by how I treat you."

It's mind blowing!

How much more contrary to my own nature can I be asked to think? Good gracious I do not do this well. I want to be right or smarter or holier or more clever or funnier or better looking or richer or nicer or more talented than everyone else. Not LESS then they! I want to be BETTER then them.

Oh, my soul.

What did my example do? He washed the feet of dock workers and IRS agents. He touched people with AIDS and ate dinner near hookers. He told the great preachers and pastors of his day that they didn't get it at all - they had it all wrong. He, the only person who did not deserve to serve us, served us and died for the people who hated him saying, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

In the mystery of the Incarnation, God got tired and hungry and thirsty and died so that we could be saved. I won't even get uncomfortable. I don't understand the God-man, my Jesus, and what all happened for him to be "found in human likeness". But I know what he did. I know what his attitude was. It was that of a servant. He looked to the broken and the stinky and the dirty and the self-righteous and said, "I consider you as more important than myself" and he gave his life so that we could all be saved.

If I applied even 2% of that, my entire life would be revolutionized and the lives of all the people around me as well. If I took one person, every day, and said, "You are more important than me and I am going to treat you like it" I can't even imagine what a difference that would make. Change my attitude to change my actions. Wow. I am challenged.

So, anyway, that's been stuck in my brain all week and I am constantly reminded by that verse, evaluating what I just did in light of that verse, and thinking about what I need to do differently. I'm so thankful the Lord is patient with me. If he were like me, I would have no hope at all.

Monday

My, it's early

It's 3:49 in the a.m. and the coffee is juuuust about ready. I have a 9:00 am appointment to sign a paper for us to get our permanent residencies here. The only problem is it's in Guatemala City. So I'll drive 4 hours, sign the papers, give the lawyer some passport type photos, purchase some laundry detergent, and drive back home in time for dinner. I have 6 hours of sermons so, that ought to help pass the drive. You're on the menu, Brent.

Tomorrow I get to preach over Phil 2:1-11 and I'm, as always, scared and excited. But I trust the Lord will be gracious and get His message across. Hopefully I won't get in the way.

Coffee's done. Time to caffeinate.

Friday

The low road

Ugh. I lost almost my whole morning cleaning out a drain box in our yard of 30 lbs of fat and food that had backed up the out drain for the house.

I was preparing for a sermon on Philippians 2:1-11 so, maybe it was an object lesson.

Some days life stinks. Literally. And today stunk really, really bad. I washed with all manner of cleaners getting the stink off my arms. Thankfully I have the afternoon to prep!

Thursday

The High Road

I drive around often in this county where I serve and see so many things that have become standard, normal, ordinary. One of the things that always amazes me is how beautiful this country is. I took this video yesterday while driving to meet with some pastors. They call this stretch of road "Alaska" because it is the highest point on the fabled Pan American Highway at nearly 12,000 feet. It's normally cloudy and very windy, but not yesterday. The video starts with me looking almost due West - Mexico is in the distance. The volcanoes you see are actually all in a line from east to west and come up from the Pacific coast. Were it clearer, you could see the Pacific. The factory is making gravel and concrete. They take landslide rock and pound it into gravel for asphalt and concrete to make the roads. The volcano I point out as erupting is right near Antigua, Guatemala - a well known tourist spot. The other set form the rim around the crater lake Atitlan. For a flatlander like me, I can't get enough of these views. Mostly the Guatemalans just walk right by and don't think much of the vistas provided. I could have stayed there all day, but was trying to get to a meeting for which every white guy was early and every Guatemalan an hour late. Maybe I should have stayed and enjoyed the view a little longer.

talkin' politics

Yesterday we had another Non-Formal education meeting with about 7 pastors. We had hoped for more and are changing some things around to better fit their schedules, but you teach who shows up! We talked about the Christian, or more specifically, pastors in politics. It was a fantastic discussion and just a ton of fun. I can't believe this is my job.

With more than a dozen political parties, political ties can split a church. Don't get me wrong, we have our problems in the US with the Republican = Christian myth and pastors letting candidates stump from the pulpit on Sundays and other things but it is, like most things, worse here. Some of these pastors have elders with opposing political affiliations who hate each other. Brother's in Christ hating each other over politics.

We broke down and discussed civic vs. political duties because many churches just ignore things like municipal codes or getting the right governmental forms because they view themselves as separate from the world. We talked about the privilege of voting but also the higher calling of ministry over politics. The pastors agreed that it's just not a good idea for a pastor to become politically affiliated because then he can't deal with all the divisions in his church because the opposing party folks won't listen to him.

But then the pastors asked what do they do, practically, if two guys running for mayor both go to their church. Who do they support? How do they pray for them? Basically, they said they pray that the Lord's will be done and that the candidate would be honest and mature in their faith and serve the people with Christ as their example. An amazing thought in a country totally inundated at every governmental level by corruption. It's horrible. And most "Christian" candidates are just as bad as the rest.

It would be wonderful for mature, faithful believers to reach high political office here and really bring some light into the corruption. But it would be costly. Like Daniel, they would have to be above reproach, something that is achieved over a lifetime. It was just a fantastic discussion of real life, in the trenches ministry. May the Lord bear fruit from it.

Monday

A challenging read

I finished The Heavenly Man yesterday. It's a book about a Chinese brother named Yun and his life and ministry in China. It's his story. Actually, it's the Lord's story through Yun, but it's an amazing story either way.

I won't give too much away, but the book is like reading Acts. Amazing. He was tortured, imprisoned, and made a fugitive because he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh, but he loves his Lord and never denied Him, never once! I recommend that everyone who calls themselves a Christian read the book. I mean that.

I wanted to post some of his observations and comments on the Western church (Europe and the US) that he observed after his escape from China. It's only a few pages of a 300 page book, but his words truly struck me.

When I'm in the West I see all the mighty church buildings and all the expensive equipment, plush carpets and state-of-the art sound systems. I can assure the Western church with absolute certainty that you don't need any more church buildings. Church buildings will never bring the revival you seek. The pursuit of more possessions will never bring the revival you seek.

The first thing needed for revival to return to your churches is the Word of the Lord. God's word is missing...Not only is God's Word missing, but obedience to that Word. There's not much action taking place.

When revival came to believers in China, the result was thousands of evangelists being sent out to all corners of the nation, carrying fire from the altar of God with them. When God moves in the West, it seems you want to stop and enjoy his presence and blessings too long, and build an altar to your experiences.

You can never really know the Scriptures until you're willing to be changed by them.

I've seen people in Western churches worshiping as if they're already in heaven. Then someone invariably brings a comforting message like, "My children, I love you. Don't be afraid, I'm with you." I'm not opposed to such words, but why is it that nobody seems to hear a word from the Lord like, "My child, I want to send you to the slums of Asia or the darkness of Africa to be my messenger to people dying in their sin."


Yeowch. And that's not all. But that's enough to think on.

What do you think? Does that challenge you? It challenges the heck out of me. So much as to ask, "What are we even doing?" That's a good, and really scary question for me.

Saturday

a call for help

Man, has it been good to get back to normal. By normal I mean that I have my wife and children in the house with me while life and work happen. By normal I mean sleep deprived life with 2 toddlers, poopy diapers, screaming meltdowns, "Watch me" "Hold me" "Mommy!". By normal I mean cat puke and bills and dirty dishes. And I love it.

So, I was reading Psalm 35 yesterday. If you're wanting to start reading the Bible - or if you're not wanting to and feel like you ought to or need to or should - just read 1 Psalm a day and ask the Lord to help you get hungry for His word. Just 1 Psalm a day.

I've talked before about our need for a hero. Someone to save us. To comfort us. Someone greater than us. I mean, heck, I sure need one. I need someone greater than me not only to answer the question of eternity but to help me now. Today. Wherever I am. I'm a broken man in a broken world. Surely there is someone who can help when things fall apart. Someone to rescue me.

Here's how Psalm 35 starts:

1Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me. 2Take hold of buckler and shield And rise up for my help. 3Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, "I am your salvation."

A buckler is a small shield that a warrior held in their non-sword hand to fend off blows from an attacker. Looks like this:



Listen to David's language here. A warrior uses a buckler to deflect blows in order to strike against an enemy. But not just that. He wants the Lord to take the spear and the battle-axe and go after those who are attacking him.

Imagine yourself back in the age when people fought with swords and axes and shields. And imagine a bunch of really bad guys are coming after you. They have swords and armor and spears and axes and you, you've got nothing. And you call out for a defender, a champion, a warrior to protect you. Imagine between you and the onslaught stands the LORD. And instead of you fighting your enemies, instead of you being overwhelmed and beaten down and defeated and crushed beneath the weight of their malice and destruction God stands in your place and fights for you. He takes the blows and fights the fight in your place. And in the very heat of battle the LORD bends and whispers in your ear, "I am your salvation."

I don't know what you battle. I doubt it is hordes of evil warriors. But maybe it's a layoff or financial problems or an addiction or a divorce or abuse or whatever sins continue to entangle you as you walk with the Lord. Whatever it is, the Lord has not left you. He does not want you to be overwhelmed. He does not want you defeated. He wants you dependent. He wants you to trust Him to be enough to listen to Him whisper, "I am your salvation" and to let Him fight for you, for us, what would otherwise simply overwhelm us.

While we can get out there and fight on our own...it sure seems silly given who has offered to defend us. I often think I can fight my weaknesses better on my own. If I try hard enough or work more or study harder or act better I can fix myself. The apostle Paul said that he will boast in his weakness that the power of Christ might rest with him. He'll be ok with being weak, knowing that God is so very much greater than he is that to get in front of Him while He is defending you is maybe the silliest thing we can do.

Wednesday

that was longer than expected

Hello.

My name is Brandon.

I live in Guatemala.

Wow. What was planned as a 7-10 day trip for Jenny and the kids turned into a nearly 5 week not 7 day trip. 2 weeks ago today I saw them for the first time in 3 weeks. I smooched Jenny at the airport so much we got stares and giggles. Then I stared at her all goofy faced until we got to her mom's house. I cried when I held my babies and then we finished packing her mom's house and moved the next day. Mostly my trip was packing, moving, and unpacking, but it was with my family which was the point.

We were again delayed trying to come home. I missed a meeting here in Guatemala on the 31st because we could not get an open flight. There was one that opened up but we were not packed and missed it. Anyway, we finally got 3 seats on a plane because 3 people's connecting flights were late and they missed the Guatemala connection. Thanks people I will never know! Your incredible frustration enabled us to get home.

We flew in Sunday night, drove home and arrived around 4:30 on Monday afternoon, furiously unpacked and then left at 7:30 to drive two hours to our Team meeting. We got home around 5:30 last night and were all asleep by 9:30.

It's 45 outside this morning and only 62 in the house. After being in Texas for 2 weeks in July and August I'm freezing and loving it. Not being able to touch your family and smell their hair and hear their laughter means that something is wrong and needs to be corrected. You husbands out there know that we need our wives far more than we could ever imagine. We don't work right when they're not near.

Both Jenny and I are so very happy to be here. It's our home. But we miss our families terribly. Many folks want to get away from their families - the further the better. We are not those folks.

Ok. Off to start today.

In case no one has told you, the Lord is good and does good and above all things can be trusted to do what is best for us. Just thought I'd remind.

Monday

just 2 days, 2 hours and 13 minutes.

Today I begin the 2-day journey to see my wife and babies. As an enormous bonus I will get to see my mom (first time since October) and brother and sister-in-law and two of my closest friends en route. I'll drive 150 miles in 3 1/2 hours through the beautiful mountains of Guatemala, try not to get killed by a chicken bus, spend the night with missionary friends and enjoy their wonderful hospitality, wake up at 3:45 am on Tuesday and have lunch in Dallas with my friends. I'll get to hug my mom and brother and his wonderful wife. I'll only get 24 hours with them, but I certainly will enjoy it. Then on Wednesday I will fly 300 miles in 40 minutes to see my love and heart and life, Jenny. I will wake our son up from his nap that day and I will hold him and laugh and kiss his face until he wants down to run. I will get to hear my daughter say "daddy" and nuzzle her tummy while I changer her diaper - a task I am looking forward to.

I'm not sure when I will blog again...maybe next weekend.

This was not a planned trip. Well, not planned in advance. A little spontaneity is good for the soul.

Sunday

how little I know



Things I know:

  • Jesus loves me (the Bible tells me so)
  • Jenny loves me (I have not yet figured out why)
  • My children love me (just because they do)
  • My family loves me (or they would have killed me when I was 11)
  • Other people love me (they tell me and show me)
  • I love all of the above.
  • God is good and does good (see above about Jesus)
  • The Bible is the word of God and enough for me (just read it to find out why)
  • Steak is best cooked over mesquite (you can argue if you like but you would be wrong) ;-)

Things I don't know:

  • Most everything else.


I had someone tell me that I think I know everything. It was on a blog so, don't worry, I'm not hurt. I thought I was answering a question but apparently I did a poor job of creating understanding between us - not surprising given that blog comment is second only to throwing rocks at each other as a means of communication. I just wanted to clarify out there on the internet that as many things as there are to know out there, I know very little.

To be honest, how much I know is not all that important to me. People in general really know very little when you consider how much there is to know. Paul said that knowledge puffs us up. He would know. He knew a heck of a lot more than I ever will. And he was right. Still is right. I get caught up in knowing, some days. I think if I know more of the Bible or more history or art or education techniques that I'll be better, do better.

It's silly, I know, to think that. But I am, often, silly in thought and action.

A dear friend once told me that I'm not the smartest or the best Bible scholar or the most pedigreed. I'm not the best preacher or teacher or planner. He told me that my secret weapon is my love for the Lord. And that is what would make me stand out. I'm still trying to figure out just what he meant, but maybe figuring it out is not what is important. Maybe knowing I love the Lord, however imperfectly, is what is important. Maybe actually loving him is far more important than knowing things about him. Maybe being in love with God is more important than being able to explain something about him. Maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I'll take those things I do know and hold onto them. Some of them may pass away and I won't know those things for certain anymore. But some of them will not pass away. God does not lie. He does not trick us or play shell games with us. He is the potter. And today I am so very thankful to be the clay. Clay doesn't know very much. But it is made and molded and held in the very good, the perfectly wonderful and powerful and loving hands of the potter. And today, that is enough for me.

Saturday

I ought to blog more often

Goodness I have a lot on my mind.

First, however, is that I get to come to Texas for a few days so I can finally see my family. I will see them on Wednesday, July 22nd at 3:45 or so in the p.m. after 20 whole days. I have decided that is too long to not see my wife and children. Did I mention 20 days already? You will not hear me complain about the heat. I have been wrestling with depression/sadness or maybe just missing those-who-have-my-heart really bad since they left, but having a definite time and date when I will see them really helped lift that fog.

For a little controversy...I'll go ahead and say it: The U.S. is not a Christian nation. We never were a Christian nation. God has not promised us anything because we are the United States of America. Half of our founding father's were not believers. We are a nation founded on basically Biblical morals and ethics and we have strayed from much of that, but to call us back to our "Christian roots" is just ignorant. I'm not sure what the hang-up is with this but it's a big world out there and the US is only 233 years old. It's the best dang place in the world and the best republic in history and I love it. I really do. But what will make a difference in our nation is Christians living like Christ. Vote. Run for office. Walk humbly with your God. That's how things get done.

I was watching this special on National Geographic (the best magazine ever) about the Hubble Telescope and all that it has done. You all have seen the deep field and ultra deep field images like this one:

A Sampling of Galaxies From the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image
Source: Hubblesite.org


They basically took the telescope and pointed it at the darkest part of the sky and left the shutter open for 28 days. And this is what they saw. Look at that! We thought there was noting and what do we get? Millions of galaxies. Not just stars, but galaxies. I love astronomer language because they use creation words like 'formed' and "mysterious forces". They look at this, and rightly, they wonder. Then they try to figure out how all this occurred randomly from an infinitely small, infinitely dense point of matter. Never mind that you cannot have something infinitely dense or small. Infinite truly applies only to God. It means to have no measure, endless, limitless. But when you expect to see nothing and encounter the awesome creative power of God, you use what words you can.

Also, after some thinking, I have again come to the conclusion that there is no substitute for personal Bible study/prayer time and involvement in the community of believers. There's just not. You can augment with other things like sermons and devotional books or worship CD's or tunes on your iPod (all really good things) but if you're not reading your Bible and spending time worshiping with and serving, and ministering alongside other believers, good luck growing. I say this from the field of experience, not the pulpit of piety.

Learning another language is hard. Learning Spanish is easy. Learning to speak it with precision and eloquence is incredibly difficult. I have this scale from 1-5 that I got in pre-field training on how to learn a language. 1 is basically tourist level: order food, read a few signs, keep your dictionary close. 5 is speaking like a native, writing poetry in that language, etc. After more or less 2 years here, I'd say I'm at about a 2.5, maybe a 3 on a good day. I may never get to a 5, but I'm going to shoot for it. And that requires work. A lot of hard work. It just never ends, the need to work, does it? And among the pastors I work with, 6 Mayan languages are spoken that I know of. I was at a meeting Wednesday with 6 men (me included) and among those 6, we spoke 5 languages. Amazing! Thankfully we all speak Spanish.

Ok. Sometime today I have to make a snack for our Sunday School for tomorrow. Snacks for 20 Guatemalans. Any ideas?

I'll end my ramble here.

Monday

Just so you'll hate me

Yes, I live in a 3rd world country.

Yes, I get sick a lot.

However...
Current temperature in Flower Mound, TX: 103.7 F
That's not an FM Station, folks.

Current temperature at my house in Xela: 64.6 F

If the sun comes out it might warm up to 70, maybe 75. If it hits 80, watch out.
It was 53 when I got up this morning.

Just thought I'd remind you folks its only the middle July. Only two more months of this.

It was fun

I had a wonderful time with the Ekstroms. It was fun just to spend time with them. I got a few hours of video so I have an outline of their time here. Now we need to fill in 50 years of stories. Amazing. God is good. No matter our experience or our stories, God is good and He does good. I don't think enough people really believe that. They don't believe it because the don't know Him. As for why they don't know Him, I admit to being at a loss.

I was able to spend a lot of time just talking with David about the Bible. He has most of it memorized. As a Bible translator, that's what he did - go over the Bible day after day after day. He doesn't have it word for word, but he knows the structure of every single book. The outline, the theme, the subject of each chapter. We talked for hours just about Revelation and Daniel and how few people ever take the structure of the book into account. It was fascinating and wonderful.

Friday night I was horribly sick. I'll spare you the details, but spent Saturday laid out on the couch. I actually laid on the couch for an entire day. Ate some crackers and took fluids. I don't recall the last time I did that. It was a strange experience. Sunday I was also recovering but the power was out so I sat and read all kinds of books until it got dark. It was a good day.

My wife and children are in Lubbock and are trying to return Stand-by and can't get back until Sunday at the earliest. I'm at day 10 and have sort of resigned to things. While I have a lot to do, you just can't work every second of the day. And the downtimes fill with loneliness like sea water into a breached hull. My beloved and my babies took my heart with them and I am simply incomplete without them. You can argue with me theologically if you want that I am complete in Christ and other things, and you would be right; but on this earth the only people I really, really, really need are those three. I can manage with them around and without them I am, to a great degree, lost. I have experienced to the smallest degree a bit of the loneliness a divorced man must feel and I cannot imagine bearing the full weight of such sorrow. Only the Lord would get me through. As He is now.

So, I'll begin to transcribe things and start an outline. I have no idea what I'm doing writing a biography - I'm just doing what's in front of me. May it honor the Lord.

OH! One huge piece of great news: I can now get my minivan serviced in Xela. Sounds silly? Well...it's NOT. It's fully awesome. I can now drive 3 miles instead of 300 to get my oil changed. It's nice.

I have a lot of things I would like to blog about that have popped up from books I am reading. One about WWII...the world needs non-passive leaders. If Neville Chamberlain taught us anything, it's not to appease evil men. They must be removed. I'm also reading a book called The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity. My, it has some great quotes.

I'll probably be blogging more than normal until my heart returns in the form of my beautiful bride, a loquacious 3 1/2 year old and an 18 month old doll-faced dynamo. Gotta plug the holes with something.

Thursday

Should be fun

I've talked about David and Helen Ekstrom before and today I'm going to visit them. They live 2 hours from here in a town called Huehuetenango. They have been in Guatemala for a very, very long time and everybody tells them that someone ought to write their story down. So I'm going to start doing that today. Please pray for my safety on the road and for a sweet time of fellowship and encouragement with David and Helen.

Tuesday

I should be sleeping

I say that because it's currently....3:09am. And normally I would be sleeping. I was sleeping. Very happily, I might add. Until I heard my neighbor screaming.

Anyone who has stayed with us knows that across the street lives two kids. Older high school aged kids. They can drive. It's sort of weird to have two teenagers living in a huge house all by themselves and I'm still not sure why they do but, hey, they do. And when one of them comes home, particularly the kid with the blue hatchback, his music is really loud until he pulls into the garage and sometimes he wakes our daughter up from a nap and it's one of those annoying things served up to us occasionally because we have neighbors.

He was the one who woke me. It's weird how you wake up sometimes, incorporating reality into a dream. Well, I wasn't dreaming and he kept screaming at someone so I stopped hoping he would stop yelling so loudly so I could return to my cozy slumber and I got up to peek out the window. I thought maybe he was just playing.

But when I looked out my bedroom window across the street and saw his car on fire in the garage I knew he wasn't just being youthful.

So I got dressed and got the fire extinguisher from the kitchen and wished I had woken up a little sooner and I ran outside. They had taken the hose from in front of my house but in their haste broke the screw-on end off and had no way to get water to the fire. I had a small home-sized extinguisher. Now, the car was parked hood first in a garage and very much on fire the I'm not about to put myself between a burning car and the corner of a concrete box so I sneaked up as close as I could (about even with the driver door) and began to put out the fire, thinking, "These crazy kids...they need an adult around."

It's amazing how quickly a fire can get too big to handle with extinguishers and garden hoses.

It's also shocking how little white stuff is actually inside those red extinguishers. In the movies it seems like more. You're supposed to be 6 feet from the fire and I think if I would have been in front of the car and could have hit the bulk of the flames, maybe I could have gotten it, but that wasn't an option. And about 4 seconds later, I was running to get the hose from the back yard (you'll remember the kids popped the nozzle off mine) and hook it up to their house. Well, the kid-who-owns-the-blue-hatchback tried spraying the car while I stood at a safe distance. I didn't really want to get blown up. I didn't. But the car kept burning. There were other neighbors out then and someone had called the fire department. But those guys were either really far away or asleep or I don't' know, but it took them a long time to get here while we all just stood back and watched the car burn and pop. There were a few small explosions but the tank never blew.

It was then that I was thankful they don't build houses here out of wood. Had it been a wood frame house, the whole thing would have burned down and most of the neighbors before the brave firemen arrived. I asked the kid how it started and he said he was in the house and smelled smoke and his car lights were on fire. I have no idea what happened, but however it started, it was cooking pretty good.

Well, I thought it best to move my car to a safer distance, so I pull the minivan out and parked it and as I'm walking back the firetruck pulls in. Those guys just hop off the truck and run in hosing things down. Much braver and better equipped and trained than I, it took them 5 full minutes to get the flames out and I felt a little better about my lack of extinguisher skills. They brought this really cool gas powered fan to blow out the smoke so they could finish up all the hot spots and I began to gather my hoses and bring them back home.

I haven't seen the car yet, but it burned like a yule log for about 15 minutes so I'm sure it's completely ruined. But I realized how little I know my neighbors and how nice it is to have other people around when things are on fire. I also realized a little more how much of a foreigner I am and how much I will always feel that way no matter how long I live here because I simply will never be a native Guatemalan. Sure I speak Spanish, but it's different. I'm not from here. They know it and I know it. But when your car is on fire none of that really matters. It's only afterward when things have calmed down a bit and everyone but you is standing and chatting in little groups that you realize you still don't quite belong.

I'm going to get another couple fire extinguishers soon. I might just buy a big one. I'm getting one for each car as well. You may want to invest in something similar.

Well, it's close to 4:00 and I have to get up in two hours. I just couldn't get back to sleep but I'll go try again. I get to preach again later this morning to some pastors and I'm still pretty nervous. We're going over Romans 12:1-2. I can't think how a car fire applies, but at least I'll have a good story.