Maddie Update

Thank you for praying for us and especially for Maddie. Oh, God is good and He is with us. We have received literally dozens of responses from you and we cherish your prayers and thoughts. You all are dear to us and your encouragement has been the deepest of delights.

We visited with her doctor Thursday and she underwent a colonoscopy, endoscope and colon and small intestine biopsy this morning. Jenny was able to hold her while the anesthesiologist put her to sleep. The doctors and nurses were tender and wonderfully kind and we only cried a little. The gastroenterologist saw no abnormalities in her colon or small intestines but took several biopsies to rule our Crones, Celiacs and cystic fibrosis.

Ok then...

Madeline took a very long nap and is nursing and eating well. She had, as of her Thursday appointment, gained 8 ounces in the past week. We praise Jesus for a half pound on our baby girl!

We will find out results later next week and if nothing is wrong we will head back to Guatemala as soon as we have an open flight. We made it though the 2009 Greater Dallas Ice Capades and through to Lubbock with only two cancelled flights and an overnight stay with brother and sister-in-law. The 300 miles between DFW and Lubbock proved a tougher haul than Guatemala to Dallas. 

Thank you again for your prayers as we have felt so dearly the gentle hands of our Lord and Shepherd guiding and comforting us these past several days. He is indeed Immanuel, God with us.



the necessary family

We have a family. They live in Lubbock and Dallas and Mississippi and Haiti and other nooks and crannies on planet earth.

Many of them also live in Guatemala.

They are the folks other people used to call the CAM family. The folks who welcomed us and helped us but were still - foreign.

See, having a family is one thing. Being a part of one is something else altogether.

And now after living here for most of a year as members of CAM we have met a few of the missionaries, many of whom have lived here for generations. They have come and shared a meal at our home. Some have been able to stay here for a night or two. I give them overly detailed directions and talk too much about the history of our town. We watch the clock and anticipate their arrival. When the get here we hug and laugh and they play with our children and want our kids to call them, "Uncle" or "Grandma" or fill in your family moniker.

They want us.

They love us.

For no other reason than that we are.

And we need them. Because life is so very, very hard all by yourself. Because life was meant to be lived within a family - and there is a family open to all. The Family of God. All of us who can by faith in Christ call ourselves children of God are part of this enormous, wonderful family. A family with black sheep and crummy holidays and overstayed welcomes. A family where age and race and history draw us together instead of apart. A family where we are all being transformed into the same Image. A family with which we will know and love and share eternity.

And we need to work on living like we'll know each other forever. Because we're not all perfect. As a matter of fact, we're all still pretty faulty. We get tired and frustrated and just plain mean. We forget that divisions grieve our Father and we refuse to come together before Him and ask Him to help us get along. I see it in the Guatemalan church where so many fractures and factions make the Body of Christ look more like Frankensteins monster before he got all sewn together. I see it in the missionary body where 'my ministry' becomes more important than my family. I see it in the US where we let our churches become a fortress instead of a hospital; with cliques like marbles in a jar - stuck in the same glass but never sharing life.

But we have a family.

With the same Father. The same Only Begotten who is our brother. The same Spirit who gives us power and life to be what we are:

A family.


detours and desvios

Those of you who follow Jenny's blog know that our nearly 13 month old daughter has not been doing as well as she should be. Since October she has not had much of an appetite and has gained only a few ounces since that time. She has always been little, but she is not even on the charts for her weight and she is anemic. We have, of course, been seeing a pediatrician here in Xela and have run a barrage of stool, blood and other tests. We have treated her for various intestinal infections but the doctor here has referred her to a GI doctor in Guatemala City. It just so happens that a friend of ours is a pediatric gastroenterologist in Lubbock and has agreed to see Madeline. Her pediatrician agreed that seeing a doctor in the US would be what is best. I have been counseled by CAM here to return with my family and so we will return to Lubbock on Tuesday for an appointment Thursday with the doctor. Friday Maddie is scheduled to go under for a colonosopy and an endoscopy to help the doctors rule out various diseases that have the same symptoms she does. We hope to be able to return to Guatemala in a week but we must await the results.


We're heading back and we're thankful we have access to some of the best medical care in the world. Please pray for Jenny and the Grandmom's as they are, of course, carrying this burden heavily. And please pray for Madeline that the doctors would have wisdom to find the cause of her anemia and loss of appetite or that the Lord would just fix her.


a little trip

I head out today for the Consejo Altiplano which mean High Plains Counsel. Sounds like an old Native American thing. There will be lots of Indian or indegenous folsk there so, maybe it's not to ofar off. Anyway, It's a council of all the CAM churches in western Guatemala. I have no idea how many pastors will be there - a few hundred maybe, but it is an opportunity for me to finally meet some of the pastors I will be serving. I'm so very, very excited to go. It means I'll be away from Jenny and our two fevery children for a night, but I'll be back in 36 hours. So please pray for Jenny.

I will head out this morning with Mike and Ken, other CAM missionaries who have been here 25 and 18 years respectively. Time for the rookie to learn a little from the veterans! We'll go the the counsel, share lunsh with them, then head to Comitancillo (a town some of you are familliar with) and visit with some churches out there. I'll post plenty of pics when I get back.

Hasta viernes.


Welcome, President Obama

I just watched the inaugural ceremony. I do hope you will join me in praying for the man who now will lead and represent our country. How amazing that the new president escorts the former president to his waiting helicopter to take him into his retirement. Peaceful. Gracious. Amazing that it is the transfer of power of the most powerful country in the world.

Before the oaths were taken, a quartet of violin, cello, clarinet and piano performed an arrangement of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts, made famous by Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Springs. As I listened to that clear, hopeful melody performed by a Jewish man, a Hispanic woman, a Black man, and an Asian man I thought how incredible a picture of what makes America great.

I love my country. It is a place born of freedom and a place which will not last forever. It is the best things we humans have come up with when it comes to ruling ourselves and it is what we have to endure until my True King comes to reign forever and ever.

I disagree deeply with some of the core things President Obama stands for and desires to accomplish. But he is my president and your president. May we work together and may the Lord use Him for the good of many.


weekly yum

I like food. I like to cook food. I like to eat food. And one of the things that changes when you move to another country is the food you eat. For sure we have maintained a lot of our American menu items because, well, we don't live in Italy or France or somewhere a class of cuisine originates. We live in Guatemala and while pachas, jocon, pepian and mosh are delicious, most folks (unless you've been to Guatemala) don't probably get a hankering for it. And we eat those things but much of our comfort food has American roots.

And unless you like black beans, eggs and tortillas, you may go hungry once in awhile. However, one thing that has been added to our weekly menu is this:

That's eggs (scrambled), refried black beans, fried potatoes, and corn tortillas. The red, green, and white are taqueria salsa, pica mas (a jalapeño sauce) and crema (like sour cream but not sour). And it's one of our favorite things to eat. And Guatemala's love it.

It would be like beans and cornbread in the south. Not fancy, but good. The food people eat. Guatemalan soul food.

And we love it. Look forward to it and if and when we return to the States, we'll make it there. With good corn tortillas. Although Gladys won't be there so, maybe we'll have to switch to flour because no one can make a tortillas like Gladys.

What meal do you look forward to every week?

Great movies

This Saturday's early morning matinée is Cars, the Pixar animated film.

I'm not sure how many times I have watched it with my son - maybe 10 or 15 times if I add in plane flights and road trips - but we've seen it a lot, almost as many times as Toy Story 2.

I am amazed at how good the folks are at Pixar. They amaze me. The animation is peerless, but their ability to create a mood, a genre, for the whole movie and even scenes within the movie, is amazing. From music to the characters, voice actors, and the detail of their animation they are able to create and maintain a depth of emotion rarely found in film. Cars and Toy Story (maybe because I have seen them so many times) have, in particular, done an amazing job at capturing the essense of a particular time. Cars grabs the nostalgia of the 50s, the importance of community and realtionships. Toy Story the joy, simplicty and purity of a child and his toys.

They're all cartoons. But they so something that great movies always do: The make us think. And these 2 movies make us think about something good and nice and fun. We could use a little more good, nice and fun in our world.


Good days are fun

Yesterday was one of those really encouraging spiritual days where I'm so excited I nearly hum. Those of you who know me understand that when I get REALLY excited I talk too fast (and usually talk too much) and I am a little hard to follow. Typing is easier because I have the enormous luxury of being able to edit myself. Oh what I would give for a backspace button for spoken words. But that's another day.

I read this yesterday in A.W. Tozer's book, Knowledge of The Holy:

Writing about God's omniscience (that He knows everything)

"And to us who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before us in the gospel, how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us."

I read that yesterday and even though I have read it a bunch before I just was overwhelmed and could do nothing but tell God I loved Him over and over.

Then I get a call from a guy who lives here in Xela. He's a Guatemalan American (a US citizen, married to an American) who has lived in the US for 26 years and just moved back here with his family to be a missionary and do pastor training in leadership and administration. His name is Lyndon (after L.B.J) and english is his first language, though he speaks fluent Spanish. So we had lunch at Pollo Campero (woo!) and swapped histories and got to know one another. Anyway, we're here doing the same thing! And now I have a friend who speaks english and loves Jesus and is here to serve Him and serve others. Do you have any idea how marvelous it is to talk to someone in English about Jesus? To share your life with a brother in Christ? And not have to translate or struggle to communicate your heart? It's AMAZING! We could just talk, man, just talk and just be Christians together. Oh, Jesus, thank you!

So we're planning on meeting together regularly to pray for one another and be accountable to one another and encourage and, well, be Christians together. You folks who live where you all speak the same language - don't take that for granted. I mean it.

All that to say I'm really stinking excited. But I have to go study Spanish some more now. Because that's what everyone else speaks.


Just another guy come wednesday

President Bush had his final press conference this morning. The report ended with this:

"Bush seemed to struggle to envision himself on Jan. 21, his first day back at home and without a job.

"I'm a Type A personality. I just can't envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach," he said. But, he added, it would probably be a pretty low-key day with him and his wife, Laura, at his ranch in Texas. "I wake up in Crawford on Tuesday morning—I mean, Wednesday morning, and I suspect I'll make Laura coffee and, you know, go get it for her.""

I know a lot of folks don't like the guy or think he was our worst president in history (a ridiculous thing to say), but having studied him a little, well, I like the man. He was no Lincoln (we may never have another) but he is, I think, at his core, a man of good principles, of character and he is, most importantly, a brother in Christ.

I hope next Wednesday he can bring his wife coffee and sit and talk with her without having to lead the most powerful nation in the world. Maybe they can I bet Laura couldn't be more excited.

surpassing doofus

\ˈjen-rəs, ˈje-nə-\
Middle French or Latin; Middle French genereus, from Latin generosus, from gener-, genus
1archaic : highborn2 a: characterized by a noble or forbearing spirit : magnanimous , kindly b: liberal in giving : openhanded c: marked by abundance or ample proportions : copious generous nose — Richard Zabel>

I was reading in 2 Corinthians this morning about an instance of generosity, liberality of giving, where Paul is urging the Corinthians to give to another church in need. Missionaries use this passage all the time, often to manipulate people into giving them money. "God loves a cheerful giver" and "
He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly" (the Old King James is great for making people feel small).

But you don't often hear the rest of the passage.

12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

How crazy is God? He gives us things so that we can give them away and then in the process God is praised and we are prayed for, all because of 'the surpassing grace God' has given us. It's nuts!

We make it all about money. And money is important, as anyone who doesn't have enough will surely tell you. We need it. But giving money is one little part of a gracious, generous life. I'm supposed to live graciously, with generosity in all things. Give love and help and wisdom and a listening ear and time and money in line with how God has given me His grace.

Oh, MAN am I tight fisted! As Brent says, "Sheesh!" I had a good eye-rolling session at myself this morning before I sat down and listed ways I can be more generous in, well, in everything. Here's a few I came up with:

- in grace: give more grace to people, even lavish them with it (especially our 3 year old)
- in time: stop being in such a hurry with people. give them time to be.
- in expectations: go easier on people, myself included, when we screw up or are mean.
- in relationships: real ones take time and energy and patience, give more of those things to people.

I mean, that's just FOUR! And it's not all about doing things - it's about being a possessor of surpassing grace. A grace which is designed to be given to others.

Can you come up with some from your life? I'd love to see what areas I'm totally passing over.


It's Saturday!

Our ritual on Saturday morning is for BoyD and I to to get up and rumble (well, he rumbles, I drag a little) downstairs and watch cartoons. Sometimes we watch something in Spanish, sometimes a DVD. This morning's main course is The Land Before Time, known in our home as Littlefoot and Sara.

BoyD always brings a toy or three to help him watch. A golden Hotwheels, a tiny cement mixer and a blue dump truck that zip along the ground when you pull them backwards and let them go and a little John Deere tractor all made the cut. We drink coffee. I take mine with milk. BoyD takes his without coffee. Just warm milk, but we call it coffee.

We sit and talk and I read the news and Jenny gets to sleep past 5:30 for one morning every week. Movies are interactive with our son. To say he asks questions is a little like saying people run during a marathon. He asks about everything except plot holes. And so we hang out for an hour or two until his baby sister beams awake and I get to double my Saturday morning fun.

Littlefoot and his overly cute dino buddies are almost to the great valley and I hear BabyM beaming wake. Time to figure out breakfast.

I wish I could bottle this.


wonder and wisdom

I sat last night in the soft red rocker, my son on my lap. Fuzzy plaid PJ's were pressed against me as he snuggled warm into my chest. Then, as is common, he jumped down and ran around ordering his trains and cars before listening to me read him a story. Every train and car has a bed, you know.

Up he jumped and grabbed his tag (blankie) and climbed upon my waiting lap chattering like an infomercial. Then he asked me,

"Daddy, is God bigger than monsters"

"Yes, little man." I told him. "God is bigger than monsters"

And in the second or two I had before he spoke again, I thought of how many monsters reign free when God is there to stop them.

But instead of asking another question, he simply turned around and grabbed my neck and hugged me and said, "I love you daddy" and wriggled his little bottom next to mine and asked me to tell him a story.

See, I'm too mature to just ask hard questions and be ok with the answer. I can't just ask God hard things and then when He answers accept what He gave me, snuggle into Him and say, "I love you daddy." I'm too grown up for that.

And I grieve it. For Jesus told me that I must be like my little son to enter the kingdom. That I must just trust Him and in trusting Him, let that be enough. I know there are those of us who say, "Wait a minute. I deserve answers." And yet so does my son. But does he need to know of all the monsters? We assume freedom in knowledge and prove ourselves ignorant time and again. How much greater is the gap between my heavenly father and me and my son and me? Whose the less enlightened? The wiser?

God does not care about answering my questions. He wants me to love Him. And to trust that what answers He has given are sufficient for me. He's not playing some game or demonstrating His prowess. That's what humans do. But when I ask Him a question like, "Why do you let monsters roam" I don't really want to know the answer. I'm just deflecting acceptance of God's worth in my trusting Him. I think that if I can solve the paradox that I will be content. That if I have my answers I will be at peace. But there is no mention of peace and answers in the Bible.

Peace comes from trust and rest from peace. And my little son who has breathed the air of this realm for a little more than 3 years demonstrates faith to me more than all the answers I have ever reasoned through. He teaches me to wonder again at what it means to rest in my Father who loves me and to let that be enough. And when monsters come (and they will) he has taught me to remember that they cannot take away my love for my son. How much more - infinitely more - can the love my Father has for me (and all of us) not be damaged or tarnished or reasoned away. Is not death our greatest monster? Will he too not be banished one day?

And so I rest - snuggle - ever so uncomfortably at first, in the chest of my Father. Who is bigger than all the monsters. Even the one's I'm too scared of to mention. And I have peace.


It never gets old

It is no secret that missionaries can do what they do only because people and churches give them money. We live in Guatemala because dozens of people and several churches look at what God gives them every month and they give some of it to us. And they don't do it for the tax deduction, although I'm glad they get one.

Every month about this time I get a report of who gave what and when and I put it all into this nifty program I have that keeps all that data nice and neat for me. It is data entry by hand. Anyone who has ever done much of that knows it's not the most exciting thing to do, and yet I do it every month. And it never gets old.

Because every month I get a list of people who love us. And people we love. Many of whom are reading this right now. Every month I sit for a few hours and remember who these people are and what they are struggling with (if I know) and I remember them as I input dates and dollars by their name. I can pray for them and talk to the Lord about them and see every month a visual reminder that we are not alone down here. That God provides for what we need. And we have the unique and beautiful opportunity to have that provision given to us by the generosity of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Because it's no secret how we're here.

I am a blessed man indeed.


The God who calls us Children

Being a parent is not what I expected. Now I have no idea what it feels like to be a Mom. I am married to the most amazing mom I know and that includes a stadium full of moms. And while I can recognize and stand amazed at mothers, I cannot be one.

So I am a dad. And we have two children who bring to us in the same moment more joy and fear and frustration than I ever imagined. I never knew how much my parents loved me until I had children of my own. How could I? And I never knew the depth of a father's love for his children. Nor did I have the knowledge of how deep is my own brokenness and how deeply rooted the sin within me. Children bring those things to the surface. By their transparency I too am revealed.

God calls Himself our Father and He did not do that on accident. I understand that God is Spirit and therefore not a man as is Jesus. And yet He thought it best to call Himself our Father. He tells us in John 1: 12 , "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

The right to become children of God. Jesus gives us this right. It's not one I can claim originated with me but it is as sure as my very life (far surer) a truth I can claim. I am a child of God. BabyM is a child of mine. No matter what occurs during her life here on planet earth or in eternity, she will always be my daughter. I may die. She may die. But she will remain my child forever. It was not her choice to become. It was mine and Jenny's (of human decision or a husband's will, says the verse). And yet there is an identity which surpasses even that. An identity which cannot be tarnished or manipulated or counseled out of someone.

There are lots of religions out there. Lots of beliefs or un-beliefs. And yet only one has a Father who loves us enough to call us His children and then send His only son to die so that we could have the right to be called sons and daughters of God. How great a price to pay to adopt rebellious kids. How little I understand the love which caused that. How even less I demonstrate it to my own children.

When I need to know how to love my children I have the model right in front of me, indwelling me and shepherding me. When I look at the picture of my daughter I don't' see guacamole staining her clothes or whatever else that is matted in her eyebrows. I see her eyes. Her mother's eyes. I see something of myself. Even my temper. And yet when God looks to His children He too sees something of Himself for we are made in His image. And He sees us for what we are. He sees through our shell games and excuses. He sees through our fears and worries. He sees through our arrogance and stupidity to the child beneath. He sees through the guacamole and matted hair to the Child He loves. And He calls us His own.

My identity is not on my passport. Not on my drivers license or paycheck or house note. It is in the God who calls me His son. Who sees me as I am and loves me anyway. And who wants to make me like Jesus, His only begotten son. He has a lot of work to do, doesn't He? But do it He will. Because that's what fathers do for their children.

More than I ever expected.


Una pausa

Well I took an unannounced week off from the blog. Sorry to all you faithful readers.

We were traveling and doing life and even resting a little. It was a wonderful 2 weeks with Jenny's mom. Not many husbands are sad when their mother in law leaves and I am blessed to say I miss her being here. She and Jenny are about as close as a mom and daughter get and it's wonderful to see them loving and enjoying one another.

Since the last post Jenny and I celebrated our 8th anniversary. I normally write something public telling everyone how wonderful Jenny is and how I am maybe the most blessed among men to have her as my wife. But some words are best shared between husband and wife and left enshrouded in the mystery of marriage. Such are the words this year.

This January is bringing about some strange things in the feelings department. It is the first year I have started where I do not have something really large in front of me. What I mean is that I am not trying to complete something to do something else. I am not trying to finish college or start Seminary or finish Seminary or raise support or move to another country or finish language school. It's been 6 years since Jenny and I decided that the Lord wanted us to head through seminary and we are finally at the point where we are beginning to do what I went to school to do. That's not a long time, but it's not an overnighter.

So I look forward this year as into a broad valley after climbing a few peaks. The Lord doesn't keep us climbing forever. And so I'll walk with the Lord as He lays the foundations for ministry here. Or rather I will begin to do whatever my part is in the ministry He has already begun here in Guatemala. I do not know exactly what He has me to do nor for how long. Only that He has us here and He is with us and has things for us to do. But it's kind of nice to start.

Alright. My Red Raiders are in a fight with the Rebels of Ole Miss. Hope they win it from a tough team.