Sunday

Jenny's blogging again!

I know. It's amazing. Head over to my Beautiful and Talented Bride's blog and see what she has to say. And lots of great pics from our trip. She actually posts pics. ;-)

http://wife-and-mommy.blogspot.com/

mostly random thoughts

Well it's Sunday morning. Which means yesterday was Saturday and the day before Friday. Saturday we had a great day. Made biscuits, played with the kids, ate a little playdoh, did some yard work, played my euphonium and ate dinner (burgers) while we watched American Idol. Where do I live again? We keep a little USA around.

Friday I went to a pastors prayer meeting in a town about 30 minutes from here called San Francisco el alto. A group of pastors from San Marcos (an hour from me) came through and picked me up (20 minutes late - normal) and we met 4 other pastors. There are only 5 CAM churches in Xela and those pastors meet the guys from San Marcos every two months to pray. And so I got to meet personally many of the guys I will be serving. They want to have the next meeting at hour house - and they want me to teach it. Woohoo! Anyway.

And here's where it gets funny. See, I have a Masters degree which means, including my undergrad, I spent 8 years in higher education. I have a lot more education than all those pastors combined. And so these guys ask lots of questions about what I studied and where. I have a degree in Psychology which, to them, means I'm a psychologist. Like James Dobson. I also attended DTS which is, for these guys, the pentultimate in education.

And when it comes time to pray, everyone gets out of their chairs and gets on their knees on the floor and puts their face to the ground, prostrate before their Lord. And they pray. Wow, do they pray. See, they pray all at once here. One person is the main prayer and the other people also talk out loud to Jesus at the same time. It's not really chaotic as it is a team effort. And over 3 hours we prayed a lot. When was the last time you were in a prayer meeting where everyone got on their knees and prayed? Maybe just the other day for you. Been awhile for me.

But as I was sitting there on my knees with the men I am supposed to be helping I thought, "What in the world do I have to teach these people? They are the ones teaching me."

And I'm still wondering that. I know the Lord will show me. But life is not like a book - I can't turn ahead and see what I'm supposed to do. I can just follow Jesus and as I get on my knees He'll show me what to do. I mean, it's not like all the churches are healthy. It's just that I'm the one guy in this town whose job is to help these churches minister more effectively. And it's good to know I'm not alone.

Ok. Off to make breakfast.

Thursday

What is this, Thursday?

Goodness.

I would have posted earlier but needed to respond to a few comments on the
Mormon Posts[Mormons-are-not-Christians]. I'm no apologist but I at least had to state the facts. That's about all I'll do with that for now. Not enough rambling going on here.

One of the things I'd like to talk about is what Jesus says in Matthew 16. He and the disciples are going along and they stop to talk. Jesus says, "Who do you say that I am" and Peter answers, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And he really nails it. Jesus says He will build the church upon Peter, good stuff. In less time than it takes to lie in politics, Peter gets in the way, Jesus equates him to Satan, and then says to the group, "Anyone who wishes to follow after Me must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me."

So I'm mulling over just what does it mean to deny myself?

I'm a ruminator so...I'll mull a little more. Please give me any insight you might have. I'd love to hear it.

I'll be out tomorrow most of the day so maybe I can get up before 5:30 to blog a little. Or maybe tomorrow night. But that's Date Night and, well, that trumps blogging. I mean REALLY trumps it. Like football is better than soccer trumps. Or sweet Iced Tea is better than not sweet. Or home made popcorn is better than microwave trumps. That'll do.

Oh, and one week from yesterday we get to have Brent blog. At least once. Looking forward to it.

Monday

and back to reality

Well they don't call it the Magic Kingdom for nothing.

We had a wonderful, wonderful time. Restful...not so much. But who can rest with little kids and Disney?

I'll answer some of the responses posted a little later. We just returned home last night and have to leave again early tomorrow for a meeting 2 hours away. I'll get to those hopefully tonight. Thanks for all your kind wishes! According to Disney, they come true.

Saturday

Off to see the....mouse


So Mimi (Jenny's mom) is taking the grandkids to Disney World and we get to go along.

Jenny's brother and his wife and 2 kids (5 and 3) will be coming. It ought to be a lot of fun.

We've been packed since yesterday because my wife is utterly amazing. AMAZING. And we'll drive to Guatemala City tonight, stay with friends, wake up, fly to Miami, spend 6 hours in one of the world's worst airports, then fly to Orlando and take a bus to magic.

Have you ever seen the look on a 3 year old's face when they see Mickey Mouse?

I'll try to get a picture.

So, don't expect any blogs until March 22nd. Because I won't be anywhere near a computer and I don't own any sort of technology that would enable me to access the web on my phone. Nor do I want to.

The week we get back I finally get to have a meeting with the few CAM pastors who live in Xela and I am as excited about that as I am to go to Disney world. Well, maybe nto quite that excited.

Friday

- ambiguous title here -

I must say that I am surprised by the response from the Mormons. This is also a test to see if the web scrubbers just check the titles or go into the body text as well.

-=**Initiating test**=-

Mormons are not Christians.

-=**This was a test of the Emergency Ramble Zone System**=-

Well, we'll see. If anyone snoops blogs for double asterisks I guess they'll send the thought police.

On the nice side, our neighbors are just a joy to have next door. When they found out we were going on a trip next week they wanted to know when we would return so they could have some home-made soup ready for us so we would not have to cook after traveling. I can't think of the last time I did that for a neighbor. They even traveled the other day and I didn't think of that.

*subject change*

Did you know it snowed in Lubbock this morning? Weather is one of the greatest testaments to me that we are not in control. We're just not. And yet we can, in a symbolic sense, get out of the boat and walk on the stormy seas with Jesus. Or at the very least we can ride in the boat with Him while He sleeps and the sea crashes and tosses the boat. And when we get too scared He sometimes even says, "Hush. Be still" and calms things down for a little while.

Alright. We have to finish packing. We spend exactly 19% of our life either packing or unpacking. I'll tell you where we're going.

tomorrow. :-)

Thursday

Mormons, mormons, everywhere

And not a mean one in sight.

We have 18 Mormon guys on their mission right around the block. 18. That's 9 pairs of "Elder" nomenclatured young men in white short sleeves going door to door for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. That's 540 man hours of evangelism every week to welcome people into a cult. Think the devil takes a siesta?

Our new neighbors moved in a week ago. He is a structural engineer and is responsible for building the largest Mormon temple in Central America. Right across the street from the toy store. He has built temples in Chile, Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica. They have 6 children, all daughters, all grown but one, and they are maybe the nicest people we have ever met.

We helped them move in, install their fridge, hoist an entertainment center made of exotic Costa Rican wood up a balcony, made them dinner, broke down boxes, let them use our fridge and freezer, helped them get things around town and let them in on some cultural things specific to Guatemala. We've taken them to the market and the grocery store and chased after their poodle when it got away. And we do all those things because they are human and are our neighbors and needed a little help. And we love them because Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

They have made us cinnamon rolls and helped install latches on our kids' closets and offered to teach Jenny how to sew and offered to let me borrow his enormous assortment of tools. They offered to baby sit and gave all their boxes to Gladys so she could sell them. They gave us a book on raising kids and complimented me when I practiced my euphonium. They do it because...

Well, I don't know why they do it. It may be because we are human and need help. I do not think it is because they love Christ because they do not believe He is who He says He is. I am almost certain they are not filled with the Holy Spirit and so are not helped by His power and presence. But the reality is that I do not know.

And yet Mormons make the nicest neighbors, don't they?

Go ahead. Tell me they are earning their salvation so they work their butts off. You'd be right. Go ahead and tell me that it's all a veneer and deep down they are just fallen/unregenerate/unsaved/pre-saved/Un-Christian/fill-in-your-moniker. Go ahead and tell me they are faking it.

I'll tell you it seems a lot more real than many Christians I know.

Don't be mistaken - if they believe Mormon doctrine I do not believe they are saved from the wrath and judgment of God. I believe Mormons are wrong. They do not worship the Triune God.

I do. We (the family of believers) do. We are supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, God's empowering presence who transforms us and gives us gifts and gives us the very power of God to behave in a manner that matches our faith. To have, as Titus was charged with, sound doctrine and good works.

I see studies on faith in the US and the number of people attending churches is declining. The heart of Christianity has moved from the US to Latin America and Africa and Asia. Whole denominations are actually arguing whether homosexuals should be ordained. We get upset at something in our churches and so we form another church. Do you know there are 34,000 Christian denominations? No cults included. Take the Catholics out and were down to 33,999.

Jesus prayed for us the night of His arrest. He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one so that the world might believe in Him. How well do you think we're doing? No wonder people look to churches and say, "You know what, I'll pass"

They see a church who claims to be filled with people who know God and claim that God changed them and yet they look just like everyone else. We have ceased, in large part, to worship God as He is and have neutered ourselves in the process. We who are supposed to be known by our love, kindness, humility, and compassion for the hurting are instead known for our politics, fractures, theological arguments and a general "we're better than you" attitude. I'll be honest when I tell you that I was excited that Mormons were moving in next door instead of missionaries from the States because at least I knew they would be nice. How tragic is that?

And so...I'll end my rant. And ask that if you actually walk the real thing, KEEP DOING IT. Please. Keep being a follower of Christ, filled with His Sprit, representing Him and telling His message to the people you meet. If you are mean and divisive and look down on people - shame on you. Stop it or go worship someone else because the Holy Spirit doesn't act like that and neither should you. And if you are broken and in the process of getting fixed (as I am) them just hold onto the Lord and take it one day at a time. You speak truth by your honesty and the reality of your transformation.

And talk to your Mormon neighbors. They're actually really nice. And have problems just like us. And need the Lord just like us.

Wednesday

wednesday

If I get more than 3 days between posts it just snowballs. So here we are.

This morning we are going out to look for a used off road vehicle. Not one that is for sale on the side of the road, mind you, but a 4x4 . We have a pretty small budget for the vehicle but we have what the Lord has given us and I am pretty sure He can work within those numbers. That was meant to be tongue in cheek. I am certain He can.

You know, it's funny how doubt creeps in a gets in the way of trusting the Lord. And it's in what seem like little things. Of course lots of little things add up to a lot. But I so quickly forget how big God is. He's infinite. Without measure. So, actually, to say He is big is incorrect because "big" implies that there is a "bigger" and all of that implies measure or comparison - none of which apply to God. And He loves us and cares about what happens to us. Jesus tells us that the Father takes care of the tiny little birds. Gives them food. A place to perch. How much more valuable are we to Him, creatures made in His image, than little birds?

We pervert that and say that God promises that we will be wealthy and drive fancy cars and live in mansions with swimming pools. And we miss out on what it means to trust God for our provision. For what we need to live and do the things He wants us to do. What a sadness that we take God's promise to give us what we need and attempt to manipulate him into getting what we want. That's not childish. It's evil. And I have to be reminded to be on guard against that because it's not hard to move from one to the other.

So, if you would, pray for us as we look for a little truck or something. I just need something that can manage unpaved mountain roads and won't leave me stranded too often.

Sunday

Well I didn't get sick riding in the back seat. I took a Dramamine. Call it cheating. I call it not puking. Because I would have. It actually wasn't too scary. I mean, every rule of driving safety was pointed at and mocked with Nelsonian disdain, but we made it. When I got in the car I couldn't find the female segment of the seat belt and opted to just leave it at that. After a few minutes I was clawing under the seat back and finally retrieved it.

It was a great time. They teach pastors Leadership and Administration from a Biblical perspective but as they were doing it they realized that the foundation of most of their ministries was building the church. The part made of cinder block and re-bar. So they are suspending their curriculum and going back to talk about what the church really is (people) and whom it should be founded upon (Christ). And that's a good sign. A really neat group of pastors too, even a few CAM churches in there so, Lord willing, we will be able to work together some in
the future. I am typing with a bandaid on my right index finger. Very annoying.

I must admit that I was less than participatory. I only slept 4 hours the previous night and that combined with the Dramamine sleepies made for an observant but very quiet Brandon.

Anyway.

Today Jenny and I are recovering from something we ate that caused...well, we're recovering. Not a lot of sleep last night. The kids are fine and Jenny got it worse than me. Bleah. I don't have any stats but it sure feels like we get sick more often here. I'll blame Obama. Presidents are fun for blaming.

I've been reading Mere Christianity and a handfull fo other things. That C.S. Lewis was such a wonderful author. Wow. I'd love to read something he wrote if he was a contemporary American. Maybe there is someone out there today who writes like Lewis. If you know one - let me know.

Thursday

Observer

I'm heading out today with a missionary who is actually a Guatemalan but is an American citizen and has moved back here to teach pastors. I'll head out with him and see what he's up to. Should be fun. Riding with his pastor friend so I'll tell you what it's like from the back seat with a Guatemalan driving.

Wednesday

5:30...mas o menos

It's 6:30 and my neighbor isn't even home yet. Time is more...fluid here. I'm just sort of waiting around because I don't want to be in the middle of something (like eating) when he comes over.

I'll let you know how it goes.

a cool reason to pray

Not that you need any more reasons....

We live in a little neighborhood with 15 or 20 houses. A few doors down and across the street lives a family with 3 kids. The youngest is a few years older than our oldest but they can run and do the things kids do and sometimes we all go out before dinner and the kids play in the street. No through traffic, don't worry.

Anyway, one afternoon Jenny was out with the kids and chatting with the dad across the street. He asked what we do, etc, the normal get-to-know-your-neighbor questions. And of course we are clearly not Guatemalan and so we tell them we're missionaries and they always ask what kind. It's like saying you want ice cream at Baskin Robbins. There's a lot of options. Anyway, so Jenny finds out he's Catholic and he finds out that I teach the Bible and he asks Jenny if I could teach him the Bible. You know, just asks her.

So a few days ago we were coming home and he was washing his car and I stopped and asked him how he was and he said, "Hey, when can you start teaching me the Bible" (except in Spanish) and I said, "When do you want to start?" (also in Spanish) and he said, "Wednesday say, 5 or 5:30".

Well, that's today.

So would you please pray for Freddie, my neighbor who wants to learn the Bible. Please pray that I have wisdom and grace beyond my years to just do whatever the Lord wants and that I don't say anything stupid or get bogged down in minutiae. And that even if (or when) I do, that the Lord would draw this man to Himself through His word and I would be part of the process and not a hindrance to it.

And give a "woohoo!" to the Lord while you're at it. It's not like He isn't already involved. And He's so...awesome...to let us be involved in the things He does.

Alright. So, go ahead and pray already.

Monday

A few things to learn

I understand that cultures are different and what is right in one culture may be grounds for execution in another. But then there are also things we can learn from other places. We can learn from the US, for instance, that hard work can be a really good thing and that diversity pretty much always trumps homogeneity. There are lots of bad things we can also learn but those are less fun to write about because I'll end up depressed.

Anyway, I think there are a few things we American's could learn from the Guatemalans


Grief takes awhile - The year after someone dies they often have what's called a Cabo del Año. I'm unsure of the religious significance of it - there may be some Catholic prayers to get the dead out of purgatory, etc...but protestants have the Cabo as well. We attended just the beginning of one this past Friday. A friend of ours, a year ago, was in a car accident where her father and 14 month old baby boy were killed and her mom crippled. We went to their house with a trio of Guatemalan friends (the kiddos were at home) and sat in their house trying not to say anything stupid or be culturally insensitive.

The mother came out. She was dressed as pretty as she could afford and using a walker. Patti, our dear friend, went up to her to hug her and the mother just wept. Wept so loudly she was shaking. After a time she turned around and her brother was there and a half dozen other family members just wept with her. They wept for a long time, wailing and holding one another. And we did to, in a quiet and respectful way, share a little of their grief. And that's what they do pretty well here: share grief. It's not some cancer we bear alone. It's people hurting and the Lord made us to hurt in community. In the US even when a child or spouse dies we sort of expect them to be really sad for a few months then get back to normal. We'd never say that but we express it by our unwillingness to share long-term in their grief. And I realize that different people grieve in different ways but we sure could give folks a little more freedom in how they do it.


People Trump Time - I know you folks who have your Day Runner (or Palm or whatever) planned out to the millisecond will disagree, but forming and deepening human relationships is more important than getting things done on time. Does it mean we don't get things done? No. It may mean that we're up late some nights finishing things or we have to put another thing aside for later. But people are more important. Things aren't eternal; people are. And the Guatemalans are a little better at that principal than Americans. They may not be as productive, but what is productivity anyway? What is so important about doing? I realize there is, as in many things, a balance, but I have certainly had to learn that when I just have to get it done and someone pops over for a visit, I can probably be OK talking for awhile. Sometimes I can't, but that's rarely honestly the case.

I'm still learning. I'll be doing that forever so I'm happy to do so. But some lessons are harder than others. I hope I can learn them while doing just a little damage.