We should eat more bacon

In light of the H1N1 (swine flu) quasi-pandemic and given that the virus does not pass through cooked pork, I am hereby instituting an International Bacondemic Alert. We, as citizens linked by technology, geography and humanity, must take a stand. We must eat more bacon.

In order to save humanity, it is paramount that we consume enormous quantities of bacon. BLT's are to be the primary source of consumption given the high vitamin C content of tomatoes. After that, it's a free for all. Well, as long as the tomatoes are not salmonella infected Mexican tomatoes. That would just make us sick with bacteria. And we all know bacteria and viruses are like vampires and werewolves - eternal enemies - so we don't want to up the ante.

Bacon wrapped jalapeƱos to honor the source country of Mexico are also to be consumed (note salmonella exception). Other bacon recipes are to be added as readers to this blog contribute their ideas for saving humanity.

Pork chops, ribs, smoked hams and pork rinds are also to be allowed, but those will proceed in subsequent Porkdemics.

Go. Eat. Bacon.


Paint and things that provoke

For better or worse, art provokes. Right Brent?

I saw this and wanted to see what you all thought. An artist named Michael D'Antuono created this I assume to provoke dialog in one form or another. Here's a sample of it. The news story is the link below where there are other samples. I find it...interesting, among other things. Thoughts?


thoughts on a Sunday afternoon

There's a lot of danger in studying theology. The joke in seminary is to call it "cemetery" because it's where your faith dies. Or can die. Of course the vast majority of people who attend seminary don't lose their faith. But they certainly are left with a lot of unanswered questions.

Surprise! to anyone who thought you go to seminary to get all your questions resolved.

We've been chatting with some Mormon's on their blog this week. One of whom commented here on this blog. And we've been dialogging about what it means to be saved. And they say, mostly, the same things we do. But we mean different things. They too have studied theology. They really have. The read the Bible and other Mormon works and articles and books. They pray and ask God to reveal the truth to them and as long as that truth is the 'truth' found in the book of Mormon they are satisfied. Our dear friend Chris was a Mormon until, in his words, he asked God to show him the truth and opened his heart to the reality that the answers found in the book of Mormon might be wrong.

I am not removing God from the equation - so don't say that I am - but a lot of what I believe, I believe because that is what I was taught. I grew up in a church that taught the Bible. My friend Chris grew up in the LDS church where they teach the Bible plus other things. The other things really make a difference because Mormons consider the Book of Mormon and other teachings equal to the Bible - they believe it to be new revelation. God opened Chris' eyes and, as he says, the scales fell off and he saw Jesus for who He really is. Chris left the LDS church (not an easy thing to do) and he and his wife were recently baptized by one of our former college students. How cool is that! It is an AMAZING story. And that's where I'm going with this.

Being part of a church where the Bible is believed to be all that we need in terms of Scripture is hugely important. To be a part of a church where they teach the Bible and where the Bible is their authority for life and doctrine is paramount. Being in a place where other believers can, in community, interpret and apply the Bible is so very, very important. Not every church does it the same. Not every preacher is the same. But you know one when you see one.

In the context of the body of Christ we get the stories of how God works among us. We get to hear what He has done, how he has changed us, and we can talk about how much He loves us and we love Him. And we can encourage and challenge one another to follow Christ with our whole heart and communicate fearlessly the freedom of the true Gospel.

I'm not Mormon bashing so please keep those comments to yourself. But I am talking about some of the things that have been re-clarified for me in my discussions with my Mormon friends. And I use that word intentionally. See, our experience is not the measuring stick for our doctrine. I have all kinds of experiences that I have a hard time making sense of and often I struggle to figure out how they line up with what I believe to be true. But see, there are some things I believe that do not change. That never change. Because the Foundation, the Cornerstone upon whom I place my belief never, ever, ever, ever changes. God is Who He Is. He is One God. He is Father, Son, Spirit. He has no beginning and no end. He is not merely eternal, He is infinite. He is without measure. He can be known only because He has made Himself known. We throw around words like infinite and all powerful and sovereign and apply them to things to which they do NOT apply. Only God is infinite. Only God is sovereign. Only God creates and no one, no man, no angel, no created thing (which includes everything and everyone but God) will ever be God. That is impossible. There cannot be two God's. There's cannot be two infinite beings. One would have to give in to the others infinitude. There cannot be two all powerful beings. One would have to relinquish power to the other. There cannot be two sovereign beings. One would have to relinquish authority to the other.

The whole of that we believe falls back to this: that God is Who He says He is. If He is not, we're all just making stuff up and I'm going to move back to Texas where life is a little easier. But if He is Who He says He is...O, and He IS - than everything has perspective. Life has meaning. Eternity is a reality and a lot of people have it all wrong.

So, like many of you, I too am in process. I am thinking and learning and growing and the whole time I am enjoying very, O so very much the love of God to me. And to you.


it rained

That may not seem that incredible, but I haven't seen rain since November and it was nice to get a little here at home. Keeps the dust down. They seeded the field behind us with corn and looks like the timed it just right.

Jenny and I had a long discussion about the Trinity last night. It started at 10:45. It was wonderful. She's taking Dr. Kreider's Into to Theology online course from DTS and it's been a lot of fun for both of us. Her brain works a LOT better than mine and so it's great to sit and listen to how hers works. I'm still learning how to listen, by the way. It's not something that I'm naturally good at. Good listeners, I have been told, are that way because they worked really hard at it. Whether that is true or not probably doesn't matter - I'm sure there are some naturally good listeners out there - but it makes me feel better and want to work at listening so I reckon it's a win-win.

So here's to litening. Better. At least a little.


A great cloud of witnesses

First, thank you all so very much for your kindness with Jenny and I. We're doing really, really well and thankful that so many of you love and care for us. Your sweet words ministered to us deeply.

We went to a Conference this weekend where all the CAM folks from Guatemala came and Roger Raymer spoke on Hebrews 11. Man. What an amazing chapter to realize that we indeed LIVE by faith. What an encouragement to see the testimony of the faithful and to realize that we all have faith in the same living God, the one True God, I AM. And that our faith is in Him, not things other people made up or rules and regulations...but our faith is in a person, the very Person of God in Jesus. It's wonderful.

We were able to meet and talk with lots of missionaries who have been here in Guatemala for decades. Lots of decades. So many sweet, kind, wonderful people. They loved on our children and were gracious as we did the things that parents of little kids do. We shared meals together and Jenny and I felt very much like were with with a surrogate family. We sang together - old hymns - and oh goodness those hymns are treasures. Wherever you are at church, ask your worship leader to work some old hymns into the service. I don't' care if they're played with the bagpipes, we just need to be singing that poetry set to music.

Also, we picked up a new-to-us truck from another missionary in the City. Jenny drove the whole way home right behind me. Those who have been here know that's quite a task. She's so amazing! She passed on those mountain roads like a champ. We were safe, so don't worry grandparents.

Here's our new truck:

I can't wait to take it out in the boonies! That's the empty lot across from our house. And on the right that's Seven Ears Volcano. The clouds cover the other volcano on the left pic. Thank you to the folks at Lakeridge UMC for providing us this truck. May the Lord use it for His glory!

And, when you get a second, or a few minutes, read Hebrews 11. Then 12:1-3. I promise you will be encouraged!


sad news

Jenny had a miscarriage last night. We are very sad but we're ok. Sometimes life is very sad. Apparently a miscarriage this early is not uncommon. We'll see a doctor today to make sure everything is ok. Thank you for caring for us.


Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy

I was reading in Matthew 20 yesterday about the story of Jesus walking from Jericho and two blind men start yelling, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" and the crowd shoos them away as often we crowds tend to do. But they just yell louder because they're desperate, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"

Jesus stops, asks them what they want, heals them, and they follow Him.

So I started looking at pleas for mercy in the Bible because I wondered if there was an instance where someone pleaded for mercy to the Lord and He said, "No".

There are LOTS of instances of God demonstrating mercy. The Psalms alone are replete with them. But God does indeed deny mercy. To the merciless and those who, in their arrogance, deny God, He shows no mercy. He took his mercy from Israel to judge them. The book of Hosea alone has almost a dozen uses of the word. It is about God taking away His mercy just for a moment but He does this to show them how much He desires them to demonstrate His own mercy! The famous verse, Hosea 6:6, "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." and 2:23, "Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘ You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”" demonstrates how much God sees us in our affliction and desires to heal us of it.

But He will not allow us to set the terms.

We must come to Him as He is: Holy. Perfect. Almighty God. And we are to be merciful as our Father is merciful.

But God is ALWAYS (can I make that bigger) merciful to those who plead mercy to Him and come to Him humble and aware of the depth of their need. I too need to reflect that mercy to everyone I see. To see them as they are and love them there. Mercy is what God is. And only in His grace are mercy and justice reconciled.

What a thing to know the mercy of God and then demonstrate that mercy to others.

Oh, and Jenny is pregnant.


The Glory of the Empty Tomb

Matthew 28:1-10:

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

To everyone who reads this: REJOICE! Do not be afraid! Jesus is Risen! Believe in Him! Trust in Him! And GO! Tell everyone you know that their hope and joy and peace and salvation is alive. Glory!


Good Friday

I always thought the name was strange. The day that God in the Flesh was murdered by the people He created is...good?

Here in Guatemala most of the celebrations end today. There are these incredible processions with intricate carpets made with sawdust. They make them on the street and the processions walk over them. We'll go to one today here in Xela. It's amazing.

But Friday and Saturday have always been a little dark for me. I meditate on the reality of the death of Jesus and it is never a happy thing. I try on Saturday to put myself in the shoes of the disciples. The Bible doesn't tell us much about what happened on Saturday. Luke simply states,

"The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment." 23:55-6

But today is the day when my Savior died. Today is the day when God in the Flesh gave up His life and uttered, "It is finished". Today is the day when my Lord and best friend whom I love looked to the people murdering Him and said, "Forgive them, Father, for they know what they do."

And why could He say that? How could they not know they were murdering? Ah, but they were not killing a mere man. They were killing the Christ, the Messiah, the One they had awaited. They were killing the one who created them. They were killing the One by whose death they would be freed from their sins. That, they did not know.

And yet as Jesus spoke to the thieves and bled and hurt and suffered, He spoke grace to those for whom He was dying. And make no mistake about it - He was hurting. He was suffering. And He was dying.

And it was good.

Romans 3
21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Today is that day when "God displayed publicly" the gift of our justification, our atonement and propitiation. Thank you, oh Just One, my justifier, for this Good Friday.


just 3 hours

Well, I had such a cool experience yesterday. Cool meaning it was worth it but basically broke me. Thank you for all of you who prayed I would not sprain an ankle. I did not sprain or break anything. Although my knees are sore for the first time in my life.

Once a year a group goes our to a place called, Barranca de Galvez (Galvez Gorge) to have a prayer meeting. They asked me if I wanted to come. It's a 3 hour walk there and then 3 back. Sure! I said. I can walk for miles. When it's flat. On the map it looks like we walked a little less than 20 kilometers so 10 or 12 miles I think. That's as the crow flies. I have no idea how far it was if you count the up and down. Jenny said I walked a half marathon in the mountains so I'll take that.

So here's us starting up
And we walked up one side of a mountain (apparently the shorter side). They went before me, spry mountain goats. Surefooted and tireless. It was utterly amazing. I was winded by the top of the mountain and utterly exhausted later on. They hardly had to catch their breath.

Then we got to the top. This is the view. That's Tajumulco (Ta-hoo-mool-co) there, the highest point in Central America at 13,845 ft. Tacana, the volcano to the left in the distance, is on the Mexico-Guatemala border. The young guy there is in the process of becoming a pastor here and accompanied us. He's in MUCH better shape than me.

So this is another view of Tajumulco, my friend Basilio, and the village we walked to. It's hard to see, but if you drew a 45 degree line from his head to that tall tree on the right, the village is halfway on the line, about halfway up the volcano. Which is not active. Just FYI.

After we got over the mountain we had to go down it. I was told there were 99 switchbacks. I didn't count because I was trying not to beak anything important. But it was steep. Only horses and people on foot. And it was very loose rock. I actually didn't fall on this part. I fell later but my backpak took the brunt. I was trying to munch on a cracker and made the mistake of not watching the ground. Didn't make that mistake again. But we went down into a really cool jungly valley. Land of the Lost-ish.

I didn't get any pics from the valley or the way up becasue I got video of it and was so worn out I was near puking, but here we are after climbing (which is about what I did) out of the valley and up to where the village is. The rest of the group was well ahead of us.

When we got there they had torillas and fresh cheese (a little like ricotta) and chimol which is a hot pepper sauce you mix with the cheese. The cheese is not pasteurized and the tortillas are made with parasite water, but hey, I ate it. No problems yet! Apparently I'm the 4th white person they have seen, but who knows. Until the new road the village could only be reached by foot from May-October. Anyway, then we had a service which lasted about 3 hours. 2 sermons, lots of praying and singing. I got to talk with them just a little. I'm still just meeting folks and getting to know them. Neat bunch of people though.

It was decided before we even got to the village that I would not be able to walk back. I just didn't have it in me. I mean, I was just about broken, as I say in one of the videos. I'm not used to walking in the mountains like that and it took every bit of juice I had just to make it there. There was not enough time for me to take it slow unless I wanted to walk through the mountains at night. Which no one thought a good idea. So we rented a pickup for Q300, about $40, and me and 8 others rode out, up over the volcano (the opposite direction from where we walked), and caught a bus from a town (San Lorenzo) back to San Marcos, where my car was parked. I took this so you would believe I was really there. :-) And closer than I appeared.

This was the view from near the top of the volcano on the road. You can see in the waaaay distance in the left center Santa Maria, the volcano we see from our house. We had driven from the valley below in the clouds...which is a lot better than walking. We went around to another valley to catch the bus. The 4 that walked back made it in three hours and arrived where we were parked just 5 minutes after we did. Like mountain goats, I tell you. Indefatigable mountain goats.

Here's a compilation of video that I took. It's about 7 minutes and parts are pretty bumpy but I thought it would give you a better feel for things. I hope you enjoy it!

Psalm 121 says this:
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

I understand that a little better now. Basilio told me I was very brave to go. That the pastors just said, "Come" and I went, not knowing how hard it would be. I don't know about that. But I know that the LORD watched over me and kept my foot from slipping. I always read that figuratively but I know now that sometimes I just need Him to keep me from hurting myself. I realized how weak I am and how much I need other people to help me. I did not have enough cash to rent the pickup so several men loaned me enough money to do it. I was exhausted and humbled and thankful that a group of Jesus' followers helped me. I did all this to get to know the people I will be serving and was served by them instead. If you ever come to visit and you're in much better shape than I am now, maybe I'll take you for a little walk. It's just 3 hours, after all.


a good walk

Well, I'm off. Ought to be a fun day. Walking for 7 hours with some really neat, funny pastors. Pray I don't turn an ankle. ;-)

And that time stamp is an hour off...

Update: This is Jenny updating everyone as to Brandon's progress. He made it to the aldea (village). He had to walk over a mountain to get there. He called just a second ago to say that he is on a truck (probably the back of one, although that might be wrong) on his way to catch a bus (painted chicken bus) to get back to the car in San Marcos (1.5 hours from home). He said briefly that it went well, he will probably get sick, and that he will call when he gets to the car. I will make sure he posts an update as soon as he feels up to it. Please pray for him! He'sa real missionary now, who walks all over Guatemala for the sake of the gospel! :)


people come to visit

Between traveling and sick kids and sick us we have not been to church in a few weeks. Today some friends of ours from church called and asked if we were busy this afternoon. They have a 2 and a 4 year old and they dropped by around 4:30 or so and brought some pan de corona, a typical Easter bread that's made with a lot of egg yolks and sugar. We sat on the back porch while our kids ran around in the yard and we talked about nothing too deep for as long as a Seinfeld episode...and they left.

And it was wonderful.

He's a doctor here (which makes them middle class) and is moving to Germany in about a month because he got this incredible opportunity to study a specialization in internal medicine. He won't see his family until December, after Christmas. After that his family will move back with him and they will live there for three years.

And we love them.

They are our friends. And of course, they are moving, as did our other friends who moved to help serve a terribly poor community several hours from here.

And we will miss them.

So our friends came over today. It's just something friends do.


Wow. Blog.

So I had 50 something posts on my Mormon blog which was supposed to be about how nice my Mormon neighbors are compared to some Christians I know. Goodness.

People think a lot of different things and most of it is wrong. I'm not King of Knowledge as anyone who knows me understands. God holds that title. But I cannot just sit and let people say what is wrong without at least presenting the truth. And I don't have the truth. God does. And I know Him. That's it. I know God. And He's good. And He loves people and, for crying out loud, His son died for them. For all of us. That's the story, folks. That's it!

I confess I get discouraged with all the debate and banter and the only thing that makes me feel any better is talking to Jesus and reading the Bible and loving people and being with believers. Those are the good things. And that doesn't mean that what I believe depends on those things (except Jesus, of course) but that my faith is strengthened by them.

God is good and His Son Jesus, who is God, became a man and died for the sins of EVERY human being. Each human being has equal value. And don't ask me how if every human being has equal value to God that so many of them suffer and so many of them will spend eternity in hell. I'm not God and I don't know why people who hear His truth refuse to accept it. And people suffer because other evil people hurt them and we live in a fallen, crappy world. Is that ok? No! It's not. It's awful. But that's how it will be until Jesus returns and makes all things right. And I do not know when that will be.

But this week is Holy Week. Easter Week. And this week is what it's all about. This week we celebrate the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. The Resurrection! Hallelujah! He Is Risen! Can I get an, "he is risen indeed!"

So, hopefully, I'll get to blog about that little. Tuesday I'm driving an hour from here to meet some pastors so that we can walk three hours to a church and have a prayer meeting and walk three hours back and then drive home hopefully in time for dinner. I'll take pictures. And good boots.


A driven man

Actually, that's a driving man. I have to drive our van to Guatemala City to get the oil changed because if I get it changed at a location other than the dealer it voids the warranty. So 310 miles round trip or so every 5000 Kilometers. Sigh. I left yesterday morning at around 4:30 to try to make the appointment at 9:00. Unfortunately there were large demonstrations in the City that caused me delay. By demonstrations I mean hundreds of people walking on the main streets on the city with signs. They started where I came into town and ended in downtown. Hundreds of people WALKING on the highways. Sigh. So I tried a detour. I had a map. I got lost. No one was hurt. But I finally gave up trying to find my way via a map and just went with landmarks. Made it back to the airport (familiar territory) partly by following where the planes were going for their landing and made it to the dealer shop at 10:00. Which is right on time for Guatemala. But they were busy because everyone was getting their cars serviced to travel for Holy Week.

The van was ready at 4:15...too late for me to drive home. So I stayed at the Always Hospitable Glenn and Judy's house and made it back home today at 10:00am.

Makes for a really long oil change. But I did find out that there is a mobile service that will come to my house and service my vehicle. Or something like that. Either way I won't have to drive 300 miles for an oil change again.