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.

Saturday

Happy Independence Day

Here it Guatemala its just another day. But not for me. I am very thankful I was born in the time and place in which I was born. It is a great thing to be a citizen of the US and I am proud to say that I am. In case you have never read it, here is the Declaration of Independence. You've at least got to read the first two paragraphs. The men who drafted and signed it were declaring independence from the greatest military force on the earth and it was not taken lightly. It led to a war in which many suffered. What a document.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton