Monday

bleah

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

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

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

Saturday

fever and Exodus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday

the right kind of tolerance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least that's how it is with me.

Friday

oh man

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's mind blowing!

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

Oh, my soul.

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

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

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

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

Monday

My, it's early

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

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

Coffee's done. Time to caffeinate.

Friday

The low road

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

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

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

Thursday

The High Road

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

talkin' politics

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

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

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

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

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

Monday

A challenging read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday

a call for help

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

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

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

Here's how Psalm 35 starts:

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

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



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

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

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

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

Wednesday

that was longer than expected

Hello.

My name is Brandon.

I live in Guatemala.

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

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

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

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

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

Ok. Off to start today.

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