a valiant effort

So David had been having a rough go with the Arameans and Edomites. They were warring. Eventually, David and his army defeated them. As an aside, those locations are currently inhabited by Syrians and Jordanians. Interesting, no?

Anyway - David was a warrior, poet, shepherd, king. He was under the covenant God had made through Moses to the nation of Israel: Obey Me, I will bless you as no nation on earth. Reject Me, and I will bring judgement upon you that will make the world cringe. Pretty simple. Until you throw human nature into the mix.

Psalm 60 is a poem/song that David wrote about that time. It begins with a plea to God for restoration and salvation.

"O, God, You have rejected us, You have broken us; You have been angry, O, restore us"
"Save us with Your right hand, and answer us!"

God answers by reminding David that He is the one in control.

"In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine, Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter."

Alright - that may not make a lot of sense, but Shechem and Succoth are on either side of the Jordan river. Gilead was in the same area. the land of the tribe of Manasseh straddled the Jordan and next to the Arameans. Ephraim was one of the most secure tribes due to its location, and Judah would rule the nation, hence the scepter. God is telling them, "I already have this taken care of. I know who and where you are, who and where the bad guys are: Trust Me."

David answers a few verses later with this:

"Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries"

And now to the point.

Did you catch the subtle difference in what David said and what, say, most people would say?

I would want to say, "Sweet. Alright, we're going to kick some bad guy's in the teeth. Freedom!" and then I'd paint my face blue and run into battle - cue hero shot.

That's not what David says.

Through God we shall do valiantly. And it is He who will tread down our adversaries. Now, God didn't send down fire or hailstones. He didn't smash the Edomites with rocks or make the earth swallow them up. He could have, but He didn't:  He used David and his army to do it. They waded in and fought with swords and sweated and dodged and battled. They did it. God didn't wind up and throw a rock at Goliath, either. But he made that rock hit its mark. Why does he work like that?

He wants us to trust Him. And in trusting Him, depend upon Him.

David and his men trusted the Lord. They did the exact same action they would have done if they didn't trust Him. They fought. But with this difference: Through God, we shall do.

Walking in dependence upon God is not magic. It's rare that we cross the sea on dry land. Normally, you take a boat and ride out the storm with Jesus asleep in the bow. This is not us helping God. Not at all. It is God working through us to accomplish something.

I can teach a group of pastors or teach my kids to be kind all on my own, can't I? I can do the same actions in my own power and, even with the same results, fail, because I did it depending upon my own brain, abilities, and resources. Or I can do those exact same things in dependence upon Jesus and He will work through me. And will accomplish so very much more.

Galatians 2:20 says, in part, "...I no longer live, but Christ lives in/through me..." That is stunning in it's reality. Christ lives in us.

The Pre-Existent Creator, who holds all things together, lives in my body. I don't understand how. I just believe the Bible. And it says Jesus lives in me.

And that I can trust Him. That through Him, I shall do valiantly. Wow. I would have far greater success in the things that matter if I let Jesus do it. Instead I sully through the mud and champion my failure to good effort.

Silly, isn't it?

David understood that without the Lord, we're toast. But living dependently, Him living through us, we're valiant and victorious. What a contrast.

a wonderful descent

Today I smelled the coffee blossoms.

I was descending from the highlands down to the coast. Winding, quite literally, through the coffee plantations as I traveled with my pastor friend Anilmo to a meeting.

What you may not know is that the coffee plant only flowers for a day, maybe two. I had wanted terribly to experience this, but in 6 years I had never been in the right place, at the right time. Until yesterday.

My 1994 Honda Passport is a fine vehicle. But the descent through the bocacosta taxes the transmission, breaks, suspension - everything. I had the air off and the windows open. Anilmo and I were discussing what kind of books pastors could most use in a library when I saw them.

At first it was just a few - sparse, isolated coffee bushes in people's yards. And they had blossoms. Lots of them. Then the plantation began. I opened all the windows and drank in the aroma.

Warm, damp air from the Pacific coast rises to meet with cool, dry air seeping down from highlands. At 4-6,000 feet, they dance. That is where the coffee lives. That dense, moist air drew every molecule of aroma from those blossoms and percolated into my truck, filling it with honeysuckle sweet blended with damp, black earth and the woodsy depth of forest.

To my right, I looked up to the snow-capped peak of Tajumulco. At nearly 14,000 ft, the highest point in Central America.

From this:


to this: 

In 25 miles.

That's like being at 14K feet in Dallas and sea level in Fort Worth. It's steep. 

As we drove I breathed. The aroma was so intense I almost felt the smell. And I worshiped God. This place He made and people He made come together to cultivate His creation and bring to us a warm sip of Eden. I realized that as fleeting as these blossoms, so is my life and ministry here in Guatemala. God makes coffee plants to make coffee beans - the blossoms are just the brief but deeply beautiful demonstration of God's grace - a pleasing aroma for us to enjoy. And enjoy them we did.

I do not know how long we will live here or even how long I will live in this present life. But I want my time here, however brief, to be a pleasing aroma to those I serve. To be a pleasing aroma to the Lord I serve. And wherever the Lord may send Jenny and I in our life together,my prayer is that we blossom where He puts us and that those blossoms cause all who pass by us to worship the One who made us all.


The blessed agony

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

We are the legal parents of a child who is 8,009 miles away. If you wonder why I say 8,009 miles and not 8,000 it is because for us, 9 miles matter. If that makes no sense to you, then you are not a mommy or daddy and I cannot explain it.

His name is Joseph and he is our son. He turned 8 months old yesterday.  And we cannot hold or touch or smell or feel or taste him. We cannot experience or love him in any way we are accustomed. We pray for him daily. He is an echo to all our thoughts. We kiss the down soft cheeks of our other children and wonder what his cheeks feel like.

He is in a town called Mbuji-Mayi. Soon he will travel 586 miles by flight to Kinshasa, where we must go to get him. He will travel without us. Feel the disconcerting weight and weightlessness of flight without us. He is our son, legally, and yet he is so terribly far away.
When we began this process I had concerns about bonding with the child. Dads sometimes struggle bonding with their kids until they are born – we need contact, interaction, experience. Those concerns are now laughable. I ache for a son I have never heard or held, never tickled or soothed, never felt the warmth of his breath upon my neck.

We must navigate myriad steps to obtain a visa for our son because you cannot just fly in, grab him, and take him back home. Governments want to make sure the right child goes to the right people and that process just takes awhile. We received notice that the process could possibly be extended another 3-6 months. Possibly.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry

We have waited before. We’ve even waited a long time. But we’ve never had our 8 month old 8,009 miles away and been unable to get him. Had to wait to get him. Had someone tell us we may need to wait longer.

And so I am thankful that the God who put all this in motion, inclines to hear our cries.

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold: I shall not be greatly shaken.

And I am thankful that we have a son for whom we ache, for whom we agonize a blessed agony. And for a Lord who holds my soul and comforts me as I pray and ask Him to comfort and feed and sunscreen and clothe and love our son until our hope be realized and we be the blessed hands that do all those things.