Friday, March 31, 2006
It's 12 days until Passover. I can't wait. A whole evening dedicated to retelling the story of God's deliverance. A whole evening to declare the acts of kindness God has performed for us.
"Dayenu!" we will say. "It would have been enough." Passover is a meal that points to God's overflow of blessings.
Consumerism has stolen some of Easter's edge. Just like the rows of overpriced toys steal the thunder from the angels declaring the birth of God at Christmas time, plastic eggs and hollow chocolate bunnies distract us from the real meaning of Easter.
The God of the Universe was killed on Passover night. Mocked, rejected, abused, a lamb led to the slaughter. He took my pain, my shame, and my death to the cross.
The story of Passover is that God delivers his people. The story of Easter is the same. For though God was murdered on the cross that Passover, all the sins of the world died with him. All the pain, all the grief, all the guilt, all the shame. All of it-- dead and buried. But, while those sins stayed dead, Jesus didn't. He conquered death. He stood up and walked-- alive again. God delivered his people and now the spirit of death will pass over us and let us live and be free.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I don't know Nancy Grace. I imagine, like the lady on the radio, that she is in the entertainment business, not the information business. Last night she interviewed Rubel Shelly and several others about the Church of Christ. Here is a link to the show's transcript.
Talking is important. So is listening. And what makes something important or true is not its entertainment value, but its eternal value. And, what we all need to remember in the midst of debate or discussion or even persecution, is that both the perpetrator of a crime and the victim, both the teacher and the student, both the questioner and answerer have eternal value in God's eyes.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
At 8:35 a.m. on Wednesday, Togo will experience a total eclipse of the sun. I wish I was there.
Schools and businesses will be closed. Newspapers are predicting that bad things will happen. Officials are asking parents to keep their children indoors so their eyes won't be burned. But I predict people won't heed the warnings. They will be in the streets in villages throughout Togo, Benin and Ghana, not to see the eclipse, but to beg the sun to come back out. They will take metal pots and spoons and beat them together to frighten away whatever is causing the darkness. They will beg the sun to return.
I recall sitting outside one night many years ago and looking at the moon with Papa Samuel.
"Did you know men have walked on the moon?" I asked.
"Yuh?" (That's Watchi for for real?) "I heard stories about that," he said. "But I didn't know it was true. "
Another time I tried explaining to Dodzi how it could be dark in Togo and light in America. "This flashlight is the sun and the soccer ball you are holding is the earth."
"Oh, I understand!" she said, looking at the soccer ball in her hands. "The white parts of the ball are light and the black parts show where it is dark."
It is difficult to understand things for which we have no framework. There will be many Kossis and Akossiwas who will not understand the eclipse tomorrow. Many of them have never been 20 miles from home. How can they imagine something 93 million miles away? I want to pray for people in Togo, and India, and Brazil, and Mongolia tomorrow-- many of them will not understand. Many of them will be genuinely afraid.
What a blessing to rest in the hands of the one who hung the sun in the sky, the one who set the earth spinning around it. Let's enjoy the ride.
Monday, March 27, 2006
I've written recently about some opportunities to give. To serve, to pour out my heart and my pockets. I still want so much to cling to things I cannot hold. But I'm learning, one day at a time, that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. For even in giving, you gain so much.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Imagine that at the very bottom of despair, you found hope in Jesus. He lifted your burdens and set you free.
Imagine that instead of walking away from the people who are still caught in their addictions and their despair, that you decided to stay near them and help them out.
Imagine committing yourself to doing anything God asked you to do without any resources of your own.
Imagine God doing it, week after week after week.
Meet Gary. Gary is living this life. He was rescued by Jesus from drugs, from hate, from cold and hunger. And he has given his life back to helping others find Jesus, too.
Every Friday, Gary feeds the homeless, the poor, the downtrodden.
I showed up at 4:00, and he already had a crew passing out bags of bananas, tortillas, and coffee creamer. After a quick tour, I donned some latex gloves and went to work grilling garlic bread between a cook from a local golf course and a recent immigrant from Iran. Three or four hundred pieces of bread (and a health department inspection) later, I was slicing cake and stacking it on industrial sized trays. Then, off to the serving line to serve punch and milk beside an outgoing woman from the Catholic church and a youth group from a community church.
The line wound all the way around the outside edge of the gym and out the door. It took thirty minutes or to serve out all the scalloped ham and potatoes, salad, garlic bread and cake. People gave nods of thanks and found their places and long, cafeteria-style tables. As soon as the line had petered out, Gary stood up to preach. Just a short message, shouted through a microphone above the din, but a message of hope, of the difference Jesus can make.
I went through line and ate my dinner, then followed Gary and some others downstairs where the food distribution line was set up. A crew had already filled bags with dry goods-- macaroni and cheese, rice, tuna, peanut butter, chicken marinade. About a hundred grocery bags were stacked on and under tables, some for adults, some for kids. Ashley swung the counter window open and started yelling out names. As each person approached the window, Ashley asked, "how many?" "Four adults and five kids" or "two adults and one kid," they would answer. Grocery bags were passed up to the window, then topped off with frozen meat, mashed potatoes, chips, toilet paper, milk, and juice, according to what each one wanted.
Gary picks up about 6,000 pounds of food to distribute every Friday. We probably handed out enough food to feed 300 for several days.
"Where does it all come from?" I asked Gary.
"Here and there," he said. "The Lord provides. Honestly, I thought there was enough food here for two weeks, but..." His voice trailed off. I had just handed the last case of milk to the last woman in line.
One man, Andrew, came back to talk to Gary. "You know that this food makes all the difference," he said. "It gets me through, especially the meat. Thank you." Gary nodded and opened up the freezer. "You like pork? Here's some pork." He tossed a couple more packets onto Andrew's overflowing bag.
But by next week, the food will be stacked up again, people will be waiting for more food to get them through the week, and Gary will be there, offering a hand to anyone willing to take it.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Paradox—it’s one of God’s specialties.
- Jesus was full of grace and truth.
- The eternal God came to earth as a helpless baby.
- God didn’t speak in thunder or gale-force winds, but in a still, small voice.
- The wisdom of man is foolishness to God. The wisdom of God is foolishness to man.
- We’re asked to trust in things we cannot see, to hope in things we cannot fully grasp.
- Jesus was in God, and God in him. He and the Father are one. Yet he had to leave to allow the Spirit to be with us.
In an attempt to make the reality of the trinity practical, Leonard Allen talked about the tendencies we all have to lean more heavily on one or two aspects of the trinity than the others. Some churches emphasize the Risen Savior, others the Creator God, still others, the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet God is all three at once.
What happens if we de-emphasize one of God’s holy personalities? We fall into heresy.
If we don’t put enough emphasis on God the Father, we fail to recognize his absolute power and authority. We think we can manipulate him to do anything we ask of him. We seek to form him in our own image. We expect him to fulfill all our fondest wishes. If we use “the Prayer of Jabez” or “Health and Wealth Gospel” as formulas for success, we might fall into these types of heresies.
If we ignore the importance of Jesus as our Risen Savior, we cannot learn from his servant leadership. Thus, we give ourselves the authority to judge those around us. We might seek after spiritual thrills and experiences instead of dedicating ourselves to walk in his footsteps in both exciting times and in trials. We give ourselves permission to look down on others who have lesser understanding or lesser spiritual gifts.
If we say that the Holy Spirit has finished its work, we burden ourselves with the responsibility of interpreting God’s perfect design for our lives. We may come to the belief that if we just try harder, we can earn our way to heaven. Or that if we figure out exactly what the Bible means, we can follow it to the letter. In some cases, we elevate the Bible to equal standing with God and, like the Pharisees of John 5, we diligently search the scriptures hoping to find life in them, but we fail to acknowledge the true life giver.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
What better way to spend the first day of spring than at the zoo? 60 degrees, in the company of friends... the day was a delight.
Lorikeet Landing. Pay a dollar for the privelege of being swarmed by beautiful birds. Louise would have hated it. The kids were half thrilled and half terrified. We'll definitely remember it forever.
On Sunday night, Tabitha started putting on her socks and shoes. Edwin asked what she was doing. "I'm getting ready to go to the zoo, " she said. What a disappointment to have to put on pj's instead. The next morning, she sang, "We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too. We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo," ALL the way to the zoo.
Penguins and polar bears, fish and flying foxes, otters and orangutans. God does good work.
The first 3 hours at the zoo, Tabitha begged to see the elephants. When we finally got to their enclosure, we couldn't see them. "I'm sorry, honey," I said. "There's nothing there but scat." I picked her up to get a better look. "Wow!" she yelled. "Look at that beautiful scat!"
There was a dancing polar bear. It would walk forward 8 steps, then back eight steps. Forward, then back. For at least twenty minutes. Maybe it was wearing an ipod? Or maybe, as Lori said, it was bi-polar?
Monday, March 20, 2006
3 in 1. All throughout the Bible we see the story of God's interaction with his people. He created the world and everything in it. He loved his people. He showed emotions that fleshed out his feelings-- jealousy, rage, grief, love, tenderness. Then he came to earth. Fully God and fully man. He lived with his people. He walked with them, experienced all they did. Then he left, or his body did, so that his Spirit could return.
It's so exciting to me to think about God in the way again. Put aside the cosmic conundrum of how there can be 3 in 1 or 1 in 3. It's a puzzle we may never grasp. But just think about it.
God made you. He made good stuff. It's okay to appreciate the beauty of the world, the wonder of creation. That's God the Father.
God loves you. He wants to spend eternity-- that's FOREVER-- with you. So he sacrificed himself in order to offer you life. That's God the Son.
God is living and active in the world. He pours out blessings, discernment, and comfort on his people. He draws the lost to himself. That's God the Spirit.
We Americans see ourselves as lone rangers. We come to God alone. "The gate into heaven is only wide enough for one person at a time," a friend said recently. True. We all must be responsible for our own lives in a way. But I think we have much to learn from our African brothers and sisters. They come to God as a group. They don't really even see themselves as individuals-- they are a community. Perhaps we enter in one by one, but we approach the gate with our family.
God is all about relationships. That's what the trinity is all about. All of it.
Later this week I'll share what happens when our understanding of the trinity is lopsided. That's the part of the conversation that struck me-- how intensely practical our faith in the triune God is.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Thursday, March 16, 2006
That's what I was doing standing in line at a soup kitchen-- research. I went early to talk to some of the workers, cooks, and servers. But when the doors opened, I wanted to stand in line with the others-- the hungry, the lonely, the regulars.
I'll be going to another soup kitchen next week and I may take the family with me.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
When the doors to the cafe opened, the crowd flooded in. Mothers sent their children to sit at tables while they waited in line. Others shoved tables together and shouted orders of where family members and friends should sit. There was definitely a shuffle to stake out territory. Most of the patrons of the Lost and Found Cafe are regulars. They come for a free hot meal and for some social time.
The server handed me a tray with a bowl of soup and a roll. The next server plopped some fruit salad in one of the tray compartments, and the next filled the two remaining compartments with ice cream and pie. Each gave me a big smile. Frank, the drink man, put a cup of hot tea in my free hand.
I saw a table with one free chair. "May I sit here?" I asked. An elderly man with a yellow handlebar moustache nodded yes. At first, I just listened as he and his wife chatted easily with the young mother and her two small boys. I assumed they were extended family the way they were telling stories on each other. No, not family. Next door neighbors in the trailer park. But they feel like family, like grandparents to those two boys. After several minutes, they pull me into the conversation. "Do you know what this boy did? He cut off his own hair. That's why he's bald. She-- the young mother-- is a stove installer." Her short fingernails were dirty; her Carharts jacket worn and faded. She indicated that this is a slow time of year for business. She's looking for a job with a cabinet shop, but what she really wants to do, what would really make her happy, is to build furniture.
"Do you come here often?" I asked.
"Every Tuesday and Thursday. And on Saturday mornings we can get a free pancake breakfast at the Church of Christ over by the KFC. It's a big help since we're on a fixed income."
The obesely overweight woman who sent her kids through line for three or four times, or the overdressed woman who rushed in at the last minute saying that the other soup kitchen in town ran out of salmon so she drove 10 miles to get to this free meal put a greedy face on what soup kitchens are all about. But the people I sat with and many others around the room really did need what was being offered-- a bowl of soup, a warm smile, a few minutes to feel special.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Even in these little things, we tend to gloss over the effort that has gone into a new work. I flip through a friend's finished scrapbook, make a couple of comments on pictures or an interesting layout and then set it aside. I look at the shelves Edwin is building and see that they're going to be nice, but I don't inspect every nail (or is he using screws?). He would know. The creator knows.
If a book is well-written, the reader won't even consider the author. I never realized how many hours writers spend staring into space, or writing and rewriting, and then erasing it all and starting again until all the words and scenes and characters fall into place. There's a process in creation that I need to appreciate.
We rush past God's creation all the time. "The mountain's beautiful today," I say to the kids as itpasses in and out of view while we're driving. It's pretty and I appreciate it, but I don't know the mountain. Not the way its creator does-- every pebble, every plant, every wind-torn tree. "The stars are pretty tonight," I say and look up into the sky-- for about a minute. Scientists think they've found liquid water on one of Saturn's moons. Incredible that we found it, but even more incredible that God put it there.
Consider the lilies of the field.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
If you'd like to see what changed my mind about playing games, read my article at the online magazine The Dabbling Mum.
And while you're at it, please pray for Alyice, the editor of the ezine. Her mom died suddenly yesterday afternoon.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
When I say it's a family tradition, I don't mean the whole family is involved. Dad started this tradition years ago when we were still kids. He's still up for a romp in the snow if there are kids around to enjoy it with him. But I doubt he took his barefoot walk this morning without us. I suspect it was more of a contest to see who could stand the most pain. I was always up for a challenge so I always joined in on the walk. Of course, I also used to eat hot peppers and try to pretend they didn't burn my mouth, but I don't derive much pleasure from that any more. No one seems to care.
Mom's job was to make sure there was hot chocolate waiting. The magic elixir of life that dribbles its warmth down your throat to your stomach and somehow, eventually, makes its way to your toes.
Edwin hasn't really joined in the battle cry and niether, I'm sad to admit, have my children. This morning they said, "It would be a shame to walk barefoot so early in the day 'cuz then we'd be too cold to stay outside and play. Maybe later, Mom."
And so I walk alone. And not, I've got to admit, for very long. This morning's barefoot parade was nowhere near as long as the year we went out to feed the birds and pour hot water in the bird bath. But, then, what am I trying to prove? And who's going to know?
Do you have any funky family traditions?
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
It wasn't until I opened the menu in the Green Papaya that I realized I've never been to a Vietnamese restaurant. When the Ngyugens, a family of boat people moved to my home town in the 70's, I ate with them a couple of times, but I never asked what I was eating. (Besides, I probably stuck mostly to the rice.)
Bun Dac Biet, Mi Dac Biet To Lon, Com Bi Suon Cha... it was all Greek to me. I ordered some kind of rolls and the house soup. That's safe, right?
The waiter was kind enough to explain to me that the house soup was actually tripe soup. Plan B-- bring me some soup without the tripe.
Edwin ordered G12 from the menu. Again, the waiter clarified. "I feel I must explain that the meat in G12 is pork-- how do you say it?-- pork skin."
We ended up with an excellent dinner, but left on our own, we would have both been gagging. Sometimes it's just best to get recommendations. Sometimes it's best to look at a map, or read the instructions, or listen to advice.
Isn't it cool to serve a God who offers us endless varieties, but who doesn't force us to do anything beyond our ability to bear?
Pork skin kabobs-- yum.
So, if you're wondering why your garage is a mess or about the thermodynamic properties of hamburgers and plywood, this blog might be just up your alley.
By the way, Entropy's blog was meant to be read in order, so scroll down to the first entry and read your way up the page.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
1994. Emmanuel was a student in the Congo.
A Tutsi boy.
35 members of his family were killed in the genocide. Emmanuel and his mother were the only ones who survived. Now, 12 years later, he wants to make a difference to his people, a people who are still suffering.
In Rwanda, there are many widows... and many orphans. Orphans whose parents were killed in the genocide are now teenagers. They are growing into adulthood without parents, without adult guidance. Others are orphaned because of HIV/AIDS which continues to ravage many parts of Africa. Still others are left home alone when their parents are imprisoned for aiding in the genocide killings.
Emmanuel took in 9 orphans. But it wasn't enough. He had an idea to help widows and orphans form family units. He is raising money to provide sponsorship for children and small business loans for widows. He can't help everyone, but he is helping as many as he can.
We attended a benefit concert last night. Rwandan music for Rwandan children. Drums, dance, traditional stringed instruments, songs in Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda. It was beautiful and alive. We chose seats on the left wing of the auditorium and, just as the concert started, a crowd of African nationals surrounded us. I found myself standing beside Edwin in a strangely familiar situation as I clapped and tapped my feet and felt the rhythm of Africa vibrate in my bones.
The dance and music were offered in praise to God. Expression that used to be reserved for other gods was made holy.
And the people danced... the white people danced badly, but with great joy. And God was glorified.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Late Bloomer (the caterpillar) eventually climbed to the top of the habitat, spun a bit of silk to stick himself to the ceiling and hung upside down. We held out hope that he was going to BECOME, but, alas, he spent all his energy partying in his youth and just didn't have anything left to give the transformation process.
After our eggs had spent a day being handled, held up to the light, and squeezed so much it's a wonder they survived, we continued our experiment. We placed one in a cup of water and the other in a cup of corn syrup. Eggs have semi-permeable membranes. The egg in water swelled to twice its normal size (apparently water can pass through the membrane to ENTER the egg). The egg in corn syrup shriveled as the corn syrup drew the liquid albumen out.
Checks and Balances
I had a kind of crummy morning on Thursday. Forgetting that it is my job to just be faithful to writing to God's glory, I was disappointed to get a letter back from a magazine editor challenging me to sell her an article I had written. I believe she said my idea was a "no brainer". I went back and read the article and, sure enough, it was did not offer enough new information for that particular market. I found I could not sell her on an idea that I no longer believed in myself.
I don't like getting rejected. I'm not used to it yet, though if I keep writing, I'd better learn not to let it get me down.
But on Thursday, I did. I was discouraged.
And then, I got the most lovely comment on this blog from Jina who I haven't heard from in 13 years! Her words came at the perfect time. I thank God for her encouragement and for his own impeccable timing.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
- Think rocks (that's from the earth science teacher)
- Keep Reading, it will never let you down (not like I was likely to ever stop reading!)
- Remember the Oxbow Incident Incident! (Ouch! This was my first real clash with authority. We were assigned a book that I didn't like and that I didn't want to read. So, I tried faking my way through it, not too successfully. Then I tried lying my way through it and got punished, big time-- thanks, Dad. Then I just took a lower grade-- not like I had a choice. I've got to admit-- I faked it through a few more books after that, but none so memorable as The Oxbow Incident. To my credit, I did go back and try to read it as an adult and I still couldn't make it past the second chapter.)
- Remember to set priorities. You have a lot of talent, but you can't do everything at once.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Have you ever looked at something so many times you don't even see it anymore? Are you like Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins who can't see past the nose on his face? Take a fresh look at something you've seen a million times.
Golden yellow as the morning sun. Full of life's seed. Fragile, yet strong. Protected and coveted.
To make your own rubbery, blubbery eggs, cover them with vinegar for 24 hours. The shell will dissolve away and leave only the membrane for protection.